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Old 07-31-2019, 10:12 AM
Wrenching Spanners is offline
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: London
Posts: 538
Originally Posted by Max S. View Post
To say I've had trouble following this thread is... an understatement. I've read it all a couple times through and might as well start back up at the top. I find Wrenching Spanners's post #12 to be self-contradictory:

That situation is unfair for the children of Neighborhood B. The children are not responsible for their parent-teacher association's effectiveness, but it is the children whose education suffers as a result. I've put a long explanation below, in case that doesn't make sense.

If we make a few basic assumptions, which I hope you will find uncontroversial, I hope to expose the precise contradiction in this position.
  • First is the doctrine of equity or fairness: an assumption that all children have the right to a good education. In your own words you "regard fairness as a conservative value".
  • Second is the assumption that Neighborhood B school, on account of its ineffective parent-teacher association, is incapable of providing a good education for many of its students.
  • Third is the assumption that some parents of Neighborhood B are responsible for the ineffective parent-teacher association; it is in no way the fault of the schoolchildren or the teachers (who are excellent). It is not necessarily that the parents are bad or malicious, just that they are not effective.
  • Fourth is the assumption that the ineffective parents of Neighborhood B may not be denied representation in the parent-teacher association, nor may they be expelled from the school, nor may they be forced to give the state custody of their children, nor may they be forced to be effective.
  • Fifth is the doctrine of personal responsibility: one is only responsible for one's own actions. This is the traditional definition, not the one Scylla advanced (which I recently adopted in post #34"). "You and the other residents of your neighborhood have a personal responsibility for the actions that take place in your neighborhood, not the neighborhood down the road." The parents in Neighborhood A are responsible for the parent-teacher association in Neighborhood A; they are not responsible for the parent-teacher association in Neighborhood B. "Blame is not an inheritable liability".

Now on to the analysis. It is clear that the students of Neighborhood B school are being denied a good education (2), and that a good education is their right (1), therefore the children are being denied a right. Further, the blame falls entirely upon some parents of Neighborhood B (3). Neither the parents of Neighborhood A nor the children of either neighborhood are to blame or have any personal responsibility in the matter (5).

Therefore we have a situation where some parents have deprived many children of their rights, but there is no recourse (4). This is perfectly fair to the parents of Neighborhood B, and possibly to the "families" of Neighborhood B, who are effectively curtailing their own rights; it is fair for you, a parent in Neighborhood A, who had nothing to do with the matter. But if you think of the children, it becomes clear that children are being deprived of their rights due to no fault of their own, which is in and of itself unfair.

Therefore you, on behalf of the whole of society, have the choice between reneging the rights of Neighborhood B (expelling certain parents from the PTA, taking custody of the children), waiving your immunity from responsibility (throwing money at the school, shuttering the school and busing students to Neighborhood A school), or abandoning fairness by allowing the children to suffer (status quo).

Barring some other doctrine, personal responsibility alone cannot make this choice.

Now on to a more controversial idea. Collective responsibility might make the choice. The state runs the school. The state guarantees every child's right to a good education; in fact, the state/society guarantees the rights of all innocents. Some might make an exception for acts of God, but that doesn't apply here where the causes are all acts of man. The state is at fault when, for whatever reason, the children do not have the opportunity for a good education. And all citizens, even those of Neighborhood A, take part in the collective responsibility represented by the state. Therefore the liability shifts from the parents to the state; the state is responsible for the education of children, and the parents are responsible to the state (not the children) for being effective in their PTA. Should the parents fail, the state is still obliged to provide a good education, therefore everybody's taxes go up and the status quo is definitively eliminated from the list of valid options. Then limitations on state power and a cost-benefit analysis (not free) would determine which course of action is appropriate.

Letís take a step away from the OP, and assume Neighbourhoods A and B are equal. Likewise their schools are equal: same budgets, same number of students and teachers, same level of parent involvement, etc. In year one of our hypothetical, because of all this equality, the schools have equal results.

After year one, the parents in Neighbourhood A decide they want to improve their childrenís education. They increase their parental involvement, and sure enough it works. In year two, School A has better results than School B. Your proposal is to rebalance the schools. This means either taking money away from School Aís budget and giving it to School B, or taxing everyone in order to increase School Bís budget. Youíre punishing Neighbourhood A for improving their school. This is exactly the liberal response that conservatives object to.

Anyway, letís assume that the rebalancing works and in year three, the schools have equal results. Neighbourhood Aís parents decide to raise their game and become even more involved in their childrenís education. So in year four School A again does better than School B. Are you going to punish Neighbourhood A again?

In real life, itís probable that School A and School B are not equal even if they have the same budgets and parental involvement. Neighbourhood B may have systemic problems that cause hardships for their students. Iím in favour of proposals to relieve those hardships if theyíre in the nature of free breakfasts, after school programs, school security, etc. And I do recognise these programs require money, but Iím in favour of spending that money because it will solve problems Neighbourhood B has that Neighbourhood A doesnít.

By the way, I hope that you appreciate that I built the above strawman with the cleanest straw, the straightest sticks, and the strongest twine I could find.

Also, for anyone who thinks my scenarios are totally fictional, there are calls in the UK from liberals to ban private schools because of the advantages they give to rich students. Theyíre not just in favour of rebalancing parent-funded advantages, they want to ban them.