Monday, September 25, 2006

Simon Jenkins on US Schools

I'm not going to do a big long fisk of this Simon Jenkins column as I have for some of his other recent efforts as it isn't all that bad but it is worth pointing out one particular moment when he utterly misses the point:

"There is a reason why the otherwise privatised United States still regards its schools as quintessentially civic institutions, not as Whitehall’s teaching machines."

So, the US schools are an exception in an otherwise private nation. He uses this as evidence that having schools as a civic institution must, therefore, be a good thing. Unfortunately US public schools are also an exception among US institutions in being pretty dismal. Paul Samuelson has written a brilliant article for the Washington Post arguing that the US succeeds despite poor performance in its schools thanks to a massively successful, but far less civic, tertiary education system.

The lesson from US education is not that 'civic' institutions succeed where more market oriented ones fail but quite the opposite.

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