Letter: Bucking the schools-as-a-business model

Graphic by Lori Deaton

Corporations (and partnerships) were created as legal fictions to allow their owners and managers to evade legal and financial responsibility for their actions. Fifty years ago, Milton Friedman suggested that their sole social responsibility was to increase profits. At a stroke, his proposal enabled the very worst of animal spirits by promoting a brutally simple view of management — if you drank his Kool-Aid, there was no longer any need to consider anything other than profits.

Two hundred years earlier, Adam Smith — he of the invisible hand — had foreseen the problem: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.“ Although capitalism has morphed many times since those words were written, you have only to look at the likes of Amazon, Facebook and Purdue Pharma to see that he wasn’t far from the truth.

The growth of schools-as-a-business exposes Friedman’s catastrophic error in a particularly acute form. Seeking to deliver the best education for its students at the least cost means that a school faces conflicting objectives. Friedman and his followers would have it ignore the education and welfare of its students in favor of cost-saving and money-making schemes: If it’s not making and selling kiddie porn, then it is failing in its “sole social responsibility.”

Every dollar that goes to profit, interest or transfer payments to the head office is a dollar not spent on the students’ education.

Trapped by the marketing imperative, a school-as-a-business will need to create an image of success — the simplest and most cynical way is to be selective: to only enroll kids they like the look of and ruthlessly expel those who don’t excel. That way, they should improve their own overall results and, by burdening the competition with their rejects, worsen others. We may have gotten rid of de jure apartheid in this country, but this sort of behavior helps to perpetuate de facto apartheid even longer.

For so long as Raleigh continues to gift our tax dollars to these businesses while our public school teachers are paid — even in part — out of lottery money, the future of our state is predictable. In the global competition for innovation and investment, we will continue to lose. It says a lot about how the world sees us that one of the largest recent investments was when Shuanghui took over Smithfield: Apparently environmental regulations surrounding pig-farming are less stringent in North Carolina than in China.

We can try to buck this trend by investing in our city schools in ways that the state budgeting process cannot touch: volunteering time and donating money or resources. The rancid rhetoric we have heard for so long is wrong. These efforts are not wasted, but are the best investment we can make — for our kids, obviously, but also for ourselves. Eventually, we will be looking to them and their peers for support in our old age.

— Geoff Kemmish

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19 thoughts on “Letter: Bucking the schools-as-a-business model

  1. Lulz

    LOL, it stands to reason that a for profit school stands on the outcome of its students. A public school has no such requirement, And why they fail so miserably. Tenure does nothing for students but it does keep bad teachers in place. You have no standards and no integrity. Anything the government runs is a failure.

    LOL, it’s the same old tured rehashed bull by the left. Money, money, money, bad republicans, and all the other vile crap they spew.

    • hauntedheadnc

      Would you be so kind as to name whatever government-free paradise it is that you wish we could emulate here? I get so sick and tired of the tunnel vision you so often find in the ultra-libertarian set.

      Speaking of which, the world of Ayn Rand’s novels doesn’t count as those books are fiction, one, and because they’re neither realistic or especially well-written, two. Please present a real-world, real life example of some place that has no government but which is doing fine. You’ve never had anything good to say about any government operation of any kind, at any level, so here is your chance to put up or shut up.

      • NFB

        “There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs. “

    • BRO

      So, interesting. If I read your statement correctly, “Anything the government runs is a failure.” , you also consider our military a failure? Please expand on your thoughts, I’m anxious to read them.

  2. Enlightened Enigma

    WHEN will Buncombe Co come into the age of diversity and equality with ONE government school system instead of TWO antiquated bloated systems ? WHY do the City school racists so defend their positions of EXCLUSIVITY and SEGREGATION ? HOW many MILLION$$$ could the taxpayers SAVE with consolidation ? WHY does NC allow this segregation ?

    Get YOUR children OUT of government screwls as fast as you CAN !!!

    • hauntedheadnc

      You know… all this howling about the government having the audacity — the unmitigated gall! — to operate a school system.

      What do you propose to do with the families who can’t afford private schools? ALL this SCREAMING and I never HEAR any SOLUTIONS about WHAT to DO with THAT particular LITTLE fly IN the ANTI-GOVERNMENT “screwls” BLATHER.

      • Enlightened Enigma

        I propose they wake the hell up and realize how their children are being INDOCTRINATED toward government dependence and to expect it! Government screwls are just that.

        • hauntedheadnc

          That tells me nothing. How do you propose to educate these children and to pay for that education?

          Solutions please.

          • Enlightened Enigma

            that’s up to the parents who bore them…there are PLENTY of options nowadays…choosing right the main goal…

            parents should be charged to send their children to government screwls.

        • hauntedheadnc

          So, you’re saying that you basically just want to scream and randomly capitalize words against the public school system, while offering no suggestions for how to get kids out of those schools you hate so much, while admitting that you have no solutions for parents who cannot afford to send their kids to private schools, and while admitting that you do not care what happens to children whose parents cannot afford to send them to school.

          Glad we could clear that up. Sounds like a recipe for a truly stable, safe, and healthy society. My God, do you people EVER (hee hee) think through the ramifications of what it is you keep screaming about wanting?

          • Enlightened Enigma

            ROFLMAO! why yes ‘we’ do…thanks for asking …

            again, Gordon, WHY does the state allow the segregation of two separate school systems in Buncombe county? why do only six counties do this unnatural expensive unnecessary exclusive dual system biz? WHY? WHY do we suffer that huge inequity in Dumcombe Co ? ? ?

        • hauntedheadnc

          Why do you keep calling me Gordon, Mr. Fred Fisher Caudle?

          I don’t know why Buncombe and Asheville maintain separate systems, although I do seem to recall there was a vote to consolidate them at one time and Buncombe County voted it down. WOULD that BOTHER you IF that WERE in FACT the CASE? Would YOU be UPSET if COUNTY voters WERE the ONES who DECLINED consolidation? WOULD you PERHAPS be TEMPTED to THEN harass RANDOM county TAXPAYERS who CHOSE not to CONSOLIDATE, perhaps BY sending THEM long, RAMBLING emails FILLED with RANDOMLY capitalized WORDS? It SEEMS the ISSUE troubles YOU greatly.

  3. Enlightened Enigma

    Because I believe you to be Gordon Smith with the same moniker you use to use on scrutiny hooligans … just trying to scale back all this UNnecessary spending for starters…then there’s the racism and elitist exclusivity of the city school people, racists while disavowing it, of course……WHY should Dumbcombe be one of only 6 in the state doubly taxed for education ? There is no reason, except to preserve antiquated dual models at double the unnecessary cost thereby funding all those bloated city screwl bureaucrat SALARIES! Wake up Gordon!

    • hauntedheadnc

      Okay, well you’re wrong in thinking that I’m anybody named Gordon.

      And again, as I recall, Buncombe voters voted down school consolidation. If that is the case, how do you feel about that?

  4. Enlightened Enigma

    the NC state superintendent/department of education should step in and demand it for needed streamlining, tax dollar savings, ethics , diversity , equality , etc.

    again, WHY are only SIX counties in the state hamstrung with such double costs ? can ANYONE give valid reasons ? Can the state superintendent Mark Johnson answer? ask him why…see if he will…

    • hauntedheadnc

      Okay, so you’re saying the state superintendent of schools should step in and override the will of the voters of Buncombe because that is the only rat the snakes in your personal head wish to dine upon, and no other food will do.

      Well, alright then.

      PERHAPS you SHOULD send HIM a STRONGLY worded EMAIL or LETTER yourself TO get YOUR point ACROSS. I’m SURE he’d BE very RECEPTIVE to YOUR strong AND impassioned WRITING and MEASURED, mature AND adult SKILLS of PERSUASION.

      • Enlightened Enigma

        I did…he made election promises but has failed just like we knew he would…government screwls are CRAP, and so are many who run that show!

  5. Bright

    You have the right of free speech and press, and the “government “ has the right to not listen. If you buy a product that’s not worth what you paid for it, you stop buying it. Hit em where it hurts, in the pocket. How? I did it. Use you brain. Don’t sacrifice your kid to increase the GNP.

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