Ahhh, the bane of my existence: public education. That doesn’t mean I hate it though.
I just don’t feel everyone deserves an education. I at least see evidence that free education is not appreciated. My first beef with public education is that it is public. I’m sure most of you know I’m not into the whole “public” anything. But leaving that aside, even, it isn’t a matter of merely providing health care when you need it, its a matter of forcing you to visit the doctor if you see what I mean.
Children are required to attend lessons. This is a little brutish IMO, even for a social program. I don’t like that at all. At least we don’t require college as a law (yet).
That is, if education is so good then simply providing it should be enough. People would want their children to attend. Forcing people to attend school smacks of propoganda, and I’ve read enough history books to give a little credence to that as well.
Well, I am not a master of Econ my any means, but I feel like I have a decent grasp of some general concepts and welcome corrections if I don’t. But public education has one strange pitfall economically: it fosters extreme job-market competition.
That is, speaking strict econ workers are a commodity. They are bought and sold through salaries. In a completely pivate education environment only the moderate-to largely wealthy will attend school. There would be, most likely, few scholoarship programs. This would tend to maintain a very segregated population of proles vs bourgeois. In fact, economic growth itself would be rather slow. I think we’ve seen enough evidence of this historically. In this case, physical labor is very cheap because workers are a dime a dozen. Technological people, on the other hand, are in very limited quantity and can then demand high salaries, further maintaining the divide. The only way out of this loop is to promote cheaper or free education to a larger number of people. I feel this would happen anyway without government interference but it would at least be a loooong time coming.[sup]1[/sup]
Obviously the government is pretty much the only entity which can do this if we want it done quickly. This leads to public education. We build a ton of schools, outlay curriculum, hire teachers (who themselves must be schooled). In one or two generations we can have a sytem set up.
Now, if private education was expensive before its cost can only rise relative to the owner, but the cost to the educatee must drop to keep it worth the extra investment. That is, the government is actually competing on the free market with private investors/individuals/organizations.
However, it is not in doubt that private schools are largely better than most public ones, and that is because of another peculiarity of public vs private institutions: competition for resources. The resources in this case are the teachers. There is no theoretical limit to the salary of a private institution’s teachers while the government sets standards nationwide (there might be adjustments relative to the area, of course, but when adjusted they should be fairly uniform). This gives private institutions the edge. Their recourse against public competing with private is to attempt to hire the best teachers (else private schools would have a significant disadvantage: one needs to pay for them!). This maintains a level of inferiority in public education, relatively speaking.
The upshot of this is rather far-reaching. It doesn’t eliminate the divide. If the problem we were hoping to solve was merely educating the populous to raise the rate of economic growth we have succeeded. However, if the problem we were hoping to solve was unfair distribution of talent and wealth we have failed and must always fail so long as there are private institutions.
The Job Market
So how has the job market changed? Well, apart from increasing our technology in general and accelerating growth we’ve fostered a larger employee base. We’ve increased the number of technical jobs required and we’ve increased the number of physical laborers required.
Physical labor is cheap. It requires little or no training and thus anyone (reasonably) can perform the task from the PhD to the high-school dropout. This makes the manual laborer, as a commodity, very high in supply and very low in demand and so we can expect that the wages paid to physical laborers to not increase significantly even after a broad education base.
As an extreme, consider all education to be public and available(all tax base, no loans). It is not entirely unreasonable to assume just about everyone will get at least a bachelors degree. What is the value of this bachelors degree? Not very much. The demand for people with bachelors degrees isn’t that great to warrant it. We’ve simply dumped money into educating a poulous that really can’t utilize the education we gave them. This is damaging two-fold. The person who spent time getting a bachelors degree should still be able to demand a somewhat higher salary, or at least be the more preferrable choice for employment, regardless of the position (say, janitor). What does this do to those not fit for getting a bachelors degree? If they were low before public education they are dirt now and are very much at the whim of charity and the state.
It is not conceiveable (IMO) that a society could ever reach a level of technology where physical labor is not a significant part of the work force. In this way, any society which promotes education exagerates the divide it was hoping to cure. Once we’ve started this path our only recourse is to further socialize the economy by supporting labor unions, public housing, public health care, public public public. Each step we turn over to the state further requires more things be turned over to the state because in every case the government is competing with private industry.
To stop this, education cannot be completely public. As it stands now we have a mix of public and private grade schools and colleges. As the demand for better education from public schools increase we are forcing the private schools down the path of snagging the better teachers (or fail as an institution) which sets an even higher floor on the persons who can afford to attend. In the end, the demand for equlity (while trying to keep a free market) makes an obscenely exaggerated split between the haves and the have-nots.
IMO, anyway. You cannot both regulate and let free an economy. A mixture of government competition and private industry within a particular industry can only force a segregation-by-wealth which is what we were hoping to eliminate in the first place.