Monday, September 20, 2004

On Education, Part III: Redefining the Solution.

Many people say that what we need in public education is "equal spending" for every child. Thus, if my child goes to school in the urban school district, he should get the exact same amount - penny for penny - spent on his education as his friend that goes to school out in the suburbs.

While on the surface this seems like an acceptable equality endorsing solution, in practice it is nothing more than a veil for perpetuating inequality.

Think of it this way: does it cost the same amount to provide the exact same quality of education (educationally provided opportunity, henceforth "EPO") to a student in the country as it does to a student in mid-town Manhattan? Of course not. Facilities, teachers, you name it - they all cost more in the big city. Any education system aimed at achieving equal EPO must take into account the fact that it will cost more to provide some children with services equal to their peers. This includes the realization that you will have to pay them more than you would in the suburbs to encourage top flight educators into poor, urban schools, where the learning enviroment is much harder on a teacher.

My point: the debate needs to be framed not in terms of equal spending, but in terms of equal EPO. Isn't the real goal to provide each child with a level of opportunity that will allow them the chance to cultivate their natural abilities for the betterment of us all?

Granted, there are never going to be the same EPO's available in rural America as there are in midtown Manhattan. Just because a kid in the Bronx gets a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, that doesn't mean that a kid in Iowa should get the same. These are local decisions about how best to spend money available on the margins. More on this later.


At 7:37 AM, Blogger jrl20 said...

A couple of questions on the education posts:

(1) I understand that Christianity has a concern for the poor, and that we should, thus, care about the poor's education and try to ensure equal education opportunity. Is there something about education that makes it a particularly important concern? E.g., with universal health insurance you have BOTH the poverty issue AND Jesus' concern for the sick. Is educational inequality doubly important in some way like that?

(2) Liberal historians and theologians often emphasize that Jesus was uneducated and probably illiterate. Does this have any relevance to your argument? Which way does it cut?


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