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Ravenel Breaks His Silence: Thomas’ History lesson on State Run vs. Choice in Education

February 3, 2009

Thomas’ History lesson on State Run vs. Choice in Education

Yesterday at 12:52pm
History is clear on this issue. Our college system (although in no small part paid for by gov’t but not run by gov’t) is the envy of the world. America is home to 17 of the top 20 institutions on the planet. On the other hand our gov’t run k-12 system is the laughing stock of the world.

From the beginning of civilization we have learned this lesson. Take two of the earliest rival nations. The ancient Greeks and Sparta. The Greeks had a free market educational system and Sparta had a state run system. The Greeks gave us mathematics, astronomy, tragedy, poetry, comedy and philosophy. Of course we all know what the Spartans gave us: the name of a lot of high school football programs!
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Jeffrey Sewell at 4:27pm February 1
I had lunch with a professor currently teaching a class at Midlands Tech for incoming freshmen… The 1st question to the class of 20+, Where is Jamaica located? Not one could answer.

Anne L Shull at 10:25pm February 1
I believe that one big difference between k-12 and higher education, aside from government interference, is the fact that public schools are expected to educate everyone who breathes. All students are expected to acquire the same skills in the same amount of time and this is not possible. As a result teachers try to teach to the average. Believe it or not everyone is not the same. Colleges have the ability to set standards for admittance.

Thomas Ravenel at 11:12am February 2
Anne, my point is kids, regardless of ablility, will show more improvement in a school system that is forced to compete in a freemarket versus being a state run monopoly with no threat of losing students to competition. Competiton and consumer choice drives quality up and costs down. The threat of exodus out of the non-performing schools forces schools to either improve or go out of business. When school dollars follow the kids, the schools’ focus shifts from trying to satisfy gov’t bureaucrats to trying to satify the parents and thus improve.

Thomas Ravenel at 11:16am February 2
In DC, the voucher program showed kids are being educated (lottery ssystem to get in not IQ test) at 1/3 the costs with parents much happier with the results then when their kids were in the gov’t run schools.

James Staveley-O’Carroll at 2:21pm February 2   Thomas, you should really tag my sister Sarah in this post, since she has been working in exactly this field since she graduated from college.  How do you explain the success of other public school systems throughout the rest of the world? If our system is the laughing stock of the world, and this is due to its public nature, then why isn’t the German public school system failing too? Why are we special?

Jeffrey Sewell at 2:41pm February 2  James,The EU systems incorporate competition via all dollars follow the child. Parents are in control not the education system.

James Staveley-O’Carroll at 3:04pm February 2
It is still a public system…teachers are still paid with public money. The difference is that (in Germany at least) you are required to choose which type of high school you want to go to after 4th grade (there are 4 types). This choice determines if you can even go to college. So you’re saying this choice makes it a competitive environment? I was always under the impression (at least while I was there) that you pretty much went to the best school you could get into (not everyone is allow to go to the good high schools). This, then, isn’t competition, because students have very little choice about their ability level. This system encourages competition between students, not between schools. I think it falls more into Anne’s analysis of the problem in the US…Europeans break students up based on performance at a very early age. However, this is a very unAmerican approach as we like to think of everyone as being created equal.

Jeffrey Sewell at 3:26pm February 2
Germany is different as the goal there is to insure that each student is evaluated and then proceed based on there abilities which may mean they are groomed to be a doctor or could be a shoe cobbler but they come out with a trade…

Thomas Ravenel at 4:24pm February 2
Watch John Stossell’s 20/20 special, “stupid in America” In Belgium, where gov’t pays for k-12 but doesn’t run it and kids go wherever their parents decide, the lowest achieving kids were acing tests that our brightest kids could barely pass. In fact, these kids were mocking the tests for being so easy.

Julie Riley at 4:57pm February 2
How about a class of fifth grades during the late 90’s in Calhoun County not knowing where the Atlantic Ocean is. Sad, huh?

James Staveley-O’Carroll at 5:56pm February 2
Just to clarify, I was not defending our public education system. I was just pointing out that many countries have successful public education systems.

Sarah Staveley-O’Carroll at 12:33am February 3
i had more time to respond to this! but alas, only a couple minutes.
there’s definitely some truth to the idea that competition improves
public schools. but the fundamental goal should be giving kids and
parents meaningful choices (which might not necessarily be achieved by
just giving vouchers, for example). i think the best way to do that, as
we’ve seen over the last 10 years or so with the small schools
movement, is to allow innovation and, yes, competition, and see what
works. for example, since most kids don’t do well with the traditional
“lecture style” approach, some districts are closing down the big
comprehensive schools and having community groups, nonprofits and
for-profit groups start small, innovative schools in their stead. the
idea is to give kids a host of schools to choose from so they can find
the right fit (int’l baccalaureate schools, experiential learning
schools, etc.). check out:
Thomas Ravenel at 12:21pm February 3
Sarah. 27 out of 28 studies have recently shown that market provisioned
schools free from gov’t standards outperform gov’t provisioned schools
burdened by gov’t imposed standards. Standards are good but the ones
that work are private and subscribed to voluntarily–like SAT an ACT.
When schools are free from the distant one-size-fits all central
planners, they are then free experiment, innovate and discover more
effective means of teaching kids in accordance with their specific
needs. Why have a thousand bureaucrats in Washington making decisions
that will supplant the billions of decisions made by millions of people
in the best interest of tens of millions of kids. While it’s funny to
watch the monkeys try to order the universe and watch the resulting
failure and chaos, we are talking about our kids and the future of
America. All languages have evolved through spontaneous order, the ones
that were planned have one thing in common: nobody speaks them!

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