T.J. Newton
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Civil Rights, Human Rights, & Freedom .
The Struggle for Equality: Economics, Politics, & Education
T.J. Newton

Main Menu
Educational Inequality and Failing Urban Schools
Self-Interest and Economic Theory
Marketing Theory
Moral Theories in Economics and Business
The Role of Ideology
Privatization and Education
Political Philosophy and Indigenous Resource Theory
Strategies For Education Reform

Introduction Main Menu

The privatization movement has forced political philosophy to take a back seat to economic philosophy, despite severe problems and moral ambiguity in economic theory. The current debate involving school privatization and vouchers is just the latest example of the misguided use of faulty economic theory in political matters. Why are privatization and school vouchers seen as solutions to problems in public schools, despite the fact that current trends in such programs endanger the educational resources of the poor and minorities? The effects of vouchers, in particular, could threaten the indigenous resources of the civil rights movement, and roll back the gains made during the civil rights movement of the 20th century.

The opportunity for human beings to better themselves through education should not be limited by social stratification. Stratification involves the separating of people in a society according to race, ethnicity, sex, and social class (including socio-economic factors). Stratification is a problem because it can be a symptom of discrimination by people in a society who favor a particular race, sex, or social class. In the United States, one form of discrimination that continues to be a major problem is discriminating against people according to their race, although discrimination on the basis of sex and social class is also a problem. Racial discrimination involves disfavoring people because of "the color of their skin" instead of "the content of their character" (Cahn 1211), and it can take the form of "economic, political, and personal" control over a race (Morris 1). Discrimination against African Americans through the stratification of education was realized in the United States by implementing a system of segregation, more commonly known as "Jim Crow laws" (Morris 1-4, 17). Segregation is a system of laws and policies designed to discriminate against blacks by separating them from the white population and controlling them economically, politically, and personally (Morris 1-4, 17).

In the United States, segregation was used to separate blacks from whites in schools, on buses, at the workplace, in restrooms, and in nearly every setting in modern society (Morris 1-4, 17). Segregation was used to racially stratify education by forcing blacks to attend schools separate from white schools (Morris 1-4, 17, 25, 27-29, 81). A segregated school is a school that African Americans cannot attend. In 1954, the US Supreme Court ended the long-standing policy of segregated schools in the decision of Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education (Morris 25-29, 81). However, it would take decades before schools could be integrated so that blacks and whites attended the same schools and took classes together.

Unfortunately, integration of schools has not always gone well. Not only has their been direct physical resistance to integration on the part of whites (Morris 25-29), there have also been other factors that have frustrated blacks, especially "poorly functioning urban schools" (Anyon 69-87; Boyd 331; Gill et al 147-148, 157). And despite decades of integration and reform, "most of the largest city school districts enrolled more than 85 percent nonwhite students" (Gill et al. 159-160). As a result of these and other problems with integration, one of the current proposals for education reform is school choice, the favored form of which is school vouchers (Sugarman and Kemerer 26-29). A school voucher is a kind of "scholarship" that allows parents to send their children to a private school of their choice (Sugarman and Kemerer 26-29).

There is a large debate surrounding school vouchers, with many arguments for and against vouchers of various types, for various reasons. The case study for vouchers included in this paper is the plan in use by Milwaukee Public Schools. The Milwaukee, Wisconsin voucher plan is restricted to low-income students (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). It is generally acknowledged that if the low-income restrictions were removed, it would lead to even greater separation of blacks and whites than has already occurred in some low-income voucher schools, and removing the restrictions would contribute to greater educational inequality (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71, 136-137; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). It is also nearly impossible to keep the low-income restrictions in place beyond the experimentation phase (Merrifield 21-30, 69-74, 136-137; Peterson and Hassel 9; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80, 86-88).

The educational resources of African Americans, the poor, and other minorities are compromised by voucher plans. In many urban centers like Milwaukee, 80 percent or more of the low-income students receiving vouchers for private schools are nonwhite, and 62 percent or more are black (Gill et al. 146). By compromising education, vouchers endanger the indigenous resources critical to the civil rights struggle. Indigenous resources include qualities like leadership, which depend on equal access to education. If vouchers were offered to everyone, low-income students would only be able to afford private schools where the tuition is equal to or less than the voucher amount (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71, 136-137; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). If, using the Milwaukee figures, 80 percent of low-income students are nonwhite, and all low-income students attend a private school where tuition is low, then 80 percent of the students who attend low-income private schools will be nonwhite, while white students who can afford to pay more than the voucher amount for tuition will attend better, predominately white private schools (Gill et al. 146; Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). "In schools with more than 90 percent African American or Latino enrollments, 87 percent of students are poor" (Gill et al. 160). That is for all schools, not just private schools.

Even though vouchers risk segregating blacks and other minorities from whites in areas where the majority of nonwhite students are poor, the argument is that it is not the same as segregation based on racial discrimination, and that no one's educational opportunity is decreased (Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). This argument, which is a form of de facto segregation, will be disproved later.

Most of the arguments in favor of school vouchers center on economic theory, but the economic argument for school segregation does not stop with vouchers. In fact, the whole philosophical "ideal" of public schools has been called into question by economists, touching on some complicated philosophical issues about society and the individual (Ambler 2, 14-19, 146-149; Cahn 384; Collins and Wingard 6-7; Cottingham 75; Hodge 36-38; Lane 32-45; Levinson 332-335; Marder 6-7, 12-16; Merrifield 57-60, 102-103, 118-119; OCM 75, 164, 189; OCP 368, 416, 829; Peterson and Hassel 9; Skinner 51-59, 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-13, 26-27). Aside from issues of choice and integration, most arguments for privatization in general are based on similar arguments about the philosophy of economics (Ambler 2, 14-19, 146-149; Cahn 384; Collins and Wingard 6-7; Cottingham 75; Hodge 36-38; Lane 32-45; Levinson 332-335; Marder 6-7, 12-16; Merrifield 57-60, 102-103, 118-119; OCM 75, 164, 189; OCP 368, 416, 829; Peterson and Hassel 9; Skinner 51-59, 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-13, 26-27). And there are also economic arguments about unfairly taxing the rich to educate the poor (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71), as well as economic "cost" arguments for privatization that do not always measure "cost" in dollars (Wang and Walberg 25-26).

In addition to general arguments about privatization, there are misleading arguments that the integration levels of classrooms is better in private schools (Peterson and Hassel 95-98), and misleading arguments that a privatized school system offers a better quality education than public schools (Ferguson 43; Gill et al. 82-84, 89-91, 95; Peterson and Hassel 350-351). In the case of Catholic and other religious schools, vouchers present the issue of the establishment clause. Finally, there is evidence that some private facilities in Milwaukee subject to low-income restrictions on vouchers are of poor quality, which actually shows that the situation will become exacerbated if low-income restrictions on vouchers are removed (Peterson and Hassel 9, 339).

Educational Inequality and Failing Urban Schools Main Menu

Achieving equality in education has been an important part of the struggle for civil rights since the beginning of the civil rights movement in the United States. In the early 1950's, the period to which most scholars trace the beginning of the civil rights movement (Morris ix), schools were segregated through the use of Jim Crow laws (Morris 1-4, 17). Although many schools were segregated throughout the United States, segregation was especially rampant in the south, where blacks were forced to attend schools separate from white schools (Morris 1-4, 17, 25, 27-29, 81).

In 1954, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Brown vs. State Board of Education of Topeka that schools could no longer be segregated (Morris 25-29, 81). The Brown decision raised two important issues connected with segregation. The first is that segregation is itself a form of repression that restricts the freedom of African Americans (Cahn 1211, Morris 1). Segregation lowers the social status, esteem, and self-respect of blacks, and decreases their opportunities for improvement, success, and happiness (Cahn 1211, Morris 1-4, 26-30). But the Brown decision also linked segregation, income, and academic achievement. According to Carol Ascher (par. 13):

As the 1954 suit, BROWN v. TOPEKA BOARD OF EDUCATION, claimed, it appears that racial balance does affect achievement. Segregated schools are more likely than predominantly white schools to be financially under-resourced and educationally inferior, as measured by pupil/teacher ratios, advanced curricula, computers, laboratory equipment, etc. (Taylor and Piche, 1990). That is, school-based achievement differences reflect not only the race (and poverty) of their students, but "fundamental inequities between districts serving predominantly poor and minority students and districts serving more affluent and more largely majority students" (Orland 1990).

Ascher's quotation reflects the difficulty still faced by African Americans, and other minorities, in achieving educational equality. Since the Brown decision, many different strategies have been used to attempt to integrate school systems in communities across the United States. One strategy is integrated busing, which addresses school desegregation by integrating minority students into white suburban schools so that the student body of the suburban school reflects the minority population of the larger community. But since the 1980's, the Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that communities could be released from court-ordered busing schemes because public school districts are not responsible for segregated housing patterns (Ascher par. 5). However, the segregated housing patterns have left many public schools, especially in urban areas, racially stratified.

One of the problems with racially stratified schools is that minorities, especially blacks, are not receiving an equal education as compared to schools that are mostly white. There are many reasons behind the inequalities, addressed in different ways by different theories, some of which will be explored later in this paper (Anyon; Boyd; Renchler). Though the reasons behind the inequalities may be complicated and theoretical, the actual inequalities are rather straightforward: A number of urban public schools have a substantial majority of non-white students, most of them black, and the schools are in dilapidated condition and produce low academic scores.

In 1993, "only nine out of the 47 urban districts in the Great City Schools network [had] a majority white enrollment" (Ascher par. 3). That same year, 75 percent of central city public school students were non-white (Ascher par. 2). In Milwaukee, where a publicly funded program was instituted to correct problems with failing urban schools, 62 percent of parents who enrolled their children in the program were black (Gill et al. 146) according to an assessment taken between the years 1998 and 1999. The Milwaukee program will be discussed in more detail throughout this paper.

In other cities, according to assessments taken between the years 1998 and 1999, the percentage of African Americans from failing urban public schools who were enrolled in programs similar to the one in Milwaukee ranged from 44 percent to 95 percent in programs where the percentage of enrolled non-white students was between 60 percent and 99 percent (Gill et al. 146). In all but one assessed case, the percentage African Americans constituted a majority of non-white students in schools where the student population consisted of a majority of non-white students.

Before entering an experimental program in 1993 to get students out of failing schools, low-income Milwaukee public school students in failing urban schools had average test scores more than 64.5 percent below the national average (Gill et al. 147). In other cities with similar programs, the best scores of low-income students who attended failing urban public schools were 63 percent below the national average, and the worst scores were 77 percent below the national average (Gill et al 147-148). Estimates from 1991 indicated that the percentage of "at risk" students nationwide was as high as 40 percent, and that these students were concentrated in failing urban schools (Boyd 331).

In 1995, the facilities of one inner-city New Jersey school included general maintenance problems, inoperable and poorly maintained restrooms, lack of equipment, difficulty in acquiring equipment, abusive treatment of students, abusive treatment of teachers, use of foul language in the classroom (by both teachers and students), and "very low" achievement scores (Anyon 69-87).

One of the proposed methods to reform failing urban schools, and thus achieve equality in education for African Americans and other minorities, is privatization. There are many different programs and proposals for school privatization, and each has promised to achieve different results with regard to educational equality and integration. Some privatization schemes aren't even "private," but attempt to introduce economic market principles into education (Swann 2-3), most notably school choice (Peterson and Hassel 8-9).

Most of the arguments for the privatization of schools are economic in nature, and those arguments which do not center on economic principles make assumptions about individual behavior that in turn rely on economic philosophies (Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36, 41-43). Very generally, arguments for school privatization include: cost; performance and competition; individual rights and self-interest; choice and segregation; and the advocating of economic philosophy as a political philosophy. The various schemes for privatization include: unrestricted public school choice; restricted public school choice; private contracts for public schools (with or without various programs for choice); restricted private school vouchers; unrestricted private school vouchers; and various combinations of these schemes. A school voucher is a kind of "scholarship" that allows parents to send their children to the private school of their choosing (Sugarman and Kemerer 26-29). The vouchers can be publicly funded, privately funded, or both (Merrifield 63; Sugarman and Kemerer 26-29), and can be restricted according to income, student performance, location, religious affiliation of the school, or other reasons (Peterson and Hassel 33-49; Sugarman and Kemerer 9).

Some of these schemes may offer promise in areas outside the realm of educational equality and integration, and there may be programs that are different from typical public schools, but don't meet the criteria for privatization. Certain public magnet schools, for example, might be categorized as a restricted choice, but students may only attend for a few hours a week, and remain in their regular school the majority of the time. There are countless other exceptions and arguments, to be sure, however, most arguments for privatization tend toward unrestricted school vouchers because unrestricted choice among private merchants is the basis of the free market (Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36, 41-43; Merrifield 21-30, 69-74, 9-19, 44-45; Peterson and Hassel 9; Sugarman and Kemerer 86-88; Wang and Walberg 7-26). Other school privatization schemes that rely on economic principles make restrictions difficult to justify, implement, and maintain (Merrifield 21-30, 69-74; Peterson and Hassel 9; Sugarman and Kemerer 86-88) because the economic case for unrestricted choice is difficult to restrict if an economic argument is used in a particular privatization scheme. In the case of private contracts for public schools, the argument for choice is not as obvious, but it involves school boards choosing from among competing contractors (Downs and Larkey 33-34; Hodge 36-37).

Before the privatization schemes briefly sketched above can be discussed in any further detail, it is necessary to examine the economic philosophy that underlies the various privatization arguments. All arguments for privatization rely on economic philosophy, whether the arguments are economic or not.

Self-Interest and Economic Theory Main Menu

The basic idea of economic theory is that individuals act to maximize their self-interest (Cahn 384; Hodge 36-38; Merrifield 102; OCP 368, 416; Skinner 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-9). This is true for both merchants and customers (OCP 368, 416; Skinner 132-136). For example, when a merchant and a customer enter into an economic exchange, like the purchase of a loaf of bread, it is in the merchant's self-interest to profit by as much as the customer is willing to pay, and it is in the customer's self-interest to pay as little as the merchant is willing to take (OCP 416). In this way, it is thought, the merchant and customer benefit one another by maximizing their own self-interest (OCP 416). Adam Smith first used this theory to explain the functioning of society (OCP 416, 829; Skinner 51-59, 132-136). Today, this theory serves as the basis of some interpretations of capitalism, particularly laissez-faire capitalism, which is discussed later in the context of moral theory and privatization.

Smith envisioned a society of individuals seeking to maximize their self-interest, but his ideas were not completely new. Smith's ideas were based on what is known today as radical individualism. Most philosophers trace radical individualism to the founder of modern philosophy, René Descartes. Descartes is most famous for his philosophy of "dualism," which is the idea that individuals have a mind distinct from the physical world (Cottingham 75; OCM 189). Since it is possible to imagine that the physical world is completely in one's mind, Descartes concluded that the mind must be separate from the physical world (Cottingham 78; OCP 191-192). This also meant that Descartes could not doubt the existence of his own mind, since his mind had to be there to do the doubting (Cottingham 78; OCP 191-192). He summed up this view with his phrase "I think therefore I am."

One of the problems with Descartes' philosophy is that because he "isolated" the mind from the physical world, he did not adequately account for the influence of the physical and social environment on an individual. John Locke advocated the idea that individuals began as a "blank slate," and were shaped by the physical environment (Cahn 456-465). However, Locke also believed that the mind might indeed be separate from the physical world, as Descartes had insisted (Woolhouse 100).

[Locke] agrees 'with the more probable opinion ...[that] this consciousness is annexed to, and the affection of one identical immaterial [or non-physical] substance,' but, expressing his general skepticism about the extent of our knowledge, he says we really do not know the truth of the matter. (Woolhouse 100).

Although Locke believed that the mind was shaped by the physical environment (Woolhouse 93), Locke did not include social experience among the factors that shaped the mind. In this sense, an individual was still somewhat isolated from society according to Locke.

Prior to Locke, Thomas Hobbes advanced his philosophy of materialism. Hobbes believed that the mind was, in fact, physical (Woolhouse 39-40). The mind was nothing but the brain. However, Hobbes did not conclude that the characteristics of an individual were shaped by the physical and social environment (OCP 367-370).

Eventually, Locke's idea about the mind beginning as a "blank slate" was combined with Hobbes' idea that the mind was physical, forming what is known as physicalism (OCP 530-532, 618, 679-681; OCM 487, 561). Physicalism included the idea that the characteristics of individuals are shaped by experiences in the physical and social environment (OCP 120, 830-831, 842; OCM 74-75, 164-165, 490-491). But this view was taken so far that it was difficult to conceive of an "individual" at all (OCP 524-528, 842). With physicalism, behavior was seen in terms of physical objects interacting with other physical objects (OCM 74-75, 164-165, 490-491).

...[E]very physical event must be explicable in purely physical terms, if it is explicable at all. ...[T]he existence of irreducibly mental occurrences [are] regard[ed] as accompanying and perhaps being causally dependent on physical events, but [do] not themselves [make] any causal intrusion into the physical world (OCM 487).

A brain was just a physical object that was shaped by, and responded to, events in the physical and social environment (OCP 524-528, 842). According to this view, there are no "choices" to make, and no "individuals" to make the choices (OCP 530-532, 679-681; OCM 487). This forms the basis of radical socialism.

Modern economic theory is in many ways a victim of Hobbes' failure to understand the problems created by doing away with the Cartesian concept of a rational mind. The theory of rational choice requires that there is an individual, with a mind, capable of making choices (Cahn 384; Hodge 36-38; OCP 368, 416; Skinner 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-9). But economists insist that a mind is not materialistic, and as a result economists cannot really offer an explanation of how such choices are made (Wang and Walberg 6-9). They imagine a mind in the Cartesian, isolated sense, and like Descartes, Hobbes, and Smith, they do not acknowledge the influence of factors in the physical and social environment (Ambler 2, 14-19, 146-149; Cahn 384; Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36-38; Lane 32-45; Levinson 332-335; Marder 6-7, 12-16; OCP 368, 416; Skinner 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-9).

Rational choice theory is silent on whether or not the agent's ends are rational or desirable in any way except that they are voluntarily chosen by the agent over other ends. (Wang and Walberg 8).

At the same time, following the lead of physicalism, economists do not formally recognize the existence of a rational mind needed to make rational choices (Ambler 2, 14-19, 146-149; Cahn 384; Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36-38; Lane 32-45; Levinson 332-335; Marder 6-7, 12-16; OCP 368, 416; Skinner 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-9).

In the twentieth century, the discipline of economics has made a conscious decision to model itself after physics (Daly and Cobb 1994:30, qtd. Collins and Wingard 6). ...[W]hatever is going on inside the consumer's head is too hard to unravel. The [economic] researcher seeks to know what prompts cause what consumer behavior, but cares not, or knows not, why (Ambler 14).

Despite the failure to recognize physical and social factors in the environment, economic theories became more and more linked to physicalism, and the idea that there wasn't a mind also came to mean the exclusion of cognitive thoughts among the criteria influencing individual choices. While Hobbes and Smith did not go so far, the influence of physicalism and the philosophy of mathematics contributed to this neo-classical conception of economic theory (Lane 32-33). Calculus made it possible to demonstrate the maximization of self-interest mathematically (Lane 32-33), physicalism made it possible to exclude cognitive thought (OCP 524-528, 842), and although it made no sense to do so, remnants of Descartes, Hobbes, and Smith made it possible to exclude environmental factors (Cottingham 75; OCM 189; OCP 367-370; OCP 368, 416, 829; Skinner 51-59, 132-136).

But physicalism also has a pretty serious flaw. The roots of the problem can be found in Locke's unwillingness to completely abandon the idea of the mind as consisting of non-physical substance, and in Descartes' insistence that the mind cannot be physical.

[Some philosophers] believe that when they look at a [rock] they construct an internal copy, called a sensation or perception, and that later, when they are reminded of a [rock], they reconstruct that copy, now called a mental image, and look at it again. [...] If seeing were simply constructing a copy of the thing seen, we should have to make another copy to see the copy, and another copy to see that. At some point we must 'see a [rock]' in some other sense. What that means is not well understood - by anyone (OCM 75).

"At some point we must 'see a rock' in some other sense." If there is no subject to conceive of an object, how can anything be known? By whom is "the rock" being seen? In other words, if an internal "picture of a rock" is constructed in the brain, then the brain must construct a "mind's eye" to see the rock, then another "mind's eye" to see the mind's eye that is seeing the rock, and so on. However, it is possible that cognitive phenomena emerge from the physical brain.

[T]he operational concept of subjective meaning necessarily [involves] a functional, and therefore causal, impact of subjective phenomena in the dynamics of brain control. Conscious phenomena [are] interpreted to be dynamic emergent properties of brain activity (OCM 164).

But cognitive phenomena involve the thoughts of individuals, and economists do not include such factors in calculating the maximization of self-interest. Of course, economists do not include environmental factors in their calculations, either, even though physicalism relies exclusively on environmental factors. However, marketing theory includes factors from the physical and social environment, as well as cognitive factors (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147; Marder 6-14; Levinson 332-335). This does not mean that marketers do not include self-interest in their economic theory (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147). Rather, in marketing theory self-interest is counted among a variety of social, cognitive, and environmental factors affecting the behavior of individuals.

Marketing Theory Main Menu

As a theory of business, and of individual behavior, marketing theory is in many ways opposed to neo-classical economic theory (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147; Marder 6-14; Levinson 332-335). Marketers see individuals as having cognitive desires and beliefs, but these beliefs are not "isolated" from the physical and social environment, as was the case with Descartes. Instead, cognitive desires and beliefs are shaped by experiences in the physical and social environment (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147; Marder 6-14; Levinson 332-335). None of these factors, social, environmental, or cognitive, is included in economic theory.

Like economists, marketers believe that individuals are motivated by self-interest, but they also understand that individuals are motivated by social, environmental, and cognitive factors (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147). An individual does not enter into economic exchange purely out of self-interest, as if isolated from the physical and social environment. There are environmental factors that also motivate purchasing behavior.

Economic models do not allow for the possibility that advertising changes consumer preferences... [...] The assumptions [of economists] are unreal. Consumers are indeed rational but they are emotional too. (Ambler 146).
The extent to which purchasing behavior is affected by social and environmental factors is still unclear. Some marketers believe that information about products is stored in the unconscious, and that the individual making the purchase does not perceive the influence of social and environmental factors (Levinson 332). Other marketers believe that social and environmental factors work to reshape cognitive perceptions about products (Ambler 16; Marder 6-7). And still others believe that social and environmental factors act to direct and influence an individual's self-interest by appealing to an individual's desires and beliefs (Ambler 16).

One of the differences between marketing theory and neo-classical economic theory arising from the recognition of social, environmental, and cognitive factors by marketers lies in how marketers understand supply and demand. Economists see demand purely in terms of self-interest, so that a product will be purchased if the cost and benefits appropriately maximize the self-interest of the purchaser (Ambler 15-19, 146-150; Lane 33). In other words, people need bread, and they will buy the best bread they can buy at the lowest price they can afford. In the neo-classical model, supply induces demand, and demand can't be "created" (Ambler 15-19, 146-150; Lane 33). Marketers, on the other hand, recognize that a particular brand of bread may be purchased according to cognitive desires and beliefs, and that the purchase decision is affected by social and environmental factors (Ambler 15-19, 146-150; Lane 33). As a result, marketers see demand as inducing supply to varying degrees (Ambler 15-19, 146-150; Lane 33). Demand for a particular brand of bread may be created, or increased, by associating the bread with the desires and beliefs of the consumer through advertisements in the social and physical environment, and by advertising the bread to make it appear as though it is an important part of the social and physical environment. Of course, this does not mean that the cost of the bread does not matter, or that the quality of the bread is not a factor (Ambler 15-19, 146-150; Lane 33). Maximizing self-interest cannot be ignored; it just is not the only factor. However, classical and neo-classical economic theory has been studied much longer than marketing theory, and neo-classical economic theory remains dominant in business today (Ambler 15-19, 146-150).

Moral Theories in Economics and Business Main Menu

Despite serious philosophical flaws in economic theory, the moral philosophy associated with economics remains popular (Jones and Pollitt 24-29). In defending his theory of economic exchanges based on maximizing self-interest, Adam Smith offered a moral theory that is still used by many modern economists (Jones and Pollitt 24-29; OCP 829; Skinner 51-59). Obviously, if everyone is out to maximize their self-interest as Smith believed, some people will go hungry, and the poor will suffer while the wealthy prosper. Even so, Smith argued that the government should not help the poor, or interfere with the market in any way (Jones and Pollitt 24-29; OCP 829; Skinner 51-59). This came to be known as laissez-faire capitalism, although Smith did not coin the term. Smith argued that the poor should instead try to appeal to the sympathy of the wealthy, and that the wealthy would help the poor because their sense of sympathy was shaped by a caring society (Jones and Pollitt 24-29; OCP 829; Skinner 51-59). Although neo-classical economists often quote this theory, it is weakened by the fact that they do not recognize social factors in individual behavior. After all, if society can affect an individual's sense of sympathy, then society should also be able to affect purchasing behavior.

Even if Smith's moral theory is taken seriously, the sympathy of the wealthy has also been shaped by philosophies like Calvinism and Social Darwinism (OCP 115, 829). Calvinism maintains that the poor are poor because they are morally inferior, and therefore must morally improve in order to receive help. In this way, the problem is that the poor just need to "work harder" (OCP 115). (Actually, most poor people probably exceed the standards of Smith's moral theory of self-interest.) Social Darwinism is the idea that the poor are poor because they are physically inferior (OCP 829). Neither Calvinism nor Social Darwinism recognizes that social and environmental factors can affect whether or not a person is poor, and neither philosophy offers much promise for the poor beyond what the wealthy can offer to maximize their own self-interest (OCP 115, 829). Both philosophies were widely used to oppress African Americans, and to justify slavery.

Of course, theories that recognize social factors have also been conveniently used to justify segregation, including segregation in schools. In the PBS series Eyes on The Prize, members of the White Citizen's Council, a segregationist group from the civil rights era of the 20th century, stated that they were products of Mississippi society, and that they could not change, and should not have to change. Apparently these individuals did not believe that they had a free will needed to initiate change, yet no amount of information from the physical or social environment could change them, either. But they used any philosophy they could think of. Other segregationists stated that they did not want their "civil rights" violated by being forced to send their white children to school with black children. Why did they think that their "rights" to exclude were more "civil" than African Americans' rights to be included? If segregationists were merely products of their society, why did they believe they had any individual rights at all if they also believed that they had no free will to exercise those rights? Like economic theory, segregationist arguments make no sense.

The confusion about social, cognitive, and environmental factors in economic theory has left America with conflicted and confusing moral theories. This is especially true in business, where marketers, lacking a moral theory altogether, run deceptive, misleading, and socially irresponsible ads, and where companies exploit the poor and working class to inflate executive salaries (Downs and Larkey 23-27). Economic theory, the theory of business, offers no way to correct these problems, and economic philosophy itself is so badly flawed that even economic problems like poverty cannot be corrected (Collins and Wingard 6-7). These bad theories filter through the media and the workplace into the social environment, contributing to more abuse. It isn't that capitalism is a bad idea, but that the economic theory behind it needs significant improvement to protect the political philosophy of democracy. This point will be further elaborated in the discussion of political philosophy.

The Role of Ideology Main Menu

Evidence for the impact of economic philosophy on the social environment, and the confusion created by philosophical problems involving society and the individual, can be found among parents who were surveyed about their beliefs and feelings concerning racial stratification in schools. In the study, the authors offer the following explanation of the role of ideology:

"[T]he strength of the egalitarian myth" (Boudon, 1990/1994) in the United States - a stratified society - [is that it] ...show[s] how ideology is comfortable for the middle-class and offers hope to poor people ([Boudon, 1990/1994,] p. 180). The ideas that "ideologies resonate with individuals' needs, anxieties, passions, and fantasies" (Cookson, 1992, p. 95); that master signifiers (identity bearing words such as liberal) in ideology are important to the psyche (Lacan, 1982); and that ideology insulates belief from criticism (Burbules, 1992) established a conceptual framework for examining parents' thoughts (Brantlinger et al. 573-574).

The study was published in 1996, and included 20 households in a Midwestern college town with a population of about 65,000 (Brantlinger et al. 575). The neighborhoods selected were mostly in the districts of the four high-income public elementary schools in the area (Brantlinger et al. 575). For the most part, mothers participated in the study, with fathers providing minimal feedback (Brantlinger et al. 575-576). Interviews usually began with broad questions, and proceeded to items about social class, concluding with questions about two scenarios for school desegregation (Brantlinger et al. 577).

Most mothers directly or indirectly believed that schools should be segregated according to social class, but in offering their reasoning for segregation, mothers said poor students would perform better in segregated schools, even though some also believed that poor students were low academic performers. Although mothers believed that it was appropriate to maximize their self-interest in obtaining an education for their own children, some mothers also indicated that social and environmental factors contributed to the low performance of poor children. "However, the possibility that [segregation] might have an unfavorable impact on poor children was not mentioned" (Brantlinger et al. 582). Some of the responses from mothers:

It has to do with ability. Sometimes kids from low-income groups don't have the ability, and some who have the ability with more encouragement and nourishment could use that ability more effectively, but they don't get it from their family, and they don't see it as important (Brantlinger et al. 579).

Poor kids can't get the same education because the low-income parent has so many problems they have no energy to provide anything or care for the education of a child... (Brantlinger et al. 580).

It is an advantage to have schools that are largely low-income. If low-income children are a minority in a school, then their opportunities are limited... (Brantlinger et al. 583).

The biggest problem is finding new ways of dealing with the large population of kids whose backgrounds are not the same. Schools have lost flexibility and individualization. [...] Since kids are different, bright kids and average kids should not be in the same classes (Brantlinger et al. 583).

I just want my children to be with children from educated families who are motivated and have values and goals. I don't want my kids to be a model for other children and feel the gap. I would prefer my kids to go to school separated by social class (Brantlinger et al. 583).

Class has a degree of influence, but less in this country than in others. In my experience, class background has no effect and makes no difference. Curriculum and diversity are not affected by wealth but by wanting it and getting it... (Brantlinger et al. 586).

The attitudes and beliefs of these mothers will undoubtedly shape their choices in a school privatization scheme, but economic theories do not recognize such criteria, even though those same economic theories seem to contribute to the ideologies of the mothers in the Brantlinger (et al.) research. Economists do not recognize cognitive beliefs, but they also do not recognize the effect of economic philosophy that filters into the social environment. Because they do not recognize the influence of social and environmental factors, there is no attention paid to how, for example, a marketing program might also affect school choice.

Privatization and Education Main Menu

School privatization is advanced as a proposal for reforming failing urban schools. It is based on rational choice theory, which underlies neo-classical economic theory (Hodge 36-37; Lane 33-41; McGroarty xx; Merrifield 9-19, 44-45, 102; Sugarman and Kemerer 80). It is thought that the performance of failing schools will improve if schools are forced to compete to serve the self-interest of families. For example, if a school performs poorly, it will not maximize the self-interest of the family, and the parents will choose a competing school that will maximize their self-interest (Gormley 41; Merrifield 9-19, 44-45). Of course, this requires that parents have the ability to choose the school their children will attend.

There are a variety of ways to implement a school choice plan. The most popular plan is school vouchers, because it is the best fit with economic theory (Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36, 41-43; Merrifield 21-30, 69-74, 9-19, 44-45; Peterson and Hassel 9; Sugarman and Kemerer 86-88; Wang and Walberg 7-26). In an unrestricted private school voucher program, parents would receive a fixed amount of money from the government to put towards tuition at private schools that charge varying amounts. Parents - the educational "consumers" - could choose a school as if they were choosing a restaurant.

Restaurants and other businesses often exist as part of franchises that - like McDonald's, Subway, and Pizza Hut - are often global in scope. [...] The same mixture of franchises - like 'public' school systems - and independent businesses would characterize a competitive education industry (Merrifield 108).

In the restaurant analogy, the fact that the working-class must choose from among a few fast-food chains and a handful of low-cost independent establishments, and that the wealthy can eat at exclusive gourmet restaurants, is overlooked. The fact is that public schools offer far more services than most private schools, especially low-income private schools (Good and Braden 747), and public schools are free to everyone. In the Milwaukee voucher plan, as well as others, many of the schools that serve low-income voucher students have low-quality facilities and low teacher salaries (Good and Braden 748; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339).

The economic model can also be applied to public schools run under a private contract, regardless of whether or not school choice is included. Private companies would compete to offer the lowest price to the taxpayer-funded school system, and if a company failed to maximize the self-interest of the "customers," the school board could negotiate a contract with another company (Downs and Larkey 31-35; Merrifield 78; Sugarman and Kemerer 23). This scheme is generally applied to privatization of other public services, such as trash collection (Downs and Larkey 31-35; Hodge 100-101). Some economists feel that school vouchers are a better option than merely contracting public schools to private contractors, because with vouchers, schools have to compete among one another to serve the self-interest of individual families (Merrifield 9-19, 44-45, 78; Sugarman and Kemerer 24-31, 80). Without school choice, there is no competition among different schools, only among contractors. However, private contracts are usually advocated for reasons such as employee performance, labor cost, organization performance, and self-interested competition among private contractors (Merrifield 9-19, 44-45, 78-79; Sugarman and Kemerer 24-31, 80; Downs and Larkey 31-35; Good and Braden 748).

In Milwaukee, as well as other school districts where voucher schemes have been used as a solution to failing urban schools, vouchers were restricted to low-income families with children in failing urban schools (Gill et al. 143-145; Merrifield 21-30, 69-74; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). However, economists argue that vouchers should be unrestricted, because it would improve school quality for everyone (Gormley 50; Merrifield 21-30, 69-74; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). Of course, unrestricted vouchers would result in the economic segregation of schools (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). Parents who could pay more than the voucher amount could afford to send their children to better schools, and education would be stratified according to income (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). But economists contend that no one's educational opportunity would be lowered, and that the wealthy should be free to purchase more education in order to maximize their self-interest (Gormley 50; Merrifield 69-74).

...[E]ven if [wealthy parents] want to buy more [education] than the [vouchers funded by] tax dollars will let them [, t]he decision to [use unrestricted choice] does not harm anyone else. [Unrestricted choice] allow[s] some children to learn more without other children learning less, and society benefits when anyone learns more (Merrifield 71).

Advocates of unrestricted vouchers also argue that it is unfair for wealthy parents who send their children to private schools to have to pay taxes to send poor children to public schools, or to private schools that accept only low-income vouchers (Merrifield 71). With unrestricted vouchers, wealthy parents would receive the same amount as poor parents, and could purchase additional education if they wanted (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168).

Programs with small voucher amounts and no income restrictions are likely to be used primarily by middle- and upper-income families, because the use of the voucher depends on the ability to pay additional tuition (Gill et al. 144).

It has been acknowledged that if voucher schemes are adopted for low-income students, it will be difficult to keep the income restrictions in place once advocates of unrestricted vouchers begin to apply pressure (Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). Some of the arguments discussed in this paper are evidence that pressure is already growing.

Unrestricted school vouchers would not only mean economic stratification, but racial segregation as well. The reason is that in many urban areas, economic segregation occurs predominantly along racial lines. In some of the voucher schools with low-income restrictions, racial segregation is already a problem for precisely that reason (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168), and the schools attended by low-income voucher students have limited resources and poorly paid teachers (Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). But the problems would be much worse in an unrestricted voucher plan. In some urban areas, the majority of low-income students are nonwhite, and typically more than half are black (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168). Unrestricted school vouchers would mean that low-income minorities would only be able to send their children to schools where tuition was equal to or lower than the voucher amount. The low quality of the schools that served poor students would not improve (Peterson and Hassel 9, 339), because wealthier white students could attend schools that charged higher tuition and had better facilities (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). Exacerbating the problem, some white suburban schools in areas where the urban population is mostly poor and nonwhite have refused to accept low-income vouchers from urban parents, contributing to racial and economic stratification.

In 1996-97, most of the largest city school districts enrolled more than 85 percent nonwhite students. Schools that are racially stratified are extremely likely to be economically stratified as well: in schools with more than 90 percent African-American or Latino enrollments, 87 percent of students are poor. National figures suggest that progress toward racial/ethnic integration in public schools came to a halt in the 1990s, even reversing slightly (Gill et al. 160).

In Newark, New Jersey, district schools have had majority African American student populations from mostly low-income families since 1961 (Anyon 70). In the Milwaukee voucher program, which was restricted to low-income students, 62 percent of parents who enrolled their children in the program were black according to an assessment taken between the years 1998 and 1999 (Gill et al. 146). In most other urban cities, the percentage of voucher students who were non-white ranged from 70 to 99 percent between the years 1998 and 1999 (Gill et al. 146).

Would it necessarily be a bad thing if school choice exacerbated segregation? From a legal standpoint, it makes a great deal of difference whether segregation is self-selected or imposed by one group upon another, especially if the dominant group is using the power and authority of the government to achieve its exclusionary ends (Sugarman and Kemerer 79).

Despite the danger of racial segregation, proponents of unrestricted vouchers argue that racial segregation due to economic stratification is not the same as legally mandated de jure segregation (Merrifield 136-137; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). Economists have called this "separation, not segregation" (Merrifield 136). Civil rights advocates call it de facto segregation.

In the aftermath of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, some states and school districts resorted to freedom of choice policies, including school vouchers, in a deliberate effort to maintain racial segregation. The Supreme Court considered that unconstitutional, and it is likely that most proponents of choice accept the legitimacy of that ruling. There is considerable disagreement, however, about whether increased segregation is acceptable when it is the unintended consequence of policies designed to promote other social values... [...] Some of these disagreements rest on differing beliefs about what is happening, or is likely to happen, on the supply-side of the equation (Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80)

This will also be discussed later in terms of the civil rights movement and political philosophy. But it has already been demonstrated that economic theory, which is focused on supply inducing demand, is fundamentally flawed. Economists cannot explain how it is that rational choices are made, and do not factor social, cognitive, or environmental factors into economic exchanges among individuals. Consequently, economists do not recognize the extent to which social and cognitive factors can influence school choice.

[I]t is worth noting how little we know about the general equilibrium impacts of choice. Most of the evidence ...leads to the conclusion that unfettered school choice would lead to greater economic, racial, and ethnic stratification in the educational system (Goldhaber 21).

In a school choice plan, social and cognitive factors could also racially segregate, and exacerbate the de facto racial segregation caused by economic stratification (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). For example, a voucher program will give racist parents an excuse to send their children to racially homogeneous schools. Because they do not recognize the influence of social and cognitive factors, this argument has been dismissed by economists on the assumption that school quality will be more of a factor than racial stratification in maximizing the self-interest of racist parents (Merrifield 63, 141; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80).

[S]ome families unfortunately will prefer racially homogenous schools. However, if the most homogenous school is not a good match for the child, the prejudice factor will probably yield to academic considerations for most of them (Merrifield 141).

Merrifield's assumption demonstrates how the economic perspective can downplay the influence of social and cognitive factors. Low quality schools may be perceived as high quality, and high quality schools in poor districts with large minority populations may be perceived as low quality depending on the social status and race of the parents (Brantlinger et al. 581-582). But economists still argue that buyers will make the best choice because they will seek to maximize their self-interest: "Buyers make better choices when they personally bear a larger share of the costs..." (Merrifield 63). However, when one considers the influence of social and cognitive factors affecting school choice, there is no reason to assume that parents will always choose the best academic match. Depending on how a school is marketed, a mediocre quality, racially homogenous school may be perceived as high quality, and it may indeed give racists an excuse to send their children to a racially homogenous school.

Proponents of unrestricted vouchers have also stated that it is unfair for wealthy parents who send their kids to private school to have to pay taxes that support public schools, and that vouchers solve the problem because everyone would get the same voucher amount in an unrestricted voucher scheme (Gormley 50; Merrifield 70-74). But wealthy people who send their children to private schools should still have to pay taxes to fund public education. An analogy involving public roads is useful in explaining this argument. For example, someone may never drive on certain roads, but they still have to pay taxes for those roads. In a voucher scheme, everyone could drive on roads that cost less than or equal to the voucher amount, but only wealthier people could drive on roads that cost more. In an urban area with a poor, nonwhite population, and a wealthy, white population, a voucher scheme would result in racially segregated roads. Poor people wouldn't even be able to drive through a rich neighborhood, let alone live there.

Vouchers also raise a problem related to the establishment clause. The establishment clause refers to the first amendment of the Constitution, in which the establishment of religion by the government is prohibited. The Supreme Court has ruled that school vouchers do not violate the establishment clause, because parents, rather than the government, decide whether or not to send their children to religious private schools. However, government funds, collected from the American taxpayer, are still being used to fund religious schools. American taxpayers are being forced to fund a religious cause whether they want to or not.

The fact that voucher schemes use taxpayer dollars to fund religious causes is related to another problem with school privatization that risks the civil rights of African Americans. The problem is that taxpayers should not be putting money into the hands of private schools unless they have some say as to how the private schools are operated (Downs and Larkey 45-50). Privatization of schools, whether vouchers are used or not, is often touted as a way to "reduce bureaucracy" (Good and Braden 747). Privatization advocates see the fact that public schools are required to respect the public interest as a problem (Downs and Larkey 45-50). Since tax dollars fund public schools, school administrators must respect decisions made by local, state, and federal courts, legislatures, school boards, and other executive leadership (Downs and Larkey 45-50). This is an important part of the democratic system, because the local, state, and federal government is elected by American voters, and represents the interests of American voters.

There are fundamental institutional and political reasons why these public-private differences exist, and they cannot be lightly dismissed or easily eliminated. Limitations on executive authority, for example, are nothing less than regulation within the public sector, and such regulation is invoked for precisely the same reasons as regulation is imposed on the private sector. While in theory some of these regulations could be eliminated in an attempt to make the public sector as administratively efficient as a modern corporation, there would undoubtedly be costs in the form of reduced due-process protections, less predictable decision outcomes, and less democratic administration (Downs and Larkey 50).

Some have argued that privatization is more efficient because the "bureaucratic" requirements put in place by the local, state, and federal government can be bypassed by private managers and administrators (Downs and Larkey 45-50). But these requirements are critical to our democracy. If it were not for action on the part of the local, state, and federal government, schools would not have been desegregated in the first place. A private firm, religious or not, that serves a racist or segregated clientele should not be funded with the tax dollars of African Americans, or any American for that matter.

Since a private firm can bypass the regulations put in place by the local, state, and federal government, it is argued that a private firm can operate at lower "costs" (Downs and Larkey 23-40; Hodge 99-101, 128-129; Wang and Walberg 23-26). This argument is bolstered by economists who argue that costs can be further lowered because employees in private firms work harder for less pay (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160; Hodge 40-41), an assumption that is also based on the idea of self-interest (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160; Hodge 40-41). The argument is that a public employee will tend to be inefficient because it is in their self-interest to do as little work as possible (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160; Hodge 40-41).

[C]onventional assumptions about worker motivation... [assume that] [...] [p]eople are lazy and work as little as possible..., [...] [and that] [e]mployees are interested only in their own needs, not the needs of the organization (Denhardt et al. 160).

Managers at private firms, it is argued, will push workers harder because private firms must compete against other firms to serve the self-interest of customers (Boyd 335-339; Denhardt et al. 10; Hodge 36-38). The manager of a public firm, it is believed, is only motivated to increase "bureaucracy" (Downs and Larkey 45-50; Hodge 36-38). But it is ridiculous to assume employees want to do as little work as possible, and most current management theories have abandoned the idea that people are motivated only by their self-interest to avoid work (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 151-176). And of course, economic theory can actually work against private employees, because a private firm that adheres to economic theory will provide the lowest quality service the market will tolerate. In many studies, public employees perform equal to or better than their privately employed counterparts (Downs and Larkey 23-40; Hodge 99-101).

The argument that labor costs for private employees are lower than for public employees is also absurd. There are studies that show otherwise, and the salaries of corporate executives are a perfect example of private "labor" costs that far exceed the public sector (Downs and Larkey 23-40). There are, unfortunately, some famous examples of governments paying very high prices for materials, but that is something that can be corrected through public administrative policy (Downs and Larkey 46). However, there are arguments in favor of privatization that cite lower "costs" that do not even measure "costs" in dollars (Wang and Walberg 23-26). With respect to schools, the funding policies can be difficult to assess, and vary from program to program. In the Milwaukee program, the voucher plan was less expensive to operate, but teachers were poorly paid and facilities were of low quality (Peterson and Hassel 9, 339), as was the case with privatized schools in Arizona where facilities requirements were waived (Good and Braden 748). In some private schools, vouchers with low-income restrictions have already contributed to racial homogenization in schools that primarily serve low-income voucher students (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168). If the income restrictions were removed, racial segregation and educational inequality would grow worse because the facilities attended by the poor would not improve, while the facilities attended by the wealthy would have more lavish budgets. With respect to cost, it is also worth noting that in many public schools operated under private contract, per-pupil spending was equal or greater to that of public schools even though they provided fewer services than public schools (Good and Braden 747).

Proponents of school privatization, whether advocating school choice or private contracts for public schools, have also cited data that they claim indicate that private schools perform better than public schools (Ferguson 43; Peterson and Hassel 350-351). However, there is also data to the contrary, as well as data from voucher programs that indicate little or no change in academic performance, and even decreases in academic performance (Ferguson 43; Gill et al. 82-84, 89-91, 95). In addition, increases in performance following the movement of students from poorly performing public schools into private schools do not indicate that private schools are inherently better than public schools. In some cases, private schools select students that are easy to educate, though not necessarily "the best" students (Gill et al. 155-156; Good and Braden 749). Not to mention the fact that private schools are being compared to public schools that are already failing, making it very easy to produce improvement (Peterson and Hassel 351). In addition, many private schools are not run by educational professionals, and there are no uniform standards for public/private comparison (Good and Braden 748). And when one considers the problems with the economic theory of self-interest, public schools have a decided advantage. In fact, a poorly performing public school may be a candidate for public administrative reforms that would increase performance beyond a voucher school with a similar enrollment.

It is often the case that data related to privatization is unreliable. In one case, privatization advocates have misused data to attempt to prove that vouchers result in better classroom integration (Peterson and Hassel 95-98). However, according to their report, a non-integrated classroom would include a class that had a 50/50 mix of blacks and whites (Peterson and Hassel 95-98). The report makes no attempt to qualify the findings.

There is another argument for privatization of schools, and privatization in general, that is related to economic theory. The argument is known as property rights theory. Because people are self-interested, it is believed by economists that they will take better care of their own property because they have to pay for it (Hodge 41-43). If these ideas are extended to private schools, then the theory is that owners of private schools would theoretically maintain their facilities better than a public administrator that merely works in a public building, and students that pay to attend those facilities would be less likely to damage what they are paying for, and more likely to study hard (Ferguson 43; Putnam 296-306).

For one thing, the "owners" of many businesses have never even seen the facilities, and the employees that work there are paid as little as possible, and are instructed to do as little as the customers will tolerate. Anyone who has lived in a run-down apartment, stayed in a run-down hotel, or shopped at a "no-frills" store knows that private property is not always cared for, especially among firms serving the low-income market. Even top-of-the-line products like cars and tires can be of poor quality because of the self-interest of owners. And anyone who has seen the custodian of a public school scrub tile grout with a toothbrush knows many public schools are very well cared for. Employees at a private firm don't always care for the facility (Good and Braden 748; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339), and children at a private school will be as rambunctious and destructive as children of the same age at a public school.

But property rights theory also neglects social and cognitive factors (Boyd 335-338; Hodge 41-43). According to property rights theory, people shouldn't care about the environment, for example, unless they own it, and there are clearly people who care about the environment for social and cognitive reasons. However, it is easy to see from this argument why some people focused on economic theory do not care at all about the environment if they adhere to economic theory. This issue also touches on the free-rider problem.

The free-rider problem says that if an individual or firm gives up public resources, or, for example, reduces pollution for some (social or cognitive) reason, there will inevitably be a "free-rider" that will come along and exploit the resources, or in the case of pollution, the free-rider will increase pollution by whatever amount it was initially reduced (Papandreou 131-137). To put it another way, if there is something that needs to be cleaned up and it serves no one's self-interest to do it, no one will, at least according to the theory (Putnam 288).

[E]ach individual benefits more by shirking [their own] responsibility, hoping that others will do the work [instead]. Moreover, even if [such a lazy individual] is wrong and the others shirk, too, [that individual] is still better off than if [they] had been the only sucker. Obviously if every individual thinks that the others will do the work, nobody will end up taking part, and all will be left worse off than if [any one of them] had contributed (Putnam 288).

It is in the free-rider's self-interest to exploit as many resources as possible, therefore, it is in a firm's self-interest to use as many public resources as possible to prevent a free-rider from using them (Papandreou 131-137). In education, a free-rider could be a student that has no interest in caring for public facilities, in essence "free-riding" on the taxpayer that gives up resources to keep the facility maintained. Assuming it is in a student's self-interest to do as little work as possible, the idea can be extended to include students that don't try hard academically (Ferguson 43). Thus, the argument goes, it is in a taxpayers self-interest to privatize education.

Serious abuse of public resources can be regulated socially (Putnam 288; Sunstein 53-54). But it is ridiculous to say that a student is a free-rider if they don't try hard in school. Poor academic performance is not merely the expression of a student maximizing their self-interest by not working hard. There may be family problems, developmental issues, circumstances with other students, or conflicts with the teacher to name just a few social and cognitive factors not recognized by economists. And one could always argue that it is in a student's self interest to make good grades so they can maximize their earnings later in life, although that shouldn't be the only goal of education.

Another argument for privatization is that public schools are anti-capitalist. Economists sometimes argue that private schools are "more capitalist," and that public schools are "communist," "socialist," or "Marxist-Leninist" (Merrifield 118-119; Jones and Pollitt 85-108). They argue that the fall of communism has proven that self-interested competition should be applied to everything in a society (Merrifield 118-119; Jones and Pollitt 85-108; Peterson and Hassel 9). However, it does not amount to communism to say,

"For the market to produce winners, there always have to be losers. Market values have eroded and debased the human values of democratic civil society. Will America... be further ensnared into the logic of the market[?]" (Molnar qtd. Merrifield 118).

The theory of physicalism that most economists use to justify ruling out cognitive factors in economic exchange is actually a cornerstone of radical socialism as Marx envisioned it (OCP 524-528, 842). Economists rely on physicalism to deny that cognitive factors effect economic exchange, but physicalism includes the idea that individuals have no choices to make, as an individual is merely a physical object responding to the physical and social environment - an idea which economists oppose (Ambler 2, 14-19, 146-149; Cahn 384; Collins and Wingard 6-7; Hodge 36-38; Lane 32-45; Levinson 332-335; Marder 6-7, 12-16; OCM 74-75, 164-165, 490-491; OCP 120, 368, 416, 830-831, 842; Skinner 132-136; Wang and Walberg 6-9). The result is an economic theory that cannot explain economic behavior. In addition, the accusation that public schools are "communist" or "socialist" is a pretty shaky on its own. It is true that public schools are based on more than self-interested economic theory, but there is nothing in any public school policy about the public ownership of farms or factories. And most philosophers agree that public programs and services, like public schools, have always been a feature of ordinary capitalism, and that the arguments of laissez-faire capitalism being used to assert that public schools are "communist" have never actually been put into practice (OCP 158).

"[The] market god will stop at nothing in the name of money. The market is eager to grab hold of the public schools" (Chase qtd. Merrifield 118).

Even though economists attempt to use the economic theory behind laissez-faire capitalism to push the school privatization agenda, privatization is really a form of social capitalism. Under a school voucher system, the government is regulating the educational system in order to shape society according to a political agenda that economically stratifies schools. The market principles of capitalism are being manipulated so that wealthy children are grouped with wealthy children, and poor children are grouped with poor children. Thus, social capitalism is employed to control the market in order to shape society according to political goals. If laissez-faire capitalism were actually applied to education, it would produce an educational system in which education was completely paid for out-of-pocket, leaving the poor uneducated altogether. Economists envision vouchers in terms of the market principles of laissez-faire capitalism, but they are really an example of social capitalism. Although many urban public schools that serve mostly poor, minority populations are under-performing, the public school system is designed to give equal educational access to all people, rich or poor. Rather than implement the reform strategies discussed later in this paper to improve failing public schools, voucher proponents are advocating a privatized system that does not offer equal educational access to everyone. The voucher system makes it impossible for the poor to achieve the same quality of education as the wealthy, or attend the same schools. Unrestricted school vouchers would stratify education, creating isolated groups of poor, minority children. By using the government to create a racially and economically stratified educational system, voucher advocates are actually abandoning laissez-faire capitalism to shape society according to a political agenda that benefits the wealthy, and are engaging in social capitalism.

While economists argue that private schools are more individualistic (Merrifield 58-60), Robert Putnam argues that they are more social, and foster what he calls "social capital" (Putnam 296-306). His argument is really not that different from property rights theory (Putnam 288), and he is actually arguing in favor of private schools, but he admits (although not completely) the "dark side" of social capital (Putnam 350-363). There are circumstances where social organizations high in "social capital" can harbor unhealthy philosophies like racism, or stifle growth and change. A religious school, for example, may teach religious theories to the exclusion of scientific theories because it is a social convention. And a racially homogenous private school may foster racism. In terms of unrestricted vouchers, Putnam's theory of social capital demonstrates how small, isolated social groups would form along economically and racially stratified lines.

There really isn't a strong case for school privatization in any form. In addition to the erroneous assumptions about the economic theory of self-interested competition, voucher arrangements in particular will inevitably feature curriculums that emphasize private interests (Ferguson 42; Gill et al. 64-65). While economists argue that private curriculums will reflect tastes of customers, much like restaurants appeal to different tastes for food (Merrifield 107-108), marketing theory shows how these tastes can be shaped according to social and environmental conditions (Ambler 2, 14-16, 146-147), and private curriculums will attempt to shape the social and environmental conditions of children and their parents (Merrifield 160). This is addressed in more detail later in the discussion of facilities improvement strategies, but there is evidence economists are manipulating this important fact with regard to public schools.

"[E]ach new program would create a small but vocal constituency of parents and business executives who understood and valued school choice and whose collective voice could do more to alter public perceptions than could be achieved by even the most massive public relations campaign" (CEO America website, qtd. Merrifield 160).

If one takes the economic argument for vouchers seriously, this kind of statement by an economist really makes it appear as though the idea of competition among schools is an attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of the public. According to economic theory, public perception cannot be altered by collective voices or public relations campaigns. It seems that voucher proponents will "stop at nothing in the name of money." "The private voucher movement is the latest and most unorthodox strategic initiative intended to bring about a competitive education industry" (Merrifield 160).

Racial and economic segregation in voucher plans is really the biggest problem with school privatization, although privatization in general also presents serious problems. In the case of vouchers, the schools that would be attended by the poorest students would likely be of poor quality (Good and Braden 748; Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). In the Milwaukee program, where vouchers were restricted to low-income students, the facilities were limited and the teachers were poorly paid (Peterson and Hassel 9, 339). This means that minorities, the majority of whom are poor in most urban areas, would attend poor quality schools, while students that could pay more than the voucher amount would attend better schools (Gormley 50; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 71; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). Because a majority of minorities in urban areas are poor, schools would be segregated both racially and economically (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168). Economists have argued that this is "separation, not segregation" (Merrifield 136), but economic theory is simply not adequate to defend such a claim.

Political Philosophy and Indigenous Resource Theory Main Menu

Economists have attempted to apply their theory of self-interest to every aspect of society, despite the fact that the theory is badly flawed. But there are political and social reasons for integrated public schools that are much more powerful than the reasons for abandoning public schools argued by economists. First, unrestricted school vouchers endanger the indigenous resources of African Americans. Second, the racial and economic segregation resulting from an unrestricted school voucher scheme would roll back the gains in integration resulting from the Brown decision, as well as the subsequent gains in education made during the civil rights movement of the 20th century. Third, the political and social goals of the civil rights movement should take precedence over the economic theory of self-interest. Forth, democracy requires that political theories guide economic theories, not the other way around. And fifth, an electorate educated according to race and social class endangers democracy.

Indigenous resource theory is a framework used to analyze social movements, and its utility lies in the fact that both social and individual factors are considered critical to a social movement (Morris 282-286). In terms of the civil rights movement, resources critical to the movement are considered as both indigenous to African Americans as an oppressed social group, as well as indigenous to individuals within the social group (Morris 282-286). Indigenous resources of the civil rights movement include: collective action, leadership, charisma, communications networks, money, and organization (Morris 282-286). Collective action refers to the mobilization of groups that share collective experiences of oppression, but also to the different individual experiences of oppression among different individuals within groups (Morris 282-286). Leadership and charisma was critical to the civil rights movement as a whole, while the characteristics of leadership and charisma were found among individual members of groups, as was the case with the leadership of Martin Luther King (Morris 282-286). The organization of groups was one of the resources that made the civil rights movement possible, but it took skilled organizers to effectively bring groups of people together (Morris 282-286). And in order for groups to communicate, individuals had to be able to express common ideas and experiences to different individuals (Morris 282-286).

Indigenous resources like leadership and organization depend upon another indigenous resource: education. An effective leader or organizer needs a solid education in order to lead and organize effectively. The ability to read, write, and speak well are critical to leadership, and a basic knowledge of arithmetic is necessary in order to organize groups of people and raise funds. These skills are taught to most children in the public schools, and they are a required foundation for further education.

In many urban centers, most of the poor children enrolled in district schools are minority, and most of the minority students are black (Anyon 70-72; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168). If education is stratified along racial and economic lines, the educational resources of African Americans will be endangered because they won't be able to receive the same quality of education as wealthier white children (Anyon 70-72; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). The Milwaukee program, which was restricted to low-income students, had low quality facilities and poorly paid teachers, and some argued that the problem was due to the fact that mostly low-income students that could not pay more than the voucher amount attended the school (Peterson and Hassel 339). In such schools, vouchers with low-income restrictions have already contributed to racial homogenization in schools that primarily serve low-income voucher students (Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168). If the low-income restrictions were removed, even greater segregation and educational inequality would occur because wealthier students that could pay more than the voucher amount could attend better schools, while low-income students, most of whom are nonwhite, would only be able to attend schools where tuition was lower than or equal to the voucher amount (Anyon 70-72; Gill et al. 143-146, 160-168; Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). As a result, black children would not receive the same foundation in reading, writing, speaking, and arithmetic as white children, and their indigenous resources would be compromised.

After the Brown decision of 1954, the educational resources of African Americans began to slowly improve, and this improved the educational foundation needed to in turn improve indigenous resources like leadership (Morris 28-29). But by segregating schools along racial and economic lines, voucher plans threaten to roll back the gains of the Brown decision, as well as the subsequent gains in education made during the civil rights movement of the 20th century. Although many urban schools are failing, African Americans do not find themselves in a system with rules that prohibit improvement, although there are still significant barriers. There can be no disputing the fact that failing urban schools need improvement, and some possible strategies for improvement are suggested later in this paper, but re-segregating African Americans in voucher schemes is not an improvement.

Privatization has been argued on the basis of economic theory, and economists have attempted to argue that economic theories of self-interest should be the basis of political philosophy. For example, the argument that economic stratification leads to de facto racial segregation was dismissed on economic grounds by some theorists (Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). In the case of vouchers, some argued that economic stratification is a feature of self-interested economic philosophy, and if racial segregation is caused because of economic factors, some believed it could be dismissed because it is not the same as legally mandated de jure segregation (Merrifield 69-74, 136-137, 141-142; Sugarman and Kemerer 79-80). But what this argument really does is force political philosophy to take a backseat to economic philosophy. In other words, if the political goal of racial integration is not something that can be accomplished with the economic philosophy of self-interest, then economists answer that it is just too bad.

Economists, however, do not have the Constitution on their side. Democracy in the United States was founded on the principles of political philosophy, not economic philosophy. The civil rights movement embodies a political and social philosophy, and it should take precedence over economic theory in a country founded on political principles, or in any country for that matter. The view that politics must take a backseat to economics is a trend that must be reversed. A democratic society cannot allow self-interested economic philosophy, or its practice by businesses, to interfere with the political process, even if it frustrates business leaders.

A majority of business executives are uncomfortable and unsuccessful in the federal government's topmost political, policy making posts as department heads and assistant secretaries. They are unaccustomed to and sometime[s] resentful of the interest of the legislative branch in administrative affairs. They are unfamiliar with the necessity of clearance and coordination with numerous other departments. They are irritated by public scrutiny of their actions and by rigid controls exercised over recruitment of personnel, budgeting of funds, and procurement of supplies and equipment (Lynn 1981, p. 120 qtd. Downs and Larkey 47).

Democracy requires an electorate in which all people have equal access to education. Even if it suits an economic theory, minorities should not receive an inferior education, because an unequal education undermines the democratic process. The equal right to educational resources must be extended to all people, just as the equal right to vote is extended to all people. Equal education is crucial to democracy, and this political principle far outweighs any economic justification for segregation.

Strategies For Education Reform Main Menu

Before one can consider how to reform failing public schools, it is necessary to begin by examining some of the theories that address why some public schools are failing. The truth about why certain schools, particularly urban schools, are failing can probably be found by combining some of the theories that address the reasons behind the failures. However, it is difficult to produce a blanket assessment of failures in public schools, and many of the current theories reflect particular circumstances. Consequently, many of the proposed reforms for failing public schools may address only part of the problem.

Public reforms for failing public schools can generally be divided into three categories: administrative strategies, integration strategies, and facilities improvement strategies. Of course, these three categories are interrelated, but it is helpful to address them separately.

Administrative Strategies

Cultural bias is one of the more recent theories that addresses why public schools are failing, especially urban public schools that serve a high percentage of poor or minority students. The central premise of cultural bias theory is that the curriculum used in many failing urban schools is not suited to the cultural background of the students (Anyon 76-80). Reforms constructed around cultural bias theory often involve changing the curriculum (Anyon 76-80). However, dramatic changes in curriculum may put students at a disadvantage, and address problems only in failing urban schools that serve mostly poor or minority populations. In addition, cultural bias theory ignores the possibility that there may be a cultural difference that can be addressed by reforming the educational strategy. In other words, cultural differences can be addressed by changing the way curriculum is taught as opposed to changing the curriculum itself.

Cultural difference theory acknowledges cultural differences in students from different backgrounds, such as differences between poor, middle-class, white, and minority students (Boyd 344-350). With cultural difference theory, educational strategies can be adapted according to differences in language use and acquisition, learning techniques, life circumstances, and parental involvement. The Head Start program is one example of an improvement strategy based on cultural difference theory, and it has shown promise in more integrated schools, as well as racially homogenous schools (Boyd 344-350; Renchler par. 9).

Whether a school is integrated or not, another problem sometimes cited as a cause for failing urban schools is faculty bias. Faculty bias can be attributed to several causes, but overall, faculty bias in some way usually involves low expectations of students (Anyon 79-81). These low expectations can have causes ranging from attitudes about student race or family background to a poor job market and low standardized test scores (Anyon 79-81). Faculty bias can be difficult to address because the low expectations can be caused by factors that lie outside of the scope of proposed reforms.

One of the proposals for addressing faculty bias is to address faculty differences - that is, cultural differences between faculty and students (Anyon 70-72). For example, in a school that serves mostly poor minorities, hiring teachers that come from poor minority backgrounds may reduce faculty bias (Anyon 70-72). However, eliminating cultural differences does not always work, because teachers may see themselves as intellectually superior to students and parents, and faculty bias may not decrease (Anyon 70-72). In addition, in an integrated school students come from so many different backgrounds that it would be impossible to eliminate cultural differences. The best strategy may be to integrate schools and hire faculty from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Reformers of failing public schools, especially schools in which a majority of the student population is poor, often point to deeper social problems as the cause for low performance. For example, many poor students work part-time, some as many as twenty hours a week (Boyd 344-350). In addition, parents of poor children sometimes harbor negative attitudes about education because of their own bad experiences in school, and may not encourage their children to work hard in school (Boyd 344-350; Renchler pars. 12-14). However, these problems are difficult to address, and it may be more effective for reformers to work on strategies that improve the reputation of urban schools, and involve parents, students, and the community.

Another reform strategy is institutional deficiency theory. Institutional deficiency theory concentrates on problems within the school administration, such as management and incentive practices (Boyd 333-338; Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160). This theory is helpful in addressing accusations that "bureaucratic" public employees do not perform as well as their private counterparts. Paradoxically, the theory actually shows that many bureaucracies are managed according to the economic theory of self-interest (Boyd 333-338; Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160). In other words, the administrative problems in public schools are a result of management and incentive programs that assume teachers are lazy, and that it is in their self-interest to do as little work as possible. Most current management textbooks are critical of management and incentive practices based on self-interest, and stress a more social and cognitive approach (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160). Strategies for moving public administration toward a more social and cognitive approach are widely available (Denhardt et al. 10-13, 160).

The best strategy for the reform of public schools is probably some combination of all of the solutions reformers have proposed. Student/teacher relationships need to be improved, administrative practices need to be changed, and students from different cultures need to feel that they are a part of the school, and that the school is a part of their social life. Most importantly, schools should reflect the diversity of the larger community so that students from different cultures can learn from one another. But this cannot happen if public schools remain segregated, even if public school segregation is caused by segregated neighborhoods. And that is why in addition to administrative strategies, integration strategies are also needed.

Integration Strategies

The best-known integration strategy is probably integrated busing. With integrated busing, minority students are bussed to white suburban schools so that the student body of the suburban school reflects the minority population of the larger community.

Many school districts have been released from court-ordered integrated busing as long as schools do not implement policies that prohibit blacks that live in a mostly white district from attending white schools in that district (Ascher par. 5). But the fact that many neighborhoods are racially and economically segregated produces de facto segregation in schools.

It may be possible to improve busing schemes by integrating students according to income level, especially given the fact that in some urban areas, most poor schoolchildren are nonwhite. However, such a scheme will require careful planning, extensive community cooperation, and will need to be accompanied by an effective administrative reform strategy to ensure that the needs of integrated students are met. The danger of such a scheme is that it may not adequately recognize racial discrimination in all cases, and additional measures may need to be taken to reduce the barriers of race as well as income.

Facilities Improvement Strategies

The quality of a facility affects the attitudes of students, administrators, and faculty. When the conditions of public school facilities deteriorate, legislators need to provide funds to repair or replace the schools. When materials are inadequate or in short supply, budgets need to be increased accordingly.

Unfortunately, some see vouchers as a way to avoid providing funds to repair crumbling public schools and purchase badly needed supplies, but voucher schools attended by low-income students have also been inadequate, and self-interested economic theory will not fix the problem. Voucher schemes will only improve the schools attended by wealthy children, and drain resources from public schools that are in need of the funds diverted into voucher programs.

Some have argued that inadequate supplies and deteriorating facilities, whether private or public, should be improved using private money. In most cases, philanthropic funding comes from corporations, or from the treasuries of churches that operate religious schools. But often the gestures are hardly philanthropic. Corporate funding can involve contracts that require the use of textbooks that advance corporate interests, or the placement of products and advertising in schools, where students "learn" to consume certain products purchased from vending machines. In religious schools, the curriculum typically emphasizes theories that support the religious orientation of the church that funds the school (Ferguson 42; Gill et al. 64-65).

The bottom line on facilities improvement is that educational facilities must be adequately maintained and supplied. This cannot be accomplished through voucher schemes that benefit the wealthy and drain money from public schools, or through private funding that taints education with private interests.

Conclusion Main Menu

School vouchers have been proposed as a solution to failing urban schools, but the findings of this research indicate that vouchers place the educational resources of the poor and minorities at risk.

Unrestricted vouchers give wealthier students the opportunity to attend schools where tuition is higher than the voucher amount, while poor students must attend schools where tuition is equal to or lower than the voucher amount, resulting in severe economic and social stratification of schools. Vouchers that were restricted to low-income students resulted in facilities that were inadequate and had low teacher pay, and many were racially homogenous in areas where the majority of nonwhite students were poor.

Most urban schools serve predominantly poor students, and most poor students in urban schools are minorities. Blacks usually make up the largest percentage of minority students in urban schools that have a majority nonwhite enrollment. With voucher schemes, wealthier white students would attend schools of better quality than the schools attended by low-income black students, and education would become racially and economically segregated. As a result, school voucher schemes pose a danger to the educational resources of African Americans and other minorities, and endanger the indigenous resources of the civil rights movement.

Vouchers schemes, as well as other general privatization schemes, are argued on the basis of the economic theory of maximizing self-interest. The theory holds that private firms are superior to public firms because the self-interest of private owners will ensure that private facilities function more efficiently, while the self-interest of the customer will produce competition among firms that results in the customer's self-interest being maximized. However, there are fundamental flaws in economic philosophy that completely undermine the economic theory of self-interest. Economic theory does not include social, cognitive, or environmental factors in economic exchange, and as a result cannot provide an explanation for self-interested economic behavior. Executives often draw large, inefficient salaries, and social factors like marketing and public perception shape consumer behavior beyond self-interest. There are interpretations of capitalism that recognize social, cognitive, and environmental factors, but economists currently do not recognize such theories.

School vouchers also violate the establishment clause of the first amendment because taxpayer dollars are used to fund religious schools, whether the taxpayer wants to fund those schools or not. Vouchers remove control of the educational system from the voters, replacing the democratically elected local, state, and federal government with private corporations and organizations. The money used to fund these private interests drains money from public schools that need the money for supplies and facilities improvement. In many cases, per-pupil spending at private schools was the same or more than public schools that offered more services, and low-cost private schools that primarily served students in low-income voucher plans had inadequate facilities and poorly paid teachers.

The data comparing the performance of public and private schools is mixed. Many comparisons are skewed because private schools are compared to public schools that are already failing, making it easy to show an improvement in performance. And students that are easy to educate are often selected for transfer into voucher programs. There are also no standards for comparison.

There are many strategies for improving public schools that can be used instead of vouchers. Administrative strategies aimed at improving the administration of schools include programs like Head Start, as well as better management and incentive plans for faculty and staff. And facilities improvement focuses on further improving the attitudes of faculty, students, and staff.

School vouchers are not necessary to improve failing schools, and actually endanger the educational resources of the poor and minorities, especially African Americans. The educational gains of the civil rights movement could be rolled back by school vouchers, which threaten to segregate education along racial and economic lines. Equal access to education is crucial to democracy, and the political principles of democracy should not take a back seat to economic philosophy.

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