Education Is Not Like Healthcare

These days, the political rhetoric of this country has little use for subtlety. Either things are going along swimmingly, or we’ve got a crisis on our hands. Sometimes, sounding the alarm in a particular area can be an effective way to get people to pay attention to real problems. For example, study after study showed that the U.S. was spending more and more money on healthcare, but getting less and less healthy. Whatever you think about Obamacare as a solution, the existence of a puzzling problem was undeniable. Crisis rhetoric was, in my opinion, justified.

Perhaps, but I think the best change is sustainable change, and apocalyptic rhetoric can easily trigger a cycle of action followed by indifference -- a cycle that is often easily harnessed by demagogues and interest groups. To combat this cycle, I want to note some ways the U.S. is doing well on education, and suggest that the real ways we’re doing badly are complex.

What I think is interesting is that again, the U.S. faces an efficiency problem. We spend a good deal of money on education and our teachers seem to be experienced, well-paid, and qualified. So what’s the deal? Could it be that the hype is right, and that teacher unions are fighting for high salaries? I don’t know, but this data matches that story.

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