Education and the Welfare State

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I want to share with LRC readers a question one of my teacher colleagues recently asked me:

“Stagnation, being unable to accomplish one’s job at a high level, is one of the greatest sources of low teacher morale. Why do you think this country treats teaching so differently than it does other professions?”

Here is my response:

“Today’s students, parents, and other stakeholders see public education as a “right,” as a free good or form of welfare entitlement, accessible to all recipients who apply for it and not of real value. Because they see education as an entitlement which is provided “free,” not one they personally have to earn money and pay for, they therefore do not claim personal ownership or responsibility for their child’s education but have come to believe that responsibility lies with someone else, some nebulous and elusive entity outside of their control called the government who provides it just as it does their welfare or food stamps. In economics they call it the Tragedy of the Commons. It is why people litter on public property or dump sewage in public rivers or streams. Because they are “public” no one individual owns them and therefore people treat them as a common sewer. This is also how they view their child’s education as poor attendance at Back-to-School Night, IEPs, and parent/teacher conferences will soon once again demonstrate. Educators do not teach. We are welfare case workers and treated with the same disdain and contempt by our underclass welfare-state clientele. Our welfare recipients (students and parents) are only concerned when there is a threat that the “freebies” will end.”

9:53 am on July 30, 2012