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

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 6 04:51:22 CEST 2009

So you would just give the cash to families? How would you insure they do
not spend it on something else, unless it were vouchers? Why not a basic
income instead of $20k?

On Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 1:53 AM, Paul D. Fernhout <
pdfernhout at kurtz-fernhout.com> wrote:

> 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.
>  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/School_voucher
> "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?

All of the above insure a two-tier education system. Good private schools
are not available for the majority of the population that can afford them.
Some things, like railways, and I would argue education, function better as
public than private goods. I have no objection to these things existing,
only when they undercut the funding for the education of the majority of the

In my home country of Belgium, private schools are subsidized as long as
they observe a core common curriculum.

Compare it with the pension scheme or health care. Yes, of course, it works
with commercial choices, but only for some. The private pension schemes came
crashing down and everybody knows how health care works in the U.S.

I'm for a balance between public goods, commercial choice, and independent
civil society offerings.

Only commercial choice is a threat to diversity. There is no reason public
goods cannot be diverse.

Saying there is no way to fix public schools is like saying there is no way
to fix climate change, yet some public schools are doing very well ...

Private schools are just as equally, but actually more, subject to the
authoritarian nature John Gatto deplores, and that is in fact why parents
like them, because they instill 'discipline'.

Not sure what your german example does in the story? In my home country,
like in many european countries, there is a 'education obligation', but no
schooling obligation, thus allowing for home schooling. But it is a more
difficult road for sure, and I'm assuming, from what I heard from
homeschooling parents in different countries, that they lack support
networks like those that were developed in the U.S. Just for the record, I
support home schooling as a choice, not as an obligation.

As for the history of public schooling, I have no citations, but having been
part of the labour movement for many years, the support for public schooling
for all was a matter of public record and one of the social priorities of
the social movements throughout the years (on the same par as support for
public libraries, universal suffrage, and the like).

I'm as aware as anybody of the authoritarian nature of the school system, I
hated school my self <g>, but having had 4 kids, well my two French school
children, educated in public schools by choice, are very happy and well
educated ... they read novels to each other at night ... That is not to say
there are no dysfunctional public schools in France, there are many, and it
depends on the neighborhood, etc...

Schools, universities, like so many other institutions exist and are strong,
and even if they are maybe slated to disappear, that will be a long drawn
out process. Privatising and commercialising everything is not the only
solution I would be looking out for, but rather a diverse ecology of
choices, a profound democratization of public schooling, home school and
other extra choices, etc...

One more clarification, public goods do not have to be the preserve of a
central state; they could very well be decentralized local ones; schools
could be subsidized from a central pot against some general criteria etc...
In fact, I suspect that one of the key reasons private schools often perform
'better', is not that they are private, but rather independently run. For
example, in my home country, the degree of freedom of catholic schools (the
degree of freedom for managers of schools that is), is much greater than
those of 'normal' public schools, giving them an added bonus in terms of
adaptibility and dynamism.

As for the p2p element in this ... I'm for increasing the p2p options in
society, not for a faux generalisation and obligation which could lead to a
wholesale commercialisation of education. Peer to peer is not a market, a
market is not peer to peer. P2P means contributing to the whole, not private
individuals paying market providers. I can't see what is essentially better
about for-profit education, compared to well-provisioned, democratically run
public goods.

Again an experience from my home country. Parents there can band together to
create alternative schools, and following certain procedures, can obtain
public subsidies for them. The fine print is of course in the 'conditions',
but as far as I know, they allow for a great diversity as long as a certain
core curriculum is observed (the 3 R's, basic science, etc...).

That to me is a peer to peer process, enabled/empowered by a partner state
approach ...

This means that interested parents have a wide variety of options available:
public schools, many of them having adapted alternative pedagogical
techniques, private catholic schools, and in cities, some set of alternative
schools (waldorf is quite popular in the flanders).


(end of my comments)

> 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"
>  http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/17b.htm
> """
> 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:
>  http://www.brusselsjournal.com/node/1330
> "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."
> and:
> http://www.wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=54425
> """
> 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
> members.
> 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"
>  http://www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/8m.htm
> 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.
> http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2009-05-28-homeschooling-report_N.htm
> """
> 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
> Homeschool.
> """
> See also:
>  http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=secular+homeschool
> "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
> http://www.pdfernhout.net/
>  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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