Thursday, March 11, 2010
Why "Education Reform" will never be successful
In case you missed it, the federal government announced this week the latest and greatest plan to finally, really, really, "we mean it this time", "this is going to work, just you wait and see..." education reform plan.
The central planners who have brought us one of the worst public education models in the developed, or undeveloped, or totally no where near developed world, are serious this time. After decades, give or take a month or two, of unmitigated failure in providing anything more than monumental failure from kindergarten through graduation day, the "experts" have finally realized that what the U.S. needs is a system of uniform standards that will apply to all 50 states. The president wants all kids to be "proficient" in math and English by 2014 and "college ready" by 2020.
To do this, the government will blah, blah, blah and if it does not happen, blah, blah, blah....
You can Google this initiative if you want to, but in 2014, 2024 and on March 11, 2071 at 11:18am we will still have a lousy K-12 system.
Here is why.
1. Teachers in America are largely unqualified to teach. A degree in education is the easiest college degree to obtain and is four years of learning teaching methodology but not four years of becoming an expert in your field. In Finland - a nation that routinely ranks first in the world in multiple subject areas - you have to have a Masters degree in your field of study and six years of on-the-job training before you are allowed to teach. In America you could have a government or science teacher with no direct expertise in government or science, teaching your kid just because they have the four year "teaching degree" and a teaching certificate that legally permits them to stand in front of your kid. Without requiring people to become economists, chemists, biologists, mathematicians, etc. before they walk into the classroom, all this round of education reform will do is create new standards without creating new, qualified professionals to help students reach those standards.
2. There is little to no competition for the most at-risk students. If you are rich, or middle-class you have options when it comes to educating your child. You can send them to private school or join the ranks of 2 million homeschooled children. Private schools have to deliver a good product or parents remove their kids. Demand for that school's seats drops and they go out of business. The government schools - no matter what reforms are pursued - will never improve because of school zoning. If you are poor you have no other choice but to send your kid to the school in your district. This legal monopoly destroys education in the U.S. because there is no pressure for schools to improve. As long as schools know that they will be guaranteed customers by rule of law, why should those schools try to innovate? They don't have to. Name another market where you have shop based on your residence. In the free market you can be mobile with your money and that puts intense pressure on suppliers to deliver a good product or service. What if you could only buy a Toyota because that was the closest dealership to your house? Do you think Toyota would rush to fix brake problems in your district or would the dealer tell you, "What are you going to do about it?
3. Unions and tenure are duel cancers for education reform. If you work in the private sector you do not have tenure - meaning a lifetime contract. If you stink, you are gone. What if we had tenure in professional sports? We would have 61-year old quarterbacks playing for your favorite team, throwing 16 interceptions per game and all you could do about it is nothing. Once a teacher has tenure their incentives to produce goes down. Back that up with a Communistic union that protects teachers who are sexual predators, racist and more from being punished and you have a recipe for horrible K-12 education. The teachers union, with power to punish politicians who push for competition and other meaningful reforms is more dangerous, to more American children than any organization on Earth. Terrorists might destroy a few dozen or a few thousand lives at a time. The teachers union is ruining the lives of 50 million children who are forced to live with bad teachers who don't have to care.
Imagine a new cell phone company opening up that has employees who are not trained on how to make cell phones; have lifetime contracts to make cell phones; are protected from being fired if the make bad cell phones and are guaranteed to have customers because the government tells all of us that we have to shop for this cell phone.
What kind of cell phone do you think you would get?
Why should it be any different for your child's education?