Category Archives: Education

What Everybody Knows

There’s a good article over on the Washington Post about what happens when a successful adult tries to take a 10th grade standardized test. He concludes:

“It makes no sense to me that a test with the potential for shaping a student’s entire future has so little apparent relevance to adult, real-world functioning.

“I can’t escape the conclusion that decisions about the [state test] in particular and standardized tests in general are being made by individuals who lack perspective and aren’t really accountable.”

Well, of course. The public education system isn’t about preparing kids academically to be successful adults. It is about keeping them out of the house for 13 years so their parents can work, conditioning them to accept performing dull, pointless work under conditions where rigid conformity is required, and churning out adults who are ready to do pointless scut-work for low pay in the service of their corporate overlords.

Everyone knows that.

How Screwed Are We?

A well-educated population is a necessity for a country’s economic success. Destroy a country’s education system, and you destroy their future economy.

So, why are we deliberately destroying our own education system, top to bottom?

This comic lays it out.

Follow The Scarcity

Clayton M. Christensen has the beginning of an interesting article here. Unfortunately, he trails off at the end with only a few platitudes about solving the problem he’s pointed out.

We can use capital with abandon now, because it’s abundant and cheap. But we can no longer waste education, subsidizing it in fields that offer few jobs. Optimizing return on capital will generate less growth than optimizing return on education.

His point–and it’s a very good one, though not a complete picture of what’s wrong with our economy–is that optimizing capital usage is the wrong approach now. Capital is plentiful; what’s scarce is skilled workers. Expend capital, optimize worker training.

The only suggestions he offers for doing that, though, are to lower taxes on the rich, and some vague complaints about indiscriminate financial aid. I can do better than that, so I will.

Christensen suggests reducing the (already very low) capital gains tax over time, to encourage long term investments.

We should instead make capital gains regressive over time, based upon how long the capital is invested in a company. Taxes on short-term investments should continue to be taxed at personal income rates. But the rate should be reduced the longer the investment is held — so that, for example, tax rates on investments held for five years might be zero — and rates on investments held for eight years might be negative.

He doesn’t say at what level he would start the capital gains tax (currently 15% on investments held for at least one year). I would start it at 30%, then reduce it by three percentiles per year after that, so after holding it for ten years any profits from your investment would be tax-free. That would accomplish Christensen’s stated goal of encouraging long-term investment, while also discouraging short term investment (carrot and stick, rather than just the carrot he offers).

If the government is to be in the business of directing students into degree plans and training programs, I would offer a student loan repayment program for students going into certain fields. Every year, the selected fields would be re-evaluated, based on the projected needs of the economy five years hence.

These things would be a nice supplement to my economic reform plan.

We’re #17!

Woo hoo! New national education system rankings are out and the US is 17th, right between Belgium and Hungary. We trail such educational powerhouses as New Zealand, Ireland, and Poland, but do manage to stay slightly ahead of Slovakia and Russia.

Good Work, Schools

As hilarious as it is predictable. School anti-bullying videos turn out to be instructional videos in how to bully.

Science Works

What’s really going on with those claims that scientists ‘manipulated’ climate data to fake global warming:

“Ships have been measuring water temperatures for a long time and are generally used as standards. So the scientists decided to recalibrate the buoy data up to match them. Remember, if you’re measuring absolute temperatures then that gives you the wrong numbers, but not if you’re measuring relative changes. If you add to the cooler temperatures or subtract from the warmer ones you get the same relative change. So it doesn’t matter which way you do it.”

Basically, the scientists are trying to measure change in temperature from a baseline in the mid-20th century, not absolute temperature now. That baseline temperature was measured using water pumped into the ships. It’s not as accurate a measurement of ocean temperature as measuring from a buoy outside the ship, but we don’t need the absolute temperature for this purpose. We want to know how much the temperature has changed, so we have to use the same sort of measurement as the original numbers. It’s just an adjustment of scale, not a falsification of data.

This is what happens when people don’t understand science. They think that scientists are lying for political reasons, rather than politicians lying for political reasons.