Thursday, August 16, 2007

The American Disease Spreads

By Richard Vedder

As I previously reported, Europeans are trying to "keep up with the Americans" in higher ed. The London Daily Mail reported yesterday that the Conservative party is going to come out next week with a major proposal to revamp and revitalize higher ed, because U.S. universities are buying off all the top British researchers, hurting their economic growth. The proposal is to increase tax incentives for private contributions to schools --endowments are much smaller than in the U.S.

While I favor privatization of higher ed, and private vs. public funding, I fear the Tory proposal, if implemented, would simply contribute more to world wide inflation of costs and prices in the universities. This is not to say that private contributions are inferior to public ones --au contraire, I think on the whole private funds are better spent on average than public ones. But giving universities a favored place in society leads to inefficiencies and arrogance, neither of which is good. Moreover, the basic premise that more university money means higher economic growth is, at the minimum, a dubious proposition.

Reading the British and Irish press about the abysmal state of secondary school preparation for college (sound familiar), I am more convinced than ever that we should make it a felony for a secondary school to hire a graduate of a U.S. college of education. (Actually, I am slightly exaggerating my true position here). Let's abolish the ed colleges and insist that teachers be instructed in an academic discipline, with teacher training concentrated on supervised classroom instruction by an experienced and effective teacher.

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