Friday, December 13, 2013

Looking for the Right Problem

It's interesting to compare our experience with the Soviet Union's. Like us, the Soviets were handicapped because their leaders bought into a disfunctional ideology and tried to make up for its shortcomings through education. For a while, that worked reasonably well for the Reds because literacy and technical training compensated for the inefficiency of the demand economy—the Soviet economy grew enormously before the 60s. Even in a lousy system, people who could read and write are vastly more productive than illiterate peasants. Our problem is that we already have mass literacy and a fairly high level of technical education. Incremental improvements are unlikely to have more than incremental benefits. Better education probably can't bail out Neoliberalism the way it bailed out Communism, even assuming that the current war on teachers and test mania are actually going to improve schools, a dubious supposition.

Getting back to a sensible mixed economy with lower levels of wealth and income inequality is a better bet than the endless pursuit of some magic formula for wonderful schools. Education isn't the right problem.