James Leroy Wilson's blog

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Equivalent of Bed Shortages

On ABC News tonight I learned that one in five adults in Grand Rapids, Michigan are functionally illiterate. Yesterday, I think they said something like 27 million adult Americans were illiterate - though I couldn't quickly find a source. And every year we hear of declining performance in math and science. This is a disgrace, and I have the perfect solution:

Free, universal, government-provided education for all!

Oh, wait . . . we already have it. Indeed, nationwide, it costs $8,700 per student. The more we spend on education, the dumber we get.

It's inevitable that people go through the socialized education system for 12 years and still can't read, just like there are bed shortages in socialized health care systems. When "everybody" is supposed to be taken care of, very few will be well-taken care of, most will be only adequately taken care of, and a significant number who require extra attention won't get it. So some kids will have trouble learning to read at the pace of the rest of the classroom, and then become embarrassed and feel stupid, relying on social promotion until he or she can get the hell out of school - and losing interest in books in the process, perhaps hating life and society as well.

Cultural factors no doubt play a role in why the U.S. states are so much worse in running their socialized education systems than are other countries. But it seems to me that a completely free market in education couldn't perform any worse than 20% functional illiteracy.

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