Sometimes free is too expensive

This post from a teacher on Instapundit reminded me of my Education: It Doesn’t Need to be One-Size-Fits-All post from 2010.

This part is a good example of what I meant that the preferences of the experts who set K-12 standards are not necessarily the preferences of everyone:

The only reason that the 60% of the kids who bothered to show up daily even came to school was for the 2 free meals and the climate control. We needed a force of 15 security people to keep the kids IN CLASS. They had no desire to learn. They did not CARE if they failed. I never, ever had kids who started at my school as 9th graders and had enough credits to be juniors by their third year. Most didn’t even have enough credits to be sophomores. And this was when summer school was free!

Granted…this is summer school.

There are some thought-provoking nuggets embedded in here. Why didn’t they care if they failed? Why didn’t they have a desire to learn? I think it’s because they believe they can get by without learning what’s taught in school. They don’t value the college prep value prop like the “experts” who designed the curriculum and most of the U.S. that has been brainwashed that a college prep education is the only way to go.

Something is broke if 15 security people are needed to keep the kids in the classroom. The disruptive kids need to be sent home. Let the parents figure out what to do with them. But, the incentives are against that. If the school sends those kids home, they won’t get money from the state. My guess is that the school district comes out ahead financially by paying for security and collecting the money for attendance rather than sending half the kids home.


5 thoughts on “Sometimes free is too expensive

  1. Almost everyday I teach I am reminded of how wonderful it is that all my students (kids and adults) want to be in class. Those who change their minds and decide they DON’T want to be in class quit. I lose some money but I’d rather lose money than have someone in my class who doesn’t want to be there.

    • Funny you mention that. I coach a soccer team. So far, I haven’t held try-outs. I fill up the team on a first-come, first serve basis. But, after doing that for a few seasons, I’ve come to consider try-outs. I don’t think it’s necessarily to find the best talent. There’s some of that. But, it’s also to figure out who wants to be there.

      • When I used to teach outreach classes, I always started the class by communicating to the kids that it was a voluntary class and that they should only take the class if they wanted to and if, at any point, they stopped wanting to take the class, they should stop.

        It worked well. When kids lost interest (which was about 15% of them through the course of the school year) they would come up to me, thank me in a respectful way for the classes and tell me that they wanted to do something else. I, in return, would thank them for their efforts. No hard feelings. No guilt. Nobody taking a class they didn’t want to be in.

        Not sure if that helps in at all but it made me feel good as an instructor that I was being very honest about what I wanted: students who wanted to be there and were doing they best they could.

  2. I’m going to make a few educated assumptions based on facts presented in the original post and voice my opinion based on those assumptions as an answer to Seth’s questions. Much of this we’ve already been over, but it’s amazing how politicians continue to ignore the laws of human nature and economics (perhaps because their real purpose is not to fix things, but to get re-elected – but we’ve been over that as well).

    I think it’s fair to say that it’s been drilled into everyone’s head from the time they were in first grade that you need to get an education to get a good job. Indeed, that would be a rational assumption for most people to make – smarter and better trained people get better jobs – even if nobody told you. Shouldn’t it make sense that “students” would not only try to pass their classes, but that many or most would try to excel at their studies?

    Now, one could suppose that because the reward of studying is temporally distant while the reward for goofing off is immediate, kids value education so much less than goofing off. And that may be a part of the problem, but it only addresses a certain magnitude of the problem. Why do kids today have so much less desire to learn than kids of 50 years ago?

    There’s been some research recently that suggest there is a chemical compound that will someday be available as a pill that people can take that will convey the same benefits as exercise. For fun, let’s assume that you can only reach 75% of your athletic potential with the pill versus 100% with actual exercise. When that happens, I submit that the same type of people who show no desire to study will chose the exercise pill over actual exercise. I also submit that some people will chose to actually exercise rather than take the exercise pill.

    Now, back to education. When we have a system that hands out benefits (transfers wealth) to those who don’t work – and even removes the shame in being on the dole by telling people these are things they are “entitled” to have, why would we expect them to work? When their kids see that their parent(s) get(s) a government check and that check does not depend on them expending any effort, it’s really hard to convince these kids that they need a good job to make money and if they don’t need a good job (or even a job), why bother making an effort to study? Of course, like I said, some kids (and their parents) won’t be satisfied with the $45,000/ year in government handouts – just like some athletes won’t be satisfied with a pill aided 7 minute mile – and will work to get ahead. But as the exercise pills get better (and result in faster times) and the government handouts get bigger, fewer and fewer will find any incentive to work when they can get the same results for “free”.


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