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August 12, 2009, 07:00 PM ET

School Reform Globalized: Boarding Schools for Everyone!

x-posted: Swift Notes, April 2010

Since it's long been proven by solid metrics, such as admittances to the best colleges, that private boarding schools are the best schools, creating the best sort of citizens and leaders ("decision makers" or "deciders"), I think we should arrange private boarding schools for everyone.

You'd think it would be difficult to do, but it's not. You'd be astonished how much teaching you can buy in India, China and Africa for the $10,000 a year that some U.S. public schools are spending on their students.

That's right. My idea is to combine the outsourcing of education labor with a year abroad for every U.S. high school student. Several years abroad, actually. In fact, all of them.

Let's just move every U.S. middle, junior, and high school to India, China, or Africa.

Just as in collegiate year-abroad programs, now all U.S. students will learn in an environment that promotes multiculturalism, bilingualism, awareness of poverty in the developing world, and a sense of their own good fortune in global capitalism!

Of course we can't let just anyone run these schools. It's clearly understood by the Fox network of school reformers that American public schools have "failed."

It's true that a couple decades of evidence proves that charter schools are less effective, even when they get to cherry-pick the best test-takers, as nay-sayer intellectuals like Diane Ravitch keep pointing out in the socialist media.

However, I think we should allow the charter school people and education corporations to run our national offshore boarding schools for several reasons.

Number one, we need a standardized national curriculum. Knowledge is always changing--for instance, we didn't know until quite recently that markets solved all social problems. With a standardized national curriculum, we can direct teachers to share the correct views with maximum efficiency.
 
(And having a good, patriotic, pro-capitalist curriculum is going to be especially important when all of our kids are living overseas!)

Number two, charter schools can hire the personnel they really need--drill instructors. Since education and test-taking are two different skill sets, we should stop trying to get students to do well on tests by educating them. Historically, teachers have cheated students of their test preparation time by asking them to read, play music, and study art.

Number three, charter schools know how to shed underperforming students, who often go on to prison. Imprisonment in the United States is awfully expensive--think of the savings when we can imprison our underclass overseas!

Number four, rather than wastefully accumulate capital in stone buildings and libraries like old-style  boarding schools, our new offshore publicly funded but privately run boarding schools would accumulate capital for the shareholders of privately held education corporations, which have been some of the most profitable businesses in the history of capitalism. It's true these shareholders will spend most of their gains on yachts and electronics manufactured in China, on cars built in Japan, Britain and Germany, and on undocumented nannies and housekeepers.

But they'll also have to spend at least a couple thousand dollars registering and insuring those possessions here in the United States, which will help to create clerical and civil-service jobs for the 1/4 of our population with four-year college degrees.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

Every American Student Offshore

But the All High Schools Abroad (AHA!) program has many unintended benefits.

Besides all of the savings on teacher salaries and prison guards, AHA! will export a big chunk of our problem with poverty, homelessness, food security, and health care.

Since we have driven wages for so many workers below any reasonable estimation of the poverty line, and demand so much unpaid labor from young people (as part of their failed "educations"), we've really developed an embarassing problem with working adults unable to feed, house and insure their children, students bankrupting themselves while working full time, and so on.

With so many young people offshore, we'll be removing a sizable chunk of our poor, malnourished, homeless and uninsured. They can "slip through the cracks," as we like to say, over there, which would be preferable. (But even if they demand services, we can purchase them at an attractive offshore discount.)

There are some problems with my plan, like environmental impact.

If we used jets, there'd be a lot of carbon. But why not use boats to send our kids overseas? I live about an hour from Oakland, and we send cargo ships the size of a golf course back to China full of empty containers. We could convert those containers to nice state rooms, for the better-off kids, and steerage housing for the rest. Call it a "semester at sea," and offer course credit for cooking, painting, and swabbing the deck.

Another problem: who would work in the malls, serve our lattes and flip our burgers, if not the student workforce? I admit, that was a real stumper for me, until I remembered all of those public-school teachers who would be unemployed.

Why Not College?

I know you've been reading this, and saying, okay, I see the dollars and sense of the proposal--but why not save money on colleges first? Why disrupt the younger students?

The truth is simple post-Fordist economics. I've done the math, and the fact is that U.S. higher education is a freaking genius accumulation machine. For one thing: you can't get college teaching any cheaper!

The U.S. campus has redefined college teaching as something akin to missionary work ("Believe in literature, philosophy, or history? Great! Come to State U. and teach it for a thousand bucks a class--the salary's just to pay for your broadband and photocopies.")

And don't even get me started about the tuition that students pay! In the U.S. we really rake it in, whereas overseas all the higher ed is often cheap or even free. 

Plus we really can't afford to lose the donated and underpaid gold mine of college student labor: the internships, student assistantships, the service learning, and the low-wage work-study jobs.

When you think about it, every capitalist on the planet wants to accumulate by the methods perfected by U.S. higher education. So let's not mess with something that's working perfectly as is!

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