Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Charter Schools are Not an Anti-Corruption Strategy

Trailer for John Merrow's upcoming film on New Orleans:

If you meet a starving man and all you have is a bag of Cheetos, by all means, give him the Cheetos, but it does not follow that Cheetos are the answer for malnutrition.

Merrow begins with the corruption of the New Orleans public school system before Katrina. I have no reason to think it wasn't that bad, but I don't really know. Perhaps it is less corrupt now; I can at least imagine that it is. But the idea that in general the right strategy to fight public corruption is to remove civil service protections in hiring and firing, reduce transparency, base high stakes decisions on tests which are often gamed or cheated on outright, and generally put control of the system in private hands, makes no sense on its face.

Maybe this is better for New Orleans right now (maybe not), but will it hold up in 10 years? It should be obvious that the end of these market-based reforms will be corruption, and while we may not notice it or care in, say, privatized prisons, we will notice and care in our children's schools. There are already many, many examples.

Here's a nice closing quote from Paul Carr:

And there’s the rub. Given their Randian origins, we kid ourselves if we think most Disruptive businesses are fighting government bureaucracy to bring us a better deal. A Disruptive company might very well succeed in exposing government crooks lining their pockets exploiting outdated laws, but that’s only so the Disruptor can line his own pockets through the absence of those same laws. A Disruptive company may give you free candy in your 50-dollar cab but, again, that’s only because doing so is good business. If poisoning that same candy suddenly becomes better business (like encouraging New York cab drivers to be distracted by their phones, or putting vulnerable people at risk of attack is better business)… well maybe that’s an option worth exploring too. After all, food safety legislation is just another attempt by the government to drive Disruptive businesses off the road.

1 comment:

Joel VerDuin said...

I'm a little more worried about the comment that starts at 7:47. Rarely do I hear that comment directly, it is more often implied in other venues.