]]]]]]]]]]]]]]         PUBLIC EDUCATION -- DUMP IT      [[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                    Let private enterprise do the job      (12/20/88)
                           by John Chodes
 vice chairperson [sic! yuk! (BG)] of the Libertarian Party of New
      York City on Op-Ed Page, New York Tomes, column, 12-19-88

                 [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 07565GAED]

  Government-funded  public education has been a  miserable  failure.
It  produces  illiterate, spiritless and passive graduates  who  have 
neither  the motivation or the skills to find a good job or  succeed.  
As  a  result,  private  sector schooling is  growing  by  leaps  and 
bounds.   There  is even a move toward privatization  of  the  public 
school system in Massachusetts, where the city of Chelsea is about to 
give Boston University authority over its public school system.
  Unfortunately  these efforts are associated with  small,  localized 
efforts  or elitism and high tuition.  There was, however, a  private 
enterprise  system  which, a little more than a century  ago,  taught 
most of New York's children -- in fact, millions of the  world's poor 
kids -- for a few dollars a year.
  This  endeavor, known as the Lancaster system, encouraged  kids  to 
develop personal initiative  and adult responsibilities.  They worked 
at adult jobs in school and got paid for them.  They learned to  read 
and  write  in months instead of years.  The  Lancaster  system   was 
controversial  and revolutionary. It may offer a clue to the way  out 
of the mess we are in today.
  Joseph Lancaster was born in the slums of London.  He was a natural 
teacher.  In the early 19th century, while in his teens, he was  able 
to teach 1,000  children in an  abandoned warehouse -- by  himself --
because  he had discovered a radically efficient, cost-cutting  idea: 
"The Monitorial System."
  Lancaster  let the children teach, and each child teacher became  a 
monitor,  with  the  better ones teaching the slower  ones.   As  the 
slower  students  gained  speed however, they  too  became  monitors.  
There  was  one monitor for every 10 students.   Through  this  small 
group  peer  interaction, no one had a chance to  get  bored.   Merit 
badges were awarded for excellence.  Like today's Green stamps,  they 
could be converted into merchandise prizes like pens, wallets, purses 
and books.
  Anyone  who could pay four shillings a year was welcome,  including 
girls.   No  other system had accepted them on  an  equal  curriculum 
basis  with  boys.  And the subjects were not just  the  basics,  but 
included algebra, trigonometry and foreign languages.
  Not  only could the system be run profitably on such small  tuition 
payments  but  four shillings per student was a fraction of  what  it 
cost  to  operate.  Lancaster did it with brilliant  economics.   The 
students wrote on slate instead of paper. Paper was expensive,  slate 
indestructible.   One book per subject per class was used.  Each page 
was separated  and placed on a board suspended overhead.  Each  group 
of 10 studied a page as a lesson.  Then the groups rotated.
  In  New York, the story was the same during the first half  of  the 
19th  century.  Indeed, Government officials were amazed that  masses 
of  poor  children  could be taught so well  for  so  little.   These 
bureaucrats believed  they could do the same job for the same  price.  
They were wrong.
  In 1806, DeWitt Clinton, New York's Mayor, moved in by  subsidizing 
the  Lancaster system with a minuscule real estate tax.   Using  this 
subsidy as a toehold, the city gradually managed, then controlled and 
then set up a rival system.  By 1852, New York City had absorbed  the 
Lancaster schools via the now-famous Board of Education.  Taxes  rose 
dramatically  and the quality declined as the Government  monopolized 
  In  Lancaster's  native England, the story was just  as  sad.   The 
Church  of England saw Lancaster as a dangerous radical since he  was 
giving  the  "unwashed  masses"  the  skills  to  move  upward.    It 
counterattacked  with a monitorial system of its own,   conceived  by 
Rev. Andrew Bell.  But his way did not teach self-reliance.  Nor  was 
it  designed to educate or even teach writing or ciphering.   It only 
taught Bible studies.
  Backed  by massive funding from Parliament, the Church  of  England 
destroyed  Lancaster by opening schools directly across from his  and 
pirating his students.
  There is, of course, no need to return to a system whose  economies 
of scale are as severe as Lancaster's were.  But clearly the time has 
come  to once again reverse the cycle.  Tax-supported  schooling  has 
failed and it is time for another Lancaster to come forward and  show 
what free enterprise can do -- again.   

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