Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Better for Whom-A Response


You wrote:

Economic and political progress remains limited for most African Americans. By any measure they are poorer than whites, and the gap has increased in the wake of the Great Recession. They achieve less education. They live less healthy lives and they die sooner. The criminal justice system systematically punishes them disproportionately for the same crimes as compared to whites. The proportion of black men <35 yrs of age incarcerated any given time defies belief.  
I agree with your assessment that Republicans are mostly indifferent and the Democrats aren't much better.

I suspect you agree with me that the difference in educational opportunities and outcomes is a major issue. However I doubt you'll agree with me a solution is removing government from the education business. I was served well by public education but my children less so. I've become convinced it would be much better if we shopped for elementary schools like we shopped for groceries or iPhones, or higher education. That is, lots of choice and suppliers constantly seeking new, better more efficient, effective ways to satisfy consumer demand. Vouchers for all if you insist on a government role.

I doubt many would agree with this since it would be disruptive to the affluent communities, where schools mostly satisfy the demands of the consumer. But it would also be disruptive to the communities where schools are not serving the consumer. As you point out the Republicans are mostly indifferent, and the Democrats mostly ask to do more of what clearly isn't working. They haven't heard the first rule of holes: When you are in a hole, stop digging.

Even in affluent communities like mine, children can be better served. At a recent school board election I asked the candidates what they thought of new teaching methods like Khan Academy, Coursera and Udacity. Not a single person running for the board had heard of these. But why should they? Our schools are funded from property taxes, and house values are partly driven by the perception of school quality. The Board is really only elected to vote as much as possible for the schools so property values are maintained or increased. But what are we doing: finding the best way to educate children or reinforcing a system to keep our house prices elevated?

Vouchers for all and free entry into the education market would jeopardize too much for too many. Kids be damned. Vouchers in NY and DC have introduced some competition into the market but to the eternal shame of the Democrats, these reforms are being resisted. Only when the problem becomes exigent will change be possible. I don't see how communities with low educational achievement can improve unless we in essence blow up the current educational establishment. Or maybe the start will come from affluent communities, like Douglas County, CO, which has embraced vouchers.

I would also cease the Wars on America (War on Drugs, War on Crime, War on Terror), which I believe mostly hurts the poor and politically weak.  The Washington Post has been focusing more on civil asset forfeiture, a weapon used in the War on America. See "Drug cops took a college kid’s savings and now 13 police departments want a cut," for how out-of-control this has become.

As you point out, incarceration rates for blacks is significantly higher than for whites, and this is true for drug-related incarcerations as well, but I seriously doubt drug use among whites is significantly different than drug use among blacks.

So again we agree. What we are doing isn't working. But from the Republicans, except for Rand Paul, I hear little. And from the Democrats, I hear little different.


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