Tag Archives: schools

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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Just Plain Dumb

IdiocracyJeremiah differs from Ilya Somin, who writes that political ignorance is a rational choice – leaving others to do the work of electing an honest government.  That may be true for Somin’s lawyer buddies.  Jeremiah is more inclined toward Jim Quinn’s view, that we have developed a culture of ignorance.

Quinn’s post is long.  You might at least skim it for the statistics and the block quotes.  Here is our favorite, from Martin Luther King:

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance

We have reported on the TIMSS study, the PISA study, and the PIAAC study, along with other OECD studies and the European press.  There is an undeniable connection between good schools, smart people, and successful economies.  Smart people are not only more productive, they elect better governments.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

The cycle also spins in the other direction.  Ignorant voters elect corrupt leaders, who have little incentive to improve education.  Jeremiah’s estimate, among others, suggests the process has been ongoing since the 1960s.  That means many of you, reading this, have never seen quality education.

Conspiracy theorists worry about Prozac in the water supply, or whatever.  Destroying the schools was much simpler, and it’s a perfectly natural process.  That’s why we have breathtaking corruption in America, a bubble economy, and a police state.  The people are too dumb to protest.

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More from the Skills Survey

We really like the way the OECD writes about skills.  They refer to a nation’s “stock” of skills, because skills are an earning asset, like roads and factories.  Without strong skills, we cannot expect to succeed in the modern economy.  This applies to us, individually, and to America as a whole.

Smart PeopleThe survey looks at variations in skill levels across nations and within nations.  We have already mentioned the impact of skills on inequality.  Here are a few more insights from the report:

  • In America, skill levels are inherited.  Jeremiah has discussed this before.  If you were born into the bottom quintile, chances are you will stay there, because our schools are no good.
  • We have an abnormally large proportion of these unfortunates.  The OECD calls them “below level 1.”  That’s a strain on our social safety net.
  • Older Americans are better at math than younger Americans.  The OECD calls that a “declining stock of skills.”  When Jeremiah’s generation dies off, you kids will be dead last in the world.
  • Having an education is not the same as having skills.  We rank near the top in going to college, but Dutch high school graduates have more skills.  Jeremiah thinks college in America is a fraud, and so does Simon Black.
  • The survey makes some borderline capitalist observations about labor force participation.  Tax and benefit systems can make work unprofitable for low-skilled adults.  This bit of arithmetic, they’re good at.
  • Employers complain of a skills shortage, even though unemployment is high!  That’s why we beg the INS for more H-1B visas.
  • Unions may lock workers in to jobs for which they’re unsuited, while locking out younger workers, and generally distorting the allocation of skills.
  • Immigrants must learn the host language.  We figured they would pick it up eventually, but the OECD says this is a big problem and requires government intervention.

Again, the OECD – Sec. Gen. Angel Gurria – is to be commended for an objective look at the issue.  Some media outlets have been spinning the results to suit an agenda.  The Economist, for instance, thinks that “more egalitarian societies have better skills,” an obvious misreading of cause and effect.

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Wealth of Nations

The OECD has published a new skills assessment for adults.  This is a follow up to the student assessment, PISA, described in Amanda Ripley’s book.  We sometimes think the OECD runs these surveys just to humiliate Americans.  “Go ahead, ask them where the equator is, LOL.”  Here is how we ranked in math proficiency:

NumeracyThe OECD deserves props for a well organized study.  Their thesis is that people need advanced skills to thrive in the modern economy, and the study analyzes the distribution of those skills.  The report also makes policy recommendations.  One look at this chart proves their thesis.  The failing European economies are right there at the bottom.

Descriptions of the proficiency levels for this chart are given on page 76 of the report.  To put it crudely, the 35% of Americans on the right side of the line are employable.  They will have decent jobs and pay taxes, to support the other 65%.

This is the root cause of income inequality.  Obviously, we need better education, but that’s a long term project.  In the meantime, politicians will look to redistribute income.  That’s not too bad in a balanced country, like Germany.  Here in America, each smart person must carry two of the others.

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African Leapfrog

Some were skeptical of our report on the One Laptop per Child project in Ethiopia, so here is another.  This article is mainly about tablet computers in Kenya but it mentions the earlier story, as well as Kindle readers in Ghana.

In Ethiopia researchers found that even in the absence of teachers, children figured out how to use tablets

What is interesting about all this, is the “technology leapfrog” effect.  Outside of rich South Africa, the continent never had much of a telephone network.  Evolving technology has allowed Africa to skip landline telephones entirely, and go straight to cellular. As a result, Kenya has become a leader in mobile payment systems.

Jeremiah wonders if tablets might also be a leapfrog technology, allowing Africa to surpass the overpriced schools in America.

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Ethiopian Hackers

Here is a heartwarming piece from DVice.  The One Laptop Per Child project has been handing out tablet computers to schoolchildren in Africa.  They had been delivering them via schools but, in this instance, they just pushed them off the truck. Not only did the kids figure out how to use the tablets, without help, they figured out how to turn on the little camera.  Since the tablets are preloaded with educational software, and the camera disabled, this was a good trick – hence the term “hacking” in the title.

The OLPC Project delivered boxes of tablets to two villages in Ethiopia, taped shut, with no instructions whatsoever.

Instructions would have been useless, because this is a remote village without written language.  Some of the comments cry colonialism, i.e., “who says kids in a remote Ethiopian village need to learn English from a tablet computer?”

Fair enough, but Jeremiah scents something even more diabolical – a plot to get rid of teachers!  We are anxiously waiting for Dr. Negroponte to distribute his magical tablets in Chicago.

See also: Dr. Sugata Mitra

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It’s Racism, Stupid

Nice coverage here, on BET, about Florida’s outrageous new race-based educational standards.  For all you racists out there who have been wondering whether Latinos are smarter than Blacks, here are the official reading proficiency standards issued by the Florida State Board of Education:

  • Asian – 90%
  • White – 88%
  • Latino – 81%, almost as smart as whites!
  • Black – 74%

It’s nice to see the NAACP cite President Bush on the “bigotry of low expectations,” especially as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also opposes the measure.  Obviously, the lower standards are intended to benefit weak teachers, not weak students.

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