[Talk]: Homeschooling III

1. Teachers unions. Don’t forget teachers unions. Just look at the current mess that is California – won’t be too long until that’s sorted out, I guess – but it’s still largely due to teachers unions.

Now, as to why private schools might be better than homeschooling – let me indulge you with my not-so-limited-anymore BBA knowledge. From the top of my head, I can come up with the following reasons why private schools could be better:

  • Economies of Scale: Bigger is cheaper. You only need one building instead of one home for every child, you only need one maths teacher. I’m not quite sure how well this works – it’s mostly about saving money and reducing costs but specialization still applies. I’m not entirely buying that one either, though. From my own experience, I can say that it shouldn’t be too hard to get your kids up to their high school degree – anything afterwards, that’s probably impossible. High School should be doable though.
  • Economies of Scope: Use your skills from one area in another area. Not sure whether that applies here. That’s probably an argument that’s more supportive of homeschooling than of private schools – use what you taught your kid in Philosophy to illustrate something you’re currently teaching him in Biology. A specialized teacher can’t really do that.
  • Learning effects: The more often you do it, the better you get at it. This one would tend to lend support to private schools but then again you would also lose some of that energy you have when you’re doing it for the first time. Probably fairly doable to pass on these skills through books helping parents homeschool.
  • Experience curve: More often means decreasing costs. Similar to above.

I see quite a few problems with private schools that still remain.

  • The gains aren’t anywhere near as big as they are with university. Few (if any) people want to teach their children at university level – you simply don’t know enough to effectively teach your children. High school level – not that hard. We both got through grammar school which is – no offense – probably a bit harder than your average American high school. I’m absolutely certain I could teach my kid everything we learned there – and it would take me no more than 9 (instead of 12) years. And he’d have a much better experience, travelling the world and the like.
  • Teachers’ salaries are shit. You attract the wrong kind of teachers – and this especially applies to private schools without the luxuries that state funding brings. If you start paying decent salaries, your cost savings start vanishing pretty quickly.
  • Reducing costs doesn’t equal improving quality. You just can’t give a teacher more than, say, 4 students – after that, quality starts dropping real fast.

So yeah, in conclusion – specialisation effects aren’t that big and reducing costs doesn’t hold up that well to scrutiny.

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[Talk]: Homeschooling II

I must say, Iโ€™m still undecided regarding this particular issue. I however find, that private schools definitely have the potential (at least in my opinion) to be better than homeschooling, because these people (ideally all of them) really know what theyโ€™re doing. This also concerns the decision what to teach.
As for a reason that parents should not be allowed to apply homeschooling – there is no reasonable one. People should be allowed to choose what kind of education their children are going to get.

I’ve now read quite a few people stating that homeschooled children tend to do better compared to children that went to public school, which is understandable because of two points:

  1. Public schools suck! (At least most of them) Now, don’t get upset and let me elaborate: Public schools are run by the government, which means, that there is less competition, less competition means less interest in employing good teachers, less interest in the performance of their students and less interest to spend their budget efficiently. In short: Public schools suck, as stated above.
  2. Who would homeschool their children? Well there are two types of persons I could imagine:
    1. Fanatics. They want to indoctrinate their children and therefore will control the education of their children (like every aspect of their lives) as thoroughly as they can. These kids won’t do better than students of public schools, but fortunately there aren’t that much fanatics out there.
    2. Concerned parents interested in the best possible education for their children: Well, studies have shown, that children of parents who find education important are significantly better in school than other kids.

But the interesting question is: Are private schools better than homeschooling is? What do you think?

[Talk]: Homeschooling

Let’s give this another shot…

Inspired by this piece by John Stossel, I felt like picking a fight (which I assume this is going to be).ย  I’m definitely all FOR homeschooling. I’ll try to keep this as short as possible and still get across the main points that I can think of from the top of my head.

  • Children get better education. Plain and simple. This is immediately obvious to anyone with half a brain – much easier for a parent to take care of one child individually (who also happens to be THEIR child) than for a teacher to take care of 20 or 30 ill-behaved, rude little bastards with no respect. Sure, private schools are an acceptable alternative – but then again, those aren’t exactly cheap either. Additionally, in some European countries (such as the one we’re from ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) the public school system is a lot better but nonetheless continuously declining in quality and will undoubtedly eventually arrive where other countries already are, i.e. in the shitter. Proof for this point can be gathered from all those tests where homeschooled kids score better – John Stossel points out this example.
  • Control over what your children are taught. Education is certainly about indoctrinating children, at least to some degree. Control the educational system and you pretty much control what all the drones will think when they’re grown up. I want to control what kind of indoctrination my kids get (hypothetically) (i.e. a libertarian one with plenty of opportunity to broaden their own horizones) – and so do many other parents. Sure, it means that some parents might teach their kids stuff I disagree with – so what? That’s freedom.

I’ll start with these two arguments. Try and come up with a reason as to why parents shouldn’t be allowed to do this.

Posted in Talk. Tags: . 3 Comments »

[Talk]: Net Neutrality III

Not doubting the omnipotence of the free market – just questioning whether there’s a solution that might lead to a better result, faster. ๐Ÿ˜‰

It’ll eventually work out – despite there being some barriers to market entry. In European countries the problem isn’t as widespread as it is in the US – because people live closer together thereby making this stuff more profitable. In the US – well, not so much. Tough shit for people living in rural areas, to some extent.

There are certainly some areas where the government’s partly responsible for the current situation – mainly where it restricts access for some more important reason (helping the poor, ensuring access for everyone – and doing so by giving some company a monopoly plus forcing them to do what is considered in society’s best interest). Seriously though – there’s less and less justification for that. As can be seen by pretty much everyone – telecommunications is a very profitable business and I don’t see why people living in fucked up areas should be subsidised by the rest. In the end, that’s only part of the problem though.

As that Economist article I linked to in the original post pointed out (and as you mentioned again), it takes a whole lot of capital to build your own infrastructure. While there certainly are plenty of companies who have the kind of money it takes, most of them aren’t interested in entering the market. So yeah, we’re pretty much stuck with the situation we have right now – whether we like it or not. It’s certainly not a horrible situation but as some countries illustrate, it could be better (though I’m not exactly sure whether there won’t be unintended consequences down the road).

Anyway – to get back to the issue of net neutrality (where this initially started, remember? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ): still undecided on this end. Google certainly would never have gotten this big if it weren’t for net neutrality – but then again, is that really such a good thing? What about Web 2.0? It isn’t really making any money so far and giving up net neutrality would almost certainly break its neck…

[Talk]: Net Neutrality II

Well, I’m quite surprised to hear that kind of speech from you. – Doubting the omnipotence of the free market and such.

Now, to topic. In a free market it should naturally be in the best interest of any company to provide a good product, so that the customer is willing to buy it. But with the selling of internet access (and traffic) this doesn’t really seem to be the case. So one would think, that a competitor would take adantage of such a situation and step into the gap and supply the customer with what he really wants and therefore earn lots and lots of money. So why isn’t this happening?

In my opinion, there are two problems:

Firstly the current suppliers all don’t seem to be interested in competing with their competitors by selling a better product. – Hell knows why. And secondly I believe, the problem lies with the infrastructure. Only cable and phone companies have the infrastructure to supply broadband internet, and it is simply not profitable to start a new company, if you first have to invest too much money just to get the infrastructure. Of course, you could try to negotiate with the cable and phone companies over usage rights for their cables, but they’re naturally not interested in sharing the market with you. So I guess it is a situation where, at the moment, the free market doesn’t seem to be functioning. So it’s basically a natural monopoly (or how ever you economists call such a thing.)

So what to do about it?

[Talk]: Net Neutrality

I guess my partner will be in favour, eh? I’m not really decided either way as I don’t feel particularly bothered. I do, however, see the importance of the issue.

Firstly, I don’t really know all the ins and outs of the issue but this article kinda made me think about it again. On the one hand, I absolutely can’t see what’s wrong with letting companies sign deals that say ‘you get faster service’ – kinda like road pricing on private roads. Depending on how much traffic there is, the price changes and there’s an efficient solution (if everything works out the way it’s supposed to). On the other hand, I don’t really think that’s how it’s going to work out (i.e. companies that pay more getting better service) but rather the other way round – you have to pay to get any kind of decent service.

And then, that’s just not the service you signed up for when you got your broadband connection. Ignoring for a moment that you rarely get the kind of service you pay for (in terms of speed), it’s really not the consumer’s problem if the company makes bullshit claims that they can’t live up to and then are screwed when their customers actually use the service they are paying for. Usually I’d just say “Change the contract and be done with it – the market will sort out the rest” (i.e. anyone trying to pull shit like that would be out of customers pretty damn soon). The problem, however, as the article points out is that there’s really not that much competition in this market – whether we like it or not. Generally I’m a big believer in saying “everything’s the way it’s supposed to be” but at times you have to take a good hard look (usually at the Economist) and accept reality for what it is – not really a free market but rather some kind of corporatist-oligopoly with plenty of government support.

So yeah, convince me either way.