Posts Tagged ‘Schools’

An important message about education

August 25, 2015


The passing scene: March 20, 2015

March 20, 2015

When a Summer Job Could Pay the Tuition by Timothy Taylor as the Conversible Economist.


When I attended college in the 1950s, any young American could earn enough working at a full-time summer job, and a part-time job during the school year, to pay tuition at a state university.  The USA is generating just as much wealth per person as it was then, so there is no inherent reason why that shouldn’t still be possible.

Wrong-Way Obama? by William Greider for The Nation (via Truthout)

The world economic situation is very much like it was on the eve of the Great Depression of the 1930s.  World leaders need to work together to create jobs, and to write down debt that is a burden on economic growth and never going to be paid anyway.  The Transpacific Partnership Agreement is the exact opposite of the kind of international agreement that is needed.

Who Owns the Post Office? by Mark Jamison for Save the Post Office (via Angry Bear).

The Founders of the United States didn’t think of the Postal Service as a business.  They thought of it as a means of binding the nation together.   Benjamin Franklin, once a postmaster, would have been shocked by closing of post offices in small towns because they didn’t generate enough traffic.

How Parents in One Low-Income Town Are Raising Hell to Save Their Schools by Alan Richard on Alternet.

School teachers will tell you that the key to better schools is parents getting involved.   Parents in a small town in Mississippi have figured out how to make that work.

Peasant Sovereignty? by Evanggelos Valliantos for Independent Science News.

A recent study of nine European countries is the latest study to confirm that peasants and small farmers are more productive than large mechanized farms based on industrial agriculture.  If decision-makers are concerned about feeding the world, they should be thinking about how to get land in the hands of hard-working peasants who have little.

Turning Japanese: coping with stagnation by Roland Kelts for The Long+Short.

Japan is considered a failure by some because its economy isn’t growing.  But the Japanese economy and culture work well for the Japanese.  We Americans could learn something from them.

Two good lessons from Finland

December 2, 2013

We Americans could benefit from following the example of Finland’s schools and also its prisons.

Thoughts about schools and teaching

February 27, 2011

Our drop-in discussion this morning at First Universalist Church was on the topic of “Saving the Schools.” Here are some thoughts I took away from the discussion.

Almost any teacher can teach a student who is committed to learning.  Few teachers can teach a student who is indifferent or resistant to learning.  The best teachers that I and others remember from our own school days are the ones who got us interested in learning.

Some students will commit to studying subjects they don’t care about in order to achieve some other goal – to pass a test in order to get into college in order to get a better job, to pass a test in order to get a high school diploma in order to be employable, to maintain a “C” average in order to be eligible for high school sports, to pass a course of no interest in order to be able to take an interesting course – and so on.

One of the big incentives – the economic incentive – is missing or weak.  A high school diploma will no longer guarantee you a job.  A college degree will no longer guarantee you a good job;  the lede article in the Democrat and Chronicle business section today was on how to deal with the stigma of being “overqualified.”

The problem is not just poor black and Hispanic youth in big cities.  We all know highly intelligent middle-class people, with college degrees, who never read a serious book. I am sometimes shocked at the ignorance of basic facts of history and geography of supposedly educated people.  But then I am ignorant of things an earlier generation would have considered essential for an educated person to know – Latin, Greek and modern languages, higher mathematics, science above the grade-school level.  The erosion of what it means to be educated has been going on for generations.

I recall the science fiction writer William Gibson, lecturing in Rochester years ago in his languid Virginia accent, and saying you don’t need to be literate to function in today’s society, and literacy in the future may become a specialty, like computer programming.

Anti-intellectualism has long been a part of American life.  It is not just black youth who think studying is “acting white.”  It is not just religious fundamentalists who think scientific knowledge is a threat to faith.  In Mark Twain’s stories, we like Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, who play hooky and shun book-learning, and despise Tom’s cousin Sid, who is the teacher’s pet.

Those who teach tell me young people today are more familiar with media than they are with books.  Students can’t be taught except through the use of media that are as compelling as commercial entertainment and advertising.  I’ve been devoted all my life to reading printed books, so I don’t know what to make of this – whether it is a symptom of decline, or whether something may emerge that is as good as what came before, just different.  Reading generates the capacity for linear thought; maybe the media give you something else, the ability to integrate disparate ideas simultaneously in a non-linear way – I don’t know.

Someone in our group wisely said that discussion of American education today consists of blaming the teachers, blaming the students or blaming the parents – never of trying to figure out specific ways to make things better.

Divergent thinking and educational paradigms

October 17, 2010

My friend Bill Elwell found this interesting.

So do I.  On the other hand, consider Weiler’s Law


Dukenfield’s Law of Incentive Management

August 15, 2010

Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the UCLA School of Public Affairs and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, is a temporary guest-blogger for Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic Monthly.  He wrote a post on Friday about scandals in which educators were caught falsifying results of tests used to measure school performance and, in the process, came up with a new sociological “law.”

A school superintendent allowing his staff to doctor students’ answers on a set of high-stakes standardized exams has something in common with a corporate CEO holding a bundle of stock options who practices “earnings management” via bogus asset sales.  Each is responding to an intense incentive system by faking success rather than producing it.

One could formulate this as a general principle: any incentive to create a result also creates an incentive to simulate the same result. The corollary is obvious: the greater the incentive, the greater the temptation. Or, as W. C. Fields put it in You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, “If a thing is worth winning, it’s worth cheating for.” Borrowing Fields’s real name, I propose to call this generalization Dukenfield’s Law of Incentive Management.  Designers of control systems ignore Dukenfield’s Law at their peril, and ours.

A second corollary follows directly from the first: holding the level of audit effort constant and other things equal, the reliability of a measure will decline as the importance attached to it grows. To put the same thing another way: to maintain a given level of reliability, the resources invested in verifying any performance measure need to rise roughly in proportion to the stakes involved

via The Atlantic. (my bold-facing)