Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Education is not Euvoluntary: Daily Constitutional Edition.

Friend of EE, personal pal, and now co-blogger at Education and Liberty Pamela Stubbart upbraids schools for offensive, draconian bathroom use policy.

My regular readers will recall that my wife is Lithuanian. I don't mean that she can merely trace her ancestry back to Jurbarko Rajonas, but rather that she's a dyed-in-the-wool, grew up and went to University in Klaipeda moteris. After we moved back to the US over a decade ago (time sure flies), she took a part time gig as a substitute teacher in Massachusetts. I still recall her first day back from work as she reported to me with grave sincerity and open horror that students need teachers' permission to use the bathroom. This idea, so part and parcel of my wide and varied experience in each and every public school I attended (15 or so), simply shocked her sensibilities. To her, it was another bizarre example of American barbarism. Well, once I thought about it for a few minutes, I had to agree. Just like I agree with Pamela. It's odd though that the thought didn't occur to me at the time, with no prompting.

These days, I think of schools as a coercive response to a non-euvoluntary good. This restroom issue adds elements of tying contracts to the mix. The democratic process (I'll refrain from bashing W.J. Bryan for a third time in a row) has overridden the explicit contract made between the principal (no pun intended) and the agent and substituted this curious chimera of a standardized contract that is stuffed full of riders, amendments, clauses, and provisions that bear little resemblance to the notional good offered.

Schools, even the best of them, are bedeviled by numerous (often conflicting) constituents, irrational and wasteful signaling, rent-seeking, and politicians eager to wield their grim kayfabe all [at the expense | for the benefit] of their wards. The more menacing reality is that kids' BATNA is terrible: go to school or it's off to juvey with you.


An afterthought: we've distinguished before between natural and fiscal externalities. I think I'd like to make a similar distinction between natural and legislated BATNA. I'll give it some thought and get back to you later this week.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?