Public healthcare and public education--differences and similarities

I was discussing the future of healthcare in the US with a staunch conservative. She suggested that the state of public education in the US was evidence that in the US, specifically, getting the government involved in a large scale “public good” like healthcare was a mistake.

Ignoring that the government already has a pretty big finger in the healthcare pie, what differences and similarities do you see between the education system and the healthcare system that could alleviate or exacerbate this person’s fears?

One difference I suggested was that aspects of healthcare are pretty objective. Longevity is pretty objective data, for example.

Testing a student on their knowledge, on the other hand, can be pretty subjective. Who decides what is the important knowledge and who decides how it can be demonstrated?

So, when faced with someone who fears (more) government involvement with healthcare, what facts about the education system would you use to dissuade them from or encourage them in that fear?

Is she claiming that our education system is worse than if we had an all-private one? Because I assure you it is not. Is there any country with a private-only education system that has anywhere near an acceptable literacy rate? Our education system has it’s weaknesses, but people do learn basic functions and many do go on to college.

We cannot compare the private schools of today with the public schools. Private schools have no obligation to take on every student. They have no obligation to take on troublemakers, special needs students, and people who are below their grade level in learning. They have no obligation to hold on to students if their grades start slipping. If you only accept children with good grades, of course your overall statistics are going to be good. But this is by no means any indication that their methods or whatever are better.

I don’t know, but I don’t think it matters. Many of the graduates of public schools in the US don’t know their stuff. Private schools may be worse or better, but that doesn’t change what public school graduates know.

If you were discussing more government involvement in healthcare and someone said, “Yeah, look what a great job they’re doing with schools,” your reply would be ___.

“Thank goodness care in a public health system wouldn’t be tied to property taxes causing some hospitals to be veritable palaces and others to be little more than falling down shacks.”

That’s a good point. There would likely be very different funding schemes for the two systems.

Didn’t public education increase literacy, etc. in the US? As in it provided education for kids of poor folks who couldn’t afford private schools, who otherwise would have had none? Note the idea of public education in the US isn’t a “New Deal” or such one. It was popular even before modern liberalism (as opposed to classical liberalism) took off.

Taking off on even sven’s comments, you also have to be careful comparing today’s US students to other places and times. In times past, for example, if you were not doing well in school, or just didn’t like it, or had to earn money, you dropped out. So the skills of a HS graduate were of course higher than the non-grad. You only stayed in if you had the ability, the motivation, and the socio-economic status to do so. Today the non-graduate is the exception.

Similarly, in some other countries, one gets weeded out of the educational process at an earlier age. Those who don’t measure up in one way or another are moved into another path that may lead to a non-academic career. Whether this is a good thing or not is a separate issue, but one result is that those being held up as examples of an excellent educational system are not necessarily representative of the entire community.

I get really irritated when people compare the private, parochial and prep schools to our publicly-funder ones and wonder why they seem to produce better graduates with less money. Here in NJ at least, a lot of private school services – transportation, textbooks, special needs services – come out of the PUBLIC school budget, artificially inflating the public school costs. Most of all, if Johnny has a learning disability, emotional disturbance, a behavior problem, anything that sets him apart from the glorious average, the private school often won’t accept him to begin with, or will expel him if he’s too much trouble. A doctor who takes only the easiest and least risky cases is going to have fewer people die under his care than the one who works on people with advanced cancer, regardless of his relative skill.

Because private schools cherry pick students. To start, given private schools are expensive, only kids from affluent families attend. Meaning not only are the kids from well off families, but also their parents highly value education for their kids. And most private schools won’t accept mentally retarded students, or troublemakers. Force private schools to provide free tuition to an equal proportion of students that are mentally retarded and/or troublemakers in the public schools, and watch their average performance drop, and the public schools rise.

And I am poor and my health is so bad I very likely will soon be dead because of lack of health care to the poor in the US. To ME, US health care is horrible. And statistics bear this out:

The US is down at 48th for average life expectancy. Note all the European nations beating the US, and Canada being at #12. How come those countries have public education AND better heath care than the US?

That is true. Private schools are more for the children of those who are economically well off (and since one’s financial situation is somewhat coorelated with education and education is somewhat coorelated with intelligence and academic ability then off the bat private school kids are probably smarter as a whole than public school kids due to genetics) and those who take education a bit more seriously and probably pressure their kids more to learn. Public education takes everyone so a comparison between the two isn’t very fair.

To me this issue seems simple and boils down to literacy and immunization–do you want people in your society to have those two basic things and how much is that worth to you?

Being Canadian I’ve always taken these things for granted, but in Dec I’m heading to India and that means a trip to the travel clinic. Problem is that the travel clinic isn’t covered and neither are the shots. So as the doctor went through the list of diseases I had to make a risk assesment and a cost-benifit analysis. Is the risk of Malaria worth the cost of all the pills? The shots for Hep-A,B and Typhoid are hundreds of dollars. It actually scared me to think that I had to weigh the risks of getting the disease against how much the immunization would cost me. Keep in mind that I’ve got 8 years of university and was able to make informed and educated decisions. As an example, I chose the Typhoid pills instead of the shoots, but the pills had a list of instructions four pages long. Had I been illiterate I would have had a hard time and screwed up the medication.

The irony is that public health and travel medical insurance are both willing to pay thousands to treat me for those diseases, but won’t pay the $100 to immunize me! As a result, I could very easly head over to India, contract all of those diseases, and bring them back to where ever it is that YOU live. Do you really want me standing next to you at the check out, or better yet do you really want me coughing in the produce section?

I don’t have data to back this up, but I’m pretty sure lack of education and illiteracy has an impact on crime and poverty.

Likewise, lack of public health is going to lead to the spread of very simple to avoid diseases like TB and lepracy. Are those things you want people walking around with?