Are we going to prom or to hell?

How much is an American child's life worth? How about $600?

One of the strange things that's come out of modern American government is massive private contracting of government services, resulting in a bizarre system of “capitalist communism”. That is, the society uses a capitalist financial structure, but then the government uses forced taxation to hand monopolistic contracts to private corporations who perform public services (usually far more poorly than in an open market) — corporations who pay a lot of money to put those politicians in power.

One example of this outsourcing and centralization is education. In Nevada, the state uses the same tests in most of their schools, and then sends them out to Harcourt Educational Measurement for grading. The teachers never actually personally review the tests, and simply administer them, teaching a corporate-dictated curriculum from corporate-supplied textbooks. As a result they are little more than prison guards, and are losing the opportunity to have a scholastic relationship with their pupils. Is it any wonder that education quality has consistently gone downhill, rather than improving as logic would suggest it should?

A major additional problem is that the companies are sloppy (in order to maximize profits — after all, they are not there because they care about education, they are doing this to make money). For example, recently Harcourt was shown to have “accidentally” failed about 750 students. You know, to me, that seems like a pretty big deal — failing a student is an emotionally shattering thing, to say nothing of the damage done from failing a student that actually worked and got the grade. This is the sort of thing that screws someone up for life. Because of this, Harcourt had to pay a fine of about $600 per student — to the government, which then renewed the contract and paid them the money back!

And if you think that's bad, in Virginia, where Harcourt holds similar contracts, they “accidentally” failed 5,625 students — a case which threatened both students' graduations, and in some cases could have resulted in the schools actually losing accreditation. The reason this problem happened is that the tests are not marked in the sense of right/wrong — the computer software analyzes all the tests, and then attempts to automatically determine the proper “pass/fail” gradepoint.

In Georgia, Harcourt screwed up 340,000 students in a single test, with students either grading far too high or far too low. In another Nevada case, Harcourt simply lost all the results. Anyway, as a “thank you” screwup, Harcourt then went on to “accidentally” artificially inflate the grades at 220 schools, causing all of their students to rank higher than the rest of the state (and penalizing the other students in return). For this they were fined about $2000 per school.

The punch line is that because it's cheaper for them to accept the fines than to do a good job, as a corporation they are legally required to continue providing poor service. And, because they're locked in with cushy government contracts across the country, the American people have to keep paying their own money to have their kids screwed over by the government. Let's clarify how this process works so there's no mistake:

  • The corporation pays a lot of money to a political party to put it in power.
  • Once elected the corporation is given enormous amounts of money by that government. It gets this money by taking it by force from citizens.
  • The corporation then cuts corners, provides horrible services, and is fined large amounts of money by the government.
  • The corporation pays a lot of money to a political party to put it in power… yes… It just loops and loops and loops.

Because citizens don't actually put politicians in power, and all the money a citizen gives to the government is seized by force (it's not like taxes are optional or you can decide how they're spent), the government has little to no interest in doing what the people want — their sole responsibility is to the corporations that put them in power. Hence the wicked cycle above.

The fact is that 98% (or whatever) of people are stupid which instantly invalidates democracy. When people are stupid, they can easily be controlled by propaganda — that is, they'll vote for whoever the TV tells them to vote for. Because both of the mainstream US political parties engage in the above, the system can not be broken — to break this system using the democratic process, you would need to convince at least 30% of the population to go out and vote for an untested party with a radically different ideological stance than America has held in their lifetime.

And we know that's not going to happen.

Oh, and if you want to really get pissed off, go do some searches for Harcourt failing kids in the news and you'll see that as far as 99.99% of the media is concerned this is a total non-issue. Wondering why? Could it be that they all have the same parent company?

Welcome to the modern world….

Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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