Saturday, February 6, 2010

Your kids or mine?

Fascinating discussion between my liberal friend and me:
Liberal Friend: NCLB is on the clock. Anyone have any thoughts? I used to be in the "scrap it and let it die" bunch, but I have softened recently as I agree with the NYT ed board here that it has focused the nation on student achievement like never before.

Editorial - Making ‘No Child’ Better -

Adam Freund: My thought is to return educatio back to the local level of course. Let it die and replace any federal funding with block grants to the states based on their populations with no strings attached. Better yet, give vouchers to the parents so they can choose where to send their kids to school.

Liberal Friend: If control is entirely local, does that include control over curriculum?

Adam Freund: yes, but if you are worried that there aren't any standards, I suggest letting each state outline their own standard. And I admit that it is possible that some states will not be as good as others, but that is a fair compromise, in my opinion, for allowing for expermentation. And in the end I believe that outcome will be superior to that of complete centralized control by the federal government.

Liberal Friend: Any reaction to this?,2933,584758,00.html?mep

Adam Freund: I don't think it is a big deal. First, let me explain my experience in the public school system (your miles may vary).

I learned very little of what I would call useful information. History was sparse, economics was non-existent and overall it was what I would consider a poor education. Mind you I was in the "smart" classes too. I can only imagine what drivel the other students were learning.

Second, what I think you are failing to see is that there is only so much time children spend in school and whatever they learn means they can't learn something else. That whole oppoturnity cost thing again. I assume that you think this is a great tragedy, meaning, if you were in charge of prioritizing the curriculum, you would do it differently. That's your perogative. But I don't believe it is your perogative to impose this on others.

The citizens of North Carolina can decide what curriculum they value most and I have confidence that they will develop a good one. And if they don't, there will be less citiziens of North Carolina. That's a tradeoff I am willing to live with for the overall improvement of all our schools.

As an aside, if I were educating my yet to be concieved kid, I would eschew history altogether in favor of math and reading. Those skills are far more important to me. And if the kid is interested in history, go to the library. But you are free to teach your little Liberals whatever you want.

Liberal Friend: I think we have a fundamental difference in how we approach this problem, although we both approach it from an individual rights approach. You think it is up to an individual (or moreover a parent) to determine what her child should be learning. I do not. I think it my right not to die from cancer that should drive education.

I know the odds are good that I will get cancer one day. I have accepted this. That said, I want to make sure every single child in America and beyond our borders gets the education she needs to be the child who has the cure for cancer. I don't give a damn what her parents think or where they are.

I know this sounds incredibly selfish, but this is who I am. I want cancer cured by the time I get it. And if the child who has the cure for cancer happens to be in a Texas town that doesn't believe in biology, I don't care what her parents believe.

Adam Freund: We do have a fundamental difference, but hopefully we are working on bridging that difference. A few points to consider:

First from a purely pragmatically selfishly perspective, you are not taking into account whether or not your desired system of education is more or less likely to produce the child who has a cure for cancer. You have already implicitly assumed that your system is more likely. I submit that is not the case.

Second, you are advocating a principle which when broadly applied can be detrimental to you. You say you have a right not to die from cancer. Where did that right come from? But more importantly, your supposed right places an obligation on the child who is to cure your cancer. Should that child be able to learn what they want, to do what they want. It appears you have already placed a claim on his/her life. their life is not for them to live, but to serve you. To grow up and learn medicine whether they want to or not because you want them to cure your cancer. Forget about the child's parent not wanting this, what if the child doesn't want this? Will you force them to cure your cancer? What if that child were you?...

You are perverting the term, individual rights. Rights do not impose an obligation on another human being. If that were the case, then the other human being doesn't have any rights. And one day it could be your life that is obligated to someone else's "rights".

Liberal Friend:I am simply offering a new paradigm for how we look at education, using myself as an example. We must educate as many people as we can, within our borders and outside, so we can cure cancer, AIDS, figure out how to deal with excess plastic, solve climate change, etc. This should be our focus. And anything that diverts us is not worthwhile. Just as we educated an entire generation to battle the USSR and Sputnik, we must do it again.

And I do trust curriculum experts over parents and locally elected officials because they're experts. That's what they do. I will not allow a misguided local PTA to stop us from edcuating as many children as we can to solve our problems.


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