Let me say publicly that DonBoy’s answer exudes a combination of intuitive genius and confidence that make me think DonBoy is going to do big things in his life. -- Steven D. Levitt (Freakonomics blog)
Friday, October 15, 2004
Conservative Educational Philosophy and Liberal Complicity

Dave Neiwert on Bush on education:

To people like Bush, the value of education lies solely in its ability to provide a steady supply of workers. Education isn't a matter of improving our lives, making us better citizens capable of thinking for themselves, inspiring us to reach the maximum of our human capacities; it's a union card, a system designed to churn out as many trained workers as possible.

This view of education, in fact, is pronounced among conservatives in general. And it's directly reflected in Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program.

True, but it's hardly surprising, and liberalism hasn't exactly fought this philosophy of public schooling either. The basic liberal -- Deweyist, I guess -- take on education is the stuff Neiwert mentions about improving our lives and minds; in addition, most liberals have faith that the more education a person has, all other things being equal, the more like us -- that is, the more liberal -- the populace will be. But the first is, if you don't already believe it, a hand-waving kind of thing to sell to people who want hard justifications for their school bond issues; and the second -- well, that's just for between us, so keep it down, OK?

And so the reductionist sales pitch became the norm: everyone should pay for public schooling, because an uneducated populace won't get good jobs, and then they'll go on welfare and you'll be paying for them anyway. Also -- and stop me if you've ever heard this in a local election -- the better your local school system, the better for your property values. If you sell public education on this basis for a couple of generations, you're going to make it hard to argue against the view of schools as feeders into the employment system, and nothing more.

The rest of Neiwert's piece -- well, I'm neither a school kid nor the parent of one, but Dave's usually right, so NCLB sucks.

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