Everyone is happy, and stakeholders might falsify records if the government demands higher standards

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023

As someone who greatly benefited from school choice and ambitious curricula, Austin Vernon took years to accept the inconvenient lack of demand for higher-quality education:

My favored model is that schools have an iron triangle:

  1. Parents need someone to watch their kids while they work. They often don’t want to think about it, and they are usually content as long as their kids can reach the same status or skill levels they have.
  2. Most students prefer doing as little work as possible and focusing on fun activities like sports.
  3. Teachers don’t want to be bothered by disruptive students, nagging parents, or overbearing administrators.

Teachers provide the minimum instruction required to meet parental expectations. Students can avoid doing most work by showing up and behaving. Parents don’t bother teachers as long as their children come home intact. Teachers don’t bother parents as long as their kids behave. They also organize to limit administrator influence, often allying with students and parents. Honors programs provide a relief valve for teachers, parents, and students with more ambition or stronger tendencies to seek status. The most ambitious still need to seek outside tutoring.

Everyone is happy, and these stakeholders might falsify records if the government demands “higher standards.” They will fight hard against binding requirements or innovations like teaching scripts that challenge this compact.

This iron triangle collides with digital tools:

The number two pencil is one of the most critical tools for our iron triangle. Grade books need adjustments at the end of semesters to pass on underperforming students or raise a grade for an unhappy student (or parent). Sometimes state-mandated standardized tests need altering as well. Teachers can make these changes using an eraser or the keyboard on an unconnected spreadsheet without being charged with fraud.

Many education reformers dream of systems where students use personalized software. There are some schools where it works wonderfully. One of my high school mentors joined a non-profit education organization to assist rural schools wanting to adopt these systems. 5-10 districts adopted the program, but many encountered issues. Teachers, parents, and students revolted at one of the most successful implementations, forcing the district to revert to the old ways. Another became a crime scene because teachers didn’t realize that a central database tracked the changes they made to student grades at the end of the semester.


ChatGPT-for-schools must be compatible with a “Gentleman’s C” for widespread adoption. It could even be popular if it helps with classroom control, allows students to goof off, and lets parents believe their students have world-class teachers.


  1. Dan Kurt says:

    This Isegoria entry is again an exposure of the Tyranny of the IQ Curve. The fruits of an education apply in Whites and North Asians to the IQ fraction above 105 mainly and for higher education the IQ fraction over 115. The rest are essentially lost after circa 6th grade having learned to read and do sums. This means most schooling through grade school, high school, college, graduate teacher’s college is Baby Sitting at best and Child Abuse or outright Fraud at worst.

  2. Wang Wei Lin says:

    So it seems idiocracy is the goal. What’s the minimum goal and the least possible effort to be made by all concerned? I pity the next few generations.

  3. Pseudo-Chrysostom says:

    The child prisons are of course worse than useless for the children in particular and the nation in general. In more civilized times the person ‘babysitting’ was the master they were apprenticed too; whether that was a mentor or the parents themselves. Even the ‘gifted’ children who manage to jump through the hoops of child prisons benefit that much moreso when cultivated by actual mentorship.

    Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristoteles, and Aristoteles taught Alexander.

  4. Bob Sykes says:

    The “Gentleman’s C” was the expectation at pre WW II Ivies.

    Don’t forget, a major purpose of the public schools is to acculturate the students into the larger culture and to instill proper patriotism and behavior towards the ruling regime. That might be their most important function.

  5. Bill says:


    Exactly. As Lenin put it, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.” Everyone wants a piece of K-12 school now.

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