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Apr 11, 2007


Dan Diephouse

One of the things I like about such an approach is that it cultivates a culture of charity. As opposed to a culture of "the government owes me this!"

Stephen Downes

* If families could easily afford to send their kids to a good school, the government would no longer need to fund schools or teachers, since the general population would be capable of paying for them in the free market.

You'd think, but as it turns out, if you require one person (a parent) to pay something for a second person (a child), a significant number of them spend the money on other things, like booze or gambling or whatever.

Then what?

If the parent has not paid, do you prohibit the child from attending school? Obviously not - allowing children to grow up without any education is not an option.

So you have to force the parent to pay, right?

That's called taxes.

Back to square one.

* They might prefer to spend the money on other goods and services and send their child to a cheap and terrible school. But would such schools survive in a marketplace where people can afford better?

Don't ask me.

Go down to the strip and ask the parents who are feeding their children at McDonalds.

They could be providing nourishing, healthy meals. Possibly even for less money.

But, for some reason, they don't.

If it were up to me, when students attended the government-funded and run schools, they would be properly fed as well.

* Would there be a need for any sort of standard curriculum?

Don't know. This is a matter for considerable debate.

But tell me this - after paying the thousands of dollars a year for twelve years, would you be OK with it if your kids couldn't read or perform basic math?

Just asking.

* charities like the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation seem like they're better suited for this kind of role.

Where is the evidence for this?

Charities do well at focused high-profile projects, but are less good at public infrastructure.

The Gates Foundation, for example, opens hugely expensive model schools, while millions of children remain under-educated.

Entire nations in South America don't receive any Gates foundation money.

Oprah Winfrey decided to spend her millions toward education in Africa.

On that continent of 800 million people, her considerable investment will educate 20 or 30 children.

That's the problem with charities - they're capricious. And run by people without any particular expertise in education.

Graham Glass

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your feedback!

I'll address the first issue re: parents not paying for their kid's educations in my next post.

As far as your point re: "wouldn't I want children to read and write after spending a bunch of money", the answer is of course yes! I would choose a school with good ratings and reviews. Schools that did not do a good job meeting their customers needs would dissolve.

The Gates foundation is just one of many that are experimenting with various approaches for improving the education system. Some of their attempts will be successes, and some will be failures. They are run by successful business people who are perfectly capable of hiring top-notch talent with strong backgrounds in education.

You mention the role of government for public infrastructure, but if schools and teachers are funded by parents, there isn't much infrastructure left for the government to provide.

I don't see the relevance in your observation that the Gates foundation is not donating funds to South America. My discussion is focused on education within the US; donating money to other countries for various purposes is outside the scope of this thread.


Andrew Sidwell

You may be interested in reading:


on the benefits of non-curriculum schools.

Bill Seitz

Hear, hear!


David Weber

The biggest problem with our educational system is the lack of parental involvement. Show me a good school, and I'll show you a group of involved parents. Show me a crappy school and I'll show you a group of crappy parents.

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