Daily Facepalm: Choice “Clogs Our Roads”

us-roads-are-more-clogged-than-ever

The problem: too many choices?

(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

The abundance of choices among competing grocery stores is “clogging” our roads, according to an Australian academic who advocates assigning people to government-run grocery stores based on the location of their home:

Almost 60 per cent of Melbourne shoppers are bypassing their local grocery store, according to world-renowned academic John Hattie.

Professor Hattie said ‘food choice’ had led to a “clogging of the motorways” as shoppers avoided their neighbourhood grocery store in pursuit of alternatives.

Food choice has also fuelled unhealthy competition between grocery stores, he told a packed lecture theatre at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday evening.

“Nearly all this choice is based on hearsay, the flavor of the food, and rarely on whether the food is or isn’t adding nutritional value to the shoppers’ health,” he said.

All right, all right. If you’re a regular reader of the JPG blog, you’ve probably already deduced that I changed the words “school” and “students” to “grocery stores,” “food,” and “shoppers.” Here’s what Professor Hattie actually argued:

Almost 60 per cent of Melbourne students are bypassing their local school, according to world-renowned academic John Hattie.

Professor Hattie said school choice had led to a “clogging of the motorways” as students avoided their neighbourhood school in pursuit of alternatives.

School choice has also fuelled unhealthy competition between schools, he told a packed lecture theatre at the University of Melbourne on Tuesday evening.

“Nearly all this choice is based on hearsay, the nature of the students, and rarely on whether the school is or isn’t adding value to the students’ learning,” he said.

Frankly, it’s no less absurd than the modified version.

So-called “experts” demonstrate their own hubris and contempt when they proclaim from their ivory towers that they know better than the little folks below, despite lacking any local knowledge about a particular student’s aptitude, interests, or learning needs. Aside from the fact that the best international evidence suggests that school choice boosts student outcomes (i.e., on average, the parents outperform the central planners), educational choice is an end in and of itself.

Moreover, although I don’t think education policy should be used as a lever to promote environmental goals, research from Professor Bart Danielson suggests that school choice policies are more environmentally friendly than district-based systems. Countless parents have fled urban areas to rescue their children from failing district schools–the “white flight” that Hattie decries–which contributes greatly to suburban sprawl. According to Danielson’s research, parents are more likely to remain in urban areas when they have more educational options, thereby reducing their carbon footprint.

In short: the “clogged roads” argument against choice is as spurious as it is silly.

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9 Responses to Daily Facepalm: Choice “Clogs Our Roads”

  1. Greg Forster says:

    If allowing people to choose where to perform their daily functions, whether shopping or schooling, is clogging the roads, then the government – which is in charge of building roads – is failing at its job. And we think a government that can’t build roads right can handle an education monopoly?

  2. Michael Makovi says:

    By this logic, freedom of employment is also clogging the roads. People should work at whatever job is nearest their house.

  3. pdexiii says:

    That photo is intimately familiar to me, as it’s near my closest access to the infamous 405 freeway (pictured), and not far from my residence when OJ made his famous sojourn through SoCal (the helicopter phalanx sounded like a war zone).

    I’m shocked and disappointed at Hattie, whose previously rock-solid research seemed to destroy many education fallacies. Has he drunk from the same well as Ravitch?

    The harrah…..

  4. Greg Forster says:

    Look, we all know the simplest solution to this problem is to require everyone to grow their own food and make their own goods and provide their own services to one another at home, in autarkic households. Let’s get on top of this thing, people!

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