Monday, November 09, 2009

The Market as Corrector

by Anthony Hennen

Sociologist Gaye Tuchman has published Wannabe U: Inside the Corporate University, a criticism of a new trend she sees rising in American universities. The article reads,

"Higher education should be seen as a public good" and supported accordingly, she said. When states spend so much money on criminal justice, and when the health care system is so flawed, she said, it's not surprising that there's not enough money to adequately fund higher education.

Another passage states, "It’s not simply a question of how you fix the universities, but what happens in the country that has put the universities in this position," she said. "It's a combination of factors, including the assumption that everything can be fixed by market forces."

Why should the market be distrusted to fix the universities? We trust the market to grow enough food and keep it safe for consumption, yet it cannot be trusted to educate the masses? It is a better approach to try many different methods rather than forcing institutions to adhere to one method. While numerous methods are tried within a government education system, some methods are encouraged over others through funding from the state, putting different or new methods at a disadvantage.

Few people, if any, claim market forces will fix everything. It is silly to believe such. The advantage of market forces is market forces cause sectors or industries to be more efficient and effective, rewarding improvement and punishing failure instead of subsidizing it. A government system perpetually advocates for more funding to fix problems, while a market system places blame on the structure or organization of a failing method, rather than lack of funding.

Universities aren’t interested in greatly increasing enrollment, public and private; they are more concerned about prestige. Funding increases to universities would have a negligible effect on student enrollment. A market-based approach would encourage universities to expand enrollment; concerns about prestige and reputation would change to concerns about the quality of education. A market-based approach would force universities to focus, as they should, on the students above all else.

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