To the Editor:
I suppose that most of your readers are as confused as Messrs. Coser and Seligman seem to think that Mr. van den Haag is [“Affluence,” January], after their exchange of vituperative nebulosities. . . . The statistics on education are a good example of what I am talking about—they are irrelevant. Both parties, I am sure, could agree upon the appropriate statistical yardsticks; the point is that Coser and Seligman, traditional liberals in this respect, want mass education because they look upon it as a panacea, while Mr. van den Haag obviously believes (I agree) that it would tend only to make a mass society more massive. . . . [But van den Haag’s] criticism of liberalism, often pertinent, is unaccompanied by very many positive suggestions. . . . For those of us who cannot, like Messrs. Coser and Seligman, accept a too facile optimism, and who will not, like Mr. van den Haag, go upon our way, the terrible dilemma remains.
Hugh Wilson Strauss
Brooklyn, N. Y.
To the Editor:
In reply to Mr. van den Haag, Messrs. Coser and Seligman write: “Since 1950 . . . the increase in average spending per pupil has just kept pace with the increase in enrollment.” It is difficult to know for sure what is meant by this sentence, but I think most readers would interpret it to mean that, though school budgets have gone up since 1950, expenditure per child has remained constant. According to the Research Division of the National Education Association, current expense per pupil in average daily attendance was $210 in 1949-50, and $340 in 1958-59. Including capital outlay and interest, expenses per pupil rose from roughly $250 to roughly $450. Average salary “per instructional staff member” rose from $3,010 to $4,935. All these increases are far greater than the rise in the cost of living over this period. How do the Messrs. Coser and Seligman justify their statement that “we have only just kept pace with past levels—and by past levels we mean the recent past. . . .”? By what standard do they criticize Mr. van den Haag’s statistics?
New York City
Mr. Seligman writes:
Martin Mayer evidently is as adept in statistical method as is van den Haag. The data he quotes are all in current dollars, a rather crude way of examining the issue, to say the least. The figures Dr. Coser and I cited were all subjected to an implicit price deflator to take account of changes in the price level. The technique for applying such a correction is available in most elementary texts. The logic underlying this approach is quite obvious: school buildings and the like are real things and should be compared to “real” dollars. If Mr. Mayer will repair to the nearest desk calculator, he will discover that expenditures per pupil have “just kept pace” with average daily attendance, numbers of teachers, pupil enrollment, or any other item he cares to measure. And if he uses the same statistical correction for his figures on teachers’ salaries, Mr. Mayer will discover that they have risen 33 per cent since 1950, rather than the 64 per cent he implies, a “pace” only somewhat better than the 26 per cent real increase we had in mind. To repeat, the increase in average spending per pupil has just kept pace with the increase in enrollment. Quod erat demonstrandum.