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THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT IN EDUCATION (Milton Friedman)
Economics and the Public Interest ^
| Milton Friedman
Posted on 07/17/2004 4:04:55 PM PDT by Remember_Salamis
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I'm pretty sure I've read this before, and I plan to read this in a little bit.
Milton Friedman truly is a genius.
posted on 07/17/2004 4:10:28 PM PDT
(Its Morning in America Again!)
Thanks for posting this. A great read.
Sadly, the problems of education in America have been identified since 1955!
Cut all public funding of education, and those who want an education will somehow find a way to become educated.
Increase public funding for education a thousandfold, and those who don't want an education still won't get one.
posted on 07/17/2004 4:18:25 PM PDT
(speaking strictly as an infidel,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,)
He's a favorite author.
posted on 07/17/2004 4:29:19 PM PDT
(PRAYER WARRIORS, DO YOUR STUFF! LIVES, SOULS AND NATIONS DEPEND ON IT)
To: umgud; Quix; CasearianDaoist; RWR8189
"The lack of balance in governmental activity reflects primarily the failure to separate sharply the question what activities it is appropriate for government to finance from the question what activities it is appropriate for government to administer--a distinction that is important in other areas of government activity as well."
-- This is probably the greatest point Milton Friedman has ever made: Government FINANCING of services and Government ADMINISTRATION of services ARE NOT THE SAME THING.
In Health Care, if we simply GAVE Medicare recipients the money that we would have spent providing them health care, you would see the cost of Medicare dramatically flatten, instead of growing at 7%+ per year. Is this socialized medicine? Absolutely not! And that is Friedman's point. Unfortunately, some of us on the right don't understand this, preferring to shudder at any form of government involvement.
Fortunately, most conservatives and libertarians have discovered Friedman's point when it comes to education and now support vouchers.
The only industries that cannot be managed in this way are: (1) national defense, and (2) the administration of justice. David Friedman (Milton Friedman's son), a member of the anarchocapitalist movement, believes it can be done. However, Ayn Rand herself believed that national defense and the administration of justice were within the proper role of government.
"Sadly, the problems of education in America have been identified since 1955!"
Friedman discusses "underinvestment in education". One can attribute the current problems to its opposite - educational OVERinvestment (and concomitant waste). The problems resulting from these were identified not in 1955, but as early as 1611:
Concerning the advancement of learning, I do subscribe to the opinion
that, for grammar schools, there are already too many
the great number of schools which are in your Highnesss realm doth cause a want, and likewise an overthrow [surfeit] both of them inconvenient and one of them dangerous; for by means thereof they find want in the country and towns, both of servants for husbandry and of apprentices for trade; and on the other side there being more Scholars bred than the State can prefer and employ
it must needs fall out that many persons will be bred unfit for other vocations and unprofitable for that in which they were bred up, which will fill the realm full of indigent, idle and wanton people
Francis Bacon, in a letter to James I, 1611
posted on 07/17/2004 5:03:53 PM PDT
posted on 07/17/2004 5:04:00 PM PDT
I disagree with you on your point that we have over invested in education; we have grotesquely mis allocated our "investment dollars".
At the primary school level, we have done little more than invest in the coffers of the teachers unions. At the secondary school level, we have under invested in vocational schools (big time) and over invested in worthless liberal arts programs. How much money has the government spent subsidizing bachelor's and master's degrees in completely worthless fields, such as painting, psychology, literature, tribal studies, etc. , etc.
Do we really need to subsidize a degree in which the thesis paper is titled: "Homosexuality in ancient Mayan Times", or as I heard on the Glenn Beck Program the other day (this was true) "Lesbian underrepresentation in dolls". Are you kidding me?
I'm in the military. And in the military the government makes targeted investments in education. The military will pay for you to go to school, get a degree and then get a commission (ROTC), but they will only pay (in most cases) if you choose a degree path chosen by the military, such as engineering, aeronautics, physics, political science, nursing, or area studies (like middle eastern culture). Why? Because that's what is needed. And there's no reason why the Government shouldn't do the same things for civilians.
Have you ever heard of the "engineer gap"? Well, it's a huge problem that's rarely mentioned. Simply put, Americans are going to secondary school in higher and higher numbers, but they're no longer getting engineering or mathematical degrees. Asian countries, particularly China and India, are producing engineers at an alarming rate (particularly China, and many are concerned about the longterm strategic implications of this). If we only paid for degree paths in fields the economy is sorely lacking in, such as engineering or advanced computer sciences (why do you think Indians are getting boatloads of work visas to come to the US? Because there aren't enough to do the job!)
Thanks for posting. He's the smartest man in America and probably the world.
posted on 07/17/2004 5:40:04 PM PDT
To: Temple Owl
posted on 07/17/2004 5:40:26 PM PDT
[...] degrees in completely worthless fields, such as painting, psychology, literature, tribal studies, etc. , etc.
But how do you measure the "worth" of a field? A literature student might turn into a best-selling author indirectly creating hundreds of jobs. A physicist that's dealing with neutrinos, or that's trying to determine the dynamics in a supernova will not create a return on investment in our lifetime. After teaching my engineering students for a semester, I do enjoy walking through an art gallery and getting my mind off the board for a while. Not measurable but certainly a benefit. Same with psychology. Determining what makes some kids tick and being able to excite a loner into actively participating in the labs is highly rewarding. Yet, no direct return on investment.
As the leading nation in the free world we need to be more multi-faceted than just top engineers and mathematicians. After all, it is the thinkers that evolved our society to where we are. If it was for most scientists we would still hail to the king. "I will serve any system, as long as the system leaves me alone and pays for my research".
What concerns me much more with students in our engineering faculty these days is the inability to write a memo, manual, or paper. Most students can't put ten lines on paper without a dozen mistakes. My colleagues at other universities report the same. By the same token "sexy" programs like internetworking find their ways into secondary schools and replace traditional curricula. So, you end up with a 19-year old telecom specialist that needs a professional to write his resume.
posted on 07/17/2004 6:03:16 PM PDT
I myself am the product of targeted "educational investment" system in former USSR, so I saw that kind of system from the inside. I also saw the American system from the inside in my graduate school years here. "Targeted system" was much more intense (up to 10 times the number of "contact hours" for the same technical discipline). It was vocational system par excellence, and as such it was infinitely more efficient than "liberal arts" US model.
On the basis of my observations I would consider the liberal arts system as criminal waste, and this is what I was meant by overinvestment.
The targeted system was notoriously bad in determining the favorites (in which subjects it will be necessary to teach/train people now for the employment 5 yrs down the road). To compensate for that, it had to be out of date and cover extra-wide areas in training. The situation was superficially similar to Japanese MITI playing favorites and choosing certain industries for long term promotion.
As for the "engineer gap" - I saw it up close. This is a structural problem with US education (students are allowed to choose their curriculum, and then they take easier courses). In USSR the notion of "elective course" was a heresy. Every incoming 1st year student was admitted for "education in the specialty of..." (the student filled up this blank at the time of applying for admission). This same line (specialty) was later repeated in the student's diploma. The curriculum for every specialty was standardized from the student's first day in the college, like assembly line. And this is why the course content was always out of date.
But, after all, the targeted system did not aim at producing cutting edge creative types (and was probably very ill suited for that), but rather at mass training of reasonably competent, interchangeable run-of-the-mill lower and middle level specialists. How to train the Einsteins and Michelangelos -and how many of them the country needs and can simultaneously use- remains unanswered. The liberal education system might be better than the targeted one at this task, but if so, it would be only marginally.
posted on 07/17/2004 6:05:11 PM PDT
I saw the targeted system in action, too - in East Germany, that is. Talking to a lot of colleagues over there I had the impression that very few were actually happy with their job. It was something they had been forced into, because there was a shortage of at the time. It produced a lot of mediocrity and dissatisfaction.
In contrast, we get a lot of arts students that take our engineering programs after they had a few semesters in arts. It usually accounts for much more creativity. Instead of building a bridge, they architecture a fascinating bridge. Instead of writing computer code, they also take into account user friendliness. Many of our East Asian students are brilliant in reproducing reams of information. When it comes to applying knowledge to new fields, using imagination and dreaming up something new - they usually fail miserably.
There is a reason why a Lexus and a Kia look like a Mercedes. Or why most Makita tools are powerful but ergonomically a disaster. You compare them to let's say a Bosch and you see the difference. This has gotten better over the past years and I think introducing arts and design into engineering had a lot to do with it.
posted on 07/17/2004 6:24:12 PM PDT
I'm not saying that we don't need those fields; I'm saying that we shouldn't be subsidizing them. We should target subsidies for secondary education at "targeted" professions, ones that are sorely needed. I mentioned the huge lack of advanced computer science degrees, but what about others? If Nanotechnology is supposed to be the "next big thing", shouldn't we be making an effort at getting our best and brightest into molecular chemistry and biology?
The way the military does "targeted subsidizing" works pretty well here in the US. An engineer going through a commissioning program would, for example, get full tuition assistance, while somebody going for a PoliSci degree would get partial assistance. The literature major still gets a degree, but he doesn't get much help in the way of tuition assistance. See my point?
Just like Friedman wrote, we invest in Human Capital in the military. Why? Because for us, an aeronautical engineer (I'm in the Air Force) would give the military the highest return on investment. So, we spend a bit more to get them in. PoliSci majors make great officers too, so we'll pay for them to. The ability to recite Jane Austin from a literature major is of little use, and therefore less return on investment.
We wouldn't be fording nybody into any field. All we would be doing if making an investment in human capital, an investment that would give us the highest return on investment. That's what Friedman's saying.
I'm not saying that we don't need those fields; I'm saying that we shouldn't be subsidizing them.
But if you agree that we need them as well, then we should also subsidize them, no?
See, you are correct with supporting our best and brightest into molecular chemistry and biology. I get royally annoyed every year when all top-performer bursaries go to arts students. OF COURSE it is easier getting 90+ in history than in quantumdynamics, no matter what some M.A. will try to tell me. But to cut funding for one field in order to get kids take another is a little "1984". If you end up with students that take engineering although they are much more interested in psychology but engineering was free and psychology was not, you end up with disgruntled engineers. And those will remain the run-of-mill ones that GSlob referred to. They certainly will not come up with new inventions since they only do a 9-5 job.
posted on 07/17/2004 6:49:20 PM PDT
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