Energion Roundtable Week 10 Education

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

This week’s Energion Roundtable question with Bob Cornwall, Arthur Sido, Allan R. Bevere, Joel Watts, and myself is:

I’ve been asking questions that I thought would concern others. This week I’m answering a question that’s on my mind, and which I don’t think the candidates at any level have addressed enough. How can we go about improving the quality of education in this country?

This question may not relate to the presidential candidates as much if you believe the federal government should not play the primary role on this issue. But as I have mentioned before, I hope you will address other candidates in your area, including state and local ones. I think it is unfortunate that so little attention is paid to elections at the local level. Feel free to choose your ground for this discussion.

This is one of the few areas where I think Obama, at least early on, made some limited progress.    But, ultimately he showed himself beholden to the teacher’s Unions, and as a result, his performance in this area is at best mixed.

The problems with education in American stems from two major problems. The failure of top down government control, and the power of the teachers unions that consistently put the welfare of teachers ahead of students.

The solution is clear: we need a bottom up approach that puts the needs of the children ahead of those of the teachers.  This battle has recently been a major focus in my state of Wisconsin. The results are pretty clear and as a result of the reforms, many abuses have come to light.

For example, before the law, school districts were at times pretty much forced to purchase health insurance from the union’s trust.  As a result of the new law they now have more choices, which at a time of otherwise rising health care costs, is saving school districts across the state millions of dollars, often “without changing any aspects of the coverage.”

The other problem is the failure of a top down approach that has taken choice away from parents and teachers and moved it progressively farther away, first to the state, and then the federal government. The solution is pretty clear: more choice and competition. It has already been proven to work where it has been permitted to be tried, dispelling the objections of the teacher’s union driven education establishment.

Simply promising to fix failing schools is not an option.  (Those in doubt should see the documentary Waiting for Superman)  We have been trying to fix these failing schools decades. It is simply immoral to ask yet another generation of children to have their futures crippled, when a proven solution is available.  Again the purpose of public education is not to fix failing schools, it is to educate children.  And yet for decade after decade we have sacrificed generation after generation on the altar of the teachers unions and big government solutions.

When it comes to higher education, we need to completely rethink the entire process.  For a variety of reasons, largely, but not totally to do with government, we have gone through a process of degree inflation. As a result, a high school diploma has become basically worthless. Then we wonder why kids drop out.

We then tell kids that to get ahead they must go to college, get a very expensive degree, burdening themselves with massive debt in the process.  This steady supply of government funded customers has then allowed colleges to raise tuitions at well above the rate of inflation.  This is completely unnecessary.

As employers know, students who then graduate still require a lot of on the job training to really get them up to speed.  In fact, there is no reason that the training needed for most entry level positions from accounting to programming, to business could not be provided in high school.   This is particularly true of areas like computer programing.  It is just a fact that many software engineers have no college education, and many who do hold degrees earned them in areas other than computer science.

While there would certainly be a place for colleges, moving primary job training back into high schools where possible, would not only save students thousands of dollars, it would also make it easier to address labor shortages in areas that are not normally associated with college, such as the “critical shortage of machinists.”

The bottom line is that a policy that promoted choice and competition, deemphasized teachers unions, and restored the value of a high school diploma in terms of getting a job would go a long way towards improving our education system, and more importantly the lives of the children that depend on it.

Oct 22nd, 2012

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