[Beowulf] (no subject)

Joshua Halpern jhalpern at howard.edu
Tue Jan 31 07:19:39 PST 2006

Since this has gone wildly off topic....

Robert G. Brown wrote:

 > On Mon, 30 Jan 2006, Kevin Ball wrote:


 > This IS a very accurate description of the problem.  But don't forget
 > job security itself is one of the things that attracts people into the
 > profession in spite of the lower pay.  It is a FORM of payment in the
 > best capitalistic tradition.  The local mill may close and everybody
 > getlaid off, but the community teachers will have their jobs as long
 > as the community itself remains viable.
 > Similar problems exist with University tenure systems, within many
 > businesses, and throughout government, but jobs (and the humans that
 > have them) are part of a SOCIAL system and not just abstract notions
 > one can casually squash with Adam Smith's invisible hand.  As with
 > most human endeavors, what one seeks is generally a compromise between
 > ideological purity in some abstract economical model and functionality
 > in the human and political realm, with enough flexibility to be able
 > to accomodate change, eliminate gradually the most incompetent and
 > unfit, and to attract enough competence and commitment to be able to
 > continue to function "well enough" (but not perfectly).
 > However, your observation is apropos at this particular time, for the
 > school system in particular.  One symptom of this is the imbalance
 > between the cost per student in the public schools, where there SHOULD
 > be economy of scale and many other advantages that make it relative
 > MORE efficient,

Most of the operating cost is in salaries, pensions and health care for 
the teachers.  Economies of scale are only available for administrative 
costs (including maintaining buildings).  To the extent that use of 
public funds requires stong record keeping and oversight, this 
possibility is often negated, although it is also true that many school 
boards are top heavy.  The price you pay for pruning the tree is that 
somewhere down the line money vanishes and you get demands for more 
oversight.  My solution is you publically execute the thieves and get on 
with life.

 > and the cost per student of education in private schools.  At
 > least around here, public schools are as expensive OR MORE per student
 > than the area private schools, with the exception only of the MOST
 > expensive private academies.

Most private and parochial schools pay teachers poorly and the health 
care and pension benefits are well below that of public school systems. 
  Especially today, health care benefits are almost as important as 
salary in evaluating employment opportunities.

 > Also around here, the private schools tend
 > to (necessarily) provide a better education by at least some metric
 > valuable to those that pay their taxes AND their kids' tuition or they
 > wouldn't survive.

True, and they also have an ability to pick their students, something 
that is very attractive to teachers.  In public schools you don't.  An 
interesting marker of this is that charter schools (which have to accept 
all comers) do not do better on average than public schools in educating 
children.  IMHO the principal benefit of charter schools is that some 
new and better methods of education will emerge.  Of course, the 
students who go to the charter schools that try methods that are worse 
will be collateral damage.

Josh Halpern

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