Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Links for 10/14/09

Reihan Salam
My fear is that we'll instead encourage students to pursue college degrees and then post-graduate degrees as a way of fattening up the education-industrial complex. Just as mass incarceration masks unemployment in the United States, mass higher-education increasingly masks unemployment in Germany and South Korea: Students take years to complete useless degrees, and once they're out, they find themselves loaded up with debt. This will work wonders for administrators but not for students. If we really want to encourage change, we need to look to educational entrepreneurs.

In Sweden, the educational landscape has been transformed by the advent of a sweeping choice program that allows anyone--groups of parents, civil society groups, and, most important, for-profit enterprises--to establish their own schools that would then receive per-pupil funding at roughly the same rate as state-run schools. If this sounds like the familiar idea of universal school vouchers, championed by American libertarians and conservatives, you're on the right track.

But it turns out that the solidarity-minded Scandinavians have gone far further in this direction than any American jurisdiction. The results have been a stunning success, one that has delighted students and parents alike. As Anders Hultin, one of the creators of Sweden's system of "free schools," has argued, the profit motive has encouraged successful schools to clone themselves, not unlike a fast-food franchise. One can easily imagine such schools touting their success in placing graduates in good jobs. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn't demand that school administrators in some central office divine the one best way to encourage spontaneity; rather, it allows hundreds, if not thousands, of free-thinkers to experiment.
Looks like Britain is on stage three of my predicted trajectory.

What is going on in English departments? HT: AR

Doug Lederman on for-profit institutions.

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