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Education "vouchers" solve the fiscal crisis, and also lead to economic recovery?

Simply open up K-12 education to the market place, with government only playing a role by financing the students with a yearly education check of $8000.

*www.usagovernmentspending.com shows American local governments spending $458.3 billion for K-12 education in 2012.
*(Sir Ken Robinson says this education system is a complete failure)
*The new education cost of $8000 education check to 50 million K-12 students is $400 billion per year
*This saves $58.3 billion
*(a $6000 check would save $158.3 billion)
*The yearly education check allows students(and their parents) to choose how, when, where, and what they learn, and also who teaches them
*The yearly education check of $8000 opens up a $400B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives
*($6000 check opens up a $300B/year market to entrepreneurs, teachers, and creatives)

State fiscal crisis solved, federal fiscal crisis solved, and the new education market leads America's economic recovery.

Thoughts everyone?


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  • Jan 8 2013: sir ken robinson, inspiration as he is, has never taught a class in his life as far as i can gather from the biographical information available on the internet. he has many fine words but absolutely no experience (his studies were in english and drama, which speaks to his prowess as a speaker, not an educator). as much as people won't like hearing him criticised, people like him are the problem, not the solution. if ken wants to show the value of his ideas he should take a real class for 5 years! hopefully he'll realise that most of what he's saying is brilliant only in theory, and modify his ideas to better suit reality.

    students themselves have no idea (despite what they think) how to select appropriate course materials and neither can parents, and you only have one education it's not like you can try something else if the first one doesn't go the way you were expecting, like you can when selecting a restaurant. and there's further danger in that giving that much choice to people without any knowledge or experience in choosing will lead to choices based on appeal - the most congenial teacher is not necessarily the best!

    a few of my own students were complaining to me the other day about how their new teacher shouts at them so often and why couldn't she be more like their math teacher who is easygoing. i explained that the math teacher didn't bother wasting the energy to snap you into shape because he wasn't that bothered if you succeeded or not and preferred to leave it up to the students, whereas the new english teacher actually wanted students to succeed and further their potential. 3 of the 4 went into rebellious silence while the other started smiling and nodding in realisation.
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      Jan 8 2013: You have a point, Ben, that one gets a far better sense of what is going on in schools and education if one actually takes a crack at teaching in them, not as a visitor on an occasion but over the long haul. It is difficult to be expert without such experience.
    • Jan 9 2013: Ben,
      You have a very interesting perspective because you teach in Japan, and Japanese students, parents, culture, history, and values are different than American ones.

      So the Japanese government decides to redistributed education money so every K-12 student has $8000 in cash in their backpack. And the market is completely open to anyone offering education services. Do you think English-fluent Gaijin education entrepreneurs could provide more useful Western Culture and Business English education compared to what Japanese government curriculum, rules, and regulation mandate for the public and private schools?

      Let's say the market is open and an advertisement on Ratuken reads:
      -1000 hours of class instruction
      -20 spaces
      -Ages 15-17
      -Must have zero English ability
      -Must have Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as heroes.
      -Teaching Silicon Valley start up culture and business, in English.
      -$8000 per student
      -Service offered by Ben Jarvis, teacher extraordinaire.
      Then 20 students sign up for your class --- What are your thoughts on this?
      • Jan 9 2013: where a person teaches and who he teaches has no bearing on the way the human brain learns. though my studies were primarily in biochemistry, i have always been interested in the science and psychology of how we figure things out and why we think the way we do. a couple of my family members back in australia are high school teachers too, and we often share identical stories.

        your question rests on a faulty assumption, that students know what they need. students know what they like for sure, but they don't know what skills will be valuable later in life, what their own aptitudes even are, or even what they are interested in since they haven't yet been exposed to every field there is.

        an education entrepreneur is by definition a very poor educator as education is not a consumer product, and treating it as such will lead to poorly educated students. furthermore i wouldn't hold silicon valley as a standard for education, they don't even do any educating there and not everyone is destined for a tech company.

        if i gave $8000 to every student i'd expect most of them to sign up for well-advertised courses with a lot of entertainment value but little substance, with gadgets in hand that aren't even suitable for the courses they are yet to take.

        just to give 3 experiences (yes cross-culture ones) students regularly sign up for courses to be with their friends and wind up doing poorly and missing out on taking a more suitable course, buy dictionaries and software that have so much information and features they're forever going through it all while the students who bought the recommended one finish more quickly and easily, and attend special-interest schools only to discover halfway through that their interests have changed.

        think back to when you ere that age, exactly how much did you know about the world and what you should equip yourself with in order to live in it?
    • Jan 11 2013: Ben, two questions
      So what courses would you advertise as a teacher?

      "students themselves have no idea (despite what they think) how to select appropriate course materials and neither can parents," That fits the bill of an imperialist providing Western education to Japanese. Seems like you got latent British imperialist fantasies of knowing what's good for everyone else. Everyone should learn English too, yah?

      Are you sure that American parents are just as ignorant as to what is good for their child as Japanese ones?
      • Jan 12 2013: great questions!

        i would never advertise any courses. as i've said the thing that's most appealing isn't necessarily the thing that's going to be the most benefit. for example say 2 english courses were advertised, one covering the literature of the twilight saga and another the literature of hemingway. no doubt twilight is much more appealing to the modern teenager than some stuffy old guy they've never even heard of, but one day when it comes to writing their job applications or a presentation to a client, it's the students who will have read hemingway that will come out with better work.

        i think you misunderstand a little, i don't mean to dictate what all kids should learn, i mean that educational courses should be selected by people who've experienced years of teaching, thousands of students in total, and have seen the results of what is taught and how it is taught. if you're feeling a chest pain from time to time, you'd ask a cardiologist - a heart expert - rather than a friend who sells new cars right?

        i do think there is room for choice though, i always make my advanced courses available to students who've scored well in the past (though they don't have to continue my course, it's optional) and also those who haven't scored so well but wish to continue my course because with motivation they could likely improve.

        i wouldn't say purely ignorant, many are just misguided, which isn't an insult, i wouldn't expect people who haven't taught for at least 5 years to know much about it. the same thing happens when people choose to diagnose their own health problems instead of leaving it up to a doctor.
        • Jan 14 2013: Ben,
          I am going to put your analogies in the proper context for the American education system.

          If you had a health problem, would you rather have:
          A) $8000 given to a politician to maximize your $8000 on who, what, when, where and how your chest pain is examined and treated?
          B) You given $8000 to chose from a variety of doctors, including cardiologists that all have their offers, prices, history, credentials and customer feed back on Amazon.com?

          If you had a health problem, would you rather have:
          A) $8000 given to a politician to maximize your $8000 on who, what, when, where and how your health problem was treated?
          B) You given $8000 to chose from a variety of doctors, including cardiologists that all have their offers, prices, history, credentials and customer feed back on Amazon.com?
      • Jan 14 2013: i am not capable of diagnosing myself nor of choosing the correct treatment because i am not a doctor, and neither is any politician. the only answer that will result in my condition correctly being treated is C), doctors are paid a salary according to their experience and contributions to their field, and depending on attending at least 1 conference a year where doctors gather to discuss new and better treatments, improving healthcare as a whole.

        i'm really glad you're sticking with this, but u still don't seem to understand the point that the average person is very very far from being an expert or even understanding medical practice. what good would patient reviews be? lets keep with your A and B method:

        doctor A treats your condition in 3 visits, prescribing 2 different medicines, was very friendly and your symptoms disappeared after a month.

        doctor B offered a bunch of tests you could take take to diagnose your condition, allowing you to choose the one you preferred, so you spend an hour in a machine and have a 20 minute discussion with the doctor later, finally together deciding on lifestyle changes that reduced the severity of your condition.

        so which was the better doctor? if you read these 2 patient accounts, which would you choose to treat you?
        • Jan 15 2013: Ben,
          I think we agree with each other here: we both do not want politicians choosing educational or medical treatments and methods for ourselves or for our children.

          That's the problem with the American education system: politicians get $453.6 billion every year to decide educational service for America's K-12 children. Teachers, parents, and students should be empowered. Not politicians. What do you think?
      • Jan 16 2013: there's nothing wrong with politicians choosing educational or medical treatments as long as they're are making the decision based on expert advice without any conflict of interest.

        say a state needs a bridge built. there's $100m allocated for the construction and so the politician whose job is it to decide on the bridge asks for tenders. he gets 4, but immediately discards one of them because he has shares in their company. then, because he's no civil engineer, he sends the suggested plans out to 5 civil engineering professors around the country, none of which have any commercial affiliations, and chooses the bridge design based entirely on their expert advice. what's wrong with that?

        why should parents and students be empowered? what do they know about education? the problems with education in america have only arisen because parents and students have been empowered. students have no experience in the wider world and don't even know what they might turn out to be good at, and so cannot make an informed choice, and allowing parents to make the choice is just asking for trouble. most of the progress we've made in the modern era has come from children being freed to pursue their own careers rather than those chosen by their parents. why would we want to go back to the middle ages when you learned only what your father decided he wanted you to do?
        • Jan 18 2013: Ben,
          You mean "there's nothing wrong with politicians choosing educational or medical treatments as long as they're [not making the decision for me or my family]"

          You already said that politicians are incapable. It's clear you benefit from a government monopoly on schooling where you don't have to compete against other teachers for students, can treat the students in the way you see fit, and opine that you are above everyone else in knowing what education is good for them. Typical British aristocrat.
      • Jan 18 2013: i mean it's fine to choose as long as they're making the choice from expert advice and nothing else. politicians are incapable *by themselves* that's why they are at liberty to form panels of advisers, and having that expert advice at their disposal makes them capable.

        i don't benefit from a government monopoly at all and i do have to compete against other teachers, if i don't properly prepare my students for university and beyond, by school will have to answer to the education department and nobody will get raises. the point is that they will tell us to shape up, but they won't tell us *how* to shape up (and why should they, they are desk workers not teachers), which is important. we also are required to attend yearly conferences at both state and national level to ensure educational standards are kept as high as possible *at every school*.

        education should be judged based on student success, not on popularity or appeal, and parents and students just aren't in a position to make that judgement. if you wanted to judge the safety of an airline, would you ask the customers (passengers) or the mechanics who actually work on the plane and understand about how they work? some private schools here get chosen because their school uniform is good-looking! i am honestly not making that up! do you think schools deserve to get additional funding because their uniform is cool?

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