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1/28/11

Credits Could Lead To An Armistice in The School Wars

The only K-12 education I ever received as a child was provided at so called "public" schools. And any failure to become "educated" at those schools falls squarely upon my shoulders, not those of the many fine teachers who worked hard to pound some knowledge and reasoning skills into my thick skull.

Of course there were good classes and bad as well as competent and incompetent teachers but since none of the schools then or now were located in Utopia it was to be expected. I learned at least as many useful life lessons from the bad teachers as the good ones because it was obvious even to a dimwit kid that if you see mistakes being made you try to avoid them yourself in the future. So for me the government schools worked out OK even if I never became a rocket surgeon or a brain scientist.

Some of the better teachers taught me to always question things even if they seemed obvious. And I have spent the rest of my life questioning everything that the majority has already decided was elementary. It makes me a pain in the ass to many of my friends who nevertheless suffer me gladly.

One of the elementary things I have always questioned was the need for "public" schools in the first place. I accepted the given reason for government provided schools was to make sure that those too poor to educate their own children would not have uneducated kids. But what I couldn't figure out was why the government was providing a "free" education even to those who could afford it on their own. (Leave aside for the moment the fact that even though my family had very little money, in my neighborhood even the kids who were way "poorer" than us went to private schools.)

It never made sense to me that just because some people couldn't afford it everyone was provided with a government paid education. Even "rich" people. Why shouldn't the government just give the poor people a subsidy so they could send their kids to the schools all the other people sent their kids to? That way no kid would be left out just because his parents were too poor, lazy, drunk, stupid or some combination of that list. It had to be cheaper to make an education available that way than building lots of schools and hiring duplicate administrators, teachers, custodians and the like.

Back in those days it never occurred to me that perhaps the government schools weren't primarily designed to be for the the purpose of educating poor kids. But back then I was actually in one of those institutions so maybe it wasn't the plan for that to occur to me.

It's only been in the last few decades there has been a lot of debate about this concept so I must not have been the only one to have simple concepts not occur to them. Of course the past debates were/are usually about what gets taught in the schools and other issues, but now that children in this country have fallen so far behind much of the rest of the developed world, folks are starting to debate all kinds of things to remedy that problem. George Will wrote a piece that appeared in today's issue of the Investors Business Daily which addresses that issue with facts and figures and I highly recommend reading it. It can be found here.

In the meantime, the following video has some interesting concepts about how to pay for education and improve it at the same time that haven't gotten too much press coverage from a media obsessed by ever expanding government influence on our lives. You may agree or disagree with the concepts and as always you are encouraged to leave your thoughts on it in the comment section below.

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