Monday, March 7, 2011

America's Education Crisis

The NY Times has a great piece on one element of the education equation. Are our country's falling education achievements principally due to "teachers"?

Diane Ratvich's opening piece coincides with one my concerns (I have many, but this is one) with GWB's "No Child Left Behind" (NCLB) The program involves punitive measures in greater measure than reward. If your student performance is not acceptable (both at the teacher and school level), your job is in peril, without regard to any analysis of the causative factors. The teacher/school is the de facto guilty party, not the population undergoing the schooling, the state imposed curriculum, or other factors. The a priori assumption in NCLB is that every child is capable of a defined level of achievement, and it's the teacher/school's responsibility to raise that child to that level. Yet this yardstick of universal aptitude is applied to virtually no other performance based endeavor in our society.

As I have posted before, not every child is willing and/or able to meet the standards of a reasonable high school level of achievement. We all know how "Zero Defects" mentalities create sub-par results. Call me an elitist, but I firmly hold that there is a significant segment of our population, for many reasons beyond their immediate control, that is just not equipped to meet reasonable high school graduation standards, and until we face up to that, and address the reasons why, we are simply going to bounce from one jingoistic fad to the next.

For one, there are socio-economic factors that can limit a child's ability. And, as more and more of our population struggles for basic existence, more and more of their offspring are going to be behind the power curve. "Poverty" is more of a threat to an educated society than teacher tenure or pension plans. 30 years ago or so, a Berkley prof offered a wildly unpopular thought about the pervasiveness of the culture of poverty. If there is a genetic component to intelligence, what if cultural masking (or repression) of native (genetic) intelligence could "breed down" the gene pool in poor populations? If intelligent people do tend to seek people of similar displayed intelligence, would the cultural masking or repression of displayed intelligence reduce the odds of genetically bright people find each other as mates? Now, he wasn't opining that certain groups were genetically inferior. All he was trying to do was point out another possible social horror of blindly accepting a permanent "underclass". Even the "Free Speech" culture of Berkley shouted the man down as a racist.

Today, as the Times piece addresses, the movement on policy circles is to scapegoat teachers as both an educational ill as well as a budgetary one. I would be willing to bet that the concurrent moves to reduce aid to the poor will have more negative impact on overall aggregate academic performance that all the incompetent teachers in the the US combined. We have got to accept that some students will never make the grade. How many is hard to say, but experience has demonstrated that 100% graduation becomes the goal, it's the standards and measuring tools that tend to change more than the ability of the student population.

As governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton hit it head on. His state's problem wasn't the graduation rate. It was that a very high percentage of the graduates were functionally illiterate and couldn't handle simple math. His goal was that not only should a better job be done educating the students, but that a HS diploma must regain its stature as evidence of proven ability. And, he said that the standards for graduation had to be enforced before any other issues could be addressed. He admitted that not everyone was willing and/or able to meet that standard. His choice was to keep the standard and make the people do their best to meet it. The standard would guide the people, not the people guide the standard. Radical concept.

Sadly, America is an adversarial culture. For me to win, someone else has to lose or at least not win. We are not really concerned with the long term common or collective good, except in way in which it serves individual gain. As long as "Winning is the only thing", we will continue to search for scapegoats rather than solutions. Ron Paul captured it when he said recently, "No one has a right to an education or health care. That is something that must be earned." Were I a teacher in a school where a child of his family was a student, how tempted I would be to ignore that kid until he or she got a job and paid their own school taxes, rather than freeloading on daddy's tax payments. No child can "earn" his or her education. Paul is visiting the sins or virtues of the fathers onto the children, and his rabid minions are too stupid to see it.



  1. It is quite possible that America's education comes from issues with teachers but the primary problem is, and always will be, the parents.

    There are a lot of valid reasons why parents place such a low value on their childrens education (money, time, and attitude being the big ones). But treating a lack of a good education by ensuring that their kids have a worse education is NOT going to help.

    Speaking from personal experience, a good parent can overcome a bad school with difficulty. A good teacher can overcome a bad school only with superhuman effort and/or skill.

  2. People are rarely satisfied with the education of their children. I've come to the conclusion that "crisis" is inapplicable in regard to education. It's rather permanent dissatisfaction.

    The U.S. is not alone with its education sorrows - Germany and other European countries freaked out when a so-called "Pisa-test" showed that there are huge differences between (measured) education quality and they were not in the top group.

    Our economy is still rather successful, in part because of the good training and education for technical jobs after graduation from school.

  3. I guess I'm the exception that proves the rule for Sven.

    I am very happy with the quality of the education my children are getting. I had to work quite a bit to ensure that it got there but the results have been very nice.

  4. Well, I've been both teacher and student, so I have a little experience from both sides of the bar.

    First, I'll second Sven and agree that there really is no "crisis" in education. In fact, the Western cultures are educating more people, more successfully than any society in human history.

    Think about that; for most of the past 1.4 million (or howevermuch) years "education" consisted of following Mom, Dad, Uncle Og or Auntie Nephet around and doing what they did. When the Sumerians and Babylonians started the first scribal schools about 7,000 or 8,000 years ago the only people who received a formal education were the priest and official classes, probably a tiny fraction of the population.

    The advent of moveable type helps, but fast forward to the 18th Century and we're STILL teaching only the wealthy, the politically connected, and the religious. General schooling doesn't really get a kick start until after the popular revolutions of the 19th Century.

    And even up to 1945 most Americans get a fairly sketchy education. The college attendence rate is practically flat from 1880 to 1945 when th GI Bill kicks in.

    So it's REALLY only over the past 50-60 years that we've even been trying to get evry swinging Richard past the HS diploma post. Not surprisingly we've encountered the demographic reality that not every human - in fact, most people - struggle with a college prep curriculum designed for roughly 10% of the U.S. public. The fact that we can get something like 50-70% up so something close to that is pretty fucking remarkable.

    That said, what I see as the problem is that there are two mutually exclusive trends going on.

    The first is the end of "unskilled" work for a living wage. The reality is that if you end up doing menial or manual labor you are going to get paid squat, and that's not livable in an urban society. On a farm you can be poor and eat; in a city, if you're poor, you starve. So the option of letting as much as 30-40% of the high school kids just drop out (which was the unspoken rule well into the Eighties) and get jobs in the factories or the stores doesn't work. The factory jobs are gone or going, and farm work disappeared a generation ago. So that's done.


  5. But the second trend is the recent fascination with all this "education" and the mad insistence that "everyone can learn". Nonsense. Saying "everyone can learn" at a pre-college level is like saying "everyone can play professional baseball" which we know from experience is not true.

    Millions of kiddies play T-ball or pee-wee, but the number that can move on to play Babe Ruth is smaller, and the number that play high school or Legion ball smaller still. The number of young men able to get a professional contract to Rookie or A-level clubs is in the low tens of thousands, and by the time you get to the doctoral level (AAA) it's down to the mere thousands. And as for the post-docs, well...

    So why is it heresy to recognize that there are going to be a relatively large minority that cannot (or will not, which with humans comes to the same thing) make the cut at the high school academic level?

    Well...I think the big reason is the first trend; the realization that those people are going to be fucked in an economy where relentless downward pressure is going to make a life lived on minimum wage somewhere between miserable and really fucking miserable...

    The whole "teacher" meme? You can ignore that, it's just GOP bullshit.

    1. If you're waiting for your kid to get "inspired" by that "terrific" teacher, you're in for a long wait. Think about it; when do you remember your last "terrific" co-worker? Sexual partner? Waiter? Life is composed of average people - that's why it's called "average". Most teachers are going to be competent but unexceptional at what they do, and no amount of whingeing will change that. And

    2. As Al pointed out, education is not a "push-only" process. There has to be pull from the student end for any learning to happen. So even exceptional teachers will fail (or succeed less) with average or below-average students. Fucking Socrates couldn't make a Rhodes Scholar out of Glenn fucking Beck if he had fifty years and a cattle prod.

    Nope. The "blame the teacher" thing is for breaking teacher unions. Watch; when the last public union is broken the "bad teacher" shrieking will stop - and the teachers will not be any "better", on the average, than they ever were.

    Unless they get paid like Goldman Sachs executives.

  6. "His choice was to keep the standard and make the people do their best to meet it. The standard would guide the people, not the people guide the standard."

    So, in light of my previous two comments, you can see the problem here.

    Assuming that you have a high standard, there will be many people who cannot meet it. Only one in five T-ballers will ever play in high school; only one in 10,000 will ever play in the Bigs.

    But assuming that meeting the standard is considered essential to future employment and general "life-success", then the standard MUST be low enough for a reasonable number of people making a reasonable effort, can meet it. So the standard has to be "can play Pee-wee", not "can pitch for the American Legion team" and, especially not "can play professionally".

    When we had an economy that could run with lots of relatively unskilled people and pay those people a roughly-living wage a high standard was do-able. But now? I think if high schools returned to the Regents standards of the 1950s the U.S. public would see the result and scream like a wounded eagle. And what if ALL U.S. schools were required to teach ALL their kids to that standard? Who would pay for the truant officers you'd need to drag the dropouts back in class, the tutors needed to drag their grades up, the beatings you'd need to give their parents to make them turn off the fucking TV, sit down with the kid and help with the math, to make them give the kid a sane, quiet home with a place to sleep and study...and then make the parents MAKE the kids sleep and study.

    I fight constantly with my smart little, well-brought-up little, well-fed healthy little seven-year-old to make him turn off the games and do his homework. Can you imagine the extra work needed to do that in a family NOT living in a good neighborhood in a wealthy city with two college-educated, married, employed parents?

  7. I would add status as an important factor. College has become culturally important and if you don't have a college degree or even a HS degree, society writ large looks down on you. It seems strange to me, having grown up around the construction industry, that people would place greater value on someone with an Art History degree than someone who can design and install a plumbing system. That pressure to go to college is, IMO, taking people away from the skilled trades where income is still quite good. My dad saw the beginning of that trend in the 1970's and it's a huge headache for my brother today. The void is being filled by immigrants (at least in the area where my brother works) who don't see anything wrong with a career as a plumber and who understand that good plumbers can earn an upper-middle class income.

    I think this ties in to Seydlitz's post about the economy and "callings."

    Of course those are skilled and semi-skilled trades. The unskilled are pretty much screwed. There simply aren't enough of those jobs and that trend doesn't look like it's going down anytime soon.

  8. FDChief-

    Understand that Clinton did not think or propose that all students could achieve a legitimate level of achievement to earn a diploma. He was more concerned that a diploma represented a given level of demonstrated achievement, which was not the case in Arkansas, no less most other states.

    Paul Krugman echoed you comments about the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, especially in fields for which we are "educating" people. The gap between rich and poor will not be solved by "education", he says. Middle class jobs are simply disappearing, while subsistence jobs are taking their place. The growth at the top end of the scale is in individual earning and wealth, not numbers of opportunities.

  9. Andy - Personally I would include the craftman skills such as plumbing in the education bucket. When we say "education," we need to remember that we are talking ANY set of saleable skills rather than just the ones that can be learned in college.

    Auto mechanic is another area where people can still earn good money these days and you can't learn how to repair today's increasingly sophisticated vehicles in High School.

  10. Regarding education, there are few parents more involved in their kid's education than I am. I'm volunteering at the school several days a week, I serve on the PTO board, I know all the people who work at my school personally, etc. Obviously, I also spend time working with my kids and their learning. They are doing well, though I do have the same frustrations Chief has.

    I've spent a lot of time researching education as well. The more I've researched, the more I've come to the conclusion that teachers aren't the lynchpin to educational attainment they've been made out to be, though obviously they are important. It also seems that early education (preschool and k-2) is most important - IOW that's where teachers can have the biggest impact. I also think the 90/10 rule applies - it appears to me that teachers spend the majority of their time with a small number of students, principally those that are underperforming.

    I've noted here before that we spend more on k-12 education than any other OECD country, and I've also asked, "where's the money?" ~80% is personnel costs. I now think a lot of that difference is explained by healthcare costs, which are paid by employers here in the US and the government in most other places. Health care costs are a significant portion of employer compensation, particularly for unionized workers. Factor that out and our spending-per-pupil is closer to our OECD counterparts, though still high. (It seems just about everything is six-degrees separated from health care which, IMO, is our most pressing national problem.)

    The second major problem I found is unfunded mandates. There are a lot of mandated requirements from the state and feds, yet the cost of meeting those requirements varies wildly from district-to-district (and even school-to-school). Districts have to come up with the money to meet those requirements, which usually means the money comes from operating funds. My PTO is, therefore, actually funding these mandates because we are buying shit the school can no longer afford because the money for those things went to meet the mandates.

    The teachers in my school district are not what I would consider overpaid, but they aren't hurting either (they make $10k more a year on average than the county average). They often have to spend out of their own pockets for classroom materials which seems to be a problem almost everywhere and it would seem to be an easy problem to fix. Most of the teachers in my school are young, so they are not as well paid as the average given the compensation system in which longevity and education are the only determinants to salary. I've said it before and I'll say it again that I think that kind of compensation system is stupid and flawed and that the unions are mistaken for blind supporting it against any reform effort. My son's teacher, for example, just finished her master's degree at great personal expense simply to improve her long-term compensation. That's completely rational given the system, but even she admits she doesn't think it made her a better teacher.

    Another issue is that we have a one-size fits all industrial model for education. We are coming to find that not all kids can realize their potential in that sort of environment. The current "debate" in places like Wisconsin is more accurately a bureaucratic fight over control of resources within the context of the current system. What we need to do is consider changing the system itself, which is a more radical proposition. Click through the charts here and it soon becomes apparent that spending doesn't correlate with outcomes.

    In short, I think we need to look at education more fundamentally. I agree with Al that degrees need to have identifiable standards. I do think, though, there doesn't need to be a single pathway to meet that standard.

  11. Pluto-

    Can an illiterate (Math, English, or both) function as a plumber or auto mechanic? Are there enough jobs in the skilled trades for a significant portion of the population? If the applicant pool rose dramatically, would the wage rate fall? Software developer wages have effectively fallen in the last 10 years as the number of developers began to exceed the number of jobs still on US soil.

  12. I seem to have another comment in the spam pool which seems to consider any comment with a link in it spam.

  13. And I thought "no child left behind" was just another (Neil) Bush boondoggle . . . silly me.

    Yes, Andy, I do see a strong tie in with my thread as well.

    Like Pluto, we are happy with the education our children got. All went through the local German school and did the "Abitur". On the other hand not too many people are happy with the state of the Portuguese state school system and there is currently a strong trend toward national tests and teaching to test, which is unfortunate, since there is a tendency to read too much into the scores and manipulate said scores. On the other hand this is good for business if you make a living teaching English or other extra instruction outside of the state school system . . .

    In Portugal parents take education very seriously and will sacrifice to pay for extra classes for their children. At the same time, they assume state school education is sub-standard.

  14. Andy: Here's the thing about seniority.

    The problem with awarding "raises" to teachers always comes back to the issue of skills vs. setting.

    If I teach all the senior honors classes and two periods of freshman science, I can tell you that I'm pretty much a lock to produce the highest student GPAs among the faculty. And it would be hard to norm my students for improvement, since most of them will graduate and my stats will reflect just the one year. Meanwhile, if I have six periods of freshman English, well, damn; I'm gonna be luck to finish the season, sorry, school year above the Mendoza line.

    Meanwhile, as a selfish, small-minded human being, I truly believe that I have the hardest preps and the shittiest kiddos. Unless that teacher across the hall is as much better at teaching than I am as Plato is above a frog the minute she gets a "merit" pay raise that's the last cooperation she's gonna get out of me. Watch your class for a moment when you take that joker to the disciplinarian? Lend you my glue-gun, or my globe? Sorry, sweetcakes, you're so fucking good, figure it out yourself.

    Nasty? Petty? Sure. Human? Yabetcha.

    So the seniority aspect takes the pettiness out. You cooperate because it increases all of your chances to stay in the game and get to the Big Casino. I'm perfectly willing to consider a pay scheme other than pure seniority as long as it takes into acount the human element I've mentioned.

  15. "Are there enough jobs in the skilled trades for a significant portion of the population?"

    In a word, no. But the news is worse than that.

    As the recent housing bubble-bust showed, construction-related jobs are highly volitile. In addition, they require mobility that is difficult with the U.S.'s mortgage-dependent wealth systems. And many tradesmen are getting the same screwing as the rest of the working-class; this is from the official BLS job page: "Traditionally, many organizations with extensive pipe systems have employed their own plumbers or pipefitters to maintain equipment and keep systems running smoothly. But, to reduce labor costs, a large number of these firms no longer employ full-time, in-house plumbers or pipefitters. Instead, when they need a plumber, they increasingly are relying on workers provided under service contracts by plumbing and pipefitting contractors."

    Ya think?

  16. Chief,

    There's another side to that coin - a young teacher with 1/3 the pay looks at the old teacher across the hall and realizes that teacher is mediocre at best and coasting along because of tenure and seniority.

    Look, obviously you wouldn't want a system where a teacher benefits over their peers simply by getting picked to teach the honors classes. But I haven't yet heard a good argument for why public school teaching is such a unique job that merit cannot be a consideration for advancement and higher pay.

    Note that I'm not saying seniority should be eliminated, but merely that merit should be a consideration.

  17. Regarding what Al said about graduation standards:

    I note that one in five high school graduates who took the ASVAB exam for enlistment in the Army between 2004 and 2009 failed to qualify. And the Army & Marine qualification is lower than the other services requiring only a passing category of IIIB. So the Navy, Coasties, and Air Force must be having a higher failure rate.

    In addition to math, verbal and science skills the ASVAB also evaluates technical skills such as electronics, auto tech, toolshop, mechanical principles, and spatial savvy. So those low ASVAB scores mean those who failed are also unlikely to succeed in the civilian workforce as plumbers or mechanics or other trades.

    Regarding teacher tenure: I do not have a good understanding of the subject. But it does seem fair to me that some complex scoring should be done for teacher pay raises that takes into account both seniority, and some sort of normalized performance rating based on the human element stated by Chief.

    As far as layoffs go, the same principal should apply. The LIFO principle is no more appropriate in teacher cutbacks than it is in military RIFs. It has been a long, long time since I was in High School. But as I recall the teachers that I and my peers learned the most from were younger and more enthusiastic.


  18. To those who think that teacher merit pay is a relatively simple task, how would you "rate" a teacher that is dealing with the lowest natural performers? Do we rate them on "student progress"? While the bulk of my teaching experience is at the university level, I once had an advanced computer programming class (Advanced File Structures)stuffed with 10 students with no prior training, simply because an administrator could not stand the idea of those seats going empty and not generating income from the state. Needless to say, these 10 students were destined to either drop the course in frustration or fail, unless I watered the course down to skip the bulk of the subject matter and teach introductory programming. So, if 10 of 25 students in that class were to fail or drop, and the remainder earn A's and B's, how would you determine my merit pay? Are not elementary and high school teachers face with a similar problem. Do they not have to play with the hand they have been dealt? Yes, it maybe possible to offer "performance incentives", but I, for one, do not claim to be able to know exactly how. Perhaps we can learn from the business sector and use Wall Street's approach? Perhaps we alreay are mirroring Wall Street. Aren't we already bankrupting things by issuing bogus HS diplomas?

    Until we, as a society, accept that some children ARE going to be left behind, it's all an exercise in futility.

  19. Al,

    How do you evaluate a sgt who gets a squad full a shit-bags vs one filled with top performers? How does one evaluate "leadership" to such an extent that an officer can rack-n-stack his/her subordinates in numerical order from best to worst? How is it possible that a board of Colonels can sit in a room and determine which Majors get promoted (and which gets promoted BTZ) based on a few paragraphs of text on sheet of paper?

    Every profession has to deal with those kinds of issues. What is unique about teaching that it is not possible to do the same? I don't buy the idea that it is impossible to tell good teachers from bad?

    No evaluation system is going to be perfect. The one most-talked about regarding teachers is some kind of value-added system, where teachers would be evaluated based on how well students progressed regardless of where they started. That might be a start - Personally, I don't think there should be a single mechanistic criteria based solely on student test scores. I think any system needs both subjective and objective criteria.

    Also, I think the purpose of the system should be two-fold - first to identify under-performing teachers and get them additional training or whatever they need to improve and, failing that, to get rid of them. Secondly, identify the top 20% or so of teachers and reward them.

  20. In Mexico, or at least in Estado Veracruz, primary and secondary education seems quite effective. One reason is the "beca" system. A child who keeps current with school work, behaves reasonably well in class and shows up once a month at the local clinic for a cursory medical exam, receives a small monthly stipend called a beca. If the child loses his or her beca, all other children in the family lose theirs. Teachers, siblings and parents bear down hard on a kid who's in trouble. In rural areas, the beca is often the only cash money the family sees.

    Pdunk Paul

  21. Andy-

    I guess I have not been precise enough. We are all too worried right now about teacher performance and way too focused on what a HS diploma should signify. Again, when a high percentage of HS grads are illiterate and cannot do basic math, one has to ask what is going on. At the town hall meeting I attended with Gov Clinton many years ago, the head of the teachers' union bewailed how poorly they were paid. Clinton said, "The question is not your wages, but why are you signing report cards giving passing grades to students who cannot read." We are not, as a people, asking nor answering that question. We come up with strategies to "graduate" more students, but their post graduation ability does not improve. Teachers do not set standards, they teach to them. As Clinton said, it would appear that the yardstick used to measure student performance is made out of elastic.

  22. Al,

    On that we agree. Merit pay for teachers is really a side issue since I think the problems in education are systemic. We need to rethink the whole enterprise.

  23. Andy: I'm not saying that there's no virtue in some sort of merit/performance pay raises for teaching, just that the evaluation and reward process will be both difficult to do and hard to implement successfully. I have done both and can tell you that I'd rather train a squad of homicidal CatIVs for an ARTEP that try and teach history to freshmen!

    "Another issue is that we have a one-size fits all industrial model for education. We are coming to find that not all kids can realize their potential in that sort of environment."

    I'll go you one further than that; we pretty much know the sort of kid that does well in that environment. The kids who are "well-socialized", who can sit patiently for long periods, whose ability to process large amounts visual, verbal, and written information is high, will do well in a traditional classroom setting. Those who can't - and this often (tho not always) means the kids from poor and chaotic families - don't.

    In other words, the very kiddos that need the most teaching aren't going to get it from a regular classroom.


    The REAL problem is that we also know what it would take to educate this sort of kid, and it costs the heavens and the earth. It means a tutor for every 2-5 kids, tons of interactive and out-of-the-seats (even out-of-the-clasroom) learning. It means an assload of support and structure for the families, since the learning will get lost almost immediately when the kids return to the mess that is their homes unless they get that help. It means counselors, life-coaches, team teaching, lots of coordination between parents, teachers, adminstrators, means spending tons of jack on kids that - and let's be honest with ourselves here - our country doesn't really care much about.

    In other words; it ain't gonna happen.

    The thing here is, like I sad up top; we're really not doing that bad a job teaching our kids, given the social variety of our country and the demands of modern technic society. The problem is that the same technic society increasingly devalues the work that the below-average students are suited to do; there's just no steelmill and rivethead job pools out there, and not everyone - hell, fewer than you'd think - is suited for software design or computer animation.

    I just don't know how you fix this; it's not really an "educational" problem, it's an economic one, and those economic challenges aren't going away.

  24. Yeah, those are all good points. It's hard to see where the jobs will come from. A lot of people think we're in a major recalculation but no one really knows what the result will be. Arnold Kling coined a phrase I like to describe macroeconomics: "Patterns of sustainable specialization and trade." It seems to me either new patterns will form, similar to what occurred with industrialization, or we'll go the way of Rome with millions of plebes with no opportunity on the public dole for sustenance and entertainment.

  25. Bob Reich has a similar take. He says flat-out that a return to the "70%-consumtion-on-credit-15%-financial-services" economy is dead, or should be - that therer's just no way to run it sustainably. But that there's really no way back to the old big-industry economy; without tariffs we can't compete. He freely admits that there must be a "New Economy" out there but can't figure out what the hell it will be.

    I think he is conciously avoiding the "New Rome" option. But that's certainly the Worst Case possibility; remember how irresponsibly the Roman mob was known for voting...

  26. Chief:

    There is interesting anecdote to that "outsourcing trades to contractors" comment.

    A few years ago, I worked for the telephone company. They decided to outsource their installers, so they effectively laid off all their (union) installers, offered to sell their trucks to the installers at a discount and then hire them all back as contractors. It played hell with the unions and a lot of the installers were deeply unhappy.

    Skip ahead a few years. It turns out that telecommunications installation is a skilled trade which is a quite hard to learn unless you work for the telephone company (which no longer hired people) These installers basically had it all over the phone company because they had very limited competition, especially in the rural areas.

    The phone company ended up spending quite a bit more money on installation. They also freed up the installers to go work for the cable companies who were ramping up *their* internet business at the time. So, not only did it cost more, but they improved their competitor's capabilities!

    World class management!

  27. Late to the discussion, but we should re-align education with the realities of both student potential (population) and the state of the nation (world).

    This is well-said: "Poverty" is more of a threat to an educated society than teacher tenure or pension plans. As Andy said, very early (K-2) education is of prime importance. For those who fail to master reading, catching up is not possible. Why don't they read? A witches brew of reasons.

    Having taught, I concur with FDC that it is as with most jobs: Mediocrity reigns. As such, teachers are burdened with every damaging thought that everyone has: Poor kids are from "those homes", and so get written-off early.

    Even if there were unlimited funds, there are not unlimited great minds that would be able to innovate and energize their mediocre charges. All went fairly well when public schools allowed the tracking system, but everyone "needs" college today. Of course, it's not true, but we don't speak the truth. We look for a magic bullet when there is none.

    I concur heartily, FDC:

    Socrates couldn't make a Rhodes Scholar out of Glenn fucking Beck if he had fifty years and a cattle prod.

  28. Al-

    I think you'll find this interesting . . .