Monday, August 05, 2002

Adam Smith on school choice

Joanne Jacobs originally blogged this quote from Adam Smith via Dave Kirkpatrick at

Forcing students to attend any school independent of the merit or reputation of the teachers tends to diminish the necessity of that merit or reputation.

If the teacher who is to instruct each student should not be voluntarily chosen by the students but appointed; and if in case of neglect, inability, or bad usage, the student should not be allowed to change him for another without leave first asked and obtained, such a regulation would not only tend very much to extinguish all emulation among the different tutors but to diminish very much in all of them the necessity of diligence and of attention to their respective pupils.

Joanne noted that Smith would not have approved of tenure.

My Reason Foundation colleague Lynne Kiesling who writes at The Knowledge Problem adds that:

Smith experienced what he considered to be the worst of incentives when he attended Oxford University, where the faculty droned on and on and on, and didn't seem to care whether the students were getting anything out of their lectures. Smith advocated a teacher remuneration system whereby the students paid teachers directly; in fact, this system was in place when he was chair of logic and then of moral philosophy at the University of Glasgow. Talk about the incentives to exchange value for value.

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