By Spencer Schneier, Staff Writer
Published in print Mar. 4, 2015
Last Monday, Professor David Schmidtz from the University of Arizona gave a lecture on for-profit education.
The panel, which was part of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program, was centered on markets in education.
Schmidtz discussed things that he views as problems within the American higher education system, including standardized testing and the impact it has on teachers and students.
Schmidtz told the audience that he is a member of the board for a charter school in Arizona, where he lives.
He is the founding director of the University of Arizona’s Center for Philosophy of Freedom.
When asked why he thinks the public education system is broken, he chose to share his personal background to help illuminate his perspective.
He told the audience that he struggled in school as a kid, and that it was only after he graduated high school and worked in a post office for a few years that he made his way back to education again.
He asked the head of philosophy at a nearby university to admit him into one of his classes, and after he convinced the professor to register him for that one class he rediscovered education.
He used this story as his evidence to argue that the public education system is too rigid, and that it is not conducive to the kind of learning he personally needed.
While he did not discuss higher education for profit entities, James Marshall Crotty of Forbes covered the issue in October of last year.
He said, “There has long been a visceral reaction against attempts to privatize, or profit from, education in this country.”
CNN Money recently ran an article detailing some of the casualties of for-profit higher education.
The article included a story of a woman who attended a two-year for-profit college in criminal justice, but was unable to secure a job after graduation and is now working at Victoria’s Secret.
Despite the fact that some schools have good professional placement rates, many do not like the idea of profiting from education.
The Forbes article notes that, “the linking of “for-profit” and tech, “for-profit” and law, “for-profit” and engineering, “for-profit” and architecture has almost zero public animus.
But “for-profit” and education is something that many Americans have a hard time swallowing.”
Many for-profit universities run on federal grants and subsidies.
Schmidtz likened the public education system to grocery markets, noting that both food and education are markets where every person needs to participate.
He argued that if the same logic used in education was applied to grocery stores, then every store would be identical and people would be bussed in from across town to shop at the same grocery market that was available where they lived.
He said that he was not sure why people viewed the market for food and the market for education so differently, and he opened up discussion to the audience at that point.
Schmidtz is the editor-in-chief of the interdisciplinary journal, Social Philosophy and Policy.