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The public education and public health care analogy


President Obama’s goal of passing a health care reform bill by the end of the year looks more likely every day.  Since the House passed their version last week, it is now the Senate’s turn to work their magic by passing their own health care reform bill. The Senate released their version Wednesday, all 2,074 pages of it.  The going might be a bit tougher in the Senate as they have more at stake than the House. 
With all that in mind, an article in Esquire, “The 'Socialist' American Reform That Worked Long Before Health Care”, seemed timely.  After all, the premise was that the past struggle for universal public education in the United States is analogous to the current struggle for universal health care. 
The author, John H. Richardson, reasoned that since we pay so much for public education and it works so well for us, we should also pay for public health care:
This got me thinking about an even bigger socialist program, an endeavor that costs freedom-loving Americans not the trillion dollars that health-care reform is expected to cost over a decade, but a trillion dollars a year.
The author does not think his point through to the obvious end -- the increased cost and continued failures of public education portend the inevitable fate of a nationalized health care system better than any other argument:
Public education costs us more and more every year.  The federal government is spending a trillion dollars a year.  The trillion dollar price tag does not include the costs the cities and states pay, which is much more than the 8% the federal government kicks in.  And, it is not the cities, states, and federal government paying for public education, it is tax payers who shoulder the ever-increasing burden.
Public health care is only supposed to cost $848 billion over 10 years, what happens after the 10 years are up?  Will it constantly require more money and more legislation to fix, as has been the case with public education?
Public education’s quality and results are spotty at best.   The high school dropout rate is 21% for blacks and it is 12% in among whites.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that "the reading score of 12th-graders was 6 points lower in 2005 than in 1992" and those results vary considerably state by state.
There are also the countless legislative fixes that have done nothing but increase the bureaucracy related to public education.  Some of the more recognizable federal legislation aimed at fixing various problems within the public education system have been the National Defense Education Act (NDEA), the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, and the No Child Left Behind Act.  Each state has attempted to reform public education through various reforms, incentives, and reorganizations through the years.
The dropout rate, the NAEP scores, and the many attempts at reform are just some of the indicators that point to a public school system which is growing more and more inefficient and ineffective as the years go on as more money is poured in. 
The author inadvertently illustrated another point when he wrote that in the 1950s there was "a fad for books like Why Can't Johnny Read?"  What the author did not realize was that Why Can’t Johnny Read? was a book about how the public education system was failing at the main task it had been given -- to teach students how to read. 


  • John H. Richardson 5 years ago

    You didn't actually read the story, did you? There was nothing "inadvertant" about mentioning Johnny Can't Read - or the busing problems in the '70s. The point is, an imperfect public school system is better than "the good old days" when less than 9% percent of Americans went to any kind of school at all. That's the proper analogy to health care. Or are you proposing we shut down the public schools along with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

  • Kira-USA 5 years ago

    All reputable research shows that Government run education has been a dismal failure.The book Why Johnny Can't Read delineates the poor teaching techniques that explain why American young people do so poorly. I don't know what good old days you are talking about when only 9% of Americans went to any kind of school at all. Check out NEA Trojan Horse in American Education to see the development of private and public schools.

  • AntonioSosa 5 years ago

    The analogy is excellent, Bridgette Wallis. By providing a substandard and politicized education, government controlled public schools have dumbed down a large portion of the U.S. population in spite of the ever-increasing school budgets. In spite of having to operate with lower budgets, most private schools provide a much better education than public schools.

    Many parents pay taxes for public schools and sacrifice to send their children to private schools, where they have more control of what their children learn and where they know their children will be safer and receive a better education.

    What’s the difference between public and private schools? Government control. Government control is the poison that has harmed education and will destroy health care, particularly now that we have a corrupt, ACORN-type government!

  • Bob H 5 years ago

    @John H. Richardson

    RE:Or are you proposing we shut down the public schools along with Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security?

    So lets just socialize housing and groceries. Then in a few decades, when large swaths of the population's sense of self preservation has completely atrophied, we'll talk about the cold heartedness of even thinking about people providing for themselves. Abolishing government education camps would indeed be traumatic and very painful for millions of bad teachers and NEA fifth columnists that couldn't make it in a competitive, real world environment. But that doesn't mean this wouldn't be a better country with vastly better educated citizens if the whole racket hadn't been started in the first place. So let's go down the road of providing more an more for people of what the should rightly provide for themselves and their own. Just don't be surprised when poverty, stunted character and hopelessness becomes the norm, rather than the exception. No thanks

  • Bridgette 5 years ago

    Mr. Richardson, I said inadvertent because it didn't help the case to bring up a book that condemned the public education system. It was akin to espousing the benefits of nationalized health care and bringing up a book called "Why is everyone dying under a nationalized health care plan?".

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