Educator, Heal Thyself
M.I.T. Economics Professor and Obamacare "architect" Jonathan Gruber offers American education a pathway to fairness.
In a recent interview with NBC News reporter Chuck Todd, Gruber said this about America's healthcare system:
"We currently have a highly discriminatory system where if you're sick, if you've been sick or [if] you're going to get sick, you cannot get health insurance. The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price. That means that the genetic winners, the lottery winners who've been paying an artificially low price because of this discrimination now will have to pay more in return."
For the moment, let's put aside a discussion of the Professor's possible implied reference to eugenics ("[if] you're going to get sick"). Rush Limbaugh, in his November 15 nationwide radio broadcast, suggested that Gruber interjected eugenics into the healthcare debate by saying there's a "lucky gene pool."
One can clearly infer, though, from the Professor's comments that the lucky gene pool is, for those who swim in it, a prevenient cause of discriminatory healthcare practices that benefits the lucky gene-holders.
Healthcare is a huge system that affects almost all Americans, but it's not the only one. So instead of swimming in Professor Gruber's healthcare gene pool, let's focus on "discriminatory" practices where it also matters to a vast number of people. Education.
The only way, the Professor says, to end the discriminatory practices of the healthcare system in America is to "bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price." If that's good for healthcare, why not apply it to education?
America's educational institutions constitute a huge system made up of private and public schools (pre-K to 12), community/junior colleges, state universities, private colleges and universities, and service academies. Taken together, they represent a potpourri of learning environments, nearly all of which receive some level of city, county, state and/or federal government funding assistance.
According to Professor Gruber's definition of discrimination, America's educational system is patently unfair and discriminatory, systemically favoring the "genetic lottery winners."
How so? you ask. Well, consider this:
The average salary of professors teaching at the top five Massachusetts colleges is $200,000. We'll put aside how Gruber supplemented his M.I.T. salary in 2009 with a $297,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). That was probably a part-time consultative gig associated with his Obamacare architectural design services.
Meanwhile, in 2012, the average salary of a tenured, full-time professor teaching at a two-year community college was $51,000. What makes that fair?
In a candid moment, Dr. Gruber might argue that he's teaching at the prestigious M.I.T., and not at Grayson Junior College, because he's better educated than the average Junior College Economics Professor. He earned the right to teach at M.I.T. and to enjoy his enhanced salary, he might claim, by earning a Ph.D. in Economics at Harvard.
But, unfortunately, that wouldn't neatly align with his sociological credo. Jonathan Gruber is the son of the New York University Stern Finance Professor (Emeritus) Martin J. Gruber, who received his Ph.D. from Columbia, and was once Director of the National Bureau of Economic Research. That's equivalent to a winning genetic lottery ticket, isn't it?
According to Professor Gruber, the only way to end discriminatory practice in healthcare is "to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price." Let's be fair and apply that to universities.
Dr. Gruber received an undergraduate degree in economics at M.I.T. where, in 2013, annual student tuition, room and board, plus books and personal expenses total about $57,000 -- more than the average salary of a community college professor, who obviously could not afford to enroll a child at M.I.T. based on his/her income.
According to Professor Gruber's sociological definition of fairness, the wide disparity in matriculation costs at America's universities represents financial discrimination. Students who swim in the lucky gene pool are much more likely to attend M.I.T. than students who work part time at a fast-food restaurant to pay their tuition at Grayson County Junior College.
As Professor Gruber said, "The only way to end that discriminatory system is to bring everyone into the system and pay one fair price." Okay then, why not one salary for all college professors -- one standard tuition for all college students. That's the Gruber Paradigm of Fairness applied to American education, is it not?
Perhaps the Professor would retort that private schools, like M.I.T., should not be required to adhere to a ubiquitous standard of fairness, since they're not publically supported. But that dog won't hunt. M.I.T. received $475,000,000 in federal grants in 2012. That qualifies as big-time public support.
But some will still excuse private universities from the need to be fair. In that case, let's visit our local Independent School District -- particularly in the large urban areas. Looking there we see arts and magnet schools, college prep courses for the more zealous students and a variety of accelerated learning opportunities for the select few taught by the best teachers. Why are these not discriminatory educational practices according to the Gruber definition of fair?
At a relatively early age, public school students are pegged as advanced learners -- while teachers balk at being judged on their pedagogical skills -- and promoted into a more intense educational environment, while other students languish on the public school bus of mediocrity.
The only way to make public school fair is "to end that discriminatory system [and] bring everyone into the system." No separate and unequal parts -- that's discriminatory, al la Gruber.
Unless, of course, you're one of Dr. Gruber's genetic winners and can pay for a concierge education. In that case, never mind.