TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

Glenn Reynolds and the K-12 Implosion

In The K-12 Implosion, Glenn Reynolds makes a commonsense argument that government-run schools are in a bubble—a bubble that is ready to pop.

He notes, for example, that the government has spent ever-increasing amounts of money on K-12 education but can show for it no positive returns, only negative ones—and many at that. He observes that near-bankrupt state and local governments cannot afford to do this forever. And, on these (and related) grounds, invoking Stein’s Law, he predicts that they won’t.

The book is short in length—just forty-eight pages—but not on substance. Reynolds addresses a wide range of issues from the invalid purpose of government-run schools to what a death spiral for them could look like, and he does so both clearly and calmly.

Unfortunately, despite the horrible record of government-run schools, Reynolds does not call for their abolition and the full privatization of education. He does not ask readers to wage war on the government-run school system. In this regard, he simply notes that more and more parents are taking their kids out of these war zones and saying why they’re doing so and what alternatives they’re opting for.

This last may be the most influential part of the book. Many people know, at least on some level, that government-run schools are bad, but too few are aware of the extent of the available and good alternatives. Reynolds highlights some of these, including, for instance, Khan Academy; and in doing so he speaks not just as a commentator, but as the proud parent of a daughter who took full advantage of the opportunities offered by a flexible, individualized, online, and fully private education.

Of course, bubbles often expand or persist longer than expected, but the reasoning behind Reynolds prediction of a coming implosion is sound. Herb Stein after all was right when he said that something that can’t go on forever, won’t. But even the implosion of government-run schools won’t be the end of them unless Americans call for their end. As long as Americans are willing to fund government-run schools, these real-life nightmares will continue, even if in an imploded form.

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Posted in: Education Policy

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Anonymous

    Khan Academy (link) Wikipedia page.

    Khan Academy (link) home page.

    I note the Bill Gates has donated to Khan Academy and his kids have used it. Google has also put money into it. And, according to the very informative TED lecture on the Khan Academy home page, the Los Altos, California school district is using the Khan videos in an innovative way. (This is just one aspect of Khan’s lecture.) BTW, Bill Gates comes on stage at the end and has a discussion with Khan.

  • jayeldee

    “As long as Americans are willing to fund government-run schools, these real-life nightmares will continue….” Well. It’s not a matter of whether Americans are “willing to fund” these corrupt institutions. Americans have no choice in the funding: the funds are taken by force. Absenting compulsion, none of these institutions would exist–or ever would have.

  • Martin Lundqvist

    Daniel Wahl, I believe, was not emphasizing the American will to pay taxes. Rather, I think his point is that public schools will persist as long as a majority wish to keep them in existance. Thus, no matter how much the GOP (and their supporters) whine about bloated spending, they would loathe to do away with public schools altogether, and this is why public schools will continue to exist regardless.

  • jayeldee

    I take your point, Martin, and you’re probably right: that’s probably Wahl’s point. And if it is, it ought to be stated clearly. Thus: “As long as American politicians are able and willing to extort funds for government-run ‘schools’ [and note the scare quotes, which are also necessary for accuracy]…” etc. Imprecision of speech is indicative of fuzzy thinking—itself a pernicious legacy of government “schooling”—and will get us all even further from nowhere than we are now … which is a very long way indeed.