The Department of Education's Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law

School discipline is not the kind of issue that can be controlled from inside the Beltway. In enforcing Title VI, the Department of Education should stick to investigating and responding to allegations of actual discrimination.


The final version of my school discipline article (with Alison Somin) is now available on SSRN. It's called The Department of Education's Obama-Era Initiative on Racial Disparities in School Discipline: Wrong For Students and Teachers, Wrong on the Law.

As the title suggests, the article makes two arguments: (1) The Obama Administration's aggressive application of disparate impact theory to school discipline, is a bad policy; and (2) It goes beyond the scope of the federal government's authority too.

I'll discuss the second argument in another post. Right now, let me give you a taste of the first.

During the Obama Administration, one of the Department of Education's primary missions was to stop schools from suspending or otherwise disciplining African American students at higher rates than white or Asian American students:

… One of its primary strategies would be for its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to pore over statistical evidence from every school district, looking for evidence of racial disparate impact in discipline. When a school district was found to be disciplining African-American students at a significantly higher rate than Asian or white students, the school district could expect to be subjected to an investigation. As one media report put it, rather than waiting for "cases [to] come in the door," the Obama Administration "plans to use data to go find [civil rights] problems."

School districts wishing to avoid costly investigations would need to avoid the kind of disparate impact that would attract OCR's attention. The easiest and safest strategy would be clear: Reduce suspensions for minority students in order to make your numbers look good.

The danger should have been obvious. What if an important reason more African-American students were being disciplined than white or Asian students was that more African-American students were misbehaving? And what if the cost of failing to discipline those students primarily falls on their fellow African-American students who are trying to learn amid classroom disorder? Would unleashing OCR and its army of lawyers cause those schools to act carefully and precisely to eliminate only that portion of the discipline gap that was the result of race discrimination? Or—more likely—would schools react heavy-handedly by tolerating more classroom disorder, thus making it more difficult for students who share the classroom with unruly students to learn?

Almost everyone has had experience with distant bureaucracies. Even when their edicts are reasonably nuanced, by the time they reach the foot soldiers on the ground (in this case classroom teachers), any subtlety has disappeared. "Don't discipline minority students unless it is justified" is naturally understood by school district administrators as "Don't discipline a minority student unless you are confident that you can persuade some future federal investigator whose judgment you have no reason to trust that it was justified." In turn, this is presented to principals as "Don't discipline a minority student unless you and your teachers jump through the following time-consuming procedural hoops designed to document to the satisfaction of some future federal investigator whose judgment we have no reason to trust that it was justified." Finally, teachers hear the directive this way: "Just don't discipline so many minority students; it will only create giant hassles for everyone involved." This is in the nature of bureaucracy. Those who complain that schools overreact to governmental directives are howling at the moon. It is inevitable.

The first half of the article examines both empirical evidence and opinions from teachers indicating that things are getting worse in schools as a result of the push to stop disparate impact in discipline. In addition, it discusses a poll showing that a healthy majority of teachers oppose the Obama Administration's school discipline policy.

Also in the first half, the article examines (and rejects) studies cited by the Department of Education for the proposition that disparate impact in discipline is the result of discrimination rather than differences in actual behavior. Instead it cites to better-designed studies leading to the opposite conclusion.

So far, the Trump Administration has left the Obama-Era Dear Colleague Letter on school discipline in place.

NEXT: Some Preliminary Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Nomination [Updated with additional material]

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 or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The decision by Broward County, Fl. to avoid OCR scrutiny by never punishing violent or disruptive behavior in their schools is one of the reasons that Nickolas Cruz was able to purchase the firearm used in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

  2. Seems like an excellent example of what’s wrong with central planning. The problems are obvious — as you mention the most obvious, what if some troublemakers don’t get disciplined? But it works in other ways too.

    As schools adapt to the new standards and the outliers are brought under control, the tolerance standards will shrink. How far can they shrink before even one disciplinary case too many lands a school in hot water? Bureaucrats will begin sweating the end of each reporting period, and students will learn to take advantage of this in ways only bored students can. The arbitrary and capricious nature will wreak havoc on any respect among students. Teacher unions will be glad to jump on the bandwagon to curry favor and consolidate power.

    What about schools where the targeted minority is under-disciplined? Other minorities will not like being over-disciplined. The slightest disparities will add to the tension.

    And all this could be avoided if parents had choice in what schools their kids attended. One simple solution — let parents choose their school — but central planners hate individual choice second only to hating the loss of control which is their life blood.

    1. When an issue seems to boil down to ‘central planners vs choice’ you’re probably being too reductive. I agree with you that the issue of risk-averse rigid ‘zero-tolerance’ policies is a cost of central planning (among other things), but many private school students can tell you broad discretion has it’s problems with arbitrary and capriciousness as well.

      But what I really want to push back on is the idea that letting parents choose their school is any kind of easy silver bullet. Once you allow flight from some schools those that cannot leave will be trapped in failing schools. So the simplistic system has the result of creating opportunities for the more powerful while screwing those with less means. So it’s not a hatred of choice, it’s arguably a defense of opportunity, and the choices and liberty that allows down the line.

      1. Once you allow flight from some schools those that cannot leave will be trapped in failing schools.

        With the implementation of a real school choice system, you’d have to expect a bumpy transition period. It will take a great deal of time for public schools to figure out even basic things like how large they need to be.

        And the biggest challenge on the Public side will not be “failing” schools in a general sense. Rather, it will be the costs associated with mandated special needs accommodations. Pensions and special needs are the two costs that have impacted Public schools the most in recent years. School choice addresses neither of these pre-existing obligations. Pensions are actually the easier of the two to solve, since their solution involves just a transition period to a new program. Special needs…that’s much harder to solve (fiscally).

        1. Fair point about special needs budgeting, but arguably solvable with some sort of clever funding schemes.

          But I still see a fundamental problem with such a system.
          Without bussing, how do you see the market shaking in any way other than into poor schools and rich schools, both of which are free, but one of which people travel to and the other is for all those who cannot pay the time and money involved?

          1. How do people manage to find places to live and work and play without central planning?

            Why should schools be an exception requiring central planning?

            1. Because an educated populous is a public good, which is why it is provided by the government.

              Jobs, on the other hand, are a much more diverse lot and don’t have as much of a benefit.

              Now, if you want to argue that employment is a public good and the government should work on improving that, you, I, and FDR can have a talk about some interesting programs that made some great brick outhouses in the parks I hike in.

              1. We *assume* that an educated populous is a public good, but is it, really? What do we mean by “educated”? Does everyone need a PhD, or does reading, writing, arithmetic, and maybe a civics class or two suffice? And why should we expect gov’t to make good choices in providing what we need to do, since they already demonstrate failure in so many spheres (including education, by the way)?

                And even if it *is* a public good, why does that automatically mean gov’t should be the one providing it? We pride ourselves on being free — and in particular, we as a people don’t trust our gov’t (and with good reason) — why would we want the very gov’t we don’t trust, to tell us what to think?

                I’m willing to argue, too, that employment is also a public good — but at the same time, FDR, through government action made unemployment sufficiently worse. I want nothing to do with those interesting “solutions” that gave us great brick outhouses in our parks, but prolonged for a decade something that should have taken only a few months to solve.

                (Incidentally, it’s not *just* FDR’s fault that it took a decade to solve. Hoover’s programs beat down a beginning recovery — and FDR doubled down on Hoover’s attempts to fix things. Ironically enough, farmers had already spent a decade in depression — they were the only group that didn’t recover from the early 1920 market crash — but they were also the only group that were “helped” by Hoover, via Hoover/FDR style economy repairs.)

                1. We *assume* that an educated populous is a public good, but is it, really? What do we mean by “educated”?

                  I’m speaking about why we do what we do right now. If you want to mount an attack on public education (via freedom, nach), you’ll find lots of takers on the right, but not much in policymakers just about anywhere in the world.

                  The view that FDR made unemployment worse is held only by a very few economists. Many on here will quote those few, but the revisionist ‘New Deal was actually bad’ remains very much an outlier view.

                  1. Your economic views on the Great Depression are by no means “settled economics”. Compare and contrast the 1920 recession which was as deep as the 1930 version, but lasted only 18 months. Was it coincidental that government was paralyzed by Woodrow Wilson’s stroke and could not implement all the rescue programs the progressives wanted to?

                    1. Compare and contrast the 1920 recession which was as deep as the 1930 version, but lasted only 18 months.
                      That kind of reductive analysis not going to win you your war of revision. Economics is not alchemy ‘if…then’ won’t get you very far.

                      FDR getting us out of the great depression was settled economics 25 years ago. Now there is a libertarian push to revise that, but as of yet it hasn’t gained much academic traction outside of dedicated ideological institutions like Chicago.

                    2. Oh for Pete’s sake. “Settled” anything is nonsense. Newtonian gravity was settled once.

                      If you think economics was settled 25 years ago, you are a fool and welcome to your illiteracy.

                    3. “Settled” anything is nonsense. Newtonian gravity was settled once.

                      Fine for working bench scientists. Not an operable worldview for laypeople such as you or I.

                    4. Wow sarcastro… Making the claim that anything is settled in economics shows you to be an utter idiot.

                  2. We *assume* that an educated populous is a public good, but is it, really?

                    Not if it leads people to confuse the noun “populace” with the adjective “populous.”

                    1. Elitists gonna elite.

                    2. “Elitists gonna elite.”

                      Yeah, tell me about it. That’s why we’ll always have eggheads who think they know best for society — whether they be in Education, like Dewey, or in business, like Bill Gates, or in government, like FDR — constantly tell us what things we should learn, and what jobs we should have, and if you don’t like it, well, you can just pay fines and go to jail, you ungrateful twerps!

                      While, of course, pursuing the best outcomes for *their* children and *their* friends….

              2. A clean water supply is a public good too, but we don’t have bureaucrats forcing people to drink a prescribed amount of water per day. Make it free, but don’t make it mandatory.
                There is a point at which “I want to appear compassionate, but only to the extent that other people’s kids, and never my own are at stake” becomes ridiculous.

                1. A clean water supply is a public good too, but we don’t have bureaucrats forcing people to drink a prescribed amount of water per day.

                  That’s not a very good analogy. Maybe you mean more like ‘a hydrated populous?’ Because even so the incentives of a thirsty person towards water is different than an uneducated person towards school.

                  Make it free, but don’t make it mandatory.
                  It’s not mandatory, you just need to abide by certain standards if you’re going to opt out.

                  1. “It’s not mandatory, you just need to abide by certain standards if you’re going to opt out.”

                    In some states, those standards barely exist, yet those who opt out more often than not do better than those who stay in; in others, they are so onerous that education is mandatory — yet these states insist that, if it weren’t for such standards, the kids that opt out would flounder and drift off into poverty or something….

              3. s/educated populace/indoctrinated and docile subjects/

                People themselves want education. They don’t need a government to tell them that, and they especially don’t need a government doing the indoctrination. That IS why public schools were set up in the first place, indoctrination in WASP ethics as opposed to the terrible papist nonsense the Italians and Irish were teaching themselves.

              4. Certainly a literate and numerate populace is probably a rational need for a modern, liberal democracy. Flight from inadequate schools to adequate ones is also rational, and charter schools will set themselves up where parents have vouchers to spend. Over time, the schools ought to improve overall. Little central planning or complex busing needed.

              5. An educated populace can’t be a public good; it is neither a service nor commodity and is therefore not a good. Public education isn’t a ‘public’ good as it is both excludable and rivalrous.

                If you want to use the noun ‘good’ in the sense that it is a ‘good thing for the public’ then you can’t use standard political economy arguments for government provision of public goods, as those rely on the strict definition of ‘public good.’

              6. Since 1979 t St SC gave dropped while cost per pupil has tripled indexed to inflation. How long do you want to ignore base facts? The charter schools in New York show choice makes a difference. They continually outscore the public’s despite being random lotteries if the same population set. It is literally an example of blind sampling. Yet you ignore base facts. Why? Allow family’s that want to succeed actually succeed. Don’t hold them back because of your communism like want if equal outcomes.

                Central planning is as idiotic in Intelligent Design aa much as it is in politics and economics. Liberals contend they understand evolution but fight against it in every single policy proscription they offer.

                1. Wow phone… Since 1979 the costs indexed to inflation have tripled while scores actually dropped.*

                  1. Liberals contend they understand evolution but fight against it in every single policy proscription they offer.

                    Um, wow. Thee problem with central planning is that it doesn’t admit races differ?

                    1. Um, wow, right back at ya. I’ll pause briefly to smile at the glimpse you have given us of your inner mind. “Evolution” triggers “race” like the neurons are lined up on a freeway. In reality evolution has got lots more to say about educational and social policy that’s got nothing to do with race (or sex.) But that’s for another day.

                      Jesse’s point sailed straight past you. He was making a metaphorical reference to evolution as an example of an algorithmic process. Small biases combined with repeated random trials produce a non random result. Things that work grow more numerous, things that don’t, not so much.

                      And so with parents who want their children to learn. A little bit of parental bias towards learning, a path whereby it can be pursued and you get a learning friendly environment – even with, as Jesse pointed out, the same raw material. You don’t need to push. Just stay out of the way. Block the path and you won’t get that result. Leave it open and you will – without the need for any planning.

                      Free markets work in the same way. You don’t have to plan pencil production. The fact that people want pencils, and the profit motive, will produce pencils. All the government needs to do is not block the path.

                    2. Jesse’s citation of liberal policies ignoring evolution is something YOU seem to have missed.

                      A little bit of parental bias towards learning ignores the vast differences in what different parents can provide. You, and Jesse, and epsilon given are all assuming that optimal education of one’s children is just a matter of will. Bullshit.

                      Just because something is true for you and I doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone.

                      As we’ve discussed, education isn’t amenable to the usual market forces. But that doesn’t seem to stop you from waving your hands and saying markets are great so lets privatize everything.

                    3. But what proof do you have that education is immune from market forces? And does the same proof show that education is immune from monopolistic temptations — namely, to provide an inferior product for an expensive price?

                      We have plenty of proof that education *is* subject to monopoly forces. It’s not at all hard to find school districts spending $14,000 a year on each kid in school, only to churn out a high percentage of “high school graduates” who could barely read and write, if that.

                      Why *shouldn’t* education be subject to market forces? Is it some sort of magic good that somehow makes us better citizens, yet does absolutely nothing to improve our economic outcomes?

                      I would propose that to the degree that we have divorced education from market forces — namely, by (1) insisting that *everyone* needs to go to college (as if there aren’t profitable alternatives to college education, (2) providing easy-to-get-yet-hard-to-bankrupt student loans for all, and then insist that (3) you can major in *anything* and it will improve your financial prospects, all we have done is produce a bunch of kids with degrees (bachelors, masters and even doctorates) and gobs of soul-sinking debt (I know from experience how awful this debt can be on one’s soul) who end up asking “Do you want cream with your latte?”.

                      I cannot see how things would have been worse, had government just butted out of education, and let us figure it out on our own.

                    4. Jesse’s citation of liberal policies ignoring evolution is something YOU seem to have missed.

                      Yeah and I explained what it meant. Central planning is not required anywhere (and is counterproductive when attempted) because algorithms will get you there. I don’t just mean “market forces.” There are algorithms doing their thing all over the place. Biological evolution is one. Geological processes making and breaking mountains are another. Language another. No planning is required. Build some neurons that lead the thought “evolution” somewhere else than “race.”

                      You, and Jesse, and epsilon given are all assuming that optimal education of one’s children is just a matter of will.

                      No. And clueless. And nothing to do with optimal. The algorithm that allows parents to arrange a decent education for their children involves :

                      1. parents thinking their children would really benefit from a good education and its their duty to try to do something about it
                      2. the existence of something that can be done about it that is achievable

                      If you have 1 plus 2, on average children of the aforesaid parents will be better educated than if either 1 or 2 or both do not obtain. This is not rocket science, nor does it need to be. It’s water flows downhill. Unless you build a dam.

                    5. As we’ve discussed, education isn’t amenable to the usual market forces.

                      I don’t recall having discussed it, but if we had you would have discovered that I think this is not merely wrong, but absurd. I can certainly see difficulties in market forces providing good health care services. Not impossibilities but difficulties, caused by the fact that a small number of folk get very sick and most people don’t get sick at all. Hence insurance. Hence all the agency problems with insurance.

                      But education ? It’s actually quite hard to think of any sector of the production and consumption of goods and services with fewer obstacles to the successful use of market forces than education. There are hardly any barriers to entry, the potential for lots of differentiated niche markets, new technology coming out of your ears, pretty good measures of success and value added, and millions of new customers coming on the market every year. What more could you possibly want ?

                      The problem with “market forces” and education is that the government has imposed a public sector monopoly, more or less, stifling innovation and crushing quality.

      2. But what I really want to push back on is the idea that letting parents choose their school is any kind of easy silver bullet. Once you allow flight from some schools those that cannot leave will be trapped in failing schools.

        Yes, but no. If you don’t allow flight from failing schools, what you’re left with is everyne attending failing schools. An infusion of good well behaved children into failing schools does not cause the schools to become good non-failing schools. It just wrecks the education of the good well behaved children. Good well behaved parents have no real influence on schools.

        The solution is to allow escape from failure. That won’t make things any worse for those who cannot escape.

        1. What can be done about failing schools, ill discipline and disruption ?

          Well it’s the same story. You need to allow more scope for havens of actual schooling within the chaos. So for example if you have a school with 500 children, 50 of whom are disruptive, you can have 20 classes of 25 children

          (a) with 2 or 3 disrupters in each class, or
          (b) two entire classes of disrupters, with the other 18 classes being disrupter free

          Since class disruption has diminishing maginal returns, 2 or 3 disriupters can cause pretty much all the disruption that needs doing. So (b) will get 450 of the kids an actual school day, whereas (a) will get none of them an actual school day.

          1. And finally, what can be done about, and for, the disrupters themselves ? Well in some cases, sadly, not much. But in other cases they are boys with ADHD. Which is psychiatrist-speak for the condition “being a boy with a lot of energy who’d rather be outside using that energy up.”

            So the solution is to take them outside and allow them to spend huge amounts of energy exhausting themselves. After which some of them might just be willing to have a rest, and spend half an hour watching someone show them how to do some carpentry.

            1. It is ridiculous how little time my daughter’s school (well, ex-school as of last month) gives students to play/exercise. Recess is combined with lunch and a total of 45 minutes, and gym isn’t every day.

              And this isn’t even a district that has to worry about test scores

          2. It’s been a while since I’ve talked to any educational professionals, but I don’t think giving up on kids as disrupters and doubling down on that neglect is a favored method.

            1. There are two things that ought to be done with disrupters:

              We should personalize their education to match their needs and desires, so that they are less willing to be such disruptions.

              If they are unwilling to participate in class without being a disrupter, they should be kicked out of class. Education is more of a duty than a right — we can’t force people to be educated if they don’t want to be — and refusing to educate a disrupter would give that disrupter an opportunity to review their life choices, and either clean up their act, or pursue their own education, as they see fit.

              Requiring everyone to be publicly educated, and forcing them to be in the classroom, come heck or high water, ruins education for everyone — and this is the result of treating education as a “right” that somehow has to be *forced* on everyone.

              What’s *really* silly is that everyone is currently expected to go to college, despite the fact that college doesn’t suit everyone, that we have a glut of college students without jobs to take advantage of their education, and that there are perfectly serviceable blue-collar jobs that also need to be filled.

              1. We should personalize their education to match their needs and desires
                Ideally, we would do that with every student, not just the squeaky wheels. And, for the same reason, we won’t: it’s impossible practically and financially.

                1. It’s only impossible practically and financially because we have abandoned scalable one-room schoolhouses in favor of industrial one-size-fits-all soldier-factoryworker-drone factories.

                  Education really isn’t that hard. Unless, of course, we want a populous of good little soldier-factoryworker drones. Then we have to nationalize everything and then wonder why so many students are getting a lousy “education”.

                  1. we have abandoned scalable one-room schoolhouses

                    Scalable is assuming a lot. We have cities now.

                    1. And I have given a lot of thought to this: it wouldn’t be difficult at all to take the classrooms of, say, an elementary school, and for every neighborhood that the school is supposed to serve, put a classroom in that neighborhood. Then hire a teacher for each school — at this point, janitors and principals would be superfluous — and each teacher would be responsible for the education of children from kindergarden to sixth grade.

                      Except now we could eliminate the concept of grade altogether, and the teacher can focus on each child, and help them progress at their own pace — if one child excels at reading but is having problems with math, focus on the math, and vice versa. There would be no need to figure out what to do with the kid who’s doing well in math, but still struggles to read — do we hold the kid back a grade, or humiliate the kid and put him in remedial reading, or what? — it won’t matter, because in general, the kids will catch up to where they should be when the time comes.

                      This shouldn’t be all that hard to do. In the end, though, each kid will have *gasp* different educations, and we can’t have that! We won’t have clones for our stormtrooper armies and factories!

                  2. Some – important – parts of education are highly scalable. Books can be read by millions. And these days lessons can be watched by millions. And (like books) they can be watched any time you like, and they can be rewatched, or bits can be rewatched if you didn’t get it the first time.

                    Other bits are not so scalable. Like forcing kids to pay attention when they’d rather do something else. (Unfortunately the Disneyesque idea that if only it was taught by Robin Williams, trigonometry would be a delight to all children is well, Disneyesque.) Helping a child with things he or she doesn’t get. Providing a shoulder to cry on.

                    Other things traditionally got from school – like socialisation – don’t necesarily have to be provided by school, but they do have to be provided somehow and they’re not very scalable.

          3. Yeah. I had classes (25 years ago, now) with kids who just flat out refused to not only participate in class themselves, but also refused to let anyone else do so either.

            Some kids, you just can’t reach. They don’t want to be there, and they will make that painfully obvious to everyone.

            So, fuck it. Put them in a room with each other, and let the kids who want to learn, learn.

            1. Some kids, you just can’t reach

              Agreed. But deciding who to give up on is not a decision anyone gets to make.

              1. Really? Why can’t that decision be made by the teachers and the principal? Surely, after enough infractions, we should be able to say, “Hey, you’re not taking this seriously, so you’ll have to do this on your own!”

                By insisting that we *can’t* do anything with such kids, and sacrifice the education of entire classes because of this, just doesn’t make sense!

                And to think: there was a time where kicking a kid out of school was a wake-up call for that kid: get your butt into gear, or you’ll be suffering for the rest of your life. Certain kids will then rise up to the challenge and prove everyone wrong.

                But by “not giving up” on such kids, we not only doom the kids who want to be at peace and learn without disruption to a life without education — we also doom a certain percentage the disruptors to never have the wake-up calls that would push them to have an education as well.

                Why do you hate kids so much, Sarcrast0?

                1. Why do you hate kids so much, Sarcrast0?

                  On accounta being so evil.

                  But yeah, I don’t trust anyone to decide who we give up on. Talk about giving the government power!

                  Your optimism that it would be a wake up call is pretty unsupported when you look at juvenile delinquents and kids who are suspended and the like.

                  1. “Talk about giving the government power!”

                    Of course, the *only* reason why government has this power, is because government has taken it upon themselves.

                    1. In a privatized system, the problem remains – individuals have just as much power.

                    2. In a privatized system, an individual only has as much power as is given him. He can kick out a student from *his* school, but he can’t do anything about other schools.

                      Another school can choose to pick up the student, convince him he needs to behave, and even evaluate the student to see what needs to be addressed, and then see if they can take a different approach.

                      When the government has a monopoly on education, then they can kick out a student with prejudice: they can potentially make sure that no other school in the district can teach the kid.

                      Even putting that aside: at what point does nasty behavior have consequences? It would be one thing if the student is just showing up and warming a seat, but otherwise keep to himself. If the student is actively disruptive of the learning of others — should we constantly reward such behavior, and say that they *must* stay in the classroom?

                      Are schools supposed to be teaching or babysitting? If the latter, then I can understand tolerating any behavior. If the former, however, then why sabotage learning?

                      Yes, there’s a danger that a kid, even under a private system, will be kicked out of every single school. At what point will that kid take responsibility for his own actions, and clean up his act, and actually learn something? Why is it the responsibility of society — either public or private — to force that kid to sit in a classroom, whether he wants it or not, no matter what?

                    3. In a privatized system, the problem remains – individuals have just as much power.

                      No. In a privatised system individuals have both more and less power than the government does in a government system. They have more power over themselves, and their children, because their desires are not overtrumped by the government. When the government is in control it has quite a bit of power, but it can’t effectively coerce commitment and enthusiasm. Hence the old Polish joke from communist days – we pretend to work and they pretend to pay us. So individuals in a private system actually have more power over their own affairs than the government has over them in a state system. Because they have levers to pull that the government doesn’t have.

                      But correspondingly, individuals have virtually no power over other people. Whereas in a state system the government certainly has power over everyone.

                      In a privatised system power is not just dispersed it is differentiated – individuals have more power over themselves and less over others.

        2. If you don’t allow flight from failing schools, what you’re left with is everyne attending failing schools

          This is assuming that flight doesn’t cause failure. I think that’s pretty wrong. It isn’t the sole cause, but it can be determinative.

          1. Do you have children? If your own kids were in a failing public school with rampant disciplinary problems, wouldn’t you move heaven and earth to move them to a better school?

            1. I’m upper middle class. And the product of a private school education. I absolutely would.

              And – here’s the important bit – I can. But there are lots who can’t, and I don’t think it’s good policy to just say screw them, they get the crap schools because they don’t want it enough.

              That quickly moves from freedom to feudalism.

              1. In other words: you have your education. Screw the poor who want theirs, as well — we need to sacrifice them for the sake of preserving public education!

                There are a lot of poor people who can’t pursue better education because laws force them into failing public schools — schools that can’t blame their failure on exodus, because laws prevent the very exodus you fear would cause the schools to fail.

                1. I’m actually saying the exact opposite. I think you are assuming the thesis I dispute – that allowing flight from disfavored schools will lead to better outcomes for poorer students. I argue that poorer folks don’t have the flexibility to leave failing institutions, as the flight of the more well-heeled folks only exacerbates already existing problems.

                  There are a lot of poor people who can’t pursue better education because laws force them into failing public schools
                  Just stating it doesn’t make it true.

              2. But isn’t that what tuition voucher proponents are proposing — to give those who currently “can’t” the same means to provide for their children that you currently enjoy? It sure sounds like you’re telling the low-income parents of well-behaved students that they must keep sending their kids to dysfunctional schools for some sort of greater good, all while your own children are safely ensconced in an upper-class public or private school. Can’t you see how infuriating your “let them eat cake” attitude sounds to an inner-city parent trying to get the best education possible for their child?

                1. One can be in favor of tuition vouchers and yet acknowledge that the tuition support is not sufficient to permit everyone to send their kids to better schools and the gap may perpetuate unfairness. There is a real, tangible cost of transporting children to and from school. The difference between sending your child to the bus stop and driving all over creation in morning and evening traffic–often during a time that you are supposed to be working–can be insurmountable even to wealthier families.

                  On balance, I prefer not to let “perfect” be the enemy of “good”. Vouchers can help–let’s use ’em until something better comes along.

                2. The issue is that vouchers only help those on the margins – those that nearly can. Even voucher proponents allow that their program largely effects middle class parents.

                  And even then the movement observed isn’t to better schools so much as more ideologically pleasing schools. Which may be just as planned, though that depends on who you ask.

                  Can’t you see how infuriating your “let them eat cake” attitude sounds to an inner-city parent
                  That’s not my attitude. You’re the one who wants to screw that parent out of a workable school system by skimming off anyone with the means to leave.

                  1. That is assuming that private schools cannot educate at the same, or lesser cost than public schools. Which is basically an assumption people make because private school tuition is often high.

                    But that is just because anyone who pays for private school has to be wealthy enough to pay twice. You have to lose the $10k+ of public money and then pay another $10k for private school. Anyone who can do that can probably pay $15k, so thats what private schools charge. However, if it was all a pure voucher system, many private schools would have tuition at or near the voucher price. Certain rural French schools spend under 2K Euros per student per year, and have better test scores than many Paris schools that spend 10k+

                    1. Exactly. If the government provides everyone with a free house, all the private houses are going to be mansions.

          2. Circular logic. Failing schools cause flight which causes failing schools?

            Why would an appreciable number of students flee a school that isn’t failing?

            1. Not circular logic, an observed vicious cycle.

              It would only be circular logic if I insisted it was necessary and sufficient to cause school failure. I pretty carefully did not.

              Why would an appreciable number of students flee a school that isn’t failing?
              Ahh, the perfect rational market assumption. There are lots of weird reasons people do things, even weirder reasons for groups.

          3. “This is assuming that flight doesn’t cause failure. I think that’s pretty wrong. It isn’t the sole cause, but it can be determinative.”

            There’s as assumption you are making about schools that have their students flee from them, that is unfair on the part of the school: the assumption that a school’s only option, when this happens to them, is to fold up and fail.

            Why can’t a school reflect on its policies and actually fix what’s broken, and become attractive to the very students that consider the school a failure? Well, besides resistance from teacher’s unions and having to comply with Federal, State, and local regulations, of course?

            This is the kind of competition is what makes and breaks businesses, and it helps businesses to thrive. To suggest that competition isn’t even an option for schools, and that they can’t possibly improve, is cynical at best. At worst, it means that schools are already set up to fail — that they can’t possibly fix themselves — and that you’re happy with the state of affairs (the regulations in particular) that forces them into this position.

            1. There’s as assumption you are making about schools that have their students flee from them, that is unfair on the part of the school: the assumption that a school’s only option, when this happens to them, is to fold up and fail.

              Did you ignore the Can Be?

              1. But does the “Can Be” really change things? What’s so special about a particular school, that it must never be allowed to fail? Particularly when, by giving students a choice, the school is probably failing because it fails to meet other people’s needs?

      3. re: “Once you allow flight from some [insert industry here,] those that cannot leave will be trapped…”

        That is the universal argument against deregulation. And yet very few of the ‘parade of horribles’ about deregulation have every come to pass in any industry. The fact is that people react creatively to their situation. Given even the slightest bit of autonomy, they don’t stay trapped. They find opportunities and take them. Along the way, the situation improves for literally everyone.

        Are transitions hard? Of course. But that’s no excuse for perpetuating the same failed approaches.

        1. Funny, I only hear it about education. Which makes sense, since it’s state provided and very broad.

          The fact is that people react creatively to their situation
          Do you have any evidence of this? Perhaps evidence that is neither anecdotal nor applies only to middle-class or higher?

          the situation improves for literally everyone.
          Any policymaker will tell you claims like this are a clue you’re talking to an ideologue. This may be liberal heresy, but a rising tide that lifts all boars is actually a very rare thing.

          Everyone is citing transition costs. I’m more worried about a new stratified status quo.

          1. I’ll give this anecdote: the American population, at the time of the American Revolution, had a much higher literacy rate, and were far more educated than Europe, at that same time, despite having almost no public education structure whatsoever.

            1. Well, the white landed male ones…

              1. You should look more closely at how Washington, Hamilton, and Franklin (among others) got their education. It was surprisingly haphazard.

                And it’s also difficult to see why we can’t apply the same education techniques to everyone else as well — not just landed white males. It’s certainly going to be better than what’s available in inner cities today!

                (Incidentally, one of the primary factors that kept slaves from learning were the laws that made it illegal for them to do so. There might not literally be laws preventing inner city poor students from learning, but there *are* laws that keep them in schools that aren’t teaching them. The effect, ultimately, seems to be the same.)

                1. So uncommon geniuses of a favored class can stumble their way to becoming educated. I’m not sure you’re proving what you want to prove…
                  The avenues – conventional and no – open to the Founders were very much not open to most people at that time.

                  there *are* laws that keep them in schools that aren’t teaching them
                  You are again assuming those kids can leave. That is the fundamental nut we are disagreeing on. And yet you keep on assuming everyone is mobile and then excoriating me for preventing them from moving.

                  Argue the thesis in question, not the thesis you want to be in question.

                  1. “And yet you keep on assuming everyone is mobile and then excoriating me for preventing them from moving.”

                    Why should a family be forced to move, just to change their school? Where’s the good in that?

                    “So uncommon geniuses of a favored class can stumble their way to becoming educated.”

                    Yet the “uncommon geniuses” of the time included pretty much the entirety of the white male population — not just landed gentry — and you ignore that many of the founding fathers (including Franklin and Hamilton, I might add) grew up in poverty, and are self-educated to boot. What was magic about America that made the entire population far more educated than Europe’s?

                    1. That they were a society either of or heavily influenced by immigrants? That is self-selection of the creative and motivated? Nah, can’t be that.

                    2. Sure, it could be self-selection of the creative and motivated. It could also be the undesirables who were picked up at random from the London streets, under direction of the Queen, and sent here. Or the people of the prison colony of Georgia.

                      Americans were a motley crew, to be sure, but let’s face it: a lot of Americans didn’t even get the choice to come here, and even those who came here, weren’t necessarily the cream of the crop of Europe.

                      If *they* could obtain high levels of literacy without a formal government-provided school system, why can’t we?

          2. I hear it about electricity deregulation all the time. Stranded costs and trapped consumers. I heard it about airline deregulation (race to the bottom and bad for consumers). I’ve heard it about housing deregulation and the abolition of rent controls. All of those are equally broad and either state-provided or so tightly regulated that they were nearly-so.

            re: evidence that people react creatively to their situation – Only pretty much all of Western civilization since the Enlightenment and specifically including the historically unparalleled gains in standard of living, life expectancy, literacy and most other social metrics that were achieved by capitalism. Let me challenge in reverse. Do you have any evidence at all that people will remain trapped as you describe?

            re: stratification – To be blunt, I don’t care. I don’t measure my wealth or my happiness against Bill Gates. I don’t even measure it against my next-door neighbor. If my situation improves, I am happier whether or not my neighbor’s situation improved more. At the same time, however, I’ll note that all the other examples of deregulation led to a democratization of the benefits within that field, not an increased stratification. But prove me wrong. Do you have any examples of deregulation resulting in greater stratification?

            1. Utilities deregulation isn’t about flight. Airlines I hear mostly about merger-driven monopoly. But we each take in our own media; I take you at your word.

              I love markets too, but they are not magic. The do not always work.
              In areas where markets don’t work well, the creation and regulation of public goods are also part of America’s history of exceptional greatness.
              Education is a public good partially because the demand of society – especially democratic society – outstrips the demand of individuals for it.

              Do you have any evidence at all that people will remain trapped as you describe?
              Markets stratify, as economic power begets economic power. I don’t see how this market would be any different.
              Remember that the innovative power of markets isn’t on the consumer side, it’s on the seller side. We’d probably see a bunch of near new educational paradigms, all serving people rich enough to afford them.

              re: stratification – To be blunt, I don’t care
              Whether you think it is or not, wealth disparity is a social ill. It is also a moral ill, and your blaming poor people for resenting their lot is not a good look. How much worse would it be if it weren’t just physical resources, but mental?

              1. all the other examples of deregulation led to a democratization of the benefits within that field, not an increased stratification
                This is confirmation bias of the type of ‘a truly free market has never been tried.’ Enron. Housing bubble. Dot Com Bubble. Great Depression. All resulted from ending a regulation to let the magic of the market drive innovation. It didn’t work.
                I expect you will argue that none of them deregulated hard enough.

                1. It’s disingenuous to blame the Great Depression on deregulation — granted, it’s what caused the crash, to some degree — but then ignore the heavy hand of government that came directly after it, constantly meddling with society to try to fix it. That meddling led to a decade of misery.

                  And it’s silly to blame Enron on deregulation when the executives were convicted of fraud — indicating that the problem with Enron was *broken* regulation, and not *de*regulation. Last I checked, fraud is one of those things that even free market advocates have a problem with. Those who believe in limited government believe that this is one of the few roles of government to address, and those anarcho-capitalists who believe there should be no government, believe that fraud is grounds for suing.

                  (to be continued…)

                  1. (…continued)

                    As for the Dot Com bubble, and bubbles in general, Ludwig von Mises has made a very compelling case that they are caused by the government forcing interest rates to be artificially low, and thus signalling to businesses that now is a great time to throw caution to the wind, and grow as fast as you can, until everyone comes to a realization that they have over-extended themselves. I have yet to see evidence that this is wrong. But then, I have yet to see a government that refuses to manipulate interest rates — we are fans of growth, after all, and what better way to encourage growth, than by requiring interest rates to be low?

                    Indeed, the Housing bubble is a perfect example of this: policies started under Carter, and doubled down on by Clinton, to encourage home ownership — by making it easier for minorities and poor people to get big loans they normally couldn’t afford to get, to buy big housing they normally couldn’t afford to buy, without down payments and using mortgages that started out artificially low, but could balloon to be big as interest rates changed (which, I might add, are controlled by the government) — but not only did government deregulate banks to allow this, they would bully banks into submission by telling them that if they didn’t go with this change, they would be protested as discriminatory against minorities, and be forbidden by government regulators to expand.

                    1. As expected your argument is the counterfactual of if we’d only deregulated harder. Hard to disprove, also of little actual truth value. But some of your objections are factually false beyond confirmative fallacies.

                      The Great Depression was Great well before any New Deal stuff happened – the timeline of your context renders it irrelevant. And assuming the Austrian school’s narrative is quite convenient, considering what an outlier that remains.

                      As for Enron, do you know how to prevent broken regulations? A well-policed inspection regime like the one that occurred before California’s deregulation idea.

                    2. “The Great Depression was Great well before any New Deal stuff happened.”

                      You *do* realize that the first person to implement New Deal stuff was Herbert Hoover, right? And that Herbert Hoover himself signed the law — The Smoot-Hawley Tariff — that plunged us into a trade war that exported the Depression to the rest of the world, right?

                      It’s not all that hard to argue that Presidential action — both by Hoover and by FDR — made the Depression what it was. Sure, it’s a minority view among historians and economists — but the standard view that FDR got us out of the Depression (and it only took 10 years to do it!) is *not* as settled a view as you make it sound, either.

                    3. “As expected your argument is the counterfactual of if we’d only deregulated harder.”

                      I don’t necessarily think we should deregulate even more — and heck, to say that my solution “if only we’d deregulate harder” ignored the possibility I gave, that sometimes the solution is to add *another* regulation, that’s different from before.

                      “And assuming the Austrian school’s narrative is quite convenient, considering what an outlier that remains.”

                      Just because the Austrian school’s narrative is an outlier, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything to contribute. Indeed, sometimes the best ideas *are* outliers.

                      “As for Enron, do you know how to prevent broken regulations? A well-policed inspection regime like the one that occurred before California’s deregulation idea.”

                      Perhaps, and having a police inspection regime that requires surprise visits from the police into our homes without warrants will likely discourage us from stealing and murder. I’m not convinced, however, that allowing police this power would necessarily be moral. Ironically, the end result would have been the same: the company would have gone bankrupt. Perhaps it would have happened sooner, though, and the executives would have been saved some jail time. I’m also not convinced that we need government regulators to hold our hands, to make sure we never do anything bad, though.

                      Speaking of Enron: how many companies were like this, both before and after? Isn’t Enron an outlier in and of itself?

              2. How us wealth disparity a social ill?

                Is it a social ill that incels do not get sex?

            2. Indeed. Why are we always worried about the disruption caused by deregulation, but never worried about the disruption caused by regulation, even when it has proved to be just as bad, if not worse, as deregulation?

              The logic seems to be either (1) never change regulation, or at least, never walk back regulations that have proven to have failed, no matter how onerous they have proven to be, or (2) change regulation, but only by adding more and more regulation, until there’s so much regulation that it becomes meaningless anyway.

              Yes, deregulation can be difficult. It can cause disruptions. Periods of adjustment are sometimes necessary. And sometimes deregulation has unintended consequences that *sometimes* require new regulations to fix, but *sometimes* requires even more deregulation to fix.

              1. Just like the rising tide bit, if someone is acting like a policy is costless, they’re lying to you (and possibly themselves).

                I am not saying tying schooling to residence is a costless regulation, I’m saying it’s benefits outweigh it’s costs due to the high costs of the alternative.

                Though I do enjoy your spending a couple of paragraphs carefully creating a liberal strawman and then disposing of it. It looked like you had some fun.

                1. Do you by any chance have any studies to link to, that demonstrate that tying schooling to residence has benefits that outweigh its costs?

                  Do you have any examples of, say, school districts that explicitly require parents to *choose* a school (as opposed to school districts that make it a choice, but don’t make that choice known), and that providing the choice has proven harmful overall?

                  Seriously, if what you say is true, then it’s already been demonstrated, right?

                  1. Schools failing due to flight has been demonstrated.

                    I can’t help but notice your paeon to the market has even less evidence to support it, other than how one room schoolhouses were the bomb back in the day.

                    1. I don’t have the time to hunt down the specific State I had in mind, which made choice mandatory (ie, you can’t just assume that you’ll automatically just get in the local school — you had to choose it specifically, even if your choice is based purely on the fact that you live in that school’s district)…

                      However, a quick Google search found this little study.

                      Make of it what you will.

                    2. if a school fails due to flight, why is that a problem?

                      When Smith-Corona failed because people “fled” from typewriters, was this a problem the government was supposed to solve?

              2. Your defence of deregulation is weakened by sarcastro having fooled you into focussing on the busts – The Great Depression, the dot com bust and the housing bust. But even if you grant him, by way of very generous stipulation, that they’re all 100% down to the evils of deregulation, you’re missing out the prior booms.

                The 1920s were a huge boom for the US economy. People got richer fast. Even if we don’t blame FDR for prolonging it, you need to look at the 1920s and 1930s together. Ditto dot com. Vast new industries were created. And in the housing boom, lots of houses got built. Lots of people got better homes and lots got their own homes for the first time.

                You need to look at boom and bust. If you’re only going to focus on the bust it’s bound to look ugly. But that’s like going to a great party and remembering nothing but the hangover.

                The only way to avoid busts is to do without the booms in the first place. But we’ve done North Korea, It was better to be South Korea.

          3. A rising tide sinks the boats chained to the bottom on short anchor rodes.

            1. And government is *determined* to make sure as many boats as possible have nice, short chains to the anchor rodes.

      4. Lots of schools are “failing” right now. Seems to me you can save at least some students by letting them get out.

        I have an acquaintance who is an “educator” (and an avid liberal) who once went on a rant to me that AP classes were immoral….that the smart and/or motivated kids (his daughter was both) should be forced to be in classes with the not-very-intelligent/unmotivated kids for the benefit of the latter and ultimately for the greater good. A few months later he put his daughter into the best private school money could buy.

        1. This is pretty much the history of public education in the UK since WW2. Originally there was an exam taken at age 11 or so, the result of which determined whether you went to an academic (“grammar”) school or an also ran (“secondary modern”) school. But that was very unpopular with the upper middle class left, who thought it was elitist (as it was.) So they pushed for “comprehensive” schools – which would take all abilities, and the test would be abolished.

          The educational theory was just as your acquaintance described – and closely allied to what sarcastro has been pushing in this thread – essentially the “leaven” theory of schooling.Smart kids with enthusiastic middle class parents, stirred into the pudding of dull and average kids with not very motivated parents will cause the whole cake to rise. Put smart kids in the same classes as avergage and dull ones and the average and dull ones will get better faster.

          1. In the 1950s when they were started pushing for this, it hadn’t been refuted so it was at least a testable theory. And the UK has been testing it for sixty years or so. And the results have been that in the few areas of the UK that were allowed not to adopt comprehensive schools, the results for smart kids going to grammar schools are consistently way better than the results for smart kids in other areas going to comprehensive schools. But what about the average and dull kids ? Same story. The selective areas do better for them too.

            The social result of this educational experiment has been to remove the escape ladder from clever poor kids. Social mobility in the UK has declined in the UK since WW2.

            You don’t need to try this one, guys. Your former colonial masters have run the experiment to destruction. It doesn’t work.

            1. Leven ain’t my theory – I just think your alternative proposal is provably bad news.

              Past data of schools that have failed due to flight (usually racially motivated, but sometimes other stuff), plus the fact that poor people can’t prioritize education as much, add up to a depressingly usual ‘screwing the poor is actually helping them’ narrative.

              The UK analogy is not a great one, since 1) the UK has never had our class mobility, and has some cultural baggage about class and race that we do not, and 2) We’ve been testing it for years and our outcomes have been steady improvement for a long time until recently, and even then whites continue to improve.

              1. Why is a failing school necessarily a bad thing? Unless, of course, that school stays open, regardless of it’s failure status.

                Is it bad when a business fails? In some ways, yes, particularly if it’s a major business (such as Toys ‘R’ Us or Radio Shack) because we lose a major icon that so many of us grew up with…but in general, doesn’t the failure mean that these businesses weren’t doing enough to satisfy our needs and wants?

                If a particular school can’t or won’t satisfy our education needs, why is it a bad thing for it to close its doors? Doesn’t that indicate that people’s needs are being satisfied in other ways?

              2. Leven ain’t my theory – I just think your alternative proposal is provably bad news.

                Not quite sure what my alternative proposal is supposed to be ? letting people escape from failure if they can ? Well I do plead guilty to that. Though I don’t concede provably bad news. It’s good news for the escapers and no worse off for those still serving time.

                So you are, you say. not a leavener, you don’t think stirring middle class proto-achievers into the pudding will make it rise. But you do think that sucking the middle class proto-achievers out of the pudding will make it collapse. I don’t believe I can compute that successfully. Middle class proto-achiever children are not leaven, but some kind of rigging then ?

                a depressingly usual ‘screwing the poor is actually helping them’ narrative.

                I don’t favour screwing the poor. I’m just against futile gestures made under a pretence of care for the poor. When the gesture doesn’t actually help them, but just hurts other people, I’m against it. As to how to actually help the poor, we obviously need to distinguish between the poor clever, the poor average and the poor dull. The solutions are different for each. But my UK example was offered as a cautionary tale about the futile gesture crowd and their real world effect on the poor clever.

                1. The UK analogy is not a great one, since 1) the UK has never had our class mobility, and has some cultural baggage about class and race that we do not

                  Certainly the UK has had more class baggage than the US (which was why the lefties hated grammar schools, it turned clever working class children into middle class adults. Or “class traitors”. ) No idea where you got your race theory though. There were no significant racial minorities in the UK until the 1960s. Unless you count the Irish as a racial minority, but that never had any effect as far as schools were concerned.

                  But anyway we don’t need to beat this to death, the UK example was introduced as an illustration of the follies of leavening, and you have denied any leavening sympathies.

                  We’ve been testing it for years and our outcomes have been steady improvement for a long time until recently, and even then whites continue to improve.

                  The UK has the same statisticians, don’t worry. UK education has been an unmitigated success since WW2. Just look at the exam results ! It’s just that the measured success of the selective areas has somehow been even more unmitigated than the measured success of the comprehensive areas. So much so that last time I looked, something like 25% of Oxford and Cambridge freshmen were coming from grammar schools, even though only about 10% of the population lives in selective areas.

      5. Sarcastr0, have you noted the extent of dodging, twisting, and refusal to engage among your interlocutors. That’s happening because there is one point they believe whole-heartedly, but don’t want to acknowledge explicitly. They don’t see anything wrong with screwing those with less means. They think badly disciplined children is an obnoxious group characteristic found among some groups they don’t like. They see getting screwed in the political process as a just outcome, fully earned. They repudiate the notion of any social responsibility to ameliorate economic factors associated with those discipline problems. So a program to restore privilege to “virtuous” groups, while punishing others, is not only efficient educational policy, it’s also a happy reassertion of sought-after values.

        See why arguing on behalf of a sense of responsibility gets you nowhere?

        1. I don’t know: I have argued with Sarcrastr0 with all sorts of refutation: hardly refusing to engage.

          Here’s what you, and Stephen Lathrop, are blind to: the idea that a single “one-size-fits-all” education structure is actually *harmful* to the different, whether they be the intelligent or the morons, or the disruptors: they have to focus on the average, because they don’t have time to address the outliers.

          I don’t think that the obnoxious should be forbidden an education: however, if they can’t sit still in a classroom, and let others learn (even if they don’t want to learn in that setting themselves), then we are doing both these individuals, and the others who wish to learn, a disservice. Being the anarcho-capitalist I am, I would go further and say we are also doing the average a disservice, by convincing them that government actually knows what it’s doing when they are educating our kids (government clearly doesn’t), but that’s another topic entirely.

          When you say “They don’t see anything wrong with screwing those with less means” you misunderstand my position completely. *I am sick and tired of screwing over those with less means.* I am sick and tired of being told “we don’t care about the poor” when we look at inner city schools (schools, incidentally, that have typically been under the control of Democrat Mayors and Democrat Governors — (to be continued…)

          1. (…continued) — and have been under that control for decades) and see the laws that keep those kids in those failing schools, and do everything they can to make sure those kids have no options, yet the politicians in charge of those very schools send their children to private schools.

            The single parents in these inner city schools *cry* when a politician like President Obama ends the lottery that *might* help their kids get out of these schools. Why are Democrats so hell-bent on destroying even the *smallest* chance of escaping these schools, to pursue something better? It’s not as if there isn’t any room for improvement, after all.

            And why are you so intent on shutting down all debate, claiming we fail to engage? Do you seriously think that this is the best we can offer to the poor? And that there’s no room at all to try to improve their lives? I know that Hanslon’s Razor suggests I should merely consider you incompetent, but then…at some point, one has to seriously consider the possibility that incompetence must be ruled out, leaving maliciousness to be the only sensible explanation.

            1. I’m not quite as harsh as SL, but I do find your engagement lacking because, as I’ve said many times, you keep assuming the fact at issue about who is effectively mobile after you give everyone the opportunity.

              Just because you’re super-duper sure your favored policy is a great opportunity for the poor doesn’t mean you don’t have to prove it. But over and over again you skip past that to the fun part of asking why liberals don’t like your awesome policy.

              1. Now that you mention it, I *have* overlooked the issue of mobility.

                As I think seriously about this issue, though, I fail to see why it’s the big trump card — the one issue that sinks school choice — that you make it to be. It’s merely another factor that any person, in choosing a school, is going to have to take into account.

                But isn’t the point moot? If there are no schools nearby — this will certainly be the case in rural areas, for example — then “school choice” merely means that you have to go to That One School anyway. The situation is no different from before.

                (to be continued…)

                1. (…continued)

                  If, however, there are several schools within reach, with some that will take more effort to get to than others — then my horizons are opened up a little bit more, because I can reach a school that I am convinced will best meet my needs — or perhaps that the school “nearest” to me (which may be “nearest” merely because the school next door is outside of my district) is awful enough that I need to make a little bit of a sacrifice to go to somewhere better.

                  And who knows? Perhaps the school district itself might make choice a bit of a priority. I have a friend from my neighborhood that decided to go to a different Junior High than I did, because my district gave him the opportunity to bus there, and he was convinced that that particular school would be better for him. I have another friend from the same neighborhood who went to a different high school — I don’t know if his parents had to drive him there, or not, but apparently his parents considered it worthwhile, regardless.

                  It seems *very* silly to me, to make the case that we should have no choice in school whatsoever, merely because some people will be too immobile to make the choice. Shouldn’t that be the concern of the parents and the students, and not the bureaucrats who draw the district lines?

        2. Leaving aside Mr Lathrop’s political misrepresentations, his post does at least allow me to introduce a point which is usually completely ignored by egalitarians. Considering the matter purely from a social perspective, if you have a choice in structuring your education system to :

          (a) waste, say, 25% of the educational potential of the least able pupils, or
          (b) waste, say, 25% of the educational potential of the most able pupils

          which would you take ? No cheating – obviously we’d all prefer to waste nothing, but that’s not on offer.
          (a) is going to exacerbate inequality, and leave the least able even less able to stand on their own two feet. But (b) is gonig to take enormous bites out of the society’s productive (in all senses) potential. Reducing, inter alia, the resources for helping the least well off.

  3. Some people do not belong [or want to be] in school.

    Eliminate mandatory attendance after middle/junior high school will go a long way to eliminating disruption.

    Its triage to save the majority. The drop outs will be no worse off than under the present system.

    1. I’m halfway with Bob on this. Don’t eliminate, but have other more technical apprentice-like tracks people can take.

      Though middle school is pretty early, especially in the modern era.

      1. “have other more technical apprentice-like tracks people can take.”

        Fine, but there are some who do not want even this. They will just disrupt those schools.

        “Though middle school is pretty early, especially in the modern era.”

        They have been taught to read and do basic math. They are not learning much, if anything, in high school.

        1. They have been taught to read and do basic math.

          The people you’re talking about? They’ve been taught at, at least

  4. What kind of idiot doesn’t understand that allowing someone to get away with bad behavior will only reinforce that behavior?

    And why has the Trump administration allowed this to stand??

  5. “What kind of idiot doesn’t understand that allowing someone to get away with bad behavior will only reinforce that behavior?”

    A Democrat?

    1. With the Democrats try to let the blacks get away with black behavior, and the Republicans engaging in, defending, and promoting ugly discrimination, where is the hope for America?

      Wait . . . maybe the libertarians?

      1. Last I checked, it’s the Democrats who continue to engage in, defend, and promote ugly discrimination. Have you seen how discriminatory Democrats have been at Harvard lately, particularly against people of Asian descent?

        Meanwhile, Democrats have implemented policies that literally force schools to look the other way when blacks and other minorities disrupt education (which, in the case of the Florida shooting, almost, but not quite, includes shooting up schools) while coming down hard on white students.

        All of which is ridiculous in a country where one in seven people can’t decide what race they are, because they literally are “American Mutt”, because multigenerational interracial marriages are so common. (No thanks to the Democrats, mind you, who opposed such marriages, tooth and nail.)

  6. I’m curious, is there any measure the federal government has taken to remedy discrimination against blacks which Prof. Heriot favors?

  7. It seems to me that the basic claim – that a number of school systems punish black children far more harshly than they do white children for similar offenses – would, if true, fall within the Civil Rights Act. This would be particularly true if suspensions are involved. But even giving children a disciplinary record for things other children don’t get a record for makes out a claim of discrimination.

    The claim could turn out to not be supported by the evidence, of course. But on its face it is a colorabke claim. It falls within the ambit of what the Civil Rights laws protect.

    Johnson Wittaker’s fate was no outlier. It was common practice in white-dominated schools whose administrations admitted black children, for faculty and/or students to trump up charges against them and expel them on false disciplinary pretexts.

    If this doesn’t violate the civil rights laws, indeed the Equal Protection Clause under Brown, then both would be a dead letter and it would be trivially easy for schools to remain segregated. Johnson_Chesnut_Whittaker

  8. This policy while not bad, is also not going to do much. Unlike other Libertarians I am much less optimistic that the “correct” reforms can fix public schools, or even schooling in general. This is because schools are merely places where students learn, rather than places that cause students to learn. Give me 100 kids from college educated parents, 4 teachers, a roof and a blackboard and I’ll turn out better scores than if I get 100 kids from high school dropouts, 5 teachers, 3 aids, and top notch facilities.

  9. While a jail guard years ago I knew certain inmates of color (IOC’s) who were used to bullying white & Asian inmates for little things–candy bars, choice food items right off a guy’s meal tray, control over the TV remote, stuff like that, coupled with the unwritten rule: we can insult your kind all day long, you say anything we interpret as disrespectful and you will get an instant knuckle sandwich because this is a big blue city with Democrats hard and in charge. We know for a legal certainty we will barely get reprimanded for a 3rd degree assault in or out of custody. Even before Obama that’s how it was.

    The IOC’s could not treat Hispanics in jail that way, of course, because Hispanics immediately ganged up for protection and those gangs were not to be messed with. Disrespect them on the inside and the minute you are released to the street your life isn’t worth the price of a taco.

    Then along came Crazy Ivan, former Spetznaz, 220 lbs of muscle and scars and haunting memories. I spoke Russian so we chatted while he was in solitary because someone had tried to bulldog him in general population and then needed to be scraped off a wall by the medics. He said his biggest problem in America was not killing fools thru simple trained reflex. I heard Ivan eventually committed suicide.

    1. Sorry to go on and on, but jail stories are like eating peanuts, hard to stop. I didn’t mean to sound overtly or covertly racist. Actually in my career I liked about 70% of all inmates I met, whatever their race. The child molesters, pimps, and the worst of the thieving and the violent I secretly detested. Strangely, the worst attacks on black inmates I witnessed were usually by black officers, after an exchange of verbal jiving that heated up quickly.

      The most embarrassing physical attack on me was not by an inmate. It was by a top jail administrator in a nice suit. I was feeding 90 inmates breakfast in a big open room when the steel door behind my post clicked open and this person jumped on me, screaming, swinging, biting, and scratching! The inmates all turned and watched quite a show!

      The night before I had inadvertently parked in a reserved parking slot. It would have been OK overnight except I was hit with mandatory overtime and could not get out to move my car.

      The dry comment from several inmates: “Officer Cook, for awhile there all our bets were on her!!”

      1. What happened to her? She took a couple months off and then was transferred to another department in county government where she ascended way up the chain.

Please to post comments