Dear Shanna,
Serene Scientist


I think you may have made two mistakes yourself.

The first would be replacing the “Public good” term with your version of “Common good.” By this, you are assuming that education is equally contestable in a community. Based on your reference to a “ slightly longer journey,” I’m forced to assume you are comparing things based on your experiences in the UK, but I don’t believe you understand the scale of distance and population in the region Shanna is referencing. The entire UK is about 242K square kilometers, so that’s all of England, Wales, Scotland (for now,) and N. Ireland (along with other islands, etc.) That’s about the size of the Texas panhandle and about one quarter of West Texas combined. Adding to this is population density, where the UK has just over 65 million people and there isn’t even 28 million in all of Texas. This gives the UK a density of 268 people per square kilometer and Texas has about 40, but in the rural areas (like Brewster County) that comes down to about 1 per kilometer. When you have a larger population more evenly distributed, then your idea of a “Common good” probably works better but not when some communities are less than triple digits and are 20–30 miles apart. That “slightly longer journey” is probably a bit longer than you are imagining. And this is not unique to Texas at all. You will see this in the Gulf Coast states, throughout the Great Plains, west of the Great Plains (excluding California, to some degree) and Alaska. It’s not always a poverty issue, specifically, but geography has a lot to do with it.

The second mistake would be to blur the line between healthcare and education needs, especially on this side of the pond. You may not like the UK-version of socialized medicine but, if you live there, you don’t have to worry about “if” you can get treatment in the case of cancer or some other chronic condition. If you don’t have insurance over here, then that kind of diagnosis is almost guaranteed to be a death sentence. There’s not much an emergency room can do to help you, which would be your only option in that case. Additionally, a hospital can be mandated to admit a patient with certain expectations that the patient will be cared for. A private educational institute can pick and choose which students attend based on a variety of criteria, some of which is motivated by religious bias. As you obviously tried, some comparisons can be made between the two sectors, just like you can compare people’s opinions to the south end of a north-bound bull. My opinion included.

We continue to debate here in the States about “if” healthcare should be a right, along with all the other baggage that comes with that. “Lower” education has been a “right” for a long time here and I believe Shanna’s point has been that, when public education funding gets handed out to private institutions, public schools will not be able to meet future student needs. There’s a good argument to be had that many public schools are already struggling with this condition in the current budget climate. My question, from all of this, is who stands to gain from the reduction of access to education for those less privileged? If that is a political answer, in any way, then it is the wrong action to begin with, regardless of your politics.

We all benefit from a better educated electorate.


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