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A prominent element of the “Occupy” movement advocates a vastly expanded role of government in society to solve our problems. In their “enlightened” view, empowering the public sector relative to the bad corporate (private) sector would create a more just (their definition) nation.

It is ironic that they would hold up the very sector that is the root of so many of their current frustrations; many of their demands from the Occupy protests stem from the failure of the educational system, primary and college, to provide them with skills for today’s job market. Shakedown University has not only failed them, but has also left them with huge debts. To some, the solution is “more of the same”; that is, more government and an expansion of the public sector.

An analysis of the education industry, which almost wholly operates in the public sector, might be useful in evaluating the merits of public- vs. private-sector-driven industries. K-12 education has been nearly the total purview of government for generations–at least, it was until poor performance encouraged home-schooling.

Since 1970, per-pupil costs have increased from $842  to $11,223  in 2011, or 13.3-fold.

Performance, by various measures, is at best flat, although costs may be understated by 44 percent, according to Cato analysis. 

If the prices of various consumer goods (produced by corporations) had increased at the same 13.3-fold increase of education costs, their price today would be reflected in the graph below. From these analyses, it is clear that the increases in education costs have far outgrown private-sector product price increases.

In contrast with education, no one can doubt the increased quality of today’s car, TV, or refrigerator as opposed to 1970 models. Without restrictions on oil drilling, higher taxes, mandated additives, and subsidized components gas would be less expensive.

An obvious rebuttal of the “statists” is that, inherently, education cannot take advantage of technology advances.

Then why have blackboards given way to power point presentations and slide rules to calculators then to laptops? Why have school buildings been continually upgraded or replaced and new processes such as “cooperative learning,” “multiple intelligence theory,” and “portfolio assessment” been employed?

The Occupiers’ “more government” solution reminds me of the old Iowa metaphor of letting the fox repair the chicken fence.

Have a fulfilling and profitable day,

WC (Bill) Augustine

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