Monday, January 21, 2008

Think Tanks and Idiot Parents

Thanks goes out to the folks at the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation as they have once again raced to the aid of parents. According to TBF, parents are nothing more than idiots when it comes to selecting educational programs (sounds eerily similar to the folks at the local public schools). The TBF article is here. My reply is below.

In "How's your drink," Liam Julian misses the point completely. Consumers are not always looking for the best buy as defined by someone else's standards, even when recognized experts define those standards. If that were the case, consumers would only purchase products rated best buy by Consumer Reports.

Though most of us will accept CR as the recognized product-rating expert, consumers oftentimes purchase more than the product itself; they purchase (say) prestige. Julian forgets that colleges and employers value prestige. So, a parent who sends his child to a highly-ranked school -- where the educational product is not the best -- is making a rational decision.

The same holds for the consumer who serves the expensive wine, with bottle and label in full view of his guests, and the job applicant dressed in designer clothes: both made rational purchasing decisions. And, in context, both purchases are the respective best buys.

However, there is more. We do not purchase the CR designated best buy for all products, all the time. In fact, I rarely purchase any CR best buy. The reason is simple: my wants do not match those of the testers and reviewers at CR.

Does Julian want his product selection to be limited to that deemed best by CR? I doubt that Julian purchases his products based solely on the recommendation of CR, yet he readily stands as the CR of sorts when the discussion turns to education.

Does he really believe that he can discern the correct characteristics of a good education: the outcome and the cost? And, does he really believe that all parents must purchase his educational best buy?

I think Julian needs to rethink his position.
The folks in the know, whether at TBF or working at your local public school, really think that they are omniscient, and that you are an idiot.

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