fbpx

Literacy Is a Good, Not a Right

The public schools in Detroit are infested with rodents, criminally deficient in pedagogical rudiments like textbooks, failures at their most basic educational functions, and at risk of an even greater danger to the children who attend them: supervision by the courts. A class action case on behalf of Detroit Public Schools students, currently headed to the Sixth Circuit, proves two premises. One is that the Detroit Public Schools have collapsed. The second is the peril of framing such failures in terms of rights.

Such a framework—the claim that literacy is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment—is the basis of the case, which, to his credit, U.S. District Judge Stephen J. Murphy III dismissed. He could not discover even in the sweet mystery of the Fourteenth Amendment a right to literacy. The case against the Detroit Public Schools deserves to be stamped with a variant of the stupid-but-constitutional designation of Scalia fame: outrageous but constitutional.

Literacy is a good, not a right. It cannot be a right because, as Kant noted, the very definition of a right for one person is the corresponding imposition of an obligation on another. The “other” in this case is the taxpayers of Detroit and Michigan, who are indeed failing in a basic function of localities and states but whose resources are also scarce. For the courts to impose a positive right to school funding, which seems to be the case’s goal, is inherently to say the taxpayers may not choose to spend their money on another good—health care, clean water and the like—which may itself be asserted as a right.

Moreover, literacy is a right that cannot be meaningfully guaranteed. The vast failures of Detroit children on standardized tests of literacy indicate that their schools are corroded by incompetence and perhaps—indeed, by the rodent infestation it would seem—inadequate resources. But the best schools cannot guarantee literacy because literacy is primarily a function of forces beyond their control. The sociologist James Coleman’s legendary longitudinal study on the topic—undertaken to prove that inequities in funding led to inequities in outcomes—actually found that the only variable with a substantially measurable effect on outcomes was family structure.

To be sure, that is not to say school funding is irrelevant. A minimum is necessary to assure adequate educational outcomes for even the most advantaged students, and Detroit is apparently amply short of that level. But to make educational funding a right in an environment of scarce resources—which is to say an environment of economic reality—is to deprive other public goods of funds taxpayers may reasonable conclude are better allocated to them.

In this case, a reallocation of funds to education would appear to be wise. But judicial imposition of it would decidedly not be. That is true for several reasons.

One is that judges have no competence to determine the best policies for school funding, much less the best approach to teaching literacy. If judges impose specific remedies, they terminate the paths of experimentation that are crucial to revitalizing education. A second is that judicial resolution of the issue, even if successful, makes judges enablers of vapid and symbolic politics. Elected officials can proclaim they favor a variety of competing goals, education among them, but take no responsibility for real choices.

A third is that Judge Murphy is right: Not even the broadest reading of the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment can establish a right to literacy. It is possible, though questionable, that the Michigan Constitution, which “encourage[s]” education, could form the basis of a state complaint, but there is no case under the federal constitution here.

The complainants are evidently aware of this, since their novel theory is that literacy is necessary to exercise other rights of citizenship that are explicitly protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. Stamp that one “creative but not constitutional.” Imagine the implications that would cascade forth from such an argument were it broadly applied. Participating in democracy often entails financial resources. Is there a constitutional right to disposable income? Polling places are not always conveniently located. Does the right to suffrage imply an entitlement to a car?

Advocates of judicial engagement who read the Fourteenth Amendment as crowning the national government, and specifically its courts, as superintendent of state legislation might beware. They would establish negative rights by construing the Amendment broadly; this case shows a similarly expansive understanding is hospitable to positive rights.

More generally, the case illustrates the deeply problematic nature of our propensity to frame all controversies as matters of rights. For one thing, we cannot agree on what they are. An original understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment certainly cannot guarantee literacy. It was enacted at a time when illiteracy, especially in young children, was not uncommon. The Court has already held that disparate funding does not violate the equal protection clause.

It is difficult to see how even substantive due process of law—which holds that the content of some laws inherently violates due process—could establish a positive right to literacy. The complaint here, after all, is more the absence than the presence of law: It is what the state is not doing, not what it is. This is the triumph of Franklin Roosevelt’s shift from negative to positive rights, which he forecast in his Commonwealth Club Address and brought to fruition with his Four Freedoms—though even he did not imagine them being judicially imposed.

For another, rights talk is and is intended to be a show-stopper that delegitimizes competing views. It is in this sense fundamentally anti-political. Politics is rooted in the use of language to converse with others about the public good. The proliferation of rights talk suggests a refusal to engage in that work. Indeed, it represents a retreat from it—away from the public realm and into the private sanctuaries the courts provide from the citizen’s duty to engage and persuade his or her neighbors.

The fact that Detroit Public Schools are catastrophic failures should outrage the consciences of those responsible for them. But it need not—and will not—if they have judges as spotters who catch the weights legislators and taxpayers cannot, or choose not to, bear. The situation in Detroit is immoral. That does not make it unconstitutional.

Reader Discussion

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.

on July 11, 2018 at 09:28:14 am

Everyone with a brain in Detroit before continuing down the course they're on should closely study the long, sad history of Missouri v. Jenkins, the Kansas City, Missouri, school desegregation case in which federal judge Russell Clark, goaded on by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and following the Supreme Court's pie-headed directives on school desegregation and further incited to mass acts of group stupidity and public destruction by a horde of well-funded, well-intentioned, social just warriors and "civil rights" (sic) advocates ( one leader of whom was a law school classmate) ordered the City to incur more than $2 billion in additional spending merely to foster the goal of racial desegregation in schools that theretofore were run efficiently and functioning very well at their purpose, educating children.
The result was a disaster! To facilitate his Titanic misadventure into legislative and administrative matters, the federal judge assumed control of the school board. To pay the outlandish bill of this court-inspired intrusion of illusion into the world of reality, the federal judicial oligarch doubled city property taxes and imposed an income tax surcharge on everyone who lived or worked in the city.
Here's a useful article about the two decades-long nightmare for the residents of Kansas City: http://claremont.org/crb/article/the-two-billion-dollar-judge/

read full comment
Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on July 11, 2018 at 09:32:03 am

Greg:

Fine piece; good catch on possible action under State constitution.

Here in Washington State, that is precisely what the Teachers Union, oops, I must mean the *students* did.

From Washington State constitution:

Article IX - Education:

"SECTION 1 PREAMBLE.
It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.

Washington Courts have taken "paramount" to be the lever that they use to exercise their recently discovered "budgetary" authority and to dictate how much the Legislature will spend on education. Needless to say, the court also *exercised* the Legislature to the tune of $100,000 per day that the Legislature FAILED to meet the Courts FUNDING DECISION.

Even the most generous / expansive reading of "paramount" should not yield an implied power of the Courts to arrogate to itself the Legislative (political) power to appropriate and distribute taxpayer monies.

One is curious, however, "How is it that these illiterate students were able to mount such a *creative* legal challenge. Hmmm, perhaps they had help from their Teachers(Union?).

On a serious note:

This is disgraceful and the Legislature ought to make adequate funding provisions (IF that is the problem) AND also consider why Detroit teachers are apparently unable to foster literacy in their charges.

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 11, 2018 at 10:12:12 am

The power of the purse, to select how much taxpayer money should be spent on a given subject, should never be within the judicial jurisdiction. That is one of the core limitations on the judicial power. Judges can declare a statute unconstitutional, but they do not, and should not, have the authority to order the legislature to raise taxes or spend taxpayer money on something.

read full comment
Image of Devin Watkins
Devin Watkins
on July 11, 2018 at 11:39:19 am

Literacy is a good, not a right. It cannot be a right because, as Kant noted, the very definition of a right for one person is the corresponding imposition of an obligation on another. The “other” in this case is the taxpayers….

Agreed. And thus, the concept of an absolute affirmative rights—that is, rights that require the expenditure of scarce resources—lacks substance. Courts cost money; ergo, no one really has a right to judicial review. The legislature costs money; ergo, no one really has a right to representation. Elections cost money; ergo no none really has the right to vote. Police cost money; ergo, while you may HAVE property/autonomy rights, no one really has the right to assistance in defending those rights. Etc.

In contrast to the notion of affirmative rights, the notion of equal protection has rather more substance: Government may have no enforceable duty to act—but to the extent that it DOES act, it must do so in an evenhanded manner. As Scalia remarked in Cruzan v. Missouri Dept. of Health (1990), “Our salvation is the Equal Protection Clause, which requires the democratic majority to accept for themselves and their loved ones what they impose on you and me.”

[J]udges have no competence to determine the best policies for school funding…. If judges impose specific remedies, they terminate the paths of experimentation….

As a matter of judicial remedies, this is unclear to me. Why couldn’t a judge adopt a default rule? “[Taxing authority] shall provide the schools with a minimum of $X, and this sum shall be raised by a uniform percentage increase in the tax on property within the jurisdiction UNTIL SUCH A TIME AS THE [TAXING AUTHORITY] ADOPTS A SUBSTITUE METHOD FOR RAISING AN EQUIVALENT SUM.”

This policy may be unwise—but it would not terminate paths of experimentation. It’s akin to the actions of a bankruptcy judge who orders certain actions to occur to permit a firm to continue operations pending the ultimate resolution of the case—a resolution that may involve undoing the temporary the judge’s prior orders.

Not even the broadest reading of the due process or equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment can establish a right to literacy.

Uh … perhaps not explicitly. But a lot of equal protection jurisprudence focuses on disparate impacts based on race. Interestingly, the Detroit judge did not rule that a disparate impact argument would not apply to the case; he merely ruled that the plaintiffs pled the argument badly:

"Although the Complaint clearly establishes that Plaintiffs' schools predominantly serve children of color—four of the five schools are at least 97 (percent) African American and the fifth is 31.1 (percent) African-American and 64.2 (percent) Latino... it makes no claim about the relevant comparator schools," Murphy wrote. "The only specific reference to the racial makeup of other schools is to Grosse Pointe, which has not experienced the relevant state interventions.... Without this type of comparison, the Complaint fails to state a claim that Defendants have classified or otherwise differently treated Plaintiffs on account of race."

So, what if the plaintiffs amended their petition to plead the disparate impact argument better? The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, precluding that outcome—for now. But I don’t know that this ruling would limit the lawyers from bringing a nearly identical suit on behalf of some other collection of Detroit students.

The Court has already held that disparate funding does not violate the equal protection clause.

In San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, SCOTUS held that the poor were not a suspect class, and thus policies that discriminated based on wealth did not trigger strict scrutiny. But racial minorities most explicitly ARE members of a protected class.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on July 11, 2018 at 12:02:08 pm

Is literacy a right? If so, it is enforceable. If enforceable, then how do you require an IQ above some arbitrary number set by the government? And, If so, does One not have a right to be an idiot? If not, then what do we do with the school system that can not produce a graduate that is literate and required to take a remedial English language course in college that does not produce a competent literate adult? How in the hell do they get in college in the first place? And if not, what do you do with all of the idiots in the general population with a right to vote? The only value they are to civil government is the right to vote. Reduced to Machiavellian logic, The right the vote equals the right to Life. The ability to be easily duped and lead by a pandering political party seeking power on the backs of an illiterate majority is the only thing that keeps them alive on government handouts in exchange for the vote in a democratic political system. Thus, history provides evidence of the French Revolution under Rousseau's theory of civil democracy structure. Otherwise, the illiterate are expendable, and literacy (minimum IQ) becomes the determining factor of whether One can live or must die for the good of the whole.

read full comment
Image of Jones Robert L.
Jones Robert L.
on July 11, 2018 at 14:47:08 pm

I disagree with Professor Weiner. I think literacy is a right; what it is not is an entitlement. There seems to be misperception among the complaining classes that a right is an individual or insular group interest that others must satisfy, and which can be satisfied given sufficient taxpayer funds. The notion of rights as a restriction the government's interference with a particular activity is perfectly serviceable. There is no need to try and reclassify something as not a right, when common usage indicates that it is. The government may not prevent anyone from learning to read, because literacy is a right. No qualification is needed. Also, recognizing something as a right neither implies that the government must ensure that everyone who wants to can exercise that right, nor that all impediments to exercise of those rights are reducible to insufficient public funding. The Second Amendment does not obligate anyone to provide me with a BAR, or Glock; the government has no obligation to subsidize newspapers or provide clergy to a congregation.

The second observation above is a Pandora's box that is based on a fallacy. One may at least hypothesize that the catastrophic failures of the Detroit schools are due, in part, to deficiencies that are not remediable by increased funding. It may be uncomfortable to some to consider that misguided discipline policies inhibit the classroom atmosphere and encourage the exit of more proficient students to schools not so burdened. Perhaps an ossified and incompetent bureaucracy bears some of the blame; or perhaps there is some element of accommodating incompetent teachers; or reluctance to use proven methods because they are tainted with certain cultural associations. None of these factors would seem to be mitigated by simply enhancing their subsidy. Improving the schools in Detroit and elsewhere will likely require changes that will make many people uncomfortable who are neither willing nor expecting to be uncomfortable.

This is a Pandora's box in another sense as well. This notion of validating a claim on the public fisc by deeming something to be a right, when what is implied is a desired entitlement, will come up in other contexts, such as healthcare. These discussions will be unfruitful if we don't have a common understanding of what the words mean from one day to the next.

read full comment
Image of z9z99
z9z99
on July 11, 2018 at 15:06:49 pm

nobody:

Agreed in substabce.
However, the remedy you (apparently) support, or would at least allow, "“[Taxing authority] shall provide the schools with a minimum of $X..." is precisely where the Courts are not empowered to go. It is, BTW a false equivalency between bankrupt corporations and a government sponsored enterprise (schools). Indeed, it is exactly what is transpiring in the State of Washington, where the Judicial has DECIDED, indeed MANDATED, that the Legislature's efforts to "adequately" (in the Judges estimation) fund statewide education are insufficient and as such impermissible. further, in their judicial hubris, the Black Robes of this State have seen fit to impose considerable fines upon the Legislature.

One may argue whether the monies appropriated are indeed sufficient to their stated end - and that is the point - Argue. it is clearly the role of the Legislative Branch to conduct these arguments (deliberations) and reach that spending level which the Legislative Branch in its considered wisdom deems most prudent. I would add that this is not an instance where we observe massive funding disparities between rich and poor districts (although it is not absent), nor is there a case to be made under disparate impact, a doctrinal hammer of dubious origin and legitimacy.

I will acknowledge that at times Legislatures are either unconcerned with *proper* funding of schools.
I also observe that quite often available funding is misspent on administration, inflated benefits, etc as a payoff to various Teachers Unions.

Then again, is it really funding that is the principal determinant of academic success. The cost per pupil in parochial schools is less than that spent per pupil in public schools. Yet, parochial schools tend to produce superior outcomes.
Numerous studies (I believe the essayist cited one) indicate that family status (something as I recall some *nobody* has also argued) is overwhelmingly the most significant influence on academic achievement.

One other factor may also be the knowledge, capability and, well, let's be frank, the intelligence of the Teaching cadre. How bad (or good) are the Detroit teachers? I don;t have a clue BUT surely the proficiency, indeed the motivation of the teachers may also play a role. Admittedly, having to teach in a rat infested hellhole may adversely affect ones motivation / performance.

In any event, the identification, review and amelioration of these deficiencies is most properly left to the Legislature.

Hey, We *play* the [Legislature] we are dealt with.

Seeya - good take on the matter BTW

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 11, 2018 at 15:08:26 pm

Oops - what a knucklehead I am: ( I should probably blame it on some long forgotten teacher)

Should read:

We *play* the [Legislature] we deal ourselves! -Ha

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 11, 2018 at 15:45:07 pm

Several thoughts: 1) The Democratic Party has officially conflated constitutional rights and political entitlements since at least 1932 when FDR delivered his Commonwealth Club Address in San Francisco and thereafter in his 1941 "Four Freedoms" State of the Union Speech (freedom from want and fear); 2) For decades the Democrats have, likewise, systematically pursued this conflation of rights and entitlements in federal courts (affirmative action misuses the rubric of judicial remedies to impose a similar conflation); 3) both #'s 1&2, supra, are inconsistent with the fact that the constitution guarantees only (what Isaiah Berlin called) "negative liberties," those things the government may not do, and does not guarantee (what Berlin called) "positive liberties," the free-stuff that FDR, LBJ, Barack Obama, Detroit Democrats and the Left's SJW's generally say government MUST provide AS OF RIGHT because voters are entitled to or need them (but really because distributing free stuff is how the Democrats force all of us to pay for their votes); 4) The right to PURSUE literacy is a natural right; the right to pursue literacy free of arbitrary or invidious government-imposed legal obstacles insofar as it can be construed as falling under the Due Process or Equal Protection Clauses may be a constitutional right (one could argue that Brown v Board protected such a right.) But the "right to literacy," being a right only of positive law (in effect, the government's guarantee of an outcome) is non-existent except insofar as positive statutory law has created it.

read full comment
Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on July 11, 2018 at 16:44:27 pm

I think your distinction between right and entitlement is apt, and important.

read full comment
Image of QET
QET
on July 11, 2018 at 16:51:24 pm

If I may here is an update on your soon to be disputed assertion that "the government has no obligation to subsidize newspapers or provide clergy to a congregation. "

https://spectator.org/journalism-by-government-in-new-jersey/

wherein the State of New Joisey deems it [proper to *fund* newspapers.

Boy this will turn out just grand - won't it?

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 11, 2018 at 17:28:18 pm

As illustration of the Left's/ Democrat Party's ongoing, never-ending judicial pursuit of entitlements by engaging in gross constitutional distortion (when does distortion become terminal destruction?) I would point to an article in today's Federalist which references SJW Mark Tushnet's "... radical reinterpretation of the Constitution, suggesting, for instance, that affirmative action and redistributive taxation are constitutionally required."

Here is the atavistic point in Tushnet's own words: " For one thing, maybe the Court's "liberals" will now (in light of Kennedy's departure from the Court) feel liberated to make utopian rather than pragmatic can-we-get-a-fifth-vote-for-this-today? (constitutional) arguments... Again, people (Democrats, Socialists and Social Democrats) will have their favorites, but here are some candidates (not all of which I agree with): Affirmative action is constitutionally required. The Constitution requires that legislative boundaries be drawn by independent districting bodies. Campaign finance regulation aimed at leveling the playing field is at least constitutionally permissible and maybe constitutionally required. And, of course: Redistributive taxation is constitutionally required. (I personally think that opinions in the first three areas would be more intellectually honest than the ones liberals have been writing.)"

I would harken back to my position in last week's most heated topic on this site as to whether it is prudent or suicidal for the Never Trump classical liberal Establishment 1) to debate what I then called "the barbarians at the gate"(such as Tushnet and the Detroit Democrats) and 2) to lecture/censure as ill-mannered or lacking civility those who see the strategic stupidity and existential futility of such debate.

read full comment
Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on July 11, 2018 at 17:35:11 pm

Greg Weiner's reference to Kant regarding rights should make any originalist cringe -- with reference to jurists whom the Founders routinely studied and followed, we should be talking about Burlamaqui of Geneva and his Swiss student Vattel. Vattel clearly emphasized the duty of the sovereign to promote education, and this was clearly echoed in John Adams's Massachusetts Constitution.

Of course the role of the federal government in guaranteeing access to education is another can of worms, down the 14th-Amendment rabbit hole.

read full comment
Image of John Schmeeckle
John Schmeeckle
on July 11, 2018 at 18:12:21 pm

[T]he remedy you (apparently) support, or would at least allow, ““[Taxing authority] shall provide the schools with a minimum of $X…” is precisely where the Courts are not empowered to go. It is, BTW a false equivalency between bankrupt corporations and a government sponsored enterprise (schools). Indeed, it is exactly what is transpiring in the State of Washington, where the Judicial has DECIDED, indeed MANDATED, that the Legislature’s efforts to “adequately” (in the Judges estimation) fund statewide education are insufficient and as such impermissible. Further, in their judicial hubris, the Black Robes of this State have seen fit to impose considerable fines upon the Legislature.

The fact that judges are, in fact, implementing such a remedy strongly suggests they, in fact, have the power to do so.

One may argue whether the monies appropriated are indeed sufficient to their stated end – and that is the point – Argue. it is clearly the role of the Legislative Branch to conduct these arguments (deliberations) and reach that spending level which the Legislative Branch in its considered wisdom deems most prudent.

And I don’t hear anyone disputing that. Likewise, if the legislature deems it prudent to compensate people for the private land they condemn, no one is stopping them. But what if the legislature does NOT act to compensate people? Then the courts stand ready to fashion a remedy.

Similarly, if a state adopts a constitution granting certain rights, the state can’t complain when their own courts enforce the language of their own constitutions. Don’t like it? Then your remedy is to amend your constitution to eliminate the language granting the right. Your remedy is not to ask judges to swear an oath to uphold their state constitutions, and then demand that they violate those oaths.

I would add that this is not an instance where we observe massive funding disparities between rich and poor districts.…

Last February The Education Trust reported that education spending in poor districts fell below education spending in rich districts by $1000/student/yr, on average, while education spending in districts with the largest population of Black, Latino, or American Indian students fell below education spending in the whitest districts by $1800/student/yr.

Then again, is it really funding that is the principal determinant of academic success? … Numerous studies (I believe the essayist cited one) indicate that family status (something as I recall some *nobody* has also argued) is overwhelmingly the most significant influence on academic achievement.

Ha! You and I just discussed the role of agency in influencing a person’s outcomes. I argued that environment/circumstance had more influence than agency, as a review of data over the past 1000 years would demonstrate—yet we agreed that agency had some influence nonetheless. And we acknowledged the strategic advantage of focusing on agency because that is a variable that people arguably CAN influence, whereas they can’t influence many others (such as the century into which they are born).

Yet when we turn to discussing determinants of educational outcome, you want to dismiss funding not because it lacks any influence, but merely because it’s not the “principle determinant”? In contrast, I’ll emphasize that funding, like agency, is a variable that we arguably CAN control, whereas we can’t influence many others (such as a student’s family structure).

The cost per pupil in parochial schools is less than that spent per pupil in public schools. Yet, parochial schools tend to produce superior outcomes.

“[C]omparing private to public school test scores is a bit like comparing apples to oranges.... Private schools use a different set of tests … that … can’t be compared side by side with public school tests.

Public schools are required by law to administer the test chosen by the state government and to publish their test scores. Meanwhile, private schools are free to pick their own standardized tests and, because they don’t rely on public funds, do not have to release their scores….

Several recent large-scale studies have compared private schools to charter and regular public schools using the one common test taken by selected samples of students around the country.

That test is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), otherwise known as the Nation’s Report Card. Administered by the U.S. Department of Education, the NAEP is given to students in grades 4, 8 and 12 in both private and public schools.

One of these studies, conducted by Christopher and Sarah Theule Lubienski, a husband-and-wife team at the University of Illinois, compared more than 340,000 students using math scores from the 2003 NAEP. The study found that after adjusting for socioeconomic factors, there is little difference between private and public school scores. According to the researchers, “Demographic differences between students in public and private schools more than account for the relatively high raw scores of private schools. Indeed, after controlling for these differences, the presumably advantageous ‘private school effect’ disappears, and even reverses in most cases.”

Similarly, another study — Comparing Private Schools and Public Schools Using Hierarchical Linear Modeling — used the 2003 NEAP data. It found that after adjusting for student characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, disability status and English-language proficiency and for school characteristics such as size, location and the makeup of the student body, the fourth grade reading test scores were virtually the same for private and public schools, although the math scores for public schools were higher. In eighth grade, private school students performed better in reading, but there was virtually no difference in math.”

That latter study disaggregated the data from students at Catholic, Lutheran, "Conservative Christian," and public schools. Admittedly, the study did not distinguish between parochial, diocesan, and private Catholic schools.

One other factor may also be the knowledge, capability and, well, let’s be frank, the intelligence of the Teaching cadre. How bad (or good) are the Detroit teachers? I don’t have a clue BUT surely the proficiency, indeed the motivation of the teachers may also play a role. Admittedly, having to teach in a rat infested hellhole may adversely affect ones motivation / performance.

“The wages of labour vary with the ease or hardship, the cleanliness or dirtiness, the honorableness or dishonorableness of the employment.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776).

In short, it’s hard to compare the cost of educating a kid in Detroit to educating a kid elsewhere, because quite logically we need to pay teachers MORE to work in an environment such as Detroit. People think that if you offer higher pay than in the suburbs, you should expect superior teaching than in the suburbs. People who think this never read Adam Smith.

[G]ood take on the matter BTW

Very sorry; won’t happen again.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on July 11, 2018 at 18:39:11 pm

"...down the 14th-Amendment rabbit hole."

Uhh! did you mean the Black robes rabbit hole as the 14th, as we know it today, would appear to be later creation of the August Ones!

Also, while Vattel, Adams, and numerous others "promoted" the value of education, indeed the need for it in a republican regime, this did not to their minds, nor should it equate to either federally mandated specificity in funding levels nor to a guarantee of literacy, a much wished for condition.
Heck, the founders also promoted virtue, decency, restraint AND, yes, my leftist friends, religion.
I suppose our statist friends are *literate* enough to be able to "select" which attributes / conditions advocated by the founders are to be currently *promoted.*

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 11, 2018 at 19:03:20 pm

As for those who would dare to chase Leftist rabbits down constitutional holes:
"When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off with her head
Remember what the dormouse said
Feed your head, feed your head."

In other words, learn your republican stuff, learn your republican stuff.

After all, the existential necessity of exploring political and moral rabbit holes is precisely why the Founders saw literacy, particularly Biblical literacy, as both an intrinsic value indispensable to republican virtue and an instrumental value to be publicly fostered (though not legally guaranteed.)

read full comment
Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on July 12, 2018 at 09:09:36 am

The colonial and provincial governments in New England had been requiring the towns to establish and maintain elementry and grammar schools since 1634. Certainly that, and not Vattel, is why Adams included education in the constitution of 1780

read full comment
Image of EK
EK
on July 12, 2018 at 09:58:54 am

nobody:

Seriously, thank you again for the *effort* you put into these commentaries... however:

"It found that after adjusting for student characteristics such as gender, race, ethnicity, disability status and English-language proficiency and for school characteristics such as size, location and the makeup of the student body, the fourth grade reading test scores were virtually the same for private and public schools, although the math scores for public schools were higher. In eighth grade, private school students performed better in reading, but there was virtually no difference in math.”

What happens when we unpack all of these *adjustments* - what does it mean to say that we *adjusted* for race and gender, etc -even English language proficiency (boy, that is a doozy).
The question that you seemingly attempt to answer is not addressed by these statistics as the very *adjustments* that you include in your studies ARE (or may be said to be) at issue here. Is it not the diversity, proclaimed as essential to good academic outcomes, that is being *adjusted* out of the equation?

What happens when students do not speak English? What effect does this have on the "progress" of those other students who are proficient in english (and history, math, etc) Is there not a "hold-back" effect observed and commented upon by many in the educational establishment?

One may observe that education standards, if not measured performance has declined over the years. A host of contributing factors may be identified - one commonly referred to as "dumbing down" curricula certainly factors in. Does diversity contribute to this dumbing down? Maybe?

If one obtains similar test scores to an earlier sample, or a sample from a different educational environment, one must ask: Are we measuring apples and oranges - or more precisely, are we teaching apples to one and oranges to another.
My own experience supports this thesis.
And you yourself are an exemplar of the efficiency of earlier education regimes. A literate, intelligent fellow conversant in all manner of topics. Now compare yourself to the "products" of the current educational regime.
You may come to think, as do I, that these kids are being denied the benefits of a well rounded, in-depth education -AND that it affects all manner / philosophies of education / school systems.

Real question as always:

what is left out of the studies?
What precisely constitutes *adjusting* for race / gender / disability, etc?

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 12, 2018 at 11:43:26 am

[W]hat does it mean to say that we *adjusted* for race and gender, etc -even English language proficiency (boy, that is a doozy).

Social science is difficult because we can’t treat humans as lab rats: Breeding them in captivity so that they are all uniform in every respect. Instead, we have to make “adjustments” to account for the fact that the people entering the studies differ in ways that would obviously influence their performance in the study.

Imagine the average English language scores from Catholic students is higher than the average score for public school students. Does that demonstrate the superiority of Catholic education? Or does it demonstrate that more Catholic students come from English-speaking households? To evaluate that claim, analysts “adjust” the analysis—typically using regression analysis, a mathematical tool for teasing apart the associations between multiple variables.

One may observe that education standards, if not measured performance has declined over the years. A host of contributing factors may be identified – one commonly referred to as “dumbing down” curricula certainly factors in.

Uh … maybe. The Common Core reflects a national effort to lend uniformity to the K-12 curricula—and in many environments, this meant INCEASING the rigor of the curricula.

That said, I don’t see the significance of focusing on testing STANDARDS when we can instead focus on testing RESULTS. And the National Center for Education Statistics reports:

Since the 1970s, the long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has collected periodic information on the reading and mathematics achievement of 9-, 13-, and 17-year-olds enrolled in public and private schools.

The national trend in reading achievement shows improvement at ages 9 and 13, but not at age 17, between the early 1970s and 2012. The average scores for 9- and 13-year-olds in 2012 were higher than those in 1971 (13 and 8 points higher, respectively), but the average score for 17-year-olds in 2012 (287) was not measurably different from the score in 1971. For 9-year-olds, the average score did not change measurably between 2012 (221) and 2008, but it was higher in each of these years than in all previous assessment years. Thirteen-year-olds scored higher in 2012 (263) than in all previous assessment years, including 3 points higher than in 2008. The average score for 17-year-olds in 2012 was not measurably different from the score in 2008.

The national trend in mathematics achievement shows improvement at ages 9 and 13, but not at age 17, between the early 1970s and 2012. The average scores for 9- and 13-year-olds in 2012 were higher than those in 1973 (25 and 19 points higher, respectively), but the average score for 17-year-olds in 2012 (306) was not measurably different from the score in 1973. For 9-year-olds, the average score did not change measurably between 2012 (244) and 2008, but it was higher in each of these two years than in all previous assessment years. Thirteen-year-olds scored higher in 2012 (285) than in all previous assessment years, including 4 points higher than in 2008. The average score for 17-year-olds in 2012 was not measurably different from the score in 2008.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on July 12, 2018 at 11:47:33 am

And you yourself are an exemplar of the efficiency of earlier education regimes. A literate, intelligent fellow conversant in all manner of topics. Now compare yourself to the “products” of the current educational regime.

You may come to think, as do I, that these kids are being denied the benefits of a well-rounded, in-depth education -AND that it affects all manner / philosophies of education / school systems.

Well, I have kids, and my spouse is on my local school board, so I have a passing acquaintance with the “products” of the current educational regime; they’re constantly leaving their crap all over my living room.
In any event, here’s what I learned from being educated under the prior educational regime: Every generation thinks the next generation is going to hell in the handbasket.

I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint.

Hesiod (circa 800 BCE)

Our sires' age was worse than our grandsires'. We, their sons, are more
worthless than they; so in our turn we shall give the world a progeny yet more corrupt.

Horace, Odes (circa 20 BCE)

In the good old days, every man’s son, born in wedlock, was brought up not in the chamber of some hireling nurse, but in his mother’s lap, and at her knee. And that mother could have no higher praise than that she managed the house and gave herself to her children…
Nowadays… our children are handed over at their birth to some little Greek serving maid, with a male slave, who may be anyone, to help her.. it is from the foolish tittle-tattle of such persons that the children receive their first impressions, while their minds are still pliant and unformed… And the parents themselves make no effort to train their little ones in goodness and self-control; they grow up in an atmosphere or laxity and pertness, in which they come gradually to lose all sense of shame, and respect both for themselves and for other people.

Tacitus (56-120 CE)

Youth were never more sawcie, yea never more savagely saucie . . . the ancient are scorned, the honourable are contemned, the magistrate is not dreaded.

Thomas Barnes, the minister of St. Margaret's Church on New Fish Street, London, The Wise-Man's Forecast against the Evill Time (1624)

I find by sad Experience how the Towns and Streets are filled with lewd wicked Children, and many Children as they have played about the Streets have been heard to curse and swear and call one another Nick-names, and it would grieve ones Heart to hear what bawdy and filthy Communications proceeds from the Mouths of such….

Robert Russel, A Little Book for Children and Youth: Being Good Counsel and Instructions for Your Children, Earnestly Exhorting Them to Resist the Temptation of the Devil, (1695)

Whither are the manly vigor and athletic appearance of our forefathers flown? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Surely, no; a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles can never have descended in a direct line from the heroes of Potiers and Agincourt...

Town and Country magazine (November 1771)

The total neglect of this art [speaking] has been productive of the worst consequences...in the conduct of all affairs ecclesiastical and civil, in church, in parliament, courts of justice...the wretched state of elocution is apparent to persons of any discernment and taste… if something is not done to stop this growing evil …English is likely to become a mere jargon, which every one may pronounce as he pleases.

Thomas Sheridan, A General Dictionary of the English Language (1780)

The free access which many young people have to romances, novels, and plays has poisoned the mind and corrupted the morals of many a promising youth; and prevented others from improving their minds in useful knowledge. Parents take care to feed their children with wholesome diet; and yet how unconcerned about the provision for the mind, whether they are furnished with salutary food, or with trash, chaff, or poison?

Reverend Enos Hitchcock, Memoirs of the Bloomsgrove Family (1790)

[A] fearful multitude of untutored savages... [boys] with dogs at their heels and other evidence of dissolute habits...[girls who] drive coal-carts, ride astride upon horses, drink, swear, fight, smoke, whistle, and care for nobody...the morals of children are tenfold worse than formerly.

Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, speech to the House of Commons (February 28, 1843)

Never has youth been exposed to such dangers of both perversion and arrest as in our own land and day. Increasing urban life with its temptations, prematurities, sedentary occupations, and passive stimuli just when an active life is most needed, early emancipation and a lessening sense for both duty and discipline, the haste to know and do all befitting man's estate before its time, the mad rush for sudden wealth and the reckless fashions set by its gilded youth--all these lack some of the regulatives they still have in older lands with more conservative conditions.

Granville Stanley Hall, The Psychology of Adolescence (1904)

The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise. …
Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters.

Kenneth John Freeman (1907) (NOT Socrates)

The rock upon which most of the flower-bedecked marriage barges go to pieces is the latter-day cult of individualism; the worship of the brazen calf of the Self.

Anna A. Rogers, “Why American Marriages Fail,” The Atlantic (September 1907)

We can assert with some confidence that our own period is one of decline; that the standards of culture are lower than they were fifty years ago; and that the evidences of this decline are visible in every department of human activity.

T. S. Eliot (1948)

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt (2002)

Given this well-documented propensity, I resist making generalizations about ANY generation without quantitative evidence. We embrace reason and evidence not at the expense of emotion, but at the expense of self-deception.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on July 12, 2018 at 17:32:36 pm

goodness gracious, nobody - You DO go on, don;t you.

Yep, social science methodology can be abstruse, enigmatic, etc. That was my point actually. As you and I both recognize, one often starts from the conclusion and works backward to both the premises AND the most suitable methodology.

I almost prefaced my simultaneous praise of your literacy / lamentations on the state of modern education with the phrase, "I know this will sound like the rantings of an old codger - but so what I may very well be(coming) one." Ha!

Thanks for reminding me to "Stay Forever Young" and observe the *follies* of youth with a little more grace.

seeya

read full comment
Image of gabe
gabe
on July 13, 2018 at 20:34:33 pm

Hear, Hear (unable to reply below): "We embrace reason and evidence not at the expense of emotion, but at the expense of self deception. And well exampled, BTW.

read full comment
Image of Anthony
Anthony
on July 15, 2018 at 21:31:49 pm

Thank you. You are too kind. Seriously.

I now see that I neglected to credit the author, Herbert Muschamp, architecture critic and columnist who, in in discussing the felling of the World Trade Towers on 9/11, remarked, "We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception."

And (obviously), I agree: Those are worthy thoughts indeed.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on July 15, 2018 at 22:55:08 pm

As to embracing reason by rejecting self-deception, first Nobody said this, "We embrace reason and evidence not at the expense of emotion, but at the expense of self-deception." And he appeared to be making the comment sua sponte, quoting nobody; i.e., quoting only himself, and using no quotation marks. I thought that Nobody wrote it and was unimpressed.
Then, later, in response to praise, Nobody acknowledged for the first time that, in fact, he had been quoting not himself, not nobody, but rather, one, Herbert Muschamp, who said this, “We do not embrace reason at the expense of emotion. We embrace it at the expense of self-deception.” And then Nobody added quotation marks.

Belatedly-corrected plagiarism aside, it all sounds very nice but is, in my opinion, rather hyberbolic simplification of the human psychology commonly at work in responding to most experience, in which rational processes are only one of the motivating variables, and most-often not the predominant or decisive one. The phraseology is also the kind of inflated sentiment that cloistered Democrat academics or people like Oprah might make in lecturing to college kids or at college commencements. It's just the kind of phraseology that Barack Obama might come up with in grandly articulating yet another of his myriad epigones, his incessant efforts to sound profound by mimicking others (whom he fails to quote) while saying little.

The speechifying rhetorical excess aside (i.e., lack of reason is the embrace of self-deception,) on the substance of the matter, I would agree with the much more psychologically- realistic perception of cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (note my attribution and quotation marks:)

“Reason is overrated. Many pundits have argued that a good heart and steadfast moral clarity are superior to triangulations of overeducated policy wonks, like the best and brightest and that dragged us into the quagmire of Vietnam. And wasn't it reason that gave us the means to despoil the planet and threaten our species with weapons of mass destruction? In this way of thinking, it's character and conscience, not cold-hearted calculation, that will save us. Besides, a human being is not a brain on a stick. My fellow psychologists have shown that we're led by our bodies and our emotions and use our puny powers of reason merely to rationalize our gut feelings after the fact."

read full comment
Image of Pukka Luftmensch
Pukka Luftmensch
on July 16, 2018 at 09:49:32 am

Ha! Fair enough; the Pinker quote is a worthy rejoinder to the Muschamp quote--in the abstract. But the context was gabe's claim that today's kids "are being denied the benefits of a well-rounded, in-depth education -AND that it affects all manner / philosophies of education / school systems."

I point out that anxieties about the laxity of the next generation has been a pattern of thought since time immoral--even regarding our own generation, or generations that we would later characterize as "the Greatest Generation," etc. I see no correlation between 1) each generation's evaluation of the next generation and 2) subsequent historical observations about each generation.

Thus, I conjecture at least two explanation's for gabe's conclusions: 1) He's has collected representative data and drawn appropriate conclusions, or 2) he, like many people, is prone to find fault with the next generation, whether justified or not. In the absence of better evidence on this matter, I caution against drawing any conclusions. And I don't read the Pinker quote to oppose that caution.

Finally, I note that Pinker recently published Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, which might put Pinker's view of reason in a larger context. I don't doubt that reliance on reason is overrated--but reliance on emotion is also overrated, as evidenced by the long list of known cognitive biases.

read full comment
Image of nobody.really
nobody.really
on August 08, 2018 at 15:53:08 pm

Hi EK,
The extra charges of a government on the purchasing of property in the form of general country tax can be eliminate easily with in a seven days according to the rules and regulations of a government,If you write an application with the authentic reasons for a elimination of property tax and also attached a legal documents of a property tax pairs after that submitted in the government office by the tax layers which is helpful for you to approved the claim of your property tax in the seven days without any allegations of a government on the application of your property tax ,Remember don’t write any irreverent reasons in the applications of property tax you want to submit in the office of government and also don’t attached any illegal or extra document of property which increase the chances to refuse or neglect your claim application ,So keep it in your mind all the instructions and requirements given to you by the tax layer after concerning this kind of matter according to the current policy of government .
Thanks

read full comment
Image of Corrine
Corrine

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.