Category Archives: Education

That Old Time Religion

Camille Paglia says that an empire is ripe for the fall, right around the time its citizens gain total freedom of sexual expression. We may assume that hers is not a moral judgment, but an empirical one – correlation, not cause.

There [comes] a time when these fine gradations of gender identity—I’m a male trans doing this, etc.—this is a symbol of decadence, I’m sorry.

The correlation model holds up pretty well, for falling empires in general. Rome is a favorite example. Paglia adds Egypt and Babylon. America, as we have shown, started going to hell in the 1970s, and has declined pari passu as our society has become more liberal.

The reactionary right believes there is a causal link. America’s military and economic might depended on the “moral fabric” of our society, which was frayed by evils like abortion, gay marriage, and women’s rights. Plenty of evangelists take this line, along with moralizing enemies abroad.

Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership … This is the path to degradation. – Vladimir Putin

Jeremiah rejects all this, of course. We define morality in purely civic terms. It means going to work, paying taxes, serving your country, and being politically active. The sexually repressive definition, which goes by the name of “family values,” is spurious.

Here, then, is a scary thought. What if there is a causal link, and the link is repression? What if the kind of regimentation that produces good soldiers and engineers, also produces bigotry and discrimination? That would mean that a liberal society is always a weak society.

We disregarded the old institutions and the old values, including some we should have kept – like fortitude and self-reliance.

There are counterexamples, like northern Europe, but circumstantial evidence weighs heavily in favor of the reactionaries. We must understand that these people see “good old American values” as a package deal. Gays were in the closet, and we had 5% GDP growth.

Social liberals have made the same conflation. We disregarded the old institutions and the old values, including some we should have kept – like fortitude and self-reliance. Once again, we have arrived at the set theory definition of centrism. The right wants all of the old values back, including the bad ones, and the left wants none, overlooking the good ones.

America needs social norms and institutions that reinforce productive behavior. We need families (of any kind) that stick together, and kids that stick with math. People are saying that we will fail because we have forgotten our values. Let’s not fail.

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Filed under Center Field, Education

Leave Those Kids Alone

The song from which this post takes its name was a protest against English public schools, which were used in that country to crush young spirits and enforce a heinous caste system. At this point, it is impossible for any thinking person to support state controlled schools. Thinkers on all sides and throughout history have come to the same conclusion.

  • They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They want obedient workers, people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork – George Carlin
  • Schools train you to be … a usable victim for a military industrial complex that needs manpower – Frank Zappa

Mr. Carlin, above, recorded perhaps the best ever statement of this problem. It’s worth spending three minutes on YouTube to hear the whole piece. Jeremiah’s favorites are the thinkers who identified this as a general problem regardless of political alignment.

  • State education is a mere contrivance for molding people [into] that which pleases the dominant power in the government – John Stuart Mill
  • Too much state control in educational matters is a fatal danger to freedom, since it must lead to indoctrination – Karl Popper
  • We have not yet developed a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination – Doris Lessing

Finally, we have two quotes from dictators who were candid about their intentions. Especially creepy is the idea that the young victims will be incapable of thinking critically. They are to be mentally maimed.

  • The schools must fashion the person, and fashion him in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will – Johann Gottlieb Fichte
  • Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted – Vladimir Lenin

For America to be successful, and meritocratic, we must ensure that all children have access to good education – but we must not trust the state to provide it. The state will use the schools for indoctrination instead of education, which may be why American schools are the world’s most expensive.

Delegating education to the private sector would make it more efficient, but there is no guarantee that corporate messaging would not find its way into the schools – substituting one form of indoctrination for another.

This problem does not have a ready solution, but there is a clear mechanism for finding a solution. This is an important technique for setting policy. You don’t always need a ready solution. Only statists believe that policy makers have all the answers. What you need is a mechanism for finding a solution.

In this case, the mechanism is to enlist parents in fixing the schools. Ensure that the state will pay for public schools, private schools, charter schools, online schools, home schools, and even religious schools – and allow the parents to choose.

Initially, there might be wacko schools teaching dogma instead of arithmetic, but these would fail rapidly. Parents will reliably move their kids into the most effective schools. They are the group best equipped to find a solution, and they should have the power.

See also:  Backpack funding puts focus on students

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Selling Out

The Economist has been just brutal on President Obama’s foreign policy, despite having endorsed him in 2008 and again in 2012. They had some other policy in mind, and Jeremiah knows what it is. To prove it, we confidently predict the magazine will endorse Jeb Bush in 2016. Need a hint? Here is the latest shameless advertisement for Common Core.

Pearson2014

The data in this chart is from Pearson’s annual report. We love The Economist, but it is chump change to the money Pearson makes from its multimillion dollar no-bid education contracts. They might as well use it for an advertising vehicle. Oh, and did we mention that “Doctor Evil,” Eric Schmidt of the Google-NSA security apparatus, recently joined the board?

A Politico investigation has found that Pearson stands to make tens of millions in taxpayer dollars and cuts in student tuition from deals arranged without competitive bids in states from Florida to Texas.

As for the substance of Common Core, centrist Jeremiah splits the difference. Standards, testing, and merit pay – good. Reliance on agitprop course packs – not so much. At this point, the best way for The Economist to recover its editorial integrity would be for Jeff Bezos to buy it and make it into an app.

Update:  Shortly after this post, Pearson sold FT.  As of this writing, July 28, they also plan to sell The Economist.  Someone must be reading Jeremiah.

See also: Strictly Fishwrap

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Wilfully Ignorant

Shown here is an Iowa license plate. Note the double helix running through the center of the design, like a coil of smoke rising from the barn below. We have seen this figure on road signs and license plates in at least four other states. It is, apparently, a mystical totem meant to attract technology jobs.

IA_plateWe wondered how many people actually know something about DNA. Hat tip to Ilya Somin for providing the answer in this hilarious post.

Over 80 percent of Americans support mandatory labels on foods containing DNA

The quip about pregnant women passing DNA on to their children reminded us of Penn and Teller’s campaign to ban dihydrogen monoxide (H2O). “It’s in all our lakes and streams,” said the canvasser. Somin goes on to make his familiar argument that, for some people, ignorance may be a rational choice. We like Somin’s ongoing exploration of ignorance, but we draw the line at apologizing for it.

This brings us to one of Jeremiah’s tips for clear thinking – the substitution test. This is a straight up linguistic technique based on the principle of contrastive pairs. We take a statement about “gun rights,” for example, switch it to “gay rights,” and then see how it sounds.

Most Germans get by perfectly well even though 25% of them think the sun orbits the Earth.

See? The sentence doesn’t scan, because everybody knows Germans are well educated. Somin’s position amounts to special pleading for Americans, as if we have a right to be ignorant. This is not to single out Somin. There is, in fact, quite a large ignorance movement in America.

They want people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork – George Carlin

Maastricht? Bretton Woods? Those are tourist spots. Don’t bother us with politics or current events. This stuff has nothing to do with real life, and we are too busy to care. It’s all negative energy, anyway. We are – Jeremiah’s favorite – too spiritual. We are above worldly concerns.

The merchants of ignorance are always trying to sell it as some kind of virtue.

The stupidity of the American voter … was really, really critical to get the [ACA] to pass. – Jonathan Gruber

We hate Jonathan Gruber for saying it, but we have to admit he’s right. We are a nation of idiots. Admitting it is the first step. Jeremiah, as you know, blames public education. Our schools fail miserably to educate, because that’s not their purpose. To paraphrase Milton Friedman – public education is always and everywhere an indoctrination program.

See also:  OECD Skills Survey

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Asian Values

Jeremiah confesses to becoming somewhat of an Asiaphile. Check out this ad from Bank of Singapore. We looked into this “Asian values” thing, and found Kishore Mahbubani.

Like you, we believe success is built on the Asian values of integrity and hard work

In addition to integrity and hard work, Professor Mahbubani has identified seven “pillars of wisdom.”

  1. Free market economics
  2. Science and technology
  3. Meritocracy
  4. Pragmatism
  5. Culture of peace
  6. Rule of law
  7. Thirst for knowledge

Sound familiar? Those sneaky Asians have lifted our values! Jeremiah distinctly remembers free market economics in America, as recently as the 1980s. In fairness, this is a Singaporean list. For China, meritocracy and rule of law may be more aspirational.

[Western intellectuals] had sharp minds, always producing new insights as they spoke. It has come as a huge personal shock for me to see this same group of Western intellectuals now totally blind to emerging new realities.

Mahbubani writes that he is personally surprised to see intellectual leadership – or wisdom, as he calls it – waning in the West. He draws lessons from our policy failures, as in this article, motivated by the minimum wage debate.

If the powerful American Constitution and its system of checks and balances have failed to prevent dysfunctional governance in the US, we in Singapore should take heed

America is not a place, they say, but an idea. If we have forsaken the idea, we should be glad it has found a new home. Good values are good for everyone. We hope to see them discovered – and rediscovered – around the world.

See also: The Road from Serfdom

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Le Cliché de Proust

ClicheJeremiah hates literary references. We read recently about a zoologist studying tigers, “in the forests of the night.” No kidding. This was in Intelligent Life, the aspirational magazine for rich people who want to be smart.

The stilted reference to Blake reads like someone who has reached intermediate proficiency in French, and is suddenly full of je ne sais quoi – or the sophomore philosopher who knows a little of existentialism and not much about existence.

A liberal education should supply material for a career of original thinking, not ornaments for the banal.

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Of Flat Lines and Derp

Paul Krugman is here again with his favorite straw man argument. Krugman is smart and everyone else is stupid because QE has not resulted in hyperinflation. He doesn’t say “stupid,” though. He says “derp,” which means “I have statistics which seem to support my prejudices and you don’t.”

InflationApparently, hyperinflation is the only negative outcome recognized by the good doctor. He presents a lovely FRED chart proving his point. CPI has been flattish for six years, while money supply has grown. Can you think of any negative outcomes, other than inflation? Here is one hint, from FT, and another from Jeremiah. The quote below is from an ECB study.

An increase in the monetary base tends to … benefit primarily those on higher incomes, who hold a larger amount of overall savings in equities, and thus benefit from greater capital income.

Krugman’s chart shows only that his prescribed policy has avoided one particular negative outcome. It does not prove that the policy has actually worked, nor does it address the many other negative outcomes. Krugman’s acolytes are nonetheless hailing this one chart as the decisive defense of QE.

So, has the policy achieved its stated goal of increasing employment? Let’s look at another FRED chart. It looks a lot like the CPI chart, doesn’t it? Based only on these two variables, you would conclude that QE has had no effect at all.

EmploymentAt this point, we are obliged to point out that both these charts are bunk because the fivefold increase in money supply is obscuring smaller changes in the dependent variables. Accordingly, we drop it and display only employment and inflation. We already know what the history of QE has been over the period, and now we can see that inflation has indeed risen while employment has remained flat.

Both

Finally, we observe that Krugman, a college professor and an economist of some note, is here coining a childish new term of abuse for his opponents – while engaging in exactly the sort of factless advocacy he presumes to criticize.

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