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Education and the X-Prize

The founder of the X-Prize (well known around these parts due to events such as the space ventures side of things) now wants to launch a prize for people with good ideas on how to sort out education. (H/T, Instapundit). I can suggest two quick ideas:

Give the prize immediately to Professor James Tooley.

Or, Give it to me, as I have this brilliant idea – just get the state out of education, full stop.

Simple, really.

11 comments to Education and the X-Prize

  • PersonFromPorlock

    I think it was Arthur Gladstone who once remarked (approximately) to an entering college class “I cannot tell you precisely what this thing called a ‘liberal education’ consists of, but after four years of it you will be able to tell when a man is talking rubbish.”

    Then a description, today a goal.

  • RRS

    Presuming that this has the same basis as the report in Forbes, JP is dead on using that marvellous UK term “sort out.”

    “Problems” or “Issues” arising in social organization can not be approached (successfully) in the same way as those of the physical or medical spheres of information and “knowledge.”

    Wherever the enterprises of change are formed as systems, the results will be ultimate institutionalization (the basic source of present defects that have created education systems ) of what might develop as a series of civil (non-governmental) instrumentalities where each segment of the social organization deals with the motivations of its members producing and resolving the conflicts and cooperations that produce the results.

    Unless that process is regenerated (it used to exist) all else will be social engineering; just more planning requiring new bureaucracies.

  • RRS

    Smitegrinder -

    Please recover my post. It was non-offensive!

    (EDITOR: that is odd because you have no posts pending!)

  • James Strong

    Yes, get the state out of education.

    But people are attached to the idea of ‘free’ schooling almost as much as they are attached to the idea of a ‘free’ NHS.

    So you’ll have to give them a handout, in the form of vouchers only redeemable for spending in schools.

    Then you’ll have to overcome the move to making the vouchers only good for ‘licensed’ schools.

    It’s not going to be easy to win this battle.
    But if you can win the education debate then you can take on the NHS.

  • Laird

    Ditto what RRS said.

    I can’t see that “education” is amenable to a prize as was space flight. It doesn’t lend itself to clearly measurable goals (two trips over two weeks by the same craft to 100 miles altitude, or whatever the X-Prize target was), the results take many years to ascertain, and there are a nearly infinite number of ways to achieve whatever the goals are. The money would probably be better used in giving a series of grants to try education experiments, but that isn’t as sexy as a single large chunk of cash. My bet is that this idea dies on the vine.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    Give the prize immediately to Professor James Tooley.

    Or, albeit posthumously, to Uncle Milton.

  • Hmm

    There is no way any current electorate would accept taking the state out of education. Too much is dependent on it (childcare and jobswise for starters) .

    Children aren’t learning because they are not tasked to learn. They are tasked to become a model unit in a tickbox production system.

    What needs to happen in education is very simple. The only thing education should be is the teaching of how to enjoy learning by oneself while being schooled in the basics. The basics currently lacking are not what most people imagine…

    The basics are:

    The ability to talk and make yourself understood, as well as to read and write.

    The ability to manipulate numbers mathematically.

    The ability to deal with the basics of everday living.
    - How to interact with basic courtesy to other people.
    - How to judge and deal with basic risk in everyday life both mentally and physically. The nature of action and consequence.
    - How to concentrate on a task thru to its completion.
    - How to create art and music with and without implements.
    - How to enjoy and be creative in your own company and the company of others.
    - An understanding and ability to use basic tools (starting with pencils, knives, forks, scissors, toothbrushes etc…)

    These are the things that are lacking – these are the basics the problem children are missing.

    Above all else – everything hinges on the ability to learn,and do things for yourself. That is what is not only not taught – but is the core that has been actively undermined by “Education”.

    The active ability that succeeds in teaching children to LEARN BY THEMSELVES is the thing that needs to be seen to be rewarded.

    I don’t know enough about James Tooley to make much comment on him, this statement from the blog worries me a little though: “…raising funds, and setting the stage for a utopian world where free, high-quality public education is available…
    Which sounds a little too statist for me.

    I can see the prize going to something flashy – where something basic but active and viral would be best. Something that makes learning ,without teacher, COOL.

  • If the State remains in education, the next best thing is to get rid of the damned featherbedding.

    The DoE budget DOUBLED in the first two years of Obamastan
    (see under “Annual budget” at top right).

    Government administrative philosophy is still stuck in the WWII era, with layers and layers of management between the chief executive and the shop floor. Reducing administrative overhead and other forms of waste was a prime directive of W. Edwards S. Deming. His principles need to be brought to education, and a lot of other government spheres.

    I have another reform idea. One thing that voucher and tax-break plans have in common is that they assume that a child’s education will either be all public or all private. Why not a mix of both? If Johnny will go to public school for 2 class periods and to home/private school for 4, Mom and Dad get 1/3 of a full voucher/tax break. One thing I like about this is that schools will find out which subjects parents do and don’t trust the State to teach. Watch the demand for lit teachers plummet.

  • Rich Rostrom

    The X-Prize is awarded for concrete, measurable achievements in space flight.

    Now there is to be a prize for “ideas” about fixing education.

    Humph. Ideas are cheap as dirt.

    A prize for actual achievement would be more significant.

    But educational achievement is not particularly different – the problem is producing it consistently (and economically).

  • Lee Moore

    Alan K Henderson : “One thing that voucher and tax-break plans have in common is that they assume that a child’s education will either be all public or all private”

    I can’t see any objection to having vouchers that could be split into bits and spent at different establishments. Including state owned and managed establishments if they still existed (I’d rather they didn’t.) As for tax breaks I’m not sure what plans you have in mind, but I would have thought that a child tax allowance would do fine (if you insist on having the state involved at all.)

    ie you get an allowance of £10,000 (or whatever) for each child, carry forwardable or carry backable as needed. If you can’t use it or don’t choose to use it, you surrender it, in whole or in part, for a voucher. Those who don’t have enough taxable income have are stuck, to some extent, with whoever provides education in return for vouchers. Those that do can buy education where they like, or homeschool. Or a mixture.

    The advantage of a tax allowance over a voucher is that it helps in the propaganda war – you’re paying for your own children’s education with your own money, not getting a state handout. Hence any case for the state insisting on determining the content and manner of the education is correspondingly politically feebler.

    But better still – though politically impossible at present – is just to get the state out of it altogether, and deal with the education of the poor through charity and scholarships.

  • Mendicant

    Schools are solely interested in breeding conformity, they pander to the loudest and most confident and leave the shy and un-confident to rot.

    Really, schools should teach life-skills and make sure the anti-social and shy are cured of their social diseases.

    It would be nice if schools actually tackled bullying, which, in most cases, they encourage and turn a blind eye to.

    Teachers should replace parents on matters such as student bank-accounts. We all know parents cannot be trusted to do the right thing, whereas teachers should, especially in the teenage years, should be able to neuter bungling parents.

    The mantra of UK education is Conform, Conform, Conform, which results in people who cannot think for themselves. Creativity is crushed mercilessly and self-confidence is smashed.