Make Public Education a Market Economy—Not a Socialist One

La educación pública en Estados Unidos necesita una reforma, y con urgencia. Hay una gran cantidad de datos que muestran el bajo rendimiento de las escuelas públicas de nuestra nación. Por ejemplo, los resultados de una importante prueba transnacional, el Programa para la Evaluación de Estudiantes Internacionales de 2015, colocó a los estudiantes estadounidenses en el puesto 30 en matemáticas y en el 19 en ciencias de los 35 miembros de la Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico, una organización de las más grandes economías avanzadas. Y la Evaluación Nacional del Progreso Educativo más reciente administrada por el Departamento de Educación de EE. UU. encontró que solo el 40 por ciento de los alumnos de cuarto grado, el 33 por ciento de los alumnos de octavo grado y el 25 por ciento de los alumnos de 12mo grado eran "competentes" o "avanzados" en matemáticas.

Eso no quiere decir que todas las escuelas públicas sean malas, todo lo contrario. Sin embargo, la educación ineficaz tiende a concentrarse en grandes áreas urbanas. ¿Cuándo fue la última vez que escuchó a alguien decir que desearía poder mudarse a Detroit para enviar a sus hijos a las escuelas públicas de esa ciudad? Es una pregunta directa, pero la respuesta sería la misma si dijeras Chicago, Atlanta, Los Ángeles o Filadelfia. Este no es un problema de un solo estado o de una sola escuela, es un problema sistemático para todo el país.

Nobody benefits from this. GETTY

Last week in the New York Times, Timothy Snyder, historian and Yale professor, became one more writer trying to make sense of the perils of post-truth America. The essay is long and thoughtful about the power of big lies to tear down a country and build up totalitarian government, and it works its way, in part, to this conclusion:

America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of media and a commitment to facts as a public good. 

Treating facts as a public good doesn’t just involve the media. It also involves public education.

The idea of facts as a public good runs counter to the philosophy of school choice, which starts with the premise that schools provide a private service for parents, not society at large, and that those parents should be able to pick and choose. For Betsy DeVos, giving parents their choice of schools in a free market system of education was a major policy goal, and many other choice advocates share her belief in such a system.

But we can already see some of the results of transforming education from a public good into a private commercial commodity, and they are problematic. Rebecca Klein at Huffington Post last week published her latest deep dive into history textbooks from the major Christian textbook publishers; an earlier study found that these publishers are used in as many as a third of the schools that admit students through taxpayer-funded vouchers systems. The textbooks contain passages like these:

On the U.S. spread west: It was considered God’s will that this vastly superior American culture should spread to all corners of the North American continent. The benighted Indians would be among the many beneficiaries of God’s provision.

On modern history: Although many false philosophies were popular in America before 2000, the new millennium heralded a dramatic acceptance of immoral ideology on a national scale. … Three such philosophies are globalism, environmentalism, and postmodernism.

Psychology was created by Satan. Gay people are child molesters. Civil rights groups were the black equivalent of the KKK. And, of course, evolution is “junk science.” It goes one and on. One can easily imagine future private or religious schools teaching that the election of 2020 was stolen from Donald Trump, who actually won in a landslide.

There’s no question that there’s a balance to be maintained. “Facts as a public good” can’t be used to justify a federal Department of Truth (or 1776 Commission) that enforces the One True View of every issue that comes before us as a nation. Our understanding of what is true is an ever-evolving view that necessarily emerges from robust and ongoing conversations and debate; that’s why what gets taught in public schools is always changing and growing. That debate should never be silenced, and science and history should always be written in pencil.

But the last two months of U.S. history are more than sufficient to demonstrate why allowing citizens to make a free market selection of their own preferred facts is bad for us as a country. Free market fans like to argue that only the best products win in the marketplace. But the free market doesn’t foster superior quality; the free market fosters superior marketing. And in the free market of ideas, sometimes the most effective marketing is simply, “Wouldn’t you rather believe this?”

There is no benefit to society in encouraging parents to choose post-truth fact-impaired education for their children, certainly not enough benefit to justify spending taxpayer dollars to pay for it. Choosing your own preferred facts from a wide open marketplace simply enables willful ignorance, and that is never good for society as a whole.

I spent 39 years as a high school English teacher, looking at how hot new reform policies affect the classroom.

This piece was originally published in Forbes

Las exigencias impuestas convierten a los notarios en agentes del CRIM por medio de la planilla que se rinde al Departamento de Hacienda. Lo interesante es que ni el CRIM ni Hacienda avalaron o respaldaron esta medida, señala Díaz Olivo

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