When you talk to certain economists about online education, they say it is bad for society because it puts classroom teachers out of work. The economist states this because he is only looking at that which is seen. He is avoiding that which is unseen.
Frederic Bastiat, a French statesman and economist, wrote an essay entitled “That Which is Seen, And That Which is Not Seen.” In it he wrote that in order to be a good economist you must also look at that which is unseen. He gave an example titled “The Broken Window.” A mischievous boy threw a rock and broke the bakery window. The townspeople come to see what happened. One of the townsfolk said that the boy has helped the economy by breaking the window. He continued his statement by saying that the baker now has to buy a new window which gives the window maker business and in turn the window maker buys glass giving work to the glass maker. See, he said, how the broken window has helped the economy? The baker came out and objected, do you know that there is also that which is unseen? If the window wasn’t broken I could have used the money to buy myself a suit, giving business to the tailor and the tailor would have gone and bought cloth giving the weaver work. When all is done and finished I would have helped the economy and still would have a window.
Now that we understand what Frederic Bastiat was writing about, we can look at the statement,”Online education is bad for society because it puts classroom teachers out of work.” This sentence only shows that which is seen; that online education makes teachers lose their jobs. The problem is that the unseen cause and effect is not taken into account. If the parents don’t have to pay taxes to support public schools they can use the money to enroll in an online class and still have money to buy other necessary things. The extra cash spent elsewhere gives jobs to businesses, which in turn increases revenue. The businesses can now hire the teachers who lost their jobs which lowers unemployment and thus boost the economy. Looking at the seen and unseen consequences, we realize that this statement is misleading. A good economist looks at the whole picture.