The Virginian-Pilot just ran (July 15) a column taken from Bloomberg News, that basically argues that the public didn’t initially support public education but now they do and everybody loves it, THEREFORE it’s only a matter of time before the public wants free healthcare and everybody will love it. So shut up and give Obama whatever he demands.
The column wants to suggest a parallel; but there may be more differences than similarities.
First, doctors and nurses must try to make you healthier, thanks to the Hippocratic Oath, morality, and thousands of lawsuits. This means that free healthcare will cost all the money we have; and we may still end up with rationing. Chasing an impossible, unaffordable perfection will be built into the system. Still, it's comforting to know that doctors, etc. are really trying.
Meanwhile, the public schools have no such constraints. They can keep children illiterate and unable to do arithmetic. Our public schools are still following John Dewey’s prescription that education should really be indoctrination (social engineering). That’s why we have the Reading Wars, the Math Wars, and the Education Wars generally -- because the Education Establishment is focused on ideological goals, and is not primarily concerned with educational goals. I tend to think that our public schools are a mess; and we shouldn’t try to make policy arguments based on what is going on there.
Here's another huge difference. Our public schools, as they are now, are vastly expensive but we get bad results. If the public schools would kick John Dewey aside, and follow the most sensible theories and methods, we would find an extraordinary reversal. Education will be much improved. Costs would be much reduced.
What the Bloomberg column is saying is that we are drifting toward a cliff and don't fight it. I’m saying each cliff is different and maybe sometimes it’s okay to fall off. Sometimes you should run back the other way. But the point is to try to be critically discriminating. The column seems to think that more health care equals more education. And the brain should stop working right there.
As you look at health care and schools, you're mainly struck by the different institutional inertia within each. Many of the big problems in health care are because we’re trying to screen, test, and insure for for every possible situation; and we're treating people who don’t want to be alive and perhaps should be allowed to die. The point is, that’s the very noble tradition in healthcare. You do everything possible to keep people alive.
In the education world, there is a different tradition. John Dewey and his progressives introduced the notion that you could change everything, deform everything, and lie about everything, because we had to build a brave new socialist country.
QED: different worlds. Parallels are hard to come by.
[Title in Pilot: "Our governments, raising the bar.]".