quinta-feira, junho 01, 2006

"Free" Education and Literacy

Dada a intensa discussão sobre Educação que actualmente decorre no nosso país, eis uma leitura interessante:

A common view promoted by advocates of "free" or public education is that a system primarily based on fees would cause many children to forego an education. Subsequently, literacy rates would decline, and America would slide down a slippery slope toward low economic growth and stagnation. Whether education is part and parcel to economic growth is not the concern of this article. Rather, the charge of illiteracy in a fee-based or privatized system seems to be weak at best, considering the history of education in America and England.


The reason behind the successes of private, fee-based systems should be elementary to any student of economics: Private businesses are consumer oriented. The feedback of profit and loss tells an entrepreneur when they satisfy, or fail to satisfy, the needs of consumers. Entrepreneurs who continue to lose eventually cease to be entrepreneurs. Conversely, profit is a reward to entrepreneurs who correctly anticipate consumer wants. A brief look at the private schools of the period attests to these facts. Private schools offered a varied curricula to students. While public schools concerned themselves with the three R's, private schools offered courses in geography, bookkeeping, geometry, trigonometry, surveying, French, German, history, and sometimes dancing.[ix] Specialty and night schools emerged to meet the growing demand of consumers. Many states cut local funding for schools after the American Revolution, but private education thrived.

Why then, did Mann and other so-called reformers lead a call-to-arms to bring public, free schools to all children? One reason is that consumers preferred the quality of the private schools. Although attendance per se did not decline from 1830 to 1840, attendance in public schools began to fall faster and faster. Mann and his followers developed many arguments to attack the private schools. Such arguments ranged from bad parents who refused to educate their children, to calls of private education being "undemocratic." Economic arguments concerning economic growth, crime, and educated voters were also used in an attempt to solidify the position of public schools. Once educators and administrators organized into powerful lobbying groups, the die of our modern public system was cast. Few people can afford to pay for education twice: once through fees, and once through the fiat of taxation.

Most people now realize the failure of public schools, even those who seek only to reorganize a bad system. Parents certainly realize this fact, since private and home schooling is again on the rise. Apparently, many people find that paying twice for education is better than receiving little education at all. Economic theory shows us that private businesses cater to the needs of diverse consumers far better than bureaucracies. History tells us that a private system is feasible, that those at the bottom of the ladder will gain the education they need, and that literacy will not suffer if the mass of the pubic education system disappears—if only we will listen.

Barry Dean Simpson

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