Comments on the Presentation:

"Raising Attendance in Schools"
by Michael Kremer, Ph.D.

H. William Batt

[Notes on a presentation made at the Williams College Biennial Henry George Lecture, 16 October 2006. Reprinted from GroundSwell, September-October 2006]

Williams College, one of four recipients of grants from the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation in the early 1980s -- the others being Scranton University, Pace University and St. Johns University -- held its biennial Henry George Lecture on Monday evening, October 16. The lecture is biennial because the alternate year's funds support faculty research with a Georgist dimension.

The guest lecturer this year was Dr. Michael Kremer, the Gates Professor of Economics at Harvard. His focus of interest is incentives effective in raising attendance in schools, in cooperating in prophylactic medical programs, and similar measures that will promote economic development in third-world nations. He drew upon his own research in Kenya along with nearly comparable studies elsewhere. What he hoped to show is that certain inducements and rules are likely to show better attendance results than others -- tie-ins with health services, monetary incentives or discounts, use of standard uniforms, and so on. Among those in attendance, which was completely voluntary, were about fifty students, and assorted faculty and guests.

It would be difficult to link the work of Professor Kremer to Georgist approaches, so the dinner beforehand arranged at the Williams Faculty Club by Al Hartheimer between the Williams economic faculty members and the Georgists among us proved to be the highlight of the evening. Other Schalkenbach Foundation board members both past and present were able to represent our point of view: Courtney Haff, Kris Feder, and me. Each of us had opportunity to introduce a bit of our background and interests, and expand discussion on Georgist ideas. None of the faculty members had much knowledge of George as a person or of his ideas, and the meeting offered an opportunity for probing exchanges. Indeed, for the third year, the winter intercession will offer an opportunity for the Williams students staying on campus to take a three week course in Georgist economics taught by Al Hartheimer. Each of the past two years' offerings has gotten positive reviews by the students who signed up.

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