People love their own institutions.
Ask someone what they think of the educational system in this country and you’ll probably hear that it’s a mess. Ask them what they think of their neighborhood school and they’ll likely tell you that it’s just fine, thanks. Their school is okay, it’s all those other schools they’re worried about.
A big problem is that of framing. We don’t know what we don’t know, and what we really don’t know are the standards and execution of other schools, even though we all have extensive experience inside the school system, either as public or private school students. Most folks are also quite indifferent to the educational standards in other states, except when they make the news because of some controversy about evolution.
That’s why it’s interesting that the Gates Foundation and NBC put together a website that allows people to compare their local schools with others across the state and around the nation. Every school district in every state is rated. It’s encouraging to see that New Hampshire and Vermont rank in the top 10% of all states for 8th grade reading and math.
I suspect that unless people have done a lot of research, they’re content with schools that seem clean and safe and allow a decent education. So it’s hard to gather the critical mass necessary for educational reform or some market-based initiative. People just don’t know better.
But the internet and social networking are changing many things. Websites like Great Schools and Twitter feeds are powerful tools. But only if people care.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
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