Both Sides Now…

On her Ed Week blog Deb Meier makes a good but incomplete point:

P.S. Breaking News: The Sunday New York Times headline—”A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trade in Derivatives”—intrigues me. How come the business community is so supportive of increasing regulation in the educational system and against increased regulation of banking, while pretending that schools would be better if only they were more like “us” (bankers)? …

Leave aside for a moment that neither educators nor bankers are monolithic in their views on these things, it’s still worth discussing the general point.  But isn’t the inverse true as well?  Why is the education community so enamored with ideas like self-regulation that haven’t worked very well in fields like finance?  We don’t trust bankers when they say ‘trust us,’ but why should we trust our field more? Are we somehow better?  I doubt it. Perhaps it would be more useful to stop ascribing different degrees of goodness (or badness) to people in different fields and just acknowledge that human nature is what it is and all fields need at least some sensible regulation?

Also, it is worth noting that most of the conversation in education is really about re-regulating rather than increasing  or decreasing regulation per se.  Education is highly-regulated and as a public market will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  The underlying issue today is whether the focus of that regulatory burden should shift toward performance and away from compliance and, if so, how?

One Reply to “Both Sides Now…”

  1. Good point about reregulating. In my experience, most if not all regulations make sense in isolation. The problem is how they interact with each other, especially in the toughest environments. Seniority is essential, but it plays a role in damaging poor schools.

    Special ed laws would not have a down side if every school had 10% of its kids on IEPs. But when a third of a school is on IEPs the ripple effect is huge. I made two visits to my old school last week and saw three kids on IEPs being arrested because of three different incidents. From the principals’ perspective they aren’t allowed to enforce school rules on kids on IEPs so they let a $300 fine provide the consequences. From the central office’s perpective, they have no confidence that principals who use arrests so much would be able to properly suspend kids. From the teachers perpective, its crazy dumping such huge numbers of seriously traumatized kids into inner city classrooms, forcing them to do nonstop test prep, and refusing to try to enforce school rules.

    And since none of the three groups see any rationality in the system, they just try to comply and take the easy route, and that seems to make the regulators want to become more coercive.

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