Blog or Not?

A statistically improbable polymath's views on politics and culture.

Tuesday, July 01, 2003
When sitting around the house last night it occured to me that one of the reasons why school funding is racked with economic inequity is due to a simple competition problem. In wealthier school districts, parents have more money, ergo more choice about where to send their kids to school, ergo the public schools must be competitive with private schools in order to keep receiving federal funds. In poorer districts, parents can't afford to send their kids to private schools, and so the school district doesn't have the pressure to spend a lot of money on the schools. In this context, the idea of school vouchers makes sense. However, since school vouchers open up a lot of church/state issues, I'd argue that there's an easier way to deal with the issue of education inequity:

Stop funding the schools through property taxes. Anything that's funded through property taxes will give the most resources to people who need them the least. I don't know how schools should be funded--personally, I think that federal funding is preferable, but some people go into fits: oh my God, the Feds are going to force us to read Heather has Two Mommies to first-graders!. Not going to happen. Contrary to popular opinion, UC-Berkeley does not run the Department of Education. (All of those DOE-affiliations that Berkeley has are Department of Energy.) The most controversial thing I can think of that a national curriculum would do is to force high school biology classes to discuss the scientific evidence favoring Darwinian theory* of evolution.

Wait a second... the most controversial and revolutionary thing a national curriculum could do is to incite critical thinking. On the one hand, if children are taught to think critically, politicians and corporate executives will actually have to be honest. On the other hand, if children aren't taught to think critically, our civilization will decline.

*The scientific usage of the word "theory" does not mean "one of many possible explanations", it means "the most likely explanation", usually with a likelihood of at least 50%. It should be noted that Darwinian theory does not exclude the possibility of a supernatural being endowing the human species with free will and that breed of consciousness we call a soul. And we still haven't figured out how the first living cell came into being.

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