No Such Thing As A Free Lunch? Fairfax County Schools Offer $14 “Free Lunch”

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Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration

download-2My son Aidan ran across this item below on the website for Fairfax schools in signing up for its economics course.  Aidan has come face to face with, as he noted, “proof that there really is no free lunch.”  He has now learned the first central tenet of economics.

Screen Shot 2018-04-08 at 6.00.27 PMFairfax is clearly incorporating a key concept of economics at lunch hour.  Economists have long questioned the validity of a “free lunch” since, even with a free lunch, you have opportunity costs as well as your time and energy. In this case, without the $14 charge, you get the lunch only be enrolling in the course.  Milton Friedman wrote a book entitled There is No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (La Salle; III., 1975).

It is notable that the grading shows less variation than the pricing.  You get “full” for $140 but “reduced lunch” for a fifty percent reduction.  However, “free” means not free but a ten-percent pricing.  Yet, you either “Pass or fail” based on five course assessments.  If “free” means ten percent, shouldn’t “fail” also mean ten percent of the full pass value?  Thus, eleven percent is a pass?  This way the students get some value for paying for their free lunches.

11 thoughts on “No Such Thing As A Free Lunch? Fairfax County Schools Offer $14 “Free Lunch”

  1. Professor Turley,
    I don’t know about Fairfax County Schools and “free lunches”, but when I was a young music teacher in that district (Springfield) in 1972, we music teachers were given FREE classical guitar lessons once a week! Fairfax County School District offered an amazing and exemplary environment in which to teach. It was a joy to work in a district that revered its teachers. …….and I taught 8 and 9 classes a day.

      • He has four children and the state schools in many jurisdictions around Washington are quite handsome. Why wouldn’t he enroll his children in the district schools? There are some serious Catholic schools around Washington (one, for example, run by Opus Dei), but most Catholic schools have only a residue of the faith and, due to the demographic collapse of the religious orders are as expensive as secular private schools. Turley shows no sign of any intense religious commitments, Catholic, evangelical, Jewish, or Mormon. Neither does he show any signs of eccentric subcultural affiliations which might generate an affinity for unusual pedagogies. People of the professional-managerial class seldom do. You might be inclined send your kid to Sidwell Friends or Episcopal High School if you lived in a crap district or he was getting knocked around a lot. Turley’s not ever said he was living in a sketchy area of DC or PG County, so doubt that applies.

  2. What would one expect from something intangible delivered on-line e.g. religion, digital coursework in public speaking, phys. ed., nursing? Bill Gates sends his kids to schools that reject the schemes he funds to be implemented in the schools for the 90%.

  3. They have found that if you don’t have some skin in the game, you are less likely to complete the course, hence the minimal fee for reduced lunch students. Actually, I have several free things I have signed up for that I have not completed.

    So, this is not as insane as it looks. It is based on how and why students complete online courses.

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