My brother asks (well, actually he’s passing on Rachel’s question), “Why are people so in favor of public education yet opposed to public health care?” Here are my comments.
To the degree that this is the case, I think it’s largely because “public” does not mean the same thing as “public.”
With “public” education there is still a large, though continually decreasing (and often, therefore, bemoaned) degree of local control. My trust of “public” education is partially dependent on my personal relationships with teachers, administrators, and school board people.
Most models of “public” health care seem to imply control from the top down, the top in this case, being federal bureaucrats in DC. Will I ever be in a place where I will be anything more than a client seeking patronage from experts or my social betters?
But then I might be atypical. I am not an unqualified fan of “public” education. I do what I can to support it and make it better. My wife and I have both volunteered in the schools for years. But we’re also firm believers that one size/option doesn’t fit all. For most families today it is a great sacrifice to choose anything other than public education for their children.
In general, my main negative perception of public education is that they aim too low. “Let’s get the kids to pass the TAKS test.” Sure – but that’s a MINIMUM standard, not a maximum.
In the same way, some might fear that by make health care entirely public (and I think once a significant portion of health care goes public, the cost differential will crowd out non-public – i.e., non-governmental [which is NOT the only meaning of public, though it has been pretty much reduced to that of late] – health care even more than public schooling crowds out other options), the minimum standards will be adopted. Anything more is too expensive, after all.