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October 28, 2005


Paddy Carter

why does your challenge (which I can't answer) pertain only to middle class parents?


The relative scarcity of parents training their dogs to eat the neighbors' kids' homework?

John Thacker

OK, how wide does "every other school" go? You can think about it in different ways-- and if "every other school" includes those in other countries, then it's true for most that care about education, middle class, upper class, whatever. How often do we hear people phrase the need for better education in a "we have to compete with country X" way?

Of course, if you extend it to other things it often applies as well. I believe large numbers, perhaps majorities, in surveys say that they would prefer to be poorer (or their country poorer) but relatively better off than other people (or countries) rather than be wealthier but relatively worse off compared to others.


I would offer you the bet that for every example you can give of a local middle-class parents' campaign to allocate more resources to their school at the expense of other schools in the district, I will give you five examples of middle-class parents campaigning for more education spending in the borough overall.


I can even name a lot of people who send their children to private schools but nonetheless want more money spent on state education. I think that this is just pure cynicism with no real evidence behind it.

John Thacker

I can even name a lot of people who send their children to private schools but nonetheless want more money spent on state education.

Ah, but how many of them make the argument that without doing so, their own country will fall behind the rest of the world?

Besides, don't plenty of people tell us all the time that poverty is a relative thing, and that more inequality is bad even if wealth is increasing?


I'm largely with Chris on this one, but I think the post suffers in one major respect and that is its failure to define 'good'. We only really measure schools on their results and so a school stands or falls on the basis of its ability to shepherd children into 'good' universities. Again, universities are, primarily, just a means to shepherd children into elite jobs. So, I'm sure most people vehemently believe they're in favour of good education but it's just an unknowing facade of altruism over a desire to secure privilege for your children. I think.


None. The fact that no parent pays attention to the actual content of the education rather than the perceived ranking proves this. Schooling is merely economic signalling for better-paying jobs and most parents know that on some level. Some of them like to fool themselves into thinking that schooling is a way of cultivating culture because of the marginal effect that education provides. However, your first assertion that good schooling is required for this acculturation is false. A well-educated, cultured person is always self-educated because no education system could- or would want to- strain itself to poop out such a person.

Kevin Gardiner

The last comment reminds me of an economics dissertation I wrote about an earlier version of this theory, the "screening hypothesis", some years back. The idea that educational qualifications do not just testify to raised productive potential but also have positional significance was distinctly unpopular with many of the professional educators I discussed it with at the time. These days we seem to be doing our best to ensure that children are neither educated nor screened effectively.


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