January 03, 2003
The unintended consequences of central educational planning

I've not been healthy enough to say anything profound of an educational nature today, but luckily, Paul Marks had this to say, in a comment on this yesterday over at samizdata. I trust he won't object to me lifting the whole thing and reproducing it here:

The context here was that Dr Tucker was dealing with a study from the University of Arizona that showed an inverse relationship between a rise in the new test scores and performance in SAT tests.

In short as children were put through endless rote learning to get them through the new "high powered tests" so teaching children general problem solving skills ("how to think") went out of the window.

Dr Tucker was using this study (which was undertaken by statists - not libertarians) to show that the conservative reform plan for government schools (lots of factual tests on core subjects and teaching geared to pass the tests) was having unintended consequences.

Another problem was the practice of High Schools encouraging children they thought would fail the tests to drop out - so that the school test average would be higher (and it would get more money under the "market socialist" incentives that the conservatives believed in).

It was much like the old Soviet practice when they wished to reduce the death rate in the hospitals - kick out the people who are going to die.

Dr Tucker's basic point was that a government school system will not work - whether it is the hands of liberals or conservatives.

In other words, as soon as you decide that one particular symptom of the nice world you want should be maximised, then at that exact moment it ceases to be any use as a measurement of niceness or of progress towards niceness.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 11:54 PM
Category: Sovietisation