Home > Economic policy, Oz Politics > Joining a sinking ship

Joining a sinking ship

April 26th, 2014

According to news reports, Education Minister Christopher Pyne is going to reprise his successful Gonski exercise of last year with an attempt to remodel the Australian university system along US lines, as recommended by former Howard education minister David Kemp and his adviser Andrew Norton. In particular, he hopes to expand the role of the private sector.

Apparently none of these people have read the stream of reports coming out of the US making the points that

* Whereas the US was once the world leader in the proportion of young people getting university education it now trails much of the OECD (including, if I got the numbers right, Australia)
* US university education, even in the state system, is ruinously unaffordable
* The top tiers of the US system are increasingly closed to students from all but the top 5 per cent (or less) of the income distribution
* The US has the most inequality and some of the lowest social mobility in the developed world
* For-profit education in the US is a scam, based on exactly the mechanism promoted by Kemp and Norton, namely access to public funding/

The US tertiary education system is now like the US health system: world-beating for the 1 per cent, high-quality but incredibly expensive for the top 20, unaffordable or non-existent for the middle class and the poor. And this is the model the LNP wants to emulate

Categories: Economic policy, Oz Politics Tags:
  1. April 26th, 2014 at 20:24 | #1

    It may be worth adapting and posting something I prepared a couple of months ago. This was inspired among other things by English experience in the generations after the Dissolution of the Monasteries and by my grandfather’s experiences over a century ago as a boy, as one of the first two itinerant schoolteachers in the Falkland Islands, and as an inspector of schools in British Guiana.

    All developed and some developing countries:-

    (1.) Need practically everyone to have a primary education (literacy and numeracy, the “three Rs”). These things are the elements, in that they carry other education. As there is a positive externality, primary education should be available free at point of sale, but not funded as such by taxes levied by any level of government, apart from giving primary schools an initial endowment of equipment and premises. Rather, funding primary schools should be made a charge on secondary schools in their area, and primary schools should be supervised by those secondary schools and by boards of parents of demonstrable commitment.

    (2.) Need a large number of people to have a secondary education. That is, all round material resting on those elements, so people can connect with their past, present and future; this can be either practical or abstract, it can be people’s own or other people’s history and culture reached explicitly as history or through foreign languages, it can be mathematics, science, or even classical languages. The main thing is broadening students in direct ways that deliver directly from knowing the material, in their heads and in their hands. Secondary schools should get funding explicitly as fees assisted by parental tax breaks (which make sense to the extent that secondary education also provides a positive externality), implicitly from endowments, or indirectly from temporary and transitional government subsidies pending building up endowments. These schools should be supervised by boards of parents of demonstrable commitment.

    (3.) Need some, perhaps many people to have practical training (including teacher training itself) and surprisingly few to have a university tertiary education. That is, an education of the sort where people “learn to learn” in the sense that their mental gymnastics aren’t directly useful at all (unlike secondary education) but do set them up to cope with the entirely unfamiliar; graduates should be set up not just for the world they graduate into but also for the world as it changes after that (if they don’t know how to push a broom or are unwilling to because they are elite, as in many developing countries, particularly former French colonies, they have both failed themselves and been failed by their education). Technical training colleges and universities should get educational funding explicitly as fees assisted by parental or student tax breaks and by leaving scholarships awarded and funded by the students’ former secondary schools, implicitly from university endowments, or indirectly from temporary and transitional government subsidies pending building up university endowments. Technical training colleges should be supervised by trade and industry groups which include alumni, but universities should only be supervised by their own boards of regents drawing on academic staff and ex officio people from other groups that have been accepted for their input to each individual university (often including alumni, in practice). That last point, about supervising universities, is because universities aren’t really about teaching at all; teaching is really only a sort of paying hobby for them, a sort of synergy they can work off the back of having learned people around, and it is building up and maintaining those that they are for rather than being for either education or training, just as a cow is “for” calves and it is only the farmer’s purpose for the cow that is for milk or meat. Since U.S. universities are being offered as a model and example here, we should note that top flight U.S. universities are now among the best in the world, but mostly they got there the wrong way around from a long term point of view: they didn’t turn themselves into gardens of learning and then find learning flourished, they bought in talent and have only become such gardens since to the extent that their own cultures were changed by those they bought in. To the extent that that didn’t happen, their position isn’t self sustaining over time. The default U.S. culture for most activities is a sort of reverse of the European one: mostly, it goes for a very good median or mode, so the best is short of the best elsewhere but the ordinary is better and more available than the ordinary elsewhere. But that is the wrong culture for the pace setters of excellence, even though it is spot on for primary and secondary education.

    There may yet be a role for governments in all this: quality control, which means both ensuring that examinations are consistent indicators for students and parents, and that there are inspections and audits that are reported to the supervisors responsible. But governments should no more be in charge than a ship’s pilot supersedes its captain.

    The numbered paragraphs above were just the benefits to all society from there being education of those sorts and amounts, and spread benefits like that are what justify spread funding. The students themselves also benefit individually – up to the point where there is “credentialism” from a race to the bottom driven by needing ever higher qualifications to get work that doesn’t intrinsically need it – and that justifies user pays once that cuts in more. That is why I suggested free at point of sale primary education but a blend of fees, tax breaks, scholarships and endowments later on. At university level, it really would help things all round – including graduates’ and non-graduates’ prospects – if student numbers were gradually cut back rather than kept up by outside funding. If, that is, the cuts were part of a change of emphasis towards the genuine role of universities as centres of excellence that were still mainly institutions by and for the learned and that were only incidentally for the students.

  2. bjb
    April 26th, 2014 at 21:06 | #2

    Yesterday’s SMH had an opinion piece by Fred Hilmer spruiking the benefits of privatised higher education.

    http://www.smh.com.au/comment/time-to-consider-usstyle-university-system-20140423-zqy7u.html

    I can see the benefit of charging law students much higher fees (given they are mostly drawn from the upper socio-economic demographic anyway, and the article in the SMH today noting that 2/3 of the males from the class of ’87 are earning > $300K).

    Not too sure how people from less advantaged backgrounds get a leg up though.

  3. Stockingrate
    April 26th, 2014 at 21:22 | #3

    Financialisation: Wall St preferred to Main St and Sydney preferred to Brisbane. Ideology preferred to small c conservatism.

  4. Megan
    April 26th, 2014 at 21:26 | #4

    And this is the model the LNP wants to emulate

    ….and the ALP, let’s not forget.

    The ALP is as neo-con as the LNP – to pretend otherwise is ‘tribalism’.

  5. Midrash
    April 26th, 2014 at 21:30 | #5

    I don’t know how much the US system(s) of education have to teach us though I note that you, JQ, omit the very large endowments for poorer but bright students to attend the Ivy League and other major universities and, indeed, the private schools like Exeter and Groton. One good thing which might emerge from the growing expense of tertiary education for those who have to pay in the US is the (albeit painfully slow) working of the market mechanism to discourage people from wasting time and money on the kind of fourth rate arts degree that a person with an IQ of <110 can get unless very fortunate in family or mentoring background.

    No doubt it is worth giving some kind of tertiary education to far more people in the 21st century than in the 1950s and 60s but, let it be remembered, Commonwealth Scholarships provided the university fees for one third of all university students in those years. Apart from the problems at school or family level there wasn't a great problem of pearls going undiscovered and unpolished.

    More practical, vocational and technical education is what is needed for the economy and for giving most not very verbally smart people a good chance of being rewarded well in our current economy.

  6. Michael
    April 26th, 2014 at 22:07 | #6

    Sounds about right. What’s the point of being rich if you can’t shut out the plebs? The pertinent question is how well they can hood wink the middle class into supporting these inefficient and alternately ruinous private services. Private health, education and superannuation seem to all be perilous close to being scams.

  7. April 26th, 2014 at 22:29 | #7

    Michael :
    Sounds about right. What’s the point of being rich if you can’t shut out the plebs? The pertinent question is how well they can hood wink the middle class into supporting these inefficient and alternately ruinous private services. Private health, education and superannuation seem to all be perilous close to being scams.

    That’s actually quite easy. The trick was worked out in Brazil years ago; just subsidise everything for everybody beyond a certain point, but let them all fend for themselves in getting that far. That meant that the wealthy could easily afford to pay for enough secondary education for their children to qualify to go to university, and then weren’t crippled by having to pay for that – and, though in theory the poor could also get that free university education, in practice few of them ever qualified to go to university at all.

  8. April 27th, 2014 at 00:13 | #8

    I’m not sure if just getting students into university is a great goal. Was it really a good move to turn nursing into a university degree? Many occupations are better suited to an apprenticeship type training, with ongoing education built in. Take computing. The people who are going to work for Google will need a university education. They need a deep understanding of computing, algorithms, mathematics etc. The people who write computer software, they can learn it on the job, as can those who have learnt the infinite number of ways that turning it off and turning it on again can fix your problem.

    Just because a university degree has status doesn’t mean its the best way to train.

    But the future for universities will be interesting. It won’t be long before MOOCs (some acronym that refers to large online offerings) become mature enough to compete with universities. Indeed, my experience with a large 1st year unit at uni is that we are implementing some of the MOOC model already. And the students are implementing more than we are. By the end of semester, physical attendance at lectures is under 50% (and only some of the remainder are watching the lessons online).

  9. David Allen
    April 27th, 2014 at 07:46 | #9

    I think the key point here as with many other current issues in front of this government is that it not in any way “conservative” except in their bigotry. In everything else they are “destructive extremists”.

  10. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2014 at 08:17 | #10

    When I was educated, tuition at primary, secondary and tertiary levels was free. So poor, inefficient Australia (sarcasm) in the “old days” of the 60s and 70s could provide free tuition at all levels. Now, a much wealthier, advanced Australia can’t achieve this??? What total BS.

    These claims that all tuition at primary, secondary and tertiary levels cannot still be provided free are LIES. It can be and should be provided free. It depends where the priorities are set. We can find money to subsidise car races, throw away $12 billion on fighter jets that don’t work, allow billionaires to escape taxes etc. etc.

    (Footnote: Parents were always responsible for uniforms, books and ancillary costs. Some assistance was provided to very poor people in these areas too, IIRC.)

  11. Paul Norton
    April 27th, 2014 at 10:39 | #11

    Another aspect of the US system is that much of the teaching is done by insecurely employed, overworked and poorly paid “adjunct professors” (i.e. casual academic staff). Australia is already well advanced along this road, if not quite as far down it as the US.

  12. Paul Norton
    April 27th, 2014 at 10:40 | #12

    David Allen @9:

    I think the key point here as with many other current issues in front of this government is that it not in any way “conservative” except in their bigotry. In everything else they are “destructive extremists”.

    Exactly.

  13. Ernestine Gross
    April 27th, 2014 at 11:33 | #13

    It seems to me, the material provided in JQ’s post contain yet other example of the general problems of wealth concentration and Private-Public Partnerships (‘private’ education providers being fed by the public purse and associated corruption) in contemporary economies.

  14. Midrash
    April 27th, 2014 at 12:32 | #14

    @Ikonoclast
    Your reference to the 60s suggests that you were beneficiary of a Commonwealth Scholarship and anyway counted that as the justification for your saying teritary education was free at the time you were being educated in the 60s and 70s.

    No doubt the Whitlam extension of free university education was beneficial to both the mature women who took advantage of it but also the nation as a result of that. Such elements of all round benefit conceded, do you say that the Commonwealth scholarships which provided one third of university students with fee free education before Whitlam should have been extended to anyone who matriculated?

    Presumably you agree that all government expenditure should have a cost-benefit payoff for the nation, though not – obviously – every dollar spent on every individual, so that the public benefit in educating people is part of the government’s proper calculations (even if rough estimates and allowing a presumption in favour of ensuring everyone who will work hard at tertiary studies gets a chance). Do you seriously think that there is a national benefit in having the number of subsidised university students we have even now with a HECs scheme? I can remember university professors of more than 30 years ago already making cynical noises about the dimwitted students they allowed in to their universities with very low HECS scores.

  15. Midrash
    April 27th, 2014 at 12:39 | #15

    @Ernestine Gross
    I don’t have a problem with your concern about Public-Private Partnerships though there are probably good models, but I am intrigued by your ” ‘private’ education providers being fed by the public purse and associated corruption” .

    What is the private education you refer to? All those profit making bodies ripping off Asian students who haven’t gone to high or independent secondary school here and come to learn cooking or hairdressing or whatever (mainly with a view to getting a visa which allows them to stay here)? Or Bond University and any other similar insitution? Or the major universities which are in effect private though the creatures of statute?

    And what corruption?

    It certainly seems odd that the rip-off colleges have sometimes been allowed to carry on so long. But I lack knowledge of detail.

  16. April 27th, 2014 at 12:43 | #16

    It will actually be much worse than the US. The huge pool of private scholarships and endowments in America do help some bright students from outside the top 20% go to elite universities, and a larger number who could have gone anywayavoid being ovoverburdened with fees. Australia does not have that, and even if we developed the charity culture the US has it would take centuries to match those endowments, even per capita.

  17. graham
    April 27th, 2014 at 13:49 | #17

    If they are imitating the us graduate system where advanced coursework is included in a longer phd great.
    If they are imitating the college sports culture great
    Anything else is a terrible idea

  18. Ernestine Gross
    April 27th, 2014 at 14:05 | #18

    @Midrash

    My comment, ” ‘private’ education providers being fed by the public purse and associated corruption” relates to the article, “For profit education in the USA is a scam”, linked in Prof Q’s post.

  19. sunshine
    April 27th, 2014 at 15:21 | #19

    Saturdays Herald Sun explained how Mr Pyne merely plans to ‘open up the public university system to competition’ .In the same edition there was a big feature piece arguing for the benefits of greed -the first line of which was ‘Greed ,or the desire for something better, is what drives people ..’

    I am surprised by the vigor with which the Coalition is perusing its agenda, previously hidden from public view . They will need all of Ruperts help to pull it off.

  20. April 27th, 2014 at 16:05 | #20

    Apologies for been irrelevant. So what is education for? Is it an individual outcome and/or a social outcome? Should education address individual and cultural meaning and purpose for life? What does competition have to do with it?

  21. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2014 at 19:25 | #21

    @Midrash

    My memory was somewhat unreliable. I gained a scholarship but did not avail myself of it. Later I entered University and completed a degree after Whitlam had made tertiary education free. Australia had free tertiary education for about 15 years I think now (after checking Wikipedia).

    As a short answer, I would say yes, tertiary education for Australian citizens in public Australian Universities should be free of fees and free of HECS. Quotas might be necessary. The best thing to do would be to ensure high secondary OP scores (Qld term) are required for entry. Thus entry should be academic on merit and rigorous enough to ensure good standards and trimming to quotas. The thing to keep out of the mix is the mere possession of rich parents getting students into Uni.

    The foreign students issue is tricky now because Australia has made such a milch cow out of it. This introduces complicating factors to policy. I don’t want to go into that now in such a short post.

    I think there is a national benefit to tertiary education in all arenas, humanities, science and the many professions. The future is far from predictable so a broad education system in all the major and minor arenas of learning is vital to maintain national flexibility and responsiveness to change. A stock vocational focus fails as all the vocations of the future cannot be predicted. In addition, a narrow vocational focus makes narrow-minded humans, just look at modern business management for an example of that.

  22. April 27th, 2014 at 19:38 | #22

    Ikonoclast :
    @Midrash

    As a short answer, I would say yes, tertiary education for Australian citizens in public Australian Universities should be free of fees and free of HECS. Quotas might be necessary. The best thing to do would be to ensure high secondary OP scores (Qld term) are required for entry. Thus entry should be academic on merit and rigorous enough to ensure good standards and trimming to quotas. The thing to keep out of the mix is the mere possession of rich parents getting students into Uni.

    Congratulations. You have come up with precisely the recipe used in Brazil to provide middle class welfare in education without seeming to. The thing is, that makes university education free to those who can afford to get educated to university entry level, and to effectively very few others.

  23. April 27th, 2014 at 20:36 | #23

    @Ikonoclast
    Ikon, did you not go to university with the scholarship because your family needed you to work? I had a boyfriend in that position once – his mother was a single parent I think. We broke up, and I feel bad about it even though I don’t think we were suited.

    I went to uni on a commonwealth scholarship, and my mother was absolutely determined I should. My father wasn’t. Looking back, I wonder if that contributed to their break up, and it breaks my heart because I remember the times I was mean and supercilious to her.

  24. Ikonoclast
    April 27th, 2014 at 20:59 | #24

    @Val

    My philosophy…. No good worrying about the past as it cannot be changed. Draw lessons from the past and act now as those lessons teach you. Be existential, in a sort of Buddhist sense. Of course, I often fail to live up to this but I try to aim at it.

  25. April 27th, 2014 at 21:15 | #25

    how well do the private universities do in the USA?

    My memory of their model is the better ones are run as non-profits because this organisational form out-competes the others in assuring quality.

    Bond University followed the US model where it was established as a non-profit to increase the value of the surrounding land owned by the developer.

    Tyler Cowen co-wrote a nice paper on for-profit higher education at http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/02/the-economics-of-higher-non-profit-and-for-profit-education.html

    Pinoy for-profit private universities are listed on the Manila stock exchange at one time.

  26. iain
    April 27th, 2014 at 21:47 | #26

    The background issue is – how much longer will key employers, and systems of employment, continue to over-indulge employees simply because these recruits managed to swindle a name brand university degree?

    Once that system falls over, and it is beginning already (see link), then the government can mess with it all it likes – it is a sinking ship regardless.

    http://qz.com/180247/why-google-doesnt-care-about-hiring-top-college-graduates/

  27. derrida derider
    April 27th, 2014 at 22:30 | #27

    @bjb

    I can see the benefit of charging law students much higher fees (given they are mostly drawn from the upper socio-economic demographic anyway

    Well if you charge higher fees that will certainly ensure they CONTINUE to be drawn from that demographic. What a wonderful way of keeping the riff-raff out.

    Surely it’s precisely those studies that are traditionally for the upper crust where you most need to make sure the barriers are academic, not financial. Even with present arrangements very few people can study for six years to become a doctor, for example, unless mummy and daddy can give some support (for a start, you can’t do much part time work with those courses. And Austudy is too low to live on on its own for that long).

  28. paul walter
    April 27th, 2014 at 23:49 | #28

    What I’ll add will only be superfluous but, why is the global Right so maniacal as to this re-feudalisation of civilisation at the expense of something less sadistic and more rational, we already had a basic blueprint for?

    How has our success turned us back into Apes?

    I think PM Lawrence’s idea re Protestant iconclasm works, it seems an early form of reactionary modernism, seen in the light PM presents it… maybe we could also consider the Catholic church attitude to science in a similar vein, as a form of primitive denialism.

    Sorry, I just don’t get the Right wing mentality.

    Can someone explain?

  29. April 28th, 2014 at 09:58 | #29

    paul walter :
    What I’ll add will only be superfluous but, why is the global Right so maniacal as to this re-feudalisation of civilisation at the expense of something less sadistic and more rational, we already had a basic blueprint for?
    How has our success turned us back into Apes?
    I think PM Lawrence’s idea re Protestant iconclasm works, it seems an early form of reactionary modernism, seen in the light PM presents it… maybe we could also consider the Catholic church attitude to science in a similar vein, as a form of primitive denialism.
    Sorry, I just don’t get the Right wing mentality.
    Can someone explain?

    I’m trying to figure out how you get from me to an idea of mine about Protestant iconoclasm. Can you clarify? The nearest I can get is my mention of English educational experience after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. But that was something else that happened a generation or so afterwards, the realisation that there was a shortfall of needed educated people, and not iconoclasm at all. That in turn gave rise to a crop of charitably endowed schools supervised by nouveau riche livery companies and the like, schools that eventually evolved into the British public schools (“public” as in “public telephone”, meaning accessible to the public rather than provided free to the public – though scholarships never ceased, they became proportionally fewer than paid places and covered proportionally less).

  30. Moz in Oz
    April 28th, 2014 at 10:29 | #30

    @John Brookes

    Take computing… The people who write computer software, they can learn it on the job

    I’ve worked with the “learn it on the job” types, and even the smart ones were not good at it. There’s a point where being clever has to have something to build on, and what it builds on is knowing what other people have already done. Otherwise you end up repeating previous work and often not doing it as well. Although at least with software generally few people die, which you can’t say about medicine or economics.

    For that matter, it’s appalling that we let people play with the levers of power with no training. You can’t practice law without a licence, but you can write legislation. As we’re seeing right now at state level, letting muppets who “just know” what needs to be done pull out the crayons in the houses of parliament leads to mistakes that kill people.

  31. Glenn Condell
    April 28th, 2014 at 10:42 | #31

    @iain

    I think larger employers, as the link seems to indicate, will move away from simply accepting a brand degree as evidence of (a) the mastery of a body of relevant knowledge and (b) the capacity to acquire new knowledge. Especially since the incidence of sophisticated cheating (in particular student substitution) is essentially unknowable, but certainly present. MOOC variants, whether originating in sandstone or not, mean the knowledge is on the loose rather than locked away in an ivory tower, and smart employers will move into academic assessment themselves (ie, examine selected applicants formally) which along with techniques for assessing interpersonal skills and decision-making nous, will provide a well-rounded basis for recruitment.

  32. Glenn Condell
    April 28th, 2014 at 11:36 | #32

    @Ikonoclast

    Ikon at 21

    Yes, education should be free in a free society, especially such a wealthy one.

    ‘The future is far from predictable so a broad education system in all the major and minor arenas of learning is vital to maintain national flexibility and responsiveness to change.’

    True, but I would add ‘basic’ to ‘broad’ as a goal in education, with the focus naturally moving from the former to the latter throughout the student’s life. While a broad focus will help us to be better prepared for an unpredictable future, we must structurally embed into our school education the most basic skills required, not just to prosper but to survive. I agree we need more baskets for our eggs but the first ones our ancestors made, the ones that have seen us through the last hundreds, even thousands of years, must be maintained at all costs.

    While we are ultimately unsure what will occur in the future, we shouldn’t ignore the past, which can provide a few clues for what we might expect… natural disaster, war, depression, climate change, resource shortages, or simply centuries long periods of kleptocratic feudal stagnation. How many of us are optimised for survival let alone prosperity in violently changed circumstances? If we went back even 50 years, how much more prepared would our parents or grandparents have been? It seems to me the further we go back (into less specialised times) the better prepared we’d be for whatever nature and history could throw at us. ‘Progress’ has taken us out on a limb, past in a generation or two all that boring tried and true knowledge that ensured we got this far in the first place. We don’t want any effort to push out the boundaries of broadness, ie specialisation, to detract from the primary requirement that we individually and collectively have a better Plan B for changed circumstances, whether local or general.

    Primary school children should learn the three Rs first and foremost, and participate in sport, but they should also be introduced to basic food gardening, animal husbandry, cooking and preserving, carpentry, and as they mature electrical circuitry and software design, nutrition and phys ed, accounting/finance and money/economics (these last of course need to be freed from the neolib mainstream to emphasise alternatives to the current elite-serving set-up). While we still need to produce masters of each trade, we must produce more jacks of all of them, at least the most vital. We might as a corollary end up with more masters… certainly I think we would end up with a more resourceful populace.

    Needless to say, while every individual citizen is free to comment and contribute, the corporate sector must not be permitted a foothold.

  33. April 28th, 2014 at 19:57 | #33

    @Ikonoclast
    Errk thanks Ikon – sorry I should know by now that Jetlag and a few glasses of wine are not a good combination! There was probably something in the flash of insight I thought I got last night, but not nearly as dramatic as it seemed to me then! I do feel bad about having been a smartarse young student with my scholarship and patronising my mum, who was just as intelligent but was never given the chances I was. Anyway as you say, best thing is to try to learn from the past rather than dwelling on it.

  34. Midrash
    April 28th, 2014 at 23:36 | #34

    @Moz in Oz
    I’m sure you are right about software writing being best not left to those who have learned on the job. Indeed I have known clever people get a workable result but well trained professionals criticise the clumsiness of it as a result of the writers not knowing the tricks of the trade.

    As to software writers not killing as many people as economists and medical doctors that cannot be anything like an a priori truth as you only have to think what could happen to aircraft or power stations to envisage great disasters. So is it an empirical truth?

    I think you may be attributing too much of the blame for bad or badly drafted legislation to MPs. Those who have been half decent lawyers cab normally, if they give the time to it pick the problems in drafts produced, as they nearly always are, by parliamentary counsel as they have come to be called now for some decades. Parliamentary Counsel are often starting a long way behind scratch in knowing the relevant law that they are expected to draft amendments to. So don’t blame non-lawyer MPs who may have perfectly sensible policy ideas that, unfortunately, they can’t rely on Parliamentary Counsel to turn into workable legislation or advise adequately about the problems.

  35. Midrash
    April 28th, 2014 at 23:43 | #35

    Catch 22. You abolish, or tax to death, private schools. From those not in the top 0.5 per cent of income or wealth you here a sigh of relief. The buy or rent a residence in a high income suburb where the schools are the best and use the money saved on fees to hire tutors and place their kids in foreign families where the can perfect a foreign language..

  36. Patrickb
    April 29th, 2014 at 00:04 | #36

    @John Brookes
    “The people who write computer software” … I wonder who they are?They must be the people who understand polymorphic behaviour, or the ones who know how to normalise data to the nth normal form or perhaps they understand 20 years of middleware developments and how to integrate them. Or perhaps they know how to look up formula help in Excel. I can deduce from your comment which one you are.

  37. Ernestine Gross
    April 29th, 2014 at 10:09 | #37

    Midrash @ 34. Regarding the drafting of legislation. What is your opinion of game theorists’ critique of the drafting of laws?

    @35. Your comment assumes a unique culture world-wide. This is not true empirically. In some societies, private schools have a very low reputation among the population because they are considered as places where the super rich hide their academically uncompetitive or ill behaved or both off-springs from public light. Furthermore, your comment makes sense only in a society where significant income inequality is the norm and presumed to be desirable – the greater the inequality the better.

    There is a distinction between the acceptance that, due to several factors, the incomes of people at any time in their life and over their life are not numerically equal and the idea that any degree of income inequality is consistent with social cohesion, the idea of a market economy within the limits where it can function, and the idea of democracy.

    The behaviour you describe is, IMO, a pathetic attempt by people to avoid ‘competition’ for their offsprings while mouthing ‘competition’. It may also be a modern version of conspicuous consumption in the sense of Veblen.

  38. Ikonoclast
    April 29th, 2014 at 11:32 | #38

    @Glenn Condell

    Broadly, I agree. I can remember the 3Rs being dinned into me in the early grades. I don’t recall repetitive learning bothering me at that young age. Given that young children are such learning sponges (I mean that in a good way) I think that adding in basic food gardening, animal husbandry, cooking and preserving, carpentry could only be a good thing. Schools would need to be well equipped to deliver all that.

  39. April 29th, 2014 at 12:26 | #39

    @Patrickb

    Yes, I was being sloppy. But there are programming jobs that don’t need much more than an organised mind and an ability to code. I’m just making the case that university training is not necessary for every occupation.

    And also that sometimes its far more effective if education/training is delivered alongside work. I did some IT training after I’d worked a little in IT. The training made sense to me, but only based on my actual experience. Without the experience the training would have been meaningless. So the apprenticeship model of integrated training and work is better in some situations.

    The other problem with too much education is that you end up eliminating people who would be perfectly capable of actually doing the job.

Comments are closed.