Government Spending

Privatize K-12 or Socialize Medicine?

|

During the heyday of the ObamaCare debate, the rap against America's health care system was that it consumes 16 percent of the country's GDP—more than any other country in the world—yet leaves about 16 percent of the population uninsured. What's more, life expectancy in the U.S. is 42nd in the world, behind even some less developed countries. And the overall performance of the health system was 72nd among the 191 nations studied by the World Health Organization.

These are all legitimate—if addressable—points. But if it is fair to ask such questions of America's quasi-socialized health care industry, isn't it also fair to ask them of America's fully socialized education industry?

Indeed, the country spends over $800 billion on K-12 education or about 5.5 percent of the GDP, the highest in the world. On a per student basis, only Switzerland spends more than the United States. Yet America's graduation rate of 72 percent is 10 percentage points lower than the OECD average of 82 percent. Fifteen-year-old American students score below the international average on math and science literacy when compared with 30 OECD countries.  Kids in Poland and Hungary— countries that have barely thrown the yoke of communism—perform better than American kids. 

Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math on the 2009 Program for International Student Assessment tests. (The PISA exam is one of a handful of tests that compare educational levels across nations, and is considered to be the most comprehensive.)

I could go on.

But the point is that if the lacklustre performance of America's quasi-socialized health care industry is a good reason to fully socialize it as President Obama and his fellow Dems wanted, then isn't the lacklustre performance of America's fully socialized K-12 system a good reason to privatize it?

Advertisement

NEXT: We Weren't the Ones We Were Waiting For: Have Hipsters Abandoned Obama?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Here’s what’s worse: have you seen Polish spelling? Hardly any vowels at all. And how do you get “Sheshevsky” out of “Krzyzewski?” It’s madness.

    1. In Michener’s Poland, he does a bit on pronunciation vs. spelling in Polish. Apparently, “Lancut” is pronounced “Winesooth.” Frankly, that kind of garbling should get your language banned.

      1. If the “L” has a line through it it’s pronounced like a “W.” And the “W” is pronounced like a “V.”

        Hence, it’s really Stanislav Wem.

        1. I suddenly wonder whether partitioning Poland was such a bad thing.

      2. I remember that. I believe a non-Pole married a Pole and she taped a little cheat-sheet to the mirror in order to learn the correct pronunciation.

        1. This is correct. An American woman.

      3. There are ideas that Arabic grammar is as hard as it is because Islamic theologians were trying to put the Quran together in a way that made sense. So a lot of headaches in a language native to a population about the size of the United States can be blamed on one book.

        1. Actually more like the spelling of many words.

    2. Czech, which is much like Polish, has a famous vowel-less sentence: Strc prst skrz krk

      1. It doesnt have pivo in it, so I can imagine when it would be used.

        1. cant…cant imagine.

          1. I worked at a shop in an area with a large Polish population. A customer with a last name something like Chzrscz had something on backorder for a few weeks. We kept tabs on the order and would disagree over whether it should be pronounced “Chazakraz” or “Chazarkazerz.” When her order finally came in we asked her which of us was right. She looked at us and said “It’s [Shonsh].” We almost fell over.

            Ah, foreign stuff. So silly of them to do things their way.

      2. What about Welsh? Does it have any vowels?

        1. Um, IIRC, Welsh has all of them.

          Llandudno
          Llandyrnog
          Gwynedd
          Cardiff (OK, that’s cheating, but they do have i’s)

        2. And sometimes y and w.

        3. Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a place name in Welsh. Looks like gibberish to English speakers, but it makes sense in Welsh.

          Welsh has the following vowels: a, e, i, o, u (pronounced “ee”), w (pronounced “oo”), and y (pronounced “uh” or “ee” depending on where it is in the word). It’s actually much more phonetic than English.

  2. Privatize both! Problems solved!

  3. countries that have barely thrown the yolk of communism

    How is that relevant?

    1. The Soviet Union was a growth and development retardant.

      1. Irrelevant when discussing the quality of their education system.

        1. Not really, since institutions develop over time.

        2. They’re no longer shackled by an omnipresent, rotting, putrid and corrupt State with a capital “S,” but it hasn’t been that long. They’re doing better than US kids in science and math. I’d say it’s relevant.

          1. Who says they weren’t doing better 20 years ago too?

            1. Okay, maybe they were. Maybe they weren’t. If you can prove it either way, I’d love to hear about it. I’d be willing to bet that they weren’t.

              I would, however, be willing to bet that the Soviets would have lied about how well their kids were doing in science and math.

    2. countries that have barely thrown the yolk of communism

      There’s a sticky yellow joke in there somewhere.

      1. Dammit, I totally missed that.

      2. If you want to make an omelette…

        1. I think I won the “Mr. Obvious” award again…

  4. Because the left doesn’t care quality or results, all it cares about is having one large authoritarian government that controls every aspect of human existence.

    That’s why it’s supports both government health care and government education. And that’s the only reason.

    1. Most of the “left” are stupid. Not evil. They honestly believe that some strange they don’t know is better at making crucial decisions than they are.

      1. You can always trust the experts. Trust me.

      2. They honestly believe that some strange they don’t know is better at making crucial decisions than they are.

        Isn’t believing something that ridiculous and superstitious pretty strong evidence you are stupid?

        1. People trust experts and top men. It takes the scariness out of having to decide for yourself and maybe being wrong, and learning along the way.

        2. Isn’t believing something that ridiculous and superstitious pretty strong evidence you are stupid?

          One of them explained it to me like this (during the health-care debate). I’m paraphrasing of course, but his little speech stuck out in my mind enough that I believe this is very close to a straight-up quote:

          “I’m not a doctor. If a doctor runs a bunch of tests and tells me I have cancer, I will probably believe him. They are experts, and I am not.

          I’m not going to say, ‘No expert knows better than me! I can make my OWN decisions, and I don’t believe I have cancer!’

          Of course I could say that, but it would be stupid. It is in everyone’s best interest to trust to the opinion of those who know a particular subject better than you. If experts didn’t know better than us, then we shouldn’t have doctors at all; everyone should just diagnose themselves, and have their friends perform the surgery, because, hey, I’m my own person and refuse to trust to those ivory-tower egg-heads! No architects, no engineers. Those are experts, and according to you, people shouldn’t listen to them.”

          1. The point is well-taken, but extended to all areas of life, I think it’s disastrous.

            “Why shouldn’t I listen to the economist Paul Krugman? After all, he’s an expert, and I’m not. Maybe if another expert disagrees with him I will listen to that expert, but I don’t know enough to independently evaluate anything he says.”

            Degreed people also presume knowledge outside their area of expertise, using their credentials in one area as a basis for offering opinions in another.

            One does not have to be an expert in order to make a salient or insightful contribution to a conversation or debate. Not everything is biochemistry or nuclear engineering or physics.

            1. Everything is in principle quantifiable, though.

              The people who need to explain themselves are those who reject expertise willy-nilly when it doesn’t confirm their preconceived ideological beliefs.

              1. Everything is in principle quantifiable, though.

                Um, what?

                1. The people who need to explain themselves are those who reject expertise willy-nilly when it doesn’t confirm their preconceived ideological beliefs.

                  Wait, did you mean “explain to themselves?” And sorry, I clicked when I meant to keep replying.

                2. The people who need to explain themselves are those who reject expertise willy-nilly when it doesn’t confirm their preconceived ideological beliefs.

                  Wait, did you mean “explain to themselves?” And sorry, I clicked when I meant to keep replying.

                  1. I’m shooting server squirrel, skinning it, and eating it for dinner tonight.

            2. Degreed people also presume knowledge outside their area of expertise, using their credentials in one area as a basis for offering opinions in another.

              I think this is especially pertinent. If Krugman just spewed his economic nonsense, and let people compare to other opinions and decide for themselves, that would be one thing. Instead, he presumes to offer policy prescriptions, and to attack those who disagree with them as being vicious or stupid. I think a lot of people assume that since they have degrees, that means they’re generally more intelligent than others, and thus their opinions, even on unrelated subjects, should carry more weight.

              I wish I had thought of that at the time, because I would have used it in my retort. Using his engineer example: I don’t care in our political conversation that you’re an engineer. If I need a sewer system installed, I’ll call you. But you are not any more or less qualified to speak about subject x (x = something other than engineering) than any other random dude.

              1. The phenomenon is so pervasive in our society that the textbook for my formal logic class in college had a little section on it. As you say, people with master’s degrees or PhDs or what-have-you may be very, very smart people and experts in a certain area, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best about every particular matter; their education does not confer on them special insight. Healthy doses of reason and common sense shouldn’t be excluded from discourse because they aren’t anchored with a degree in whatever.

          2. The ability to diagnose cancer is not congruent with the ability to run a medical system and make decisions for 310 million people. I’ll defer to a doctor – after at least a second opinion – on the former but not on the latter.

        3. Trusting experts is ridiculous and superstitious? Guess you never travel by air…

            1. Wow, that Russian bird is a hunk of shit.

    2. The right doesn’t care about quality or results either; all it cares about is forcing its religion onto everyone and putting down minorities.

      Strawman arguments are fun. And stupid.

  5. “The numbers, while concerning, would be MUCH worse if education or health care were privatized! Only the super-rich would be able to afford to educate their kids, and only the well-connected oligarchs would have access to quality health care!”

    1. …what Rachel Maddow would say, if she were here.

      1. “Right, Rach, because rich people don’t send their kids to high-quality private schools now. Like the President! Why, he believes so totally in American public education he sent his kids to- oh, wait. You are an obnoxious communist serf, and you want me to be one, too.”

        …what I would say to Rachel Maddow, if she were here, and said what you said she would say.

  6. That Europeans have fucked up teeth suggests to me that maybe they don’t consume healthcare in the same quantities that we do. Lower consumption ergo lower prices.

    1. And your claim that “Europeans have fucked up teeth” is based on, what, exactly?

      The English were once famous for bad teeth buteven that’s getting to be a thing of the past.

      Most of the continental European countries have dentistry on a par with the USA.

      1. He knows them french broads don’t shave either! And those euros smell real bad ’cause they don’t have the Axe body spray. Those freeloading bastards!

        *shakes fist, goes back to consuming products from KFC’s famous bowl range*

        1. I can respect a KFC bowl-eater waaaay before an axe body spray user. That shit is just repugnant.

          1. Well on one hand it’s a scientifically proven fact that Axe users are most likely date-rapists, but on the other hand we are talking about KFC famous bowls …

            On the original poster’s third hand he does need to defend america from european dental standards and surrendering or something.

            1. I am surprised they haven’t yet packaged Axe with roofies.

              1. I think Neil Hamburger foiled that plan.

    2. I see plenty of Americans with fucked up teeth.

      1. Miley Cyrus, for example.
        http://www.ollieanddarsh.co.uk/blog/w…..85×300.jpg
        I guess she got em fixed.

        1. Her teeth weren’t messed up, they were clean and all present. They just weren’t in a nice, neat row. That she didn’t have crowns is hardly a sign of poor hygiene. This is the result of bad hygiene.

  7. Kids in Poland and Hungary? countries that have barely thrown off the yolk yoke of communism?perform better than American kids.

    yolk = the yellow part of an egg
    yoke = a device whereby a plow (etc) is pulled, usually by domestic animals.

    1. You obviously missed the yolk.

  8. isn’t the lacklustre performance of America’s fully socialized K-12 system a good reason to privatize it?

    No! I need more money!

  9. These comparative stats are worthless if they don;t control for the very different demographics between the US and the OECD nations. Japan, for example, is something like 98% Japanese. Let’s compare the stats for Japanese-American children and Japanese children. Over to you, Shikha.

    1. There also isn’t any evidence that vouchers improve reading and math scores, although they do dramatically increase graduation rates.

      http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/pub…..x?QRId=165

    2. Racist!!!!

      The obvious extension of your challenge is to compare the stats for Mexican kids to Mexican-American kids, and EVEN WORSE, to compare the stats for African kids to African-American kids. You can be burned as a heretic for asking such questions.

      1. [damn threaded comments]

        Racist!!!!

        The obvious extension of your challenge is to compare the stats for Mexican kids to Mexican-American kids, and EVEN WORSE, to compare the stats for African kids to African-American kids. You can be burned as a heretic for asking such questions.

        You may be right. 10 minutes of googling suggests that only a white nationalist outfit has bothered to answer that question. (Scroll down for the chart.)
        http://www.amren.com/mtnews/ar…..es_sho.php

        USA-Hispanic 466
        Mexico 425
        USA-Black 441
        Trinidad 416

    3. Since I’m not a professional pontificator, I did some research.

      For Asian-American students (remember this includes Vietnam, Thailand and other less developed countries outside Northeast Asia), the mean PISA score is 534, same as 533 for the average of Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong. Here we have two biases going in opposite directions: Asians in the U.S are selected. On the other hand we are comparing the richest and best scoring Asian countries with all Americans with origin in South and East Asia.

      http://super-economy.blogspot……s-usa.html

  10. My guess is that a progressive would respond that pre-Obamacare, the U.S. had a laissez faire health care system, while the rest of the civilized world had a socialized one. In the case of education, the U.S. and other countries all have (mostly) socialized systems.

    Leaving aside progressives’ blindness to the government’s decades-long massive involvement in healthcare, it is true that other countries’ education establishments are closer to the United States’ than their health care systems are. Still, progressives ought to be wondering why the U.S.’s education bureaucracy doesn’t work as well, and whether the U.S. is different enough to make less government involvement more desirable.

    1. Strangely enough, in Canada, reglious (parochial) schools are allowed to receive government funding. These school are independently run by local diocese.
      Parents can also choose which local school to send their kids to. They aren’t required to send them to only the one closest to their home.

      1. Strangely enough, in Canada, reglious (parochial) schools are allowed to receive government funding.

        Stupid SCOTUS decisions aside, I see no reason why we couldn’t do this in the US. I don’t see an “establishment of religion” problem so long as all schools are treated equally.

        1. In Manchester, NH, in the 1950’s, buses used to take children to Catholic schools. When questions arose about this, the local Cardinal said that without the buses, the schools would have to close, and the kids would all have to go to public schools (which would have bankrupted the school district.)

          The questions were quietly dropped.

      2. That depends on the province.

        In Ontario there are actually two public school systems, one for protestants and one for catholics. Residents actually sign up to have their school taxes go to one system or the other and also to vote for members of a school board.

        The Separate schools also get a share of provincial money as well.

        Privately run parochial schools do not get public money.

    2. Clearly their education bureaucracies are more centralized than ours. What we need to do is take this out of state and local government hands and put it in federal government control.

  11. Public education was once quite successful, so it is not just the “public” nature of our current education system that is causing it to perform so poorly. What happened?

    1. Have you ever met an education major?

      1. I get your point, and I generally agree, although I knew a girl in college who planned to be a math teacher, and she was majoring in Math, not the baby math that education majors study, but real math, and she was damn smart.

        My question is, public education turned out some very smart, well educated people in the past. What happened to change that?

        1. The general antipathy soft science academia has for intellectual rigor.

        2. I get your point, and I generally agree, although I knew a girl in college who planned to be a math teacher, and she was majoring in Math, not the baby math that education majors study, but real math, and she was damn smart.

          /shrug

          I know one girl- one- who is getting a PhD in mathematics. I know plenty of female physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and PAs. All science-heavy subjects. I’ve met many, many more females who chose things like anthropology, fine arts, English*, interior design, stuff like that.

          *I’m not bagging on English as a major. That shit can be tough. Just in a different way than, say, abstract analysis.

        3. That’s a good point. In Europe, people teaching at the highschool level often have advanced degrees in the field they are eaching.

          I think our problem may be that we started requiring teachers to major in education, instead of merely getting a teaching certificate in addition to a BS in some field of study.

          1. http://education-portal.com/ar…..chool.html

            High school teachers in public schools must earn a state teaching license. Each state determines its own requirements for licensure, but most generally require applicants to earn a bachelor’s degree in education,

            Your friend may be making a mistake if she thinks she will be allowed to teach with a math degree rather than an education degree.

        4. That’s similar to the question, “Our ‘mixed’ economy used to turn out a great many millionaires and billionaires, and a huge middle class, in the past. What happened to change that?”

          In either case, I would argue that people of talent, intelligence, and ambition can succeed, regardless of the flaws of the institutional systems they must navigate along the way. But as the institutions deteriorate, and the obstacles to success become more cumbersome, the success rate drops.

          It would be nice to have a baseline that would show the “natural” rate of success in a free-market education system.

      2. I met plenty of them while I was being “taught” in public schools, and I met plenty of them in college. With few exceptions, I have not been impressed. That so many of them were authoritarian, state-worshiping drones depresses the shit out of me.

      3. PJ O’Rourke once said that you cant understand what is wrong with the american education system until you have fucked an ElEd major.

        1. I spent a lot of time in college doing that. And I can understand exactly what is wrong with the american education system.

          1. Care to elaborate?

  12. Maybe our public schools should ease up on the “social studies” and focus more on these “math” and “science” thingies. It would mean maybe omitting the lesson plan where the kids learn what people eat for breakfast in Namibia, but I’d be willing to bet the kids would make that sacrifice.

    1. focus more on these “math” and “science” thingies.

      Draw a “triangle,” then color it in with what you feel your favorite scientist would like.

      1. Have you ever read about some of the dumber ways the academic elites have wanted to try and teach math and other objective subject areas? You’re closer to the truth than you may realize.

        I found a series of cartoons written by a disgruntled teacher, lampooning one of the more ridiculous efforts to teach math that was pushed from on high, sometime in the 90s, I think. Maybe I can find them again.

        1. Please do. We don’t know what “lampoon” is, but like our President we’re always open to good ideas.

          1. See here and here for some of the dumbest public-education curricula ever enacted, and how many felt about it.

            1. writing two different ways to determine if 2 is even or odd, and explaining the answer

              Unbelievable. We have a Master’s, and we can’t do that. No wonder that curricula was dropped.

  13. Just wait until the doctors form unions and make it impossible to fire them for malpractice.

    I wonder what having poorly paid, un-firable doctors will do to life expectancies.

    1. We won’t need to monitor things like that any more. Just take our word that it’s better and pay your dues!

      1. You, too!

  14. “And the overall performance of the health system was 72nd among the 191 nations studied by the World Health Organization.
    These are all legitimate?if addressable?points.”

    Perhaps, but the WHO rates a country by some criteria that are, shall we say, a bit biased:
    http://www.photius.com/ranking…..stems.html

    Note that one of the eight is “Fairness in financial contribution”, which, if my bureaucrat-decoder ring is true says you fail if you don’t have socialized medicine.
    Then we have “Health expenditure per capita in international dollars”. Does this include our market rate pharmaceuticals, as opposed to third world countries like Canada who can’t afford them? Is it corrected for medical profession pay scales? Distortions from malpractice costs? Does it include the money spent by medical tourists for procedures they can’t get in their home countries? Are ‘life-style’ costs (cosmetic surgery, viagra, rogaine, botox, birth control pills) included?

  15. Racist!!!!

    The obvious extension of your challenge is to compare the stats for Mexican kids to Mexican-American kids, and EVEN WORSE, to compare the stats for African kids to African-American kids. You can be burned as a heretic for asking such questions.

    You may be right. 10 minutes of googling suggests that only a white nationalist outfit has bothered to answer that question. (Scroll down for the chart.)
    http://www.amren.com/mtnews/ar…..es_sho.php

    USA-Hispanic 466
    Mexico 425
    USA-Black 441
    Trinidad 416

    1. interesting, heretical, subversive, and RAAAACCCCCISSSSTTT!

      *Wipes flecks of phlegm from screen.*

  16. the implication of the article is that providing health care is somehow the same as educating kindergarteners… a dubious proposition

    the health reform is a farce: single payer universal coverage is the only way, the profit motive (ok, face it in the US we’re talking about fraud motive) has to be removed for the care to be affordable

    have a field day with my remarks, reasonoids, I’m sure it will take no time for you to embarrass yourselves with your responses

    1. “have a field day with my remarks, reasonoids, I’m sure it will take no time for you to embarrass yourselves with your responses”

      A field day? Why? Think we haven’t read the same stupid claims before?

    2. *yawn*

  17. But the point is that if the lacklustre performance of America’s quasi-socialized health care industry is a good reason to fully socialize it as President Obama and his fellow Dems wanted, then isn’t the lacklustre performance of America’s fully socialized K-12 system a good reason to privatize it?

    Most convoluted argument made this whole year. And most difficult to articulate in any sensible way verbally this decade…

    I like it. A+

  18. The truth is that the US has just about the best schools in the world; we just don’t have the best students.

    For all you liberal creationists, continue to pretend that this proof/evidence doesn’t exist:
    http://www.vdare.com/sailer/101219_pisa.htm

  19. I am depressed to realize that I have been making the comparative argument between health care and education for decades, now. Health care is now almost all the way to the left (total socialization), while education, once pegged at the left, has moved an appreciable — though ultimately small — distance toward the right (with vouchers, the alternative education movement & increased prevalence of home-schooling, etc.). I have asked people to consider what health care would be like, once that sector were as socialized as K-12 has traditionally been. I haven’t been alone in this effort; perhaps the revulsion and fear people feel when thinking about that proposition accounts for the slow increase in volume, which I have detected in recent years, for greater privatization in K-12. I’d certainly like to think so.

  20. . . . then isn’t the lacklustre performance of America’s fully socialized K-12 system a good reason to privatize it?

    No. The answer is to introduce even more government control and oversight by the education industry’s Top Men?.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.