Technology

Public Education's Silver Bullet

School reformer Terry Moe argues that technology will finally accomplish what vouchers never could.

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With the public-school documentary tearjerker Waiting for Superman stunning audiences from coast to coast, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty losing his re-election bid largely because of his support for education reform, and NBC devoting an entire week of prime-time coverage to the nation's ongoing K–12 crisis, many Americans are newly focused on the negative impact teachers unions are having on student performance. Terry M. Moe has been considering the problem for more than two decades now.

Moe, a professor of political science at Stanford University, has been one the most intrepid critics of the unions ever since his first book, Politics, Markets, and American Schools, came out in 1990. Co-authored with John Chubb, the book offered a devastating account of how unions thwart reform and trap children in a dysfunctional education system. Chubb and Moe made an emphatic early plea for school vouchers and parental choice. "We believe existing institutions cannot solve the problem because they are the problem," they wrote.

The book "rocked the education world," as the Chicago Tribune put it in 1990. The conservative Philanthropy Roundtable counted it among the eight most influential books of the time, along with Milton Friedman's Free to Choose and Charles Murray's Losing Ground. Its influence was partly due to Moe's extensive research on public bureaucracies. But it was also because of who Moe was not: a right-wing hack. The book was published by the center-left Brookings Institution, where he was a senior fellow at the time, making it hard for defenders of the status quo to discredit it as a conservative screed.

Two decades later, Moe and Chubb have taken up the cause of school reform again in Liberating Learning. The school choice movement has not lived up to its promise of wholesale reform, Liberating Learning laments, although it had a notable success in mainstreaming the cause of charter schools. Still, Moe optimistically argues that the education monopoly's days are numbered. He says the revolution in information technology, which has placed huge amounts of information at everyone's fingertips, will do to teachers unions what a meteor did to dinosaurs: wipe them out and make way for new life forms.

Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia interviewed Moe in his office at Stanford, where they discussed the radical new shape of 21st century schools, the "sheer power" of teachers unions, and how Barack Obama has delivered on his campaign promises of education reform.

reason: What do you think the classrooms of the future will look like?

Terry M. Moe: When people think about the schools of the future, they think about kids sitting in classrooms using computers or maybe in a computer lab doing online research. But some future schools will be virtual charters, meaning they will enroll children on a full-time basis from anywhere. The children can be at home; they can be at the library; they can be anywhere, and they will take a full-time curriculum from these schools. They don't have to physically be in one place.

Most kids will continue to go to a physical place called school. But these schools too will be hybrids. They will be partly traditional in the sense that there will be face-to-face interaction, but a lot of their learning will take place online. As a result, there will be many fewer teachers per student. Our entire education process will be far less labor-intensive.

Yet we will be able to accomplish more with the kids. Teachers in a classroom standing in front of 30 children can only do so much. They have to deliver a standardized curriculum. They cannot customize education to every child. Some kids get way behind; some kids are way ahead and bored. Other kids, in the middle, are staring out the window, unmotivated, needing personal attention. With online learning and technology in general, we can customize education to the individual child.

reason: You will get more personal attention and customization with fewer teachers? How?

Moe: In a labor-intensive industry, customizing education meant having one teacher for every child. That's impossible, so instead you have 30 children and one teacher. You can't customize. You have to standardize. But we have a method now that personalizes every child's education. They can move through at their own pace.

That's because there will essentially be a division of labor between teachers and computers, where computers are doing a lot of the teaching and teachers are participating, facilitating, but most of the load is being borne by computers. And kids can go through the material at their own pace. If they don't know something, the computer knows they don't know it. It can then immediately provide them with remedial help. They can work on things that they don't know until they do know them. Then they can move ahead. The computer can be measuring how well the kids are doing at every step along the way and make that data available to teachers in real time to see the student's progress. So there's just so much more relevant information about the student. This has never happened before. 

And teaching will become a much more differentiated profession than it is now. Not all teachers will be class teachers. A lot of the teachers will be online teachers who may, in fact, not deal with students. They might deal mainly with parents. Or with developing curricula. Or setting up management infrastructure. There may be other teachers whose job will require them to be at the school physically, monitoring kids or providing kids with tutoring, special help when they don't understand something about their computer or about the material or the assignment. And I think that they'll also be paid differently and evaluated very differently because their profession is going to be so different.

reason: This turns the conventional wisdom on its head, right? Education was supposed to one of those industries that was always going to be labor-intensive. Nobody thought that you could have fewer people and still customize education. 

Moe: That's true, and that's been the key to education's stagnation. Technology has been the key to progress and productivity across industries throughout history. But there are some industries, often associated with government, where it just hasn't been possible to introduce technology in a productive way, and education was one of those. There are other examples, like Broadway plays or symphony orchestras, where you really can't substitute technology, and costs have gone through the roof. But technology is going to transform education because now, for the first time in history, we can really substitute technology for labor.

reason: We've had many movements promising reform of K–12. The school choice movement made claims similar to ones that you make about technology. It said that once a few areas embrace vouchers, giving kids an exit option from the public school monopoly, the competition that will be triggered will improve education for all and this movement will become an unstoppable force for fundamental reform. But unions proved stronger than the choice movement. Why won't they prove stronger than technology?

Moe: There are 50 million kids in school, and maybe 100,000 are getting some kind of tax credit or a voucher. But technology is different. We're living in the midst of a revolution in information technology, and this is one of the most powerful forces ever to hit this planet from a standpoint of its impact on human society. 

This is what we've always been waiting for—for something as powerful, as revolutionary as this to come along. What people in the choice movement don't recognize is that technology is going to turn out to be the single biggest force for school choice. It is going to generate a vast array of new options for kids, and it is going to liberate kids from the traditional system that has trapped them for so many years.

It is one thing for unions to fight off the school choice movement or to weaken the accountability movement. It is another to hold back the revolution in information technology.

reason: But that doesn't mean they won't try. 

Moe: Absolutely, they will. That's because all this is really about, in the end, the substitution of technology for labor, and what the teachers unions want is for education to be as labor intensive as possible. So this is the ultimate threat to them and they're trying to stop it.

reason: What are some of the tactics they are using?

Moe: Unions use their power in state legislatures, especially, and in the courts to try to block technology. For instance, in Wisconsin, two school districts—Appleton and Northern Ozaukee—developed virtual charters that were attracting kids from all around Wisconsin. That was a great thing for those kids. Well, the unions didn't want these schools to grow. So they went to court and had these schools declared illegal because, under the laws, they were supposed to have a certain amount of seat time for funding, accredited teachers, all the usual things.

In Oregon, the Oregon Connections Academy was attracting kids from all over the state, so the unions got the state legislature to pass a law saying that any virtual school in Oregon had to enroll half of its students from its own district. They can't enroll from other districts. Well, that means that it's now very limited in size.

Unions are powerful, so this revolution is going to take a long time to happen. But in the end, they're going to lose.

reason: Why?

Moe: It takes something from the outside to shatter the status quo and to bring real change. If you have a power structure that's bottling everything up and blocking everything from the inside, then any sort of internally generated reform is going to be blocked. That's been the story of the last 30 years with the school choice movement. Accountability from within gets weakened. Dinosaurs, who had reigned on earth for 165 billion years and whom our public schools resemble, were perfectly adapted. And then an asteroid hit and changed the entire ecology of the earth. So you need a huge, powerful force from the outside, like an asteroid, to shake up K–12. 

reason: What kind of arguments are teachers unions making in order to stop cyber schools?

Moe: Every argument that you can think if. One: Charter schools and virtual charters siphon money away from the regular public school. Two: Virtual charters and online options involve an overreliance on parents. Three: Kids should be taught by certified teachers. Four: These schools shouldn't be getting public money because we can't verify that the kids are actually doing the work. Five: We need to have kids in a physical place so that we can see that the seat time requirements are actually being met. Six: There are too many opportunities for fraud. And on and on and on. Basically, they want people to think that the only kind of education that really works is face-to-face education in the classroom.

reason: One argument that can undercut all these arguments is superior student performance in the new schools. How do students in these schools perform?

Moe: Research has shown that online education is at least as effective as classroom education. There's a study, a meta-analysis, of some thousand individual research studies that's now posted on the National Center for Education Statistics website and available for anybody to read. It comes to the conclusion that online education is at least as effective. 

As for the other arguments about how learning has to be face-to-face, parents should play no role, certified teachers should be doing everything—all of those are self-serving arguments, and they're also very old-fashioned.

reason: You mentioned that the technological revolution is going to help the accountability movement. How? 

Moe: This revolution has given us the technological capacity to collect information about students' performance no matter where they are. We can get test score data on how kids do, say, at the beginning of the year and the end of the year. It doesn't matter if they change classrooms, if they change schools, if they move to some other part of the state. We can get data on those students. They can have an identifying number, and it can be kept in a giant data warehouse along with data on every other child in the state, and we can have background information on those kids, about their families and so on. 

We can also do the same thing for teachers. We can link up the teachers and the kids and know how well the kids in that teacher's class are doing; how much progress they've made from the beginning of the year to the end. We can correct it for the background characteristics of the kids. You can come up with very thorough measures of performance. It's an easy thing to do, and the unions are trying to stop it. And the reason is that they don't want teachers' performance to be measured. They don't want anyone's job to be threatened, so the data system is a threat to them.

reason: In some states, haven't they gotten laws passed banning the use of such information to evaluate teacher performance or base promotions on it? 

Moe: Yes. First, they said if you want to collect data on students, fine, but no data on teachers. But states are collecting data on teachers. So then they say, OK, you can't link the two data systems. They fought that very hard and won in many cases. If they lose that fight, then the fallback position is, you can link them but you can't use the data to evaluate anyone's performance or to pay anyone and certainly not to fire anyone. There are states that have such laws, which make absolutely no sense. The information's there, but you can't use it. 

reason: That loop hasn't been closed yet anywhere? 

Moe: Well, California used to have a data system in which there was no linkage, thanks to the unions. Then they lost on the linkage this year because of Race to the Top [a $4 billion-plus federal program designed to spur schools to reform themselves]. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan basically said it's going to be a negative for you if you have the data but can't use it. And so California changed its law to say that the data could in fact be used to evaluate teachers and pay teachers. [Since this interview was conducted, the Los Angeles Times publicly released value-added performance data on 6,000 local teachers, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.]

From the unions' standpoint, Race to the Top has been a big troublemaker because it propelled states to override some of the barriers that the unions have tried so hard to set up. It'll become an easy appeal to moderate legislators. They'll say, what, we can't collect data, we can't use data? Does that make sense? For instance, in New York state, unions passed a law that said that no district can use student test scores to evaluate a teacher for tenure, even as one factor among many. Even The New York Times wrote an editorial saying that was absurd.

reason: Inner-city minority parents have been more supportive of vouchers than white suburban parents whose schools don't have as big a problem. Is that the case with online schools?

Moe: Yes. Absolutely. Then there are parents of children who have dropped out of school who will maybe need a certain number of credits to graduate. Or kids who are gifted and bored in school. Or those who want to take A.P. physics or Mandarin when the school doesn't offer it because they live in rural areas. Or there are bullies in school, or they're very shy. There are all kinds of reasons why kids would really, really flourish in an online environment, so it's going to vary with the family.

reason: What can the government do to push the cause of technology in education?

Moe: The government can facilitate the revolution, or it can get in the way. I think it's important to have people in the government who have their heads in the right place and who know how to make this happen. What we need is to encourage a dynamic market, lots of firms with lots of smart people working on this. 

If the laws were such that it was much easier to set up charter schools and much easier to set up virtual charters, there would be many more firms involved in providing online education. Also, if regular public schools had strong financial incentives to contract out the course work to these firms, to let kids take A.P. physics or just regular algebra courses or whatever from online providers, that would help stimulate the market. 

For instance, Florida recently enacted new laws that give every child in Florida a legal right to take all of his or her courses online, and the districts have a legal obligation to provide them to meet that demand. So they either have to have their own online schools within the district or, since that's going to be inefficient for most of them, they have to contract it out, either to the Florida Virtual School [an online public school] or other schools.

The Obama administration's approach is to give more schools more flexibility. First kids are going to be tested, and then those outcomes are going to say something about how well the schools are doing. The schools that are doing OK are going to be given a lot of flexibility, and the schools that are doing poorly are going to face real consequences. The Obama administration is really serious about doing something about those schools.

reason: Can you give me an example what they have done? 

Moe: Reconstitution of the schools or having the school converted into a charter school. A good example is Central Falls High School in Rhode Island. The superintendent decided that since they couldn't get any fast action out of the union to reform the school, he was going to reconstitute it, and that meant firing everybody. Now they can hire back up to half of the staff, but they're going to bring in a new principal and a new staff and start over. That makes perfect sense.

The unions, of course, hate this, but Obama and Duncan both stood up and supported it publicly. I really have been surprised at how serious they are about pursuing change and reform and doing things that Democrats in the past had a very difficult time doing. Although Democrats, genuinely as human beings, want to make sure that disadvantaged kids are in good schools, they've literally been unable to do the right thing because unions have held them back. This is beginning to loosen and break down.

reason: On the other hand, this administration is also pumping money into the current system. It gave $100 billion in added funding to K–12 in the stimulus bill. You point out in your book that education spending has gone up 300 percent in real terms since the '60s. So is the administration's policy all that different from the Democratic orthodoxy?

Moe: I'm generally not in favor of pumping money into a failing system. I think that they did it now because we were in an economic crisis and there were going to be massive firings of teachers and this prevented that.

Putting that aside, I think that they could have used the budget crisis as an opportunity to force school districts to make very difficult choices about how to spend their dollars. They might have pushed schools toward more cost-effective ways of providing courses.

reason: Are you disappointed on that score with the administration?

Moe: No. I think things take time. Obviously they're just sort of getting going on this. And this was not a fully baked set of ideas when the stimulus package was going through. So the timing I think wasn't right, but we're going to have budget problems for a long time to come. In the coming years, I hope they will begin to connect the dots and use the budget crisis as a lever of change.

reason: In researching your book, did you find that Republican or Democratic states were better at embracing technology for K–12 reforms?

Moe: Well, definitely it's the states with weaker unions, so it tends to be Southern states, border states, because they're less constrained. That's really what it comes down to. 

reason: It doesn't matter which party is in power?

Moe: That's less important than the sheer power of the unions. Now, Florida, on the other hand, is the innovation leader in education, and the No. 1 key to their success was Jeb Bush, who is a policy wonk. He loves education. He knows what he wants to do. He has innovative ideas. And he had a big Republican majority in the House and the Senate that was able to get major reforms through. Florida has continued to innovate even after Jeb Bush moved on, so you've just got to hand it to Florida and the Republicans there—it really has been a Republican thing. I think had the Democrats been in power, these things would not have happened.

reason: Do you think that there will be a setback if Democrats gain ground in Florida?

Moe: Yes. Look what happened when the Democrats took power in Washington, D.C. They ended the D.C. voucher program. That program was terrific, and it's a travesty that they ended it. But from a political standpoint, it was entirely predictable because Democrats haven't supported vouchers from the beginning.

reason: So why is the administration supporting greater accountability for teachers, which the unions also oppose?

Moe: There's a rank ordering of union concerns. Vouchers are a litmus test, and if you support vouchers, then you are done. You can get away with talking about pay for performance but not with saying that vouchers are OK.

reason: If you were Obama's education advisor, what is the one thing you would tell him to do to advance the cause of technology and reform in education?

Moe: It's important for the administration to think big, to get away from incremental adjustments to No Child Left Behind, and to think 10, 20 years down the road at the kind of system we want to have. With technology, you can have schools that easily enroll kids from all across the country. We need a legal system that would facilitate a national system of technologically-based schools. Think of it in terms of barriers to trade that need to be knocked down for a common market in education. Geography should no longer be constraining. It was OK to have unique state laws if everything was determined by what happens in these little geographic areas called school districts. But now the national government needs to act to let kids get an education across state lines.

reason: Do you think we will see the kind of technological changes and reforms that you're talking about in our lifetimes?

Moe: Yes. We say in the book that it will take 20 or 30 years. 

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104 responses to “Public Education's Silver Bullet

  1. do to teachers unions what a meteor did to dinosaurs: wipe them out and make way for new life forms.

    *fingers crossed*

    Though the big difference, of course, is that dinosaurs are cool.

    1. Dinos are only cool so long as they live in a different time period than humans. Unless you like being chased by Velociraptors.

      1. Considering how velociraptors were about two feet tall when fully grown, I’m not sure I’d lose much sleep over that eventuality.

        1. Jurrasic Park got it wrong? Shocked face over here.

        2. Considering how velociraptors were about two feet tall when fully grown, I’m not sure I’d lose much sleep over that eventuality.

          Oh, ok, I see. You wouldn’t be too concerned about a 2ft tall feral dog that was running for you either? Personally, I’d be concerned, since the teeth and claws are still pretty damn dangerous.

          Yeah, yeah, I used the wrong dinosaur in my example, but those tiny raptors weren’t exactly turkeys. Besides, didn’t Nedry get killed by a 2ft dino? (Whoops, did I just use JP as evidence again, dammit!)

      2. I’d be more concerned about the T-Rex, myself. Would an elephant gun round (as we know it, like a Nitro Express) be able to take one down?

        1. How do you stop a T-Rex from charging?

          Cut up his credit cards!

        2. It certainly wouldn’t have much trouble penetrating the flesh and bone and going far enough to do damage. I’d bet shot placement would be key, though.

          1. Even if hit the heart, would it take out enough of the organ to actually incapacitate the animal? I’m thinking explosive rounds, or automatic fire, would be necessary to inflict enough damage before those jaws could chomp down on you.

            I think a new series on the discovery channel is called for.

            1. Are you talking velociraptors or union teachers???

              1. there is a difference?

        3. A-Square makes a round specifically for that, should JP become a reality:

          Behold the .577 Tyrannasour. Of course, they also have the .600 and .700 NE, though your shoulder might be a bit sore dislocated after firing it.

      3. Oddly enough, I don’t find myself being chased by lions, tigers, bears, or wolves. I’m pretty sure we could out-compete the dinos, too.

        The real question is could all our ancestor-mammals have out-competed them without them being wiped out.

  2. What we really need to do is return public education to the city or, if necessary, county level. We need to get rid of the Federal Department of Education. Here in Texas we have a State Board of Education which is no better and needs to go as well.

    1. close. get rid of public-run education altogether. Give FULL control to the parents.

      1. If all parents actually had a brain their head I’d agree with you. However it seems like 9 out of 10 parents I see on the street don’t exercise any responsibility or control over their children whatsoever. They either want to be a friend and not a parent or they let TV and the internet be the babysitter.

        1. So? Who are we to say that they can’t raise their kids that wait? We can certainly OFFER help and aid but to coerce it? It’s a terrible idea that has resulted in what we have now.

        2. However it seems like 9 out of 10 parents I see on the street don’t exercise any responsibility

          Is that because they won’t or is it because the state says they’ll do it for them?

        3. I agree that many parents are unconcerned with their children’s education, but I would argue that the very structure of public education encourages parental non-involvement. Lower income parents have virtually no choice when it comes to what school their child will attend since they can’t afford private schools and probably don’t have time to homeschool — so, really, I think their disinterest is caused by a sense of helplessness. I think that abolishing public schools and giving full control to parents would be empowering and encourage them to be more proactive in their kids’ education since they actually would have alternatives to the ineffective and violence-ridden school down the street.

          1. Absolutely correct. There’s also the financial issue. As public education expenses are financed through taxation and subsidies, they don’t make it to parents’ budgets. Were individuals to pay directly for the full price for the education of their children, they would presumably pay a lot more attention.

            1. Freedom and responsibility? That is so out of style.

  3. I am Kirok!

    1. Geek.

      Worse: Trekker geek.

      1. Takes one to know one.

        If you prefer, I am Bruce Willis, Robert Duvall, and Sean Connery all wrapped into one. No meteor is safe from me.

        1. Re: Teachers Unions,

          Takes one to know one.

          OMG, he’s on to me . . . .

  4. Serious question: Will the online instruction be available in every “required” (human) language? If so, how?

    1. Click here for English
      Click here for Igpay Atinlay
      etc.

      srsly?

      1. By the way, who’s the hottest chick of the original series?

        I vote for Sherry “Andrea” Jackson of ST:TOS “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”

        1. Are we having trouble negotiating threaded comments this morning?

          1. Sorry, sage – I pressed the wrong “reply to this” link.

        2. Grace Lee Whitney

          1. Barbara Luna!

        3. Doctor Helen Noel. I’d like to see her in Andrea’s outfit.

      2. What I mean is: Given the assumption that the powers-that-be still require every kid to get “equally educated”, how are computerized tutor programs to be developed for, say, teaching the history of alchemy to a kid who speaks pidgin Chamicuro-Pahsto creole at home? Seems like this might save or create a lot of jobs.

        1. I doubt that would be true. But even if it would be true, the program is already created; all you need is one person to translate it once.

          1. Maybe not even that. There are already programs which can translate written works into any language on the planet. Granted, the translation is not perfect. However, it seems likely that there will soon be programs capable of analyzing and synthesizing grammar and syntax to produce translations that mimic the manner in which a given language is actually used. Combine that with speech synthesis programs and I’d say computers will soon be able to generate all of the required multilingual lessons.

          2. Maybe not even that. There are already programs which can translate written works into any language on the planet. Granted, the translation is not perfect. However, it seems likely that there will soon be programs capable of analyzing and synthesizing grammar and syntax to produce translations that mimic the manner in which a given language is actually used. Combine that with speech synthesis programs and I’d say computers will soon be able to generate all of the required multilingual lessons.

    2. More easily than with human teachers, presumably, since you just need a small team of translators for the entire curriculum.

  5. Look, sure a kid may have a natural talent for math, that’s why said kid must be forced to play sports and memorize Shakespeare in a rigid hierarchy.
    Put it another way.
    If it weren’t for teachers, schoolboards and the Department of Education people would only study things that they love and excel at. What kind of world would that be?

    1. “If it weren’t for teachers, schoolboards and the Department of Education people would only study things that they love and excel at. What kind of world would that be?”

      What is Somalia?

        1. I chugged a forty after I typed that question mark.

          1. The Reason Drinking Game: You’re Doing it Right.

          2. Do they still make Crazy Horse or James Bowie?

            1. Not sure, but I’m down with Ye Olde English. Judging by the taste, it was actually brewed originally in 13th century England or it is siphoned off from the sewers of Pittsburgh, spat in hirsute teamsters, and then set out in the sun to “steep”.

              1. Ever crossed paths with “Wild Irish Rose”? Blecch.

              2. I’m an OE man myself (if I was to claim loyalty to a malt liquor myself).

                Something in my mind tells me it’s just rejected MGD.

              3. If I had to claim loyalty to a malt liquor I’d say I’m an OE man myself.

                Although I think it’s probably just reject MGD, slightly fortified before distribution.

  6. Though the big difference, of course, is that dinosaurs are cool. Dinosaurs were minding their own business making a living, too. And if they were going to eat my little girl for an easy meal, at least they could look me in the eye and be honest about it.

  7. New at Reason: Education Reformer Terry Moe on How Technology Will Accomplish What Vouchers Never Could[.]

    How about just looking at the obvious and simply do away with compulsory education?

    Why keep this “Danse Macabre Of The Unsolicited Solutions”? Education is a personal choice, not an engineering problem, for crying out loud!

    1. How about just looking at the obvious and simply do away with compulsory education?

      Spot on!

      Compulsion and education — force and thought — are related like darkness and light: the presence of one is the absence of the other. The folly of bringing together both can be nothing less than manifest ignorance of the nature and reality of each.

    2. The compulsion to educate, privately or publicly, in order to “improve” society, is driven by the welfare state. It must be, I can think of no other explanation. And it stems from the subconscious knowledge that a welfare state has been created by progressive ideology, and can only be remedied by giving everyone an education appropriate to the mid-to-top earners, so everyone becomes mid-to-top earners…I am not at my most eloquent right now and I am sure there is a better way to put what I’m saying, but it seems like progressives created the problem and now have to deal with the consequences of putting the downtrodden on the teat.

      Also, compulsory, state-sponsored education means easy indoctrination and control of the underclasses.

  8. For those of you out there reading but choosing NOT to comment, need I remind you that you are in violation of the Commerce Clause as it pertains to the First Ammendment?

    1. +1

      Excellently played!

      1. Just trying to keep you out of the defendant’s chair, Ben.

        1. Ok, you caught me. But what about those that aren’t even reading? There’s got to be a way to get them, too.

          1. Ignorance of the law is no excuse!

            1. Unless you are a cop, judge, or congressman 🙂

    2. My comments are for private consumption, in my own back yard.

      1. Dude, don’t bogart those comments…

  9. A highly efficient, productive, and satisfying world.

    Although we must sacrifice such a scenario. It is much more important to reinforce the notion that every student be well rounded. In a public institution this usually means that every student be mediocre, at best, in a variety of subjects. It’s not enough that we produce publically funded retards… they must meet the important criteria of being well rounded publically funded retards.

    1. How this squares with the new school-food regs escapes me.

  10. Special, I would say that the key issue for our educrapparatchiks isn’t “well-rounded”, its “publicly funded”.

  11. “Black Education Disaster”
    Walter Williams
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/wil…..s63.1.html

    Excerpt:

    SAT scores confirm the poor education received by blacks. In 2009, average SAT reading test scores were: whites (528), Asians (516) and blacks (429). In math it was whites (536), Asians (587) and blacks (426). Twelve years of fraudulent primary and secondary education received by most blacks are not erased by four or five years of college.

    […]What’s some of the response of the black community to efforts to do something about fraudulent primary and secondary education? Voters in Washington, D.C., might provide a partial answer. Mayor Adrian Fenty appointed and backed Michelle Rhee as chancellor of D.C. Public Schools.

    She fired large numbers of ineffective teachers, most of whom were black, and fought the teachers’ union. During her tenure, there were small gains made in student test scores.

    How did all of this go over with Washington voters? Washington’s teachers’ union, as well as D.C.’s public-employee unions, spent massive amounts of money campaigning against Fenty. Voters unseated him in the November elections and with him went Chancellor Rhee. Fenty had other “faults”; he didn’t play the racial patronage game that has become a part of D.C.’s political landscape. The clear message given by D.C. voters and teachers’ union is that any politician who’s willing to play hardball in an effort to improve black education will be run out of town.

    Ergo: The Public School System is not really interested in results or educating children, it’s only interested in keeping the fiefdoms.

    1. The sad truth is that, although in her short tenure, Michelle Rhee, by firing tons of incompetent fucks, managed for the first time in decades to stop the average math scores of DC students from sliding into oblivion. In fact, the scores even went up a little. Methinks some people were afraid of losing their jobs so they actually, ya know, did them. Moreover, Rhee probably moved out some of the deadwood that was stagnating curricula. As thanks for her efforts, she was forced to resign, called a racist dragon woman all the way to the DC city limits as the ranks of the teacher’s union cheered her ousting while raising their pitch-forks and torches to the blood-red sky. I can’t wait to see those math scores slide back into the maw of disaster that is the result of Union-backed education. Schadenfreude anyone?

      Of course, Rhee’s performance could be a statistical outlier, etc etc. I think it is far more likely that a powerful fiefdom had enough of “reform” and preferred the comfortable warmth of incompetence, stagnation, and loads of unearned dirty money. Oh well, if she moves up to New Jersey, Christie will have her back until he inevitably (and conveniently!) falls down an elevator shaft onto some precariously placed upright bullets. The unionized police force will determine the cause of death to be hookers and blow.

      1. “the cause of death to be hookers and blow.”

        In New Jersey that’s natural causes.

        1. Per the Man Show, that would be a man’s death on par with whorehouse heart-attack and jumping out of a plane to your death.

          1. Coming Soon: Orbital Skydiving to one’s death from a MicroG Whorehouse.

    2. Don’t you get 800 points for writing your name down on the scantron? If the average score of a black student in the district was 850-860ish, wouldn’t they do better by answering questions at random? I knew it was bad but I had no idea it was that bad. If the teachers and administrators in that school district had any shame, they would fall on their own swords.

  12. Interesting take on civil liberties and politics in general. Also a refreshing definition of the classic liberal and traditional conservative

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  13. This why our number one priority in education has to be getting those fat little bastards to eat vegetables from local organic cooperative farms.

  14. Don’t we always think the next generation is going to hell in a handbasket?

    1. We don’t usually have the test scores to back it up though.

      1. ….because they’re usually going to hell because of “that damn rock’n’roll”, dancing, comic books, or video games. This time, the doomsaying is in response to them barely being able to do arithmetic.

  15. I’m still skeptical about the whole “the internet will eliminate schools” meme. They said the same thing about the printing press. You *can* learn plenty on your own, if you are motivated and self-disciplined. The vast majority of people are neither, and we now have nearly 20 years of evidence that students of all ages who take internet courses fail at very high rates.

    I have no doubt that a lot of H&R posters can and do take advantage of online courses and resources, but readers of this blog are not a representative cross-section of the population. It’s probably closer to reality to try and picture the cast of Idiocracy trying to complete courses online: this is what will happen if you try to implement online coursework for everybody.

    There are no silver bullets. None. Not even the great series of tubes.

    1. Oh yeah, and if Terry Moe thinks that online instruction is less labor-intensive, then he’s never tried it. It’s only less work if you just scan and post the textbook, and then ignore the flood of emails from your students.

    2. Have to agree with you here. All this “technology will save us” shit is a bit too Tom Friedman-esque. I commented in the other school-related thread today about how people are actually dumb enough to think a smartboard is a more effective tool for education than a blackboard and chalk. It’s not, it just looks cooler and makes the parents feel they are sending their sub-literate spawn to “cutting-edge” schools.

    3. Ow, my balls!!

  16. Kind of hard to take Moe seriously when the compulsory nature of education is not mentioned. If one cannot opt out, any system will be corrupt.

  17. In fact, LIO Libertarians and others have been leading the way while scholars theorize: http://www.libertarianinternat…..ol-boards-

  18. SOUNDS LIKE A VERY GOOD THING.

  19. SOUNDS LIKE A VERY GOOD THING.

  20. “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” Thomas Jefferson
    Although I agree with the general notion of non-compulsion, I fear for the future of our republic (small r) if the education of the little fuckers is left in the hands of their parents.

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  22. K?12 crisis, many Americans are newly focused on the negative impact teachers unions are having on student performance. Terry M. Moe has been considering the problem for more than two decades now.

    Ha the only crisis here is how much money we spend on it.

    The USA does fine:

    PISA Scores Show Demography Is Destiny In Education Too?But Washington Doesn’t Want You To Know
    http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

  23. Teachers on site with the kids….hmmmmm. Computers acting as babysitters…not. Where will we house the students during mommy and daddy’s work time if not w/babysitter-teachers.

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  26. Terry Moe is wasting his time. There is no technological silver bullet for this monster. He’s factually wrong. Technology DID compete with live theater and concerts. It’s called film, recordings and TV. The Broadway labor unions still exist today strangling theaters with their rules and raising prices to the point that only the very wealthy can afford. Many newspapers folded due to union rules that kept people on the job despite technology that could do their jobs better. Finally, he’s behind the times. Kindergartners and first graders (at least) use interactive programs to learn to read and do math here in Florida. That’s had zero impact on the unions and retarded the ability of the kids to communicate with each other and their teachers. I think maybe that the silver bullet is doing away with degrees in “education” and schools of education. Every person who wants to be a teacher should have an undergraduate college degree in a “real” subject area. The union is a natural outgrowth of the college of education.

    1. There are plenty of silver bullets brought forth by the think tanks. Sadly, no one at the think tanks has a gun to shoot them.

      They show up at policy events with white papers while the oppositions shows up at the legislators office with campaign checks.

      The lefts donors fund fiery candidates, the right’s fund a lame and frightened Republican party too cowardly to attack the system.

      The left funds unions to march and the right funds think tanks for more white papers.

      Enter the Parent Trigger, a progressive device to organize parents around reform.

      If vouchers, charters and digital learning are silver bullets, the parent trigger is the gun.

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  30. Terry Moe is wasting his time. There is no technological silver bullet for this monster. He’s factually wrong. Technology DID compete with live theater and concerts. It’s called film, recordings and TV. The Broadway labor unions still exist today strangling theaters with their rules and raising prices to the point that only the very wealthy can afford. Many newspapers folded due to union rules that kept people on the job despite technology that could do their jobs better. ???? ????? ??? ???????
    ???? ????? ????? ???????
    Finally, he’s behind the times. Kindergartners and first graders (at least) use interactive programs to learn to read and do math here in Florida. That’s had zero impact on the unions and retarded the ability of the kids to communicate with each other and their teachers. I think maybe that the silver bullet is doing away with degrees in “education” and schools of education. Every person who wants to be a teacher should have an undergraduate college degree in a “real” subject area. The union is a natural outgrowth of the college of education.

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