Posted by: CJ | October 1, 2010

Education-Industrial Complex and its Discontents

At one point I had a whole post planned out about how education reform seems like a giant boondoggle. It’s an impossibly intractible problem, in that there are so many inequalities between communities, families, and students themselves that yuo can’t possibly “fix” education in any way to satisfy either our nation’s cultural elite or our own delicate sensibilities.

I’m also increasingly frustrated by the differences between precollege and college education. Colleges seem to think they shouldn’t have anywhere near the accountability for education that precollege education does, even as bachelor’s degrees are becoming more necessary for a middle class lifestyle. And this is even as the nexus of NGO’s, governments, and various (though nowhere near all) academics insist that radical steps must be taken to fix our education system. Radical steps that are somehow also uniform over all places and districts.

It seems as if the same way there’s a military-industrial complex and a medical-industrial complex, where complex groups of actors are doing some good and a some bad in a very unclear and dislikeable mix, there exists a similar education-industrial complex.

I think part of it is that, like the military and medicine, education means many different things to different people. For some people, education is about communities of people striving to learn, or it could be about the “social experience”, or it could be about getting a certain degree, it could be about the research, or it could be just about the sports. So many radically different goals and it usually feels like the result is a mammoth clusterfuck.

Anyways, at one piont I’d had a longer post planned. But I kept postponing it because there were some ideas that I wanted to understand better. And it never happened, so now I’ve forgotten most of what I had planned to write. Except that the longer I watch learn about various educaion reform movements, the more I sympathetic I become to Robin Hanson’s argument that reform/politics is generally not about good policy. That’s a part of it, but only a part. And not always a major part, either. If for no other reason that people can’t agree what good even means in the educational context.


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