The Value Of Education


When I read Henri Erti’s letter in the July 20 Transylvania Times questioning our county’s spending for public education in general and early childhood education in particular, I was initially dumbfounded. As Mr. Erti acknowledged, studies show that $1 invested in such early childhood education reaps $14 in benefits.

On re-reading, however, I realized it was a brilliant satire closely modeled on Jonathan Swift’s 1729 “Modest Proposal” to solve the problems of impoverished Irish peasants by having them sell their children to wealthy aristocrats as part of a high protein diet. (“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled…”)

Swift mocked the simple-minded economic models of his era by “proving” his argument with a scholarly and dispassionate mathematical model. Mr. Erti accomplishes the same with a devastating parody of economic logic: “If we consider Transylvania County as an autarky, meaning that physical and human capital are not allowed to move outside the county without some sort of controls, only then adequate return on investment to early childhood education would be feasible.”

A reference to the desirability of keeping our county’s young people ignorant, docile and unemployable beyond the boundaries of Transylvania County would have made the piece perfect. But I would not end my letter on such a carping note. Mr. Erti has perfectly illustrated Oscar Wilde’s warning to beware of those who know “the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

Dan Carter

Pisgah Forest


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