Name the Industry

Name the industry where 99.9% of the time, public policy has an explicit goal to substantially reduce worker productivity.   Answer.


  1. delurking:

    I take it that was a joke?

    Productivity in education has to include quality as well as quantity metrics. The quantitative relationship between class size and quality is debatable, but few people doubt that 1-on-1 instruction is better that large class instruction. Those hypothesizing nonmonotonicity in the class size vs quality curve have the burden of proof.

  2. Scott:

    One on one instruction is indeed best for the person receiving the instruction. However, it is incredibly inefficient.

    Making cars one at a time also results great quality. It also costs so much that the vast majority of us couldn't afford a car.

    Fortunately increases in productivity makes good cars available to most of us at reasonable prices. Unfortunately the education establishment refuses to even measure productivity let alone work to improve it.

  3. Jon:

    I vaguely remember reading a metanalysis of class size research that showed in studies of class size, only 10-15 percent showed significant improved academic achievement. I believe that ProjectStar has been so influential because is was the only large controlled experiment on the subject.
    As a high school teacher, I know reducing class size will have a tremendous effect on academic achievement (as long as the reduction is NONRANDOM! .

  4. J. W.:

    "few people doubt that 1-on-1 instruction is better that large class instruction"

    So we should abolish government schools and let parents teach their children. Sounds good.

  5. Mesa Econoguy:

    Alternate answer:

    Financial industry, via progressive leftist crap regulation, increasing not only regulatory burden, but also legal liability for all employees.

  6. LTMG:

    My elementary school for five years in 1960's urban southern California had 50 students per classroom. Received a very good education. No, not a public school.

  7. joe:

    You are clearly stating that
    Productivity = "# of children in a classroom."

    Productivity = "increase in student learning" be a much better measure?

    if your post was at all serious I think you should consider either a post explaining your position in more detail or a correction.

  8. joe:

    So if you're born to parents that can't teach you well you just look for that job digging ditches? That sounds like a good plan. Serve those lazy punks right for not picking better parents to be born to.

  9. NormD:

    In college I had a fantastic Chemistry class with ~150 students and a horrible Calculus class with 20 students.

    If everyone had 1-on-1 teachers then most people would, by definition, get a poor teacher. Its just basic logic.

    I think the best education would be lectures by the best teachers to huge numbers of students (online?) coupled with 1-one-1 tutoring to deal with specific problems. There is no reason that these need to be delivered by the same teacher.

    Why assume that a single teacher is best at everything??? If I needed help in Algebra, perhaps the best tutor in in India?

  10. J. W.:

    joe: Well, first off, my comment was meant to mock the one by "delurking," which I quoted. It's hard to say whether "1-on-1 instruction is better" unless we know who'll be providing that instruction. But you evidently know that, given your response. Second, parents who don't feel comfortable teaching their own children are free to find other instructors.

  11. Benjamin Cole:

    I guessed wrong. I thought it was lawyers, and their business of licensing lawyers to reduce supply, and refusal to develop paralegals and others who could legally handle more-routine matters.

  12. Bram:

    5 thought the obvious answer was government itself.

  13. Scott:

    Joe - Productivity is output per unit of input. In education the output should be how much did the students learn. The input is how many resources did you use to get the output.

    The article talks about reducing class size. This reduces overall output unless learning per student increases by more than the decrease in class size. I know of no study showing that a decrease in class size by 10% increases learning by anywhere near 10% in the remaining students.

    So yes, decreasing class size generally decreases productivity.

  14. joe:


    Unless they can't afford it or for some reason don't value education. In which case it serves their little punks right for not having better parents! Good thing the world will always need ditch diggers.

  15. joe:

    You have a good point. If you look into the research what you'll find is that decreasing class size tends to raise the mean by improving the performance of the bottom of the distribution. In other words. If you take a few kids out of the class it leaves the teacher more time to help those students that need extra instruction. If you look only at the mean test scores Vs. Class size this impact is pretty small.

    Just focusing on class size is a poor way to go and my point wasn't that smaller class sizes is a perfect fix. My point was that assuming a larger class size was more productive was logically flawed.

  16. joe:

    "Second, parents who don’t feel comfortable teaching their own children are free to find other instructors."

    Unless they can’t afford it or for some reason don’t value education. In which case it serves their little punks right for not having better parents! Good thing the world will always need ditch diggers.

  17. Scott:

    Joe, I think your example just showed that larger class size does indeed raise productivity. Total learning increased while holding inputs the same.

  18. joe:

    My example was that you could raise productivity by allowing the teacher extra time to improve the performance of the lowest performers.

    But, I'll freely admit that if you went from 30 to 31 kids in an upper middle class suburban classroom where every one of them got a good nights sleep and ate healthy food you'd see little to no decrease in learner. Obviously if the extra student doesn't fit that profile you'll get a different result.

  19. J. W.:

    joe: You're free to think that if you want. There are plenty of other people who provide time, money, and resources so that others can seek a quality education who might not otherwise be able to afford it. If government schools were abolished, you would be free to withhold your money from "little punks" and others would have more money to provide to them.

  20. chuck martel:

    I was going to guess "prostitution" but decided not to.

  21. joe:

    I see what you’re getting at. If the government didn’t tax us so much private charity would see to the education of children and this system would be better. Why would it be better exactly? I was being sarcastic towards you up thread but I’m honestly curious how you think the elimination of public education would improve educational outcomes.

    What about students who have substantial out of school challenges, but are not so badly situated that it would take a miracle to help them? For instance; How would your plan impact a student who was of slightly above average intellect and lived in an area where few people were able to model how education could improve your life? We’ll assume that the child knows education is valuable but doesn’t have the examples and encouragement to be a deeply motivated self starter. Let’s also add that the child’s mother works 60 hours a week to make about 35K a year and that his father was killed in a car accident. If it matter let’s assume the father was not at fault in the accident and that there was little to no insurance payout from the death. We’ll assume that due to rent increases at the end of lease the family has to move once per year within the same city, but not in the same neighborhoods. The mother does a decent job of creating a safe home. But due to her work hours (10 hour days 6 days a week) the child is unsupervised in the evening s and most of Saturday. The family is somewhat connected with those around them and the mother has some help from friends and neighbors. But there’s no one available to be an additional parent and this help is balanced out pretty well by her returning the favors. The child is currently 9 years old and reads at grade level.

  22. Mark:

    I wonder, when I was in elementary school in CA, I got a decent education with average class sizes of 33. I think to get that, they included the librarian lunch cooks, etc.

    But now in the same district with classes sizes of 18, I would prefer to home school. I don't know where those studies of small class sizes improving students come from (Unions I suspect) but it does not seem to be bearing out in CA education anyway.

    The state has gone from top 10 to Bottom 5, and by some measures 2nd worst next to DC.

    Seems like more likely that unless you get extreme (60 kids to a class, or 2 kids to a class), there is little or no relationship.

  23. Mark:

    Teachers drive me nuts, cuz of all their fuzzy buzz words and inclusiveness and other PC nonsense which seems to have permiated the schools.

    My daughter is in a Spanish Immersion program, she gets taught 90% in Spanish every week, and will go to another teacher to do stuff in English for the other 10% - the English portion is wasted mostly the State mandated crud that they have to teach all 5 year olds, like you don't want to smoke, drink alcohol or inject yourself with needles! Can't wait for the sex portion. But this Immersion program requires 50% of the students to be of English speaking background and 50% to be of Spanish speaking background. The school is basically using this program to get around the bilingual education laws.

    Funny aside, we went to a program meeting, where they describe aspects of the program to us. It took twice as long for us because everything said had to be said in English and Spanish, but one the the key things was this:

    It is important to learn Spanish that the English speakers be immersed at least 90% of the time until grade three, then they can back off, and the child will develop a fluency in the language - second don't try to teach your child to read English with phonics at home because the child will become all confused and pronounce cat gate -oh rather than gaht - oh, or say Hole-ah, istead of O-la. etc.

    Point one, we messed up and taught the kid to read english before hearing about this - not only does she not have an issue with letters being pronounced slightly differently, she is one the few kids in her class who can read in English and Spanish! Cuz the English reading translates very well to reading spanish too.

    The second question I had, but was too chicken to ask was this. If it is so great for my English speaking daughter to spend 90% of her time speaking Spanish in school so she picks up fluency, aren't they doing a disservice to the Spanish speaking kids, by not placing them in a class where they speak ENGLISH 90% of the time until grade three, so the SPANISH speaking kids can develop fluency in ENGLISH.

    Why doesn't that work both ways??????

    More proof that elementary teachers in general are full of it. Thank goodness my wife supplements the education at home or the kid wouldn't learn anything.

  24. J. W.:

    joe: "I see what you’re getting at. If the government didn’t tax us so much private charity would see to the education of children and this system would be better."

    Not necessarily. I don't know whether education would be better by any metric if government schools were abolished. I can't tell you what things will be like because I can't foresee the free choices of millions of individuals.

    So if you want to know about my proposed "system," I can't tell you about it because I don't have one. If you want to know about my "plan"--well, it's of no consequence to you because I don't have a plan for you and every other American, just me and any students I happen to be teaching or tutoring at the moment.

    I'm not sure what sort of response you're expecting with your hypothetical. I suppose I should just put that data into my model for what the world looks like without government schools in the U.S. and read the output for you?

  25. blokeinfrance:

    Bram,Chuck, et al
    I treated it like a quiz too.
    I got to transportation, energy production, employment, and a little list. (Sorry, didn't get prostitution.)
    Then I thought it might be a trick, so I thought about the 0.1%.
    Don't burglars talk about "going to work"? And are we 100% focused on reducing their productivity?
    And then I got bored and took a peek.
    Oh no! Not THEM again!

  26. Scott:

    Joe: "My example was that you could raise productivity by allowing the teacher extra time to improve the performance of the lowest performers."

    No that does not increase productivity because you just increased inputs. Productivity is output divided by input. If you increase output but increase input by a greater amount, productivity decreases.

  27. joe:

    Scott, isn't "improve the performance of the lowest performers." an increase in output?

  28. Scott:

    Yes an increase in the performance of the lowest performers is an increase in output. But how much did you increase input - or are the teachers working for free?

  29. joe:

    i see what you're saying. I'd been assuming it was done as a net positive to productivity but I should have stated that clearly. You're right in that there will be points at which the changes are a loss of productivity. Of course, this can happen in both directions. Increase class size too much and you could end up not educating some children and just wasting your time.

  30. Scott:

    "Of course, this can happen in both directions."

    Yes, and that's the point. Right now we've gone too far in the direction of smaller classes so that productivity is decreasing. If you go too far in the other direction, you will hit a point at which productivity also drops. It's a trade off.