My brother-in-law Seth Ambruso (youngest brother of my sister's husband) posted a link today that detailed a classroom experiment by an economics professor who claimed that he "never failed a single student before, but had recently failed an entire class." While the post he reported and responded to turns out to be a persistent urban myth, the gist of the myth and the article is well subscribed to by millions of like-minded people who simply see communism and socialism as one and the same, and more importantly to them inherently evil and anti-American.
Here, Seth makes a strong and well-articulated attempt to dispel the myth for those uninitiated with both the myth itself and social economics in general. I felt that in my ongoing quest to develop my financial education, it's important to be clear about what the definitions really are and what's really at stake. (Again, this post is reprinted with his permission...)
I've seen this analogy several times, in several forms (buying beer, grades, ect) and it is overly simplistic and extremely flawed. Seeing it as a valid model of economics is the definition of willful ignorance.... I see it as further proof of the "socialism scare" propaganda that we are being distracted with.
Here are the most basic flaws of this 'analogy':
1. It assumes that there is a ceiling to the the inherent wealth of the "grades", i.e. that one could only earn between 0-100 "dollars". The real income disparity in our country is by a factor of about 0-1800+ with no limit.
2. It assumes that each "student" is being given the same "test" (job), which is then "graded" (paid) in an equal capacity (study hard, good grades, get ahead). While this might be 'true' in the real classroom, it is not true for our economy.
3. Many many important jobs have ceilings (think cops, firefighters, teachers, postal workers, ect.) These students will never "score" "100%" no matter how much harder they work, but they are essential jobs, no? Nor should they make 100%, but they should make a decent living right? How about a school where any student who wants to can opt out of test all together to go sweep the floors, empty the garbage, ect instead of taking a test and they just take a 30 in every subject (I think Newt suggested something like this ;) )
Here is what a more accurate portrayal of what a capitalism classroom looks like, where everyone has equal opportunity to work hard and get ahead:
Anyone who scored below 20 keeps the grade they have, and must repeat the lesson over and over again until they pass, but without any help or further instruction. They are, after all, losers who clearly don't work hard and don't deserve our attention. You're lucky we even let you go to school! Go sit in detention and try the test again tomorrow. There are some crappy 10 year old textbooks in the corner, get it together!
Anyone who scores 20-30 may move onto the next lesson, but they will not be taught anything new for the next test. Don't ask questions, work harder and pay attention.
Anyone 30-60, GOODJOB! You are the middle of the class. You keep your grade, but donate 30% of your grade to maintain the classroom and pay for the instruction. (Yes, this does mean you need at LEAST a 45 to stay in this classroom) You can move onto the next lesson, but will be given minimal instruction, barely enough to maintain your average. Keep up! You CAN borrow points to keep up, but they WILL be docked from your future tests --with interest.ore on that later.
70-99 on the test and you pay 35% of your grade toward the classroom, but anything above your seventy gets compounded at 10% and applied to the next test. There is a minimal 15% classroom tax on the INTEREST (points carried from the last test) ONLY. Another perk is that for every point above 70 you gross, you get 1 additional minute of personal instruction per hour. The classroom depends on smart people like you to keep the classroom running so we can all benefit!!!
Also, You may lend any of your points out to those who score less than you... They pay you back with interest (but this interest you make is only taxed at 15% remember). Soon they will be as smart as you if they work hard enough!
If you are smart enough to score 99, you've worked very very hard. You are the in the top percentile of your class. While you get all of the perks mentioned, you're smart enough to get VERY special privileges. You pay 30% toward the classroom, but REMEMBER, it is only 30% of your EARNED test score. There is no limit to the score you are allowed to have ( students have been known to score as high as 1800 and above) You are so smart, you don't even take tests ever again if your score is high enough, just let you're last best test grades compound over and over again... Yes, you do have to continue contributing 15% of the INTEREST toward the classroom. For every point above 99 you actually get to WRITE a test question for the rest of the class on the next test!
You can also take the massive amounts of points you've accumulated from being so smart and then "shelter" them in an offshore classroom. No need to keep paying a tax into a classroom that YOU hardly study in, right??
If you have enough extra points and give them out wisely, you may even be elected Teacher or to one of the 535 Assistant Teacher positions who write the tests....
Now, this analogy has several flaws in it too-- but do you SEE how IGNORANT it is to compare test grades to the economy??
Color commentary, as usual, added by Chyll Will for effect... >;)