Friday, May 09, 2008

See No (Solutions to) Evil

The Sunday May 4th Detroit Free Press editorial "Graduate to Solutions" about dropouts, discusses the fact that in 22 of 27 districts in the Detroit Public School system (DPS) students are not meeting basic minimum requirements and that three-quarters of the students who start high school don't finish.

The editorial then states the obvious solution but treats it as a fantasy:
Think of Detroit Public Schools as a $1.3-billion enterprise and ask yourself: What enterprise would tolerate the utter failure of 22 of its 27 divisions, and for how long, without an urgent overhaul?
That's exactly right. A private enterprise would not tolerate it. And that's exactly why DPS should be shut down and turned over to private enterprise. I'm willing to bet that such an enterprise would not need anywhere near $1.3 billion to properly teach students. If students actually learn something they won't drop out. Yet the intellectuals and leaders insist that a public system is better for students than a private one.

Just as they won't consider a private system seriously, so they absolutely won't look at the curriculum either. In several years of reading Detroit newspapers the only mentions of curriculum I've seen were calls for a more rigorous one. But the gods of whole word for reading, the helter skelter approach to math, science and everything else are not to be questioned. Why?

In her essay "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" Philosopher Ayn Rand wrote: "Observe how noisily the modern intellectuals are seeking solutions for problems--and how swiftly they blank out the existence of any theory or idea, past or present, that offers the lead to a solution." That's exactly what the DPS and the press are doing. But again, why?

It's the morality of altruism. A public school system is one in which a large number of people are being sacrificed to others. Many people without kids have their money taken in taxes to pay for the education of those who do have kids, a violation of the former's rights. But it's more than that. Altruism has placed the stigma of selfishness, which is held to be evil, on private actions, and the halo of selflessness, held to be virtuous, on public actions. (Evaded here is that "public actions" involve the force of government.)

But the reverse is true. There is nothing innately virtuous about a public school and nothing inherently evil about a private one. In fact, the public schools are mostly failures because the teachers, administrators and leaders have nothing to gain by doing a great job and nothing to lose by doing a poor one. The system should be privatized, the curriculum challenged, the government moved out of education and a rational philosophy of education adopted.

Ms. Rand's above mentioned essay is in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It which can be ordered at most bookstores or here. (Only $6.95)

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