[p2p-research] Towards a post-scarcity New York State of mind

Paul D. Fernhout pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com
Wed Aug 5 20:53:01 CEST 2009

Michel Bauwens wrote:
> such a voucher system 

While I can see how it may at first fit into that mental category, giving 
US$20k per child to the families to spend as they wish is not a voucher 
system, since vouchers are transfers of small amounts of money to other schools.
"A school voucher, also called an education voucher, is a certificate issued 
by the government by which parents can pay for the education of their 
children at a school of their choice, rather than the public school to which 
they are assigned."

I can see I may have to start at the basics here, point by point, phrase by 
phrase. :-)

> would achieve first of all a hyper-commercialization
> of education 

Private schools are available now. If everyone could afford them this is 
wrong because?

Tutors are available now. If everyone could afford them this is wrong because?

Correspondance schools are available now. If everyone could afford them this 
is wrong because?

Homeschooling (in the USA) is available now. If everyone could afford to do 
it, this is wrong because?

It is true that if most families had more money, a broad range of new 
possibilities would open up, both for free through a peer commons and some 
for fee through the market. And this is wrong because?

Is person-to-person education evil, while state-to-person instruction and 
production good? :-)

 > and a further splintering of schools ....

Which is called diversity and choice.

Remember, because "vouchers" are pitifully small amounts of money (in part 
to please teachers unions) like 20% of the true cost of public education, 
so, say $4K instead of $20K, they undermine public schools while not 
creating a genuine alternative. By giving the full amount to the parents, 
all options are put on a level playing field.

 > most parents would
> not choose to homeschool their children, as they have no time for it, 

Well, with $20K per child, that is a lot of money so parents don't need to 
work outside the home, and so more would have time for it.

> they
> would still use schools ...

So, they would send their kids to private schools or hire tutors, and having 
a choice is wrong because?

> so I think the best option is to democratize well-funded public schools,

Except there is no way to fix public schools (at least in the USA), despite 
repeated efforts over decades, because of, among other thing, this basic fact:
  "Power ÷ 22"
Control of the educational enterprise is distributed among at least these 
twenty-two players, each of which can be subdivided into in-house warring 
factions which further remove the decision-making process from simple 
accessibility. The financial interests of these associational voices are 
served whether children learn to read or not.
   There is little accountability. No matter how many assertions are made to 
the contrary, few penalties exist past a certain level on the organizational 
chart—unless a culprit runs afoul of the media—an explanation for the bitter 
truth whistle-blowers regularly discover when they tell all. Which explains 
why precious few experienced hands care to ruin themselves to act the hero. 
This is not to say sensitive, intelligent, moral, and concerned individuals 
aren’t distributed through each of the twenty-two categories, but the 
conflict of interest is so glaring between serving a system loyally and 
serving the public that it is finally overwhelming. Indeed, it isn’t hard to 
see that in strictly economic terms this edifice of competing and 
conflicting interests is better served by badly performing schools than by 
successful ones. On economic grounds alone a disincentive exists to improve 
schools. When schools are bad, demands for increased funding and personnel, 
and professional control removed from public oversight, can be pressed by 
simply pointing to the perilous state of the enterprise. But when things go 
well, getting an extra buck is like pulling teeth.

So, by giving the money to the parents, you bypass that (in theory, in 
practice many would fight the change).

> while given the freedom to homeschool;

Thanks, please tell that to the Germans:
"Last Thursday the German police arrested Katharina Plett, a homeschooling 
mother of twelve. Yesterday her husband fled to Austria with the children. 
Homeschooling is illegal in Germany since Hitler banned it in 1938. The 
Plett family belongs to a homeschooling group of seven Baptist families in 
Paderborn. We wrote about their case last year."

German authorities who sent 15 uniformed police officers to take custody of 
a 15-year-old girl who committed the crime of being homeschooled now have 
suggested a solution that, in their minds, would "resolve" the situation: 
the parents should give up custody of their other five children. The 
situation involving Melissa Busekros has been in the headlines ever since 
the beginning of this month, when the officers arrived at her parents' home 
with a court order allowing them to take her into custody, "if necessary by 
force."  She had fallen behind in math and Latin, and was being tutored at 
home. When school officials in Germany, where homeschooling has been illegal 
since Adolph Hitler decided he wanted to control the educating of all 
children, discovered that fact, she was expelled. School officials then took 
her to court, obtaining a court order requiring she be committed to a 
psychiatric ward because of her "school phobia."

I know nothing about the individual cases or families involved other than that.

 > public schools were not just a
> prussian project, but also a social demand from the labour movement for
> universal literay and citizenship; 

Citations? Also, sometimes what labor leaders want, at the top of a 
hierarchy making deals with other hierarchies, is not the best for union 

Remember, when the only option for your kid is to go to a public school or 
get nothing, public school may look like a good deal.

With this proposal, I am separating out the redistributive funding aspect of 
school from only having one way to do it, where that way is poison for peer 
networks (because school teaches intellectual dependency and so on).

> as bad as it may look, it was better than
> sending children in the mines .. 

Yes, the mines were awful:
   "Burying Children Alive"

Still, Gatto has a line somewhere about when kids were asked if they would 
rather be in the mines or in the schools they picked the mines. :-) What 
does that tell you about schools back then?

Also from there:
Schools were the anti-matter twins of mines and mills: the latter added 
children to the labor market, schools subtracted them. Both were important 
functions of a new, centralized command economy. By 1900, direct child labor 
had been rendered unnecessary by the swift onset of mechanization, except in 
those anomalous areas like theater, carnival, advertising, and modeling 
where special pleading to keep children at work would succeed during the 
general campaign to insulate children from common life.

So, some of this wasn't concern for the children so much as keeping them 
from being a problem now that they were not needed (or competing for a 
vanishing number of jobs given mechanization).

At least in the minds, kids felt like they were learning something, doing 
something useful, moving up a career ladder, and contributing to their families.

 > this is still the dream of billions of
> humans, who see education, and schools, as emancipatory

Education may be emancipatory.

Implying a causal link between schools and education is propaganda. :-)

> as bad as contemporary society is, most parents would still prefer that
> their children be socialized to partly adapt to the requirements, rather
> than leave them to survive at the margins ... 

Should we shut down the P2P foundation then? :-)

But let's focus on the word "partly". Do children need seven hours a day, 
five days a week, 40 or whatever weeks a year, for thirteen or so years to 
"partly adapt to the requirements" of functionining in a hierarchy?

Especially given that children were able to learn these things on the job in 
the past before school? Like when they worked in mines?

Something does not add up here. :-)

But it does conveniently favor a strong state. Surprise, surprise. :-)

Also, you use the word "requirements". Whose reguirements? Towards what 
ends? Towards peer-focused ends? Or towards hierarchical authoritarian ends?

 > you can't see education apart
> from broader social change requirements ... 

Exactly! Exactly! Exactly!

And what is this list about? :-)

> vouchers in current society
> would in my opinion be harmful ...

Again, they are not vouchers. They are direct unrestricted grants of lots of 
money to families per child per year. They then enable families to get their 
education from a peer economy or by any means they want.

> isn't it the case that homeschooling is now mostly done by conservative
> evangelicals,

No. At least in the USA, it is about 50/50 religious/secular, with the 
secular part rising fastest.
The new figures come from the U.S. Department of Education, which found that 
36% of parents said their most important reason for home schooling was to 
provide "religious or moral instruction"; 21% cited concerns about school 
environment. Only 17% cited "dissatisfaction with academic instruction." 
Perhaps most significant: The ratio of home-schooled boys to girls has 
shifted significantly. In 1999, it was 49% boys, 51% girls. Now boys account 
for only 42%; 58% are girls. That may well be a result of parents who are 
fed up with mean-girl behavior in schools, says Henry Cate, who along with 
his wife home-schools their three daughters in Santa Clara, Calif. "It's 
just pushing some parents over the edge," says Cate, who writes the blog Why 

See also:
"Results 1 - 10 of about 3,300,000 for secular homeschool. (0.40 seconds)"

 > and that these parents privatise and indoctrinate their
> children in a single belief system? 

Some families may, it is true. Probably not most.

But this differs from state schooling in that ...?

And you believe these evils about homeschooling because ...?

And people think peer-to-peer is evil because... ?

Any correlations? :-)

 > the other alternatives are probably
> either being wealthy, or very committed, or belong to some alternative
> community ...

Or, another alternative is having $20K a year per child to open up 
opportunities by spending it as the family decides. :-)

Like I proposed below. :-)

--Paul Fernhout

> On Sun, Aug 2, 2009 at 9:36 PM, Paul D. Fernhout <
> pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:
>> New York State current spends roughly 20,000 US dollars per schooled child
>> per year to support the public school system. This essay suggests that the
>> same amount of money be given directly to the family of each homeschooled
>> child. Further, it suggests that eventually all parents would get this
>> amount, as more and more families decide to homeschool because it is
>> suddenly easier financially. It suggests why ultimately this will be a
>> win/win situation for everyone involved (including parents, children,
>> teachers, school staff, other people in the community, and even school
>> administrators :-) because ultimately local schools will grow into larger
>> vibrant community learning centers open to anyone in the community and
>> looking more like college campuses. New York State could try this plan
>> incrementally in a few different school districts across the state as pilot
>> programs to see how it works out. This may seem like an unlikely idea to be
>> adopted at first, but at least it is a starting point for building a
>> positive vision of the future for all children in all our communities. Like
>> straightforward ideas such as Medicare-for-all, this is an easy solution to
>> state, likely with broad popular support, but it may be a hard thing to get
>> done politically for all sorts of reasons. It might take an enormous
>> struggle to make such a change, and most homeschoolers rightfully may say
>> they are better off focusing on teaching their own and ignoring the school
>> system as much as possible, and letting schooled families make their own
>> choices. Still,homeschoolers might find it interesting to think about this
>> idea and how the straightforward nature of it calls into question many
>> assumptions related to how compulsory public schooling is justified. Also,
>> ultimately, the more people who homeschool, the easier it becomes, because
>> there are more families close by with which to meet during the daytime
>> (especially in rural areas). And sometime just knowing an alternative is
>> possible can give one extra hope. Who would have predicted ten years back
>> that NYS would have a governor who was legally blind and whose parents had
>> been forced to change school districts just to get him the education he
>> needed? So, there is always "the optimism of uncertainty", as historian
>> Howard Zinn says. We don't know for sure what is possible and what is not.

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