May 20, 2011 4:36PM

Turns out State Schooling Isn’t Communist after all…

Albert Shanker, long‐​time head of the American Federation of Teachers union, said back in 1989 that:

It’s time to admit that public education operates like a planned economy, a bureaucratic system in which everybody’s role is spelled out in advance and there are few incentives for innovation and productivity. It’s no surprise that our school system doesn’t improve: it more resembles the communist economy than our own market economy.

But hang on a minute! Doesn’t the following description sound a lot like the work rules in our public schools:

Promotion was determined by the Table of Ranks.… An official could hold only those posts at or below his own personal rank.… [S]tandard intervals were set for promotion: one rank every three years from ranks 14 to 8; and one every four years from ranks 8 to 5.… This meant that, barring some heinous sin, even the most average bureaucrat could expect to rise automatically with age.… The system encouraged … time‐​serving mediocrity

That, ladies and gentleman, is not a description of the work rules of the communist‐​era Russian bureaucracy. It describes the rules in the Tsarist Russian bureaucracy (see Orlando Figes, “A People’s Tragedy,” p. 36).

The funny thing is, according to Figes, “By the end of the [19th] century, however, this system of automatic advancement was falling into disuse as merit became more important than age.”

So the modern U.S. system for promoting public school teachers was discarded as inefficient and unworkable… by the Tsars.