Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Long Evil Role of Government in Creating the Education Monster

Glenn Harlan Reynolds is out with a book,The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself, where he contends that the current education system, largely created by government and poorly functioning, will collapse as the result of the internet and other new technologies.

Here is Reynolds on the role that government has had in education from grade school to college. (my highlights)
One of the most enthusiastic and influential...Americans was public education pioneer Horace Mann...Mann admired the Prussian system:

Mann traveled to several European countries ti inspect their school systems. Ignoring the  locally controlled Scottish and English systems that had bee the model for colonial schools, he made careful note of the skill with which the Prussians were using public schools to unify the German people. Centralized institutions, a state-directed , curriculum, statistical information and professional cadres were being mobilized to create a unified national spirit, and an identity that would transcend parochial goals.

On his return, Mann extolled Prussian model...This met with some resistance, as critics accused him of wanting to establish a "Prussian-style tyranny" in the schools, arguing that the Prussian model was based on a presumption that the government was wiser than the citizenry, while in America the presumption was the reverse...Mann wanted to remake society, and he wanted to start with children. In his turn of phrase, "men are cast-iron, but children are wax."


[In early America,]college was not seen  as the primary way for a young get ahead...Most lawyers, and even most doctors learned mostly through apprenticeship and on the job training than through formal education...A college education was mostly a way for a young man of distinction to obtain a degree of social polish--and wider social connections...

This began to change after the Civil War, and the reason was, naturally enough, federal money. Even before the Civil War, reformer Justin Morrill had been talking up the idea of colleges and universities dedicated to training farmers, mechanics, and soldiers rather than clergymen... Merrill's original scheme involved colleges modeled on West Point, with free tuition and admission via congressional nomination. This proposal went through several different versions, one of which was vetoed by President James Buchanan on the eye of the Civil War, but a later bill was signed into law by Abraham Lincoln...

Well if some is good, more must be better. That was the thinking after World War II, when policymakers...hit upon the idea of sending [returning GIs] to college...

By the time the flood of veterans from World War II and Korea was slowing to a trickle, the baby boomers were beginning to show up, and the Vietnam War added yet another reason for college: student draft deferements.
BTW, Reynolds notes that although Mann pushed the Prussian education system on America, he homeschooled his own children.

As an example of how he sees the government education monopoly breaking down, Reynolds points to his own daughter's experience:
My daughter did most of her high school online, after spending one day in ninth grade keeping track of how the public high school she attended spent her time. At the end of eight hours in schools, she concluded, she had spent about 2 1/2 hours on actual learning. The rest was absorbed by things like DARE lectures, pep rallies, and other nonacademic activities. Instead, she enrolled in Kaplan's online college-prep program, where she was able to take a lot of Advanced Placement classes not offered in her public school and where the quality of the instruction was higher also. (In the public school, she reported, her science class spent a lot of time on the personal difficulties the scientists had had to overcome; at Kaplan, the focus was on their great experiments and why they were important)

The flexibility also allowed her to work three days a week for a local TV-production company, where she got experience researching and writing programs shown on the Biography Channel,  A&E, etc. something she couldn't have done had she been nailed down in a traditional school. And she still managed to graduate a year early, at age 16, to head off to a "public Ivy" to study engineering.

Did she miss out on socializing at school? Possibly, but at her job she got to spend more time with talented, hardworking adults, which may have been better. (And, as a friend pointed out, nobody ever got shot or knocked up at online school.)


  1. Definitely need a more Koch Bros influenced curriculum.

    1) Science: Pollution is good for you. Earth is 6000 years old.
    2) Economics: Economic theory can't be discredited with economic data. Accept the axioms and then reason from there. Conclusion is always that the Koch Bros deserve more wealth.
    3) History: Supreme Court has been wrong about everything for 200 years Civil War was about a tariff. Slavery was really not so bad.
    4) Anthropology: Whites are intellectually superior to blacks.
    5) Religion: see RJ Rushdoony

    1. or the the JW school where you can get knocked up or knocked out where millions of dollars can be spend on buildings (which look suspiciously like a prison) and still be wrecked within a couple years and you can learn to keep your eyes on the authority figure in the room and obey them and disregard any info from anybody else including parents, even though that authority figure can barely operate a dvd player.

    2. So saith a proud product of the American educational system, who as he does so often totally misses the point of the post.

    3. Jerry Wolfgang = Troll.

    4. Why do you even care "Jerry Wolfgang"? You're not paying for it.

  2. Jerry:

    1. They always teach that it is dangerous to extrapolate data. I presume you assume the earth is more than 6000 years old based on carbon dating of fossils and items uncovered at archaeological digs? Can you prove with 100% certainty (data) that the half life behavior of the carbon isotope that they use for carbon dating continues ad infinitum? Read any reports lately from scientists who measured carbon isotope levels as part of an experiment that was started more than 200 years ago?

    3. Try reading some Thomas J. DiLorenzo or some Frank Klement. You might learn something.

    4. I've never heard or read anything that suggests blacks are intellectually inferior; however, I do think their current plight in America is due to the fact that they have exchanged the plantations of the South for government plantation and are effectively indentured servants of the state whose bond is paid in votes.

    5. I find it hard to look at the world around me and conclude that everything I see came from nothing. People that do must have more faith in me.