Sunday, August 29, 2010

Worst Play in Football

Catch. Kneel. End Rivalry game with WIN!
Or Not.
Really, the choice is yours.

Vermont ... Number One in Some Things.

Hobby - Model making

This one only cost $85,000 to build.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Not Everyone should go to College

And we probably don't need more money dumped into the laps of the drunks and fools. "The best way to assure quality in education is to make them pay for it."

I'm ambivalent. If only there were a way to ensure that the money wasn't being wasted. I know many of my students who skip college should reconsider but have money issues. What I can't predict is whether they'd fall into the immaturity trap.

Friday, August 27, 2010

What I did on my Summer Vacation

Someone asked. You can't see me in this clip -- I'm on the other side of the field. Still, it's a blast.

Younger students get ADHD

From CuriousCat Engineering Blog:
Nearly 1 million Children Potentially Misdiagnosed with ADHD in the USA

Nearly 1 million children in the United States are potentially misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder simply because they are the youngest – and most immature – in their kindergarten class, according to new research by, Todd Elder, a Michigan State University economist.
Some of the numbers:
The youngest kindergartners were 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than the oldest children in the same grade. Similarly, when that group of classmates reached the fifth and eighth grades, the youngest were more than twice as likely to be prescribed stimulants. Overall, the study found that about 20 percent – or 900,000 – of the 4.5 million children currently identified as having ADHD likely have been misdiagnosed.
Psychiatrists and educators must be more careful. When you're looking for a reason why Johnny can't sit still, you're likely to see the reason you most want to see or the one you're just had hours of inservice about.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

RTTT contenders hoist with their own petard

In his article, Why I'm Feeling Sorry for Sec. Duncan, Rick Hess laid out a few of the problems with the process.

I'm going to snip some.

program design was not equal to the weight it was being asked to bear (what with its murky criteria for judge selection, ambiguous scoring system, focus on promises and grant-writing rather than accomplishment, and the remarkable emphasis that Secretary Duncan placed on union "buy-in" in round one).

This led to "bizarre round two RTT results" and Duncan could "take the scores at face value or he could override them." There were conflicting results when it came to ranking state data systems, clarity and strength of charter laws, teacher furlough policy, with the RTTT "winners" running close to last nationally.

Then there's New Jersey. They "finished out of the money by three points due to [paperwork mistake] and [being] savaged by a reviewer who repeatedly fixated on NJEA opposition." That's funny. Hidebound bureaucratic nit-picking. Who'd a thunk it?

Gov. Christie's take? "The first part of it is the mistake of putting the wrong piece of paper in," he said. "But the second part is, does anybody in Washington, D.C. have a lick of common sense? Pick up the phone and ask us for the number."  Oh, Governor.  I feel your pain. Do you feel mine?

"Louisiana and Colorado had set the standard when it came to walking the walk on teacher quality: 'Unlike top contenders Colorado and Louisiana, California did not pass statewide legislation that would mandate a complete redesign of teacher evaluation systems.'" The judges' verdict? Two reviewers trashed Colorado on teacher quality. Whoops. And less than a month ago, Duncan described Louisiana as "leading the way" with data systems that monitor teacher preparation programs and student performance. Double whoops.

Other words and phrases: "furious" "they've been steamrolled" "winners made empty promises" "played fast-and-loose with the facts." "can't fathom how the judges made their determinations."

"Duncan strategically skipped over Hawaii's current lack of a permanent state chief, a reliable statewide data system, or any substantial record of accomplishment on teacher quality--and the fact that a new governor will take office in January."

Isn't that ironic? There seems to be a problem with evaluations of states and their worthiness for federal money.

States that overhauled their systems (for the good? No one knows.) lost out to other states that didn't. In the graphic at right, you can see a few of these reforms. Were any of them successful? We don't really know. In education, success is measured in longer terms than one or two years. There isn't a good way to know jack diddly squat about a reform until the dust has had time to settle. Merit pay, charter schools, new standards like Common Core (which some are already decrying before they've even been implemented) - will they work?

"Who knows? Who cares? They're not OUR kids. Our kids go to private school."

One of the big criticisms is that the states haven't developed an evaluation system for teachers and that teachers should be happy to accept merit pay and bet as much as $10,000 on the results of state tests that kids don't really care about. How's the state evaluation system working?

The same people are now complaining that the "program design was not equal to the task", "murky criteria", "ambiguous scoring system," "focus on promises and grant-writing rather than accomplishment." Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

It's similar to the way a lot of administrators reach conclusions about the worthiness of faculty. Ambiguous, murky criteria. Skip over important details. Fixate on unimportant ones. Lacking common sense. Poor evaluation design. But I'm supposed to wager my paycheck on that?

States are complaining that judges make mistakes, unfairly fixate on meaningless stats, slam imperfect paperwork, ignore their own metrics, and give money to the wrong people by any measurement. Duncan could "take the results at face value or override them?" Based on what -- his vast experience as a teacher? Minutes or hours?

There's so much irony here, I could just ... , well ... , hoist.

Last bit of politics before School

In a last burst of politics before we start laughing at ourselves again, there comes this little video laughing at homophobia.

Monday, August 23, 2010


“I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” – Robert McCloskey

A Little History is in Order.

From Sean Linnane,: "Newt Gingrich believes that the choice to build this structure so close to Ground Zero was a political decision designed to send a statement and thus must be viewed in that context, rather than simply in the context of whether a house of worship should be allowed to be built (there are over 100 mosques in New York City and over 1000 in the United States)."

I find this interesting. Because Newt believes he understands what he thought they meant but didn't say (sounds like projection) we must therefore condemn the mosque. But what if he's wrong? What if he's blowing smoke about the meaning of Cordoba and the mosque built there 1300 years ago. Even Wikipedia doesn't claim that the mosque celebrated the capture of the city and even it points out that the mosque was built some 70 years after the Moors conquered the city and was built on the site of a church they BOUGHT from the Christians. Hardly an "up-yours" to the white folk. It also mentions that there is no mosque there now, only the Catholic Cathedral that was built partly inside it.  Again, not the symbol of all-powerful Islam if you haven't owned it for a thousand years is it?

But I'm not a history major and I don't trust Wikipedia if I don't already know the answer so here is a good explanation of the problem with Newt Gingrich's version of history from a medieval scholar.

Save Burlington Coat Factory

Join the demonstration today. NYC can't afford to lose this landmark.

Later update:

NYEducator picked up on this post, calling it ironic but cryptic. That was intentional, but it occurs to me that someone else (an idiot, demagogue or asshole, perhaps) might miss the sarcasm and consider me a fellow opponent of the Muslim community center and mosque.

Let me be more clear. Being cryptic is fun but this is a more serious issue.

"Ground zero", "two blocks away," "Mosque," "radical Islamists," "Islam is terrorists," are all misleading in their political spin of this thing. I honestly don't get why this is an issue. Let someone take an old run-down, empty, decrepit building and rebuild it - the Amish food center and the Roadhouse won't mind the extra traffic and God knows the area needs development. The University of Phoenix isn't expanding into another brick and mortar building any time soon.

Let the Muslim leader who's been on peace missions with Secretary Rice and others build a Muslim version of the nearby Y or the church just over on Church street. If he wants to compete with St. John's University a few blocks away, more the merrier.

Just because Pataki massively screwed up at Ground Zero doesn't mean that everything and everyone in the whole bloody city needs to stop and wait before building anything. I feel tremendous sorrow and have much empathy for the survivors and relatives of the victims, but they should not have veto power in this or any other issue.

Secondly, we must remember that those who did this were Muslims -- Sunni Muslims, not Shi'ites (the difference is huge, bigger than the difference between Protestants and Catholics) -- originating from and funded by members of the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. Where's the outrage about that? Are we demanding that the Saudis stop selling us oil and that the Saudi Mission to the UN be closed (It's only a block away from Ground Zero ! OMFG!)?

Come on, people. Islam is a religion practiced by millions of Americans, covered under the Constitution of the United States of America. It is not, and never has been, shorthand for "a group of killers and terrorists." If you want crazy religions, try Scientology.

Just because a soldier goes crazy at Fort Hood and happened to be a Muslim doesn't make my neighbors bloodthirsty killers. Just because the guy who got fired from the CT beer distributor and shot his coworkers was Baptist? ... was ... well, hell I don't know. I do know he wasn't Muslim or it would have been trumpeted from the minarets of Fox News at least eight times a day.

I'm sorry for your losses, people, but it's time to stop the retributions against people who were not responsible. Rebuild your lives and rebuild your city.

Even later update:

an anonymous guest wrote:
Nobody has called them 'evil doers'. I believe the argument is that the proposed construction of an Islamic center 200 meters from the edge of the crater where 3,000 innnocents were killed by self identified Islamic jihadists is, just a tad, insensitive. Considering that libs routinely lecture on real and invented cultural sensitivity from a self-proclaimed position of great moral authority, Curmudgeon's post was even more ironic than he/she intended.

Well nobody but Newton Gringrich, Catholic (newly made because he's running for President) and family man (he's had three, so far), FOX News and the entire GOP:
Gingrich showed up on a Fox morning show and talked about why the "radical Islamists" who want to build the cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, who want to show they can "build a mosque next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by Islamists," must be stopped.
Oooooh, talking point. How is this desire to build insensitive?

Is it the distance? Would 300 meters be okay? Or are we nitpicking here?
Is it that the crater still exists? - certainly not their fault. Take it up with Pataki.
Is it that they are Muslim and thus are identical in body, mind, spirit and attitude to the whackjobs from Saudi Arabia? Can't be that because they're not.
Is it that the time is too close and the wounds still raw? If so, when will the relatives get over it? Or will we hear from them until they die that office space and retail space within a mile of the sometime to be built tower can't be sold to Muslims, rented to Muslims, used by Muslims, viewed by Muslims -- all because of "sensitive" New Yorkers? Can there be a Muslim center in Manhattan anywhere, at any time in the future? Should we put up segregated signs, perhaps?

If so, when and how far away will those undesirables need to be?

Wed. Update:

The Daily Show points out that the Head of the group that will provide funding for this project, the one demonized on Fox News (but not by name) as being Radical Islamist, is none other than the largest shareholder of FOX News Corp, besides Murdoch. "Fox News is either evil or stupid for not mentioning that Alwaleed bin Talal is News Corp.'s largest shareholder."

Ain't that a twist?

Technology and the Digital Natives

We hear all the time about our digital natives, their need for 21st century skills and their total immersion in 21st century technology. This morning, the following thought occurred to me:
Our kids don't need any training / help / instruction / encouragement with social networks and tech. They've got that in spades already. What they need is to control their social life and learn the unsocial 21st century skills.
My son was sitting on the coach with his wireless laptop, playing World of Warcraft with Facebook open in another window, his band's Myspace open in another and an IM session running ... then his phone rang. The TV was showing iCarly or Spongebob.

If anything, kids need to be pulled back and calmed down when it comes to social media and web 2.0. They've stayed at the banquet table too long and gorged themselves on every privacy exposure they could find. There are ways to reduce your public exposure, but many settings were deliberately left obfuscated so kids wouldn't understand what they were throwing away. Marketing, of course.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt in Wall Street Journal: "In the future, the passage from teenage life to adulthood will include an automatic name change 'in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends' social media sites.' "

I don't think it needs to be that way and it's not too late. Everyone should simply change their names now on all social media accounts. As I said last month, put up a fake persona. We all need to do that: our social life gets a fake persona ("Harold the Magnificent"), work and serious life gets the true stuff, and never the twain shall meet.

Back in the classroom, what our kids really need for the "real world" and for "work in the 21st century" is to learn and make better use of the non-social tools. You know: spreadsheets, word documents, email, writing, publishing, graphic arts, WolframAlpha and calculators, online references and other tools ... whether Excel, Google Docs, blogs, OpenOffice, forums, wikis, etc.  They need to consider their words, slow down their minds and stop blaring out any random fluttering thought.

We need a catchier word for it. though. What's the opposite of "social media?"

Anti-social ... no.
Non-social ... that doesn't seem right either. It's serious but needs to be shared.
Web 2.x ... not descriptive enough.
unsocial ... oh sure, make a geek joke, why don't you?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Weight of the Argument

from Scott Macleod (Dangerously Irrelevant) comes this angst-filled twitter post:

and he asks: "Hmmm… What’s in there that’s not available in at least a dozen places on the Web for free?"

Well, organization, for one thing -- it's one book instead of "a dozen places on the Web" for each topic. Location, for another. Accuracy, for a third. Fourth, cost. Lastly, bias.

I'm all for free textbooks for the school, but those who write them occasionally want to get paid for their work. If the school buys a textbook, they have similar editions for all the students in the class and assurance that someone has vetted them for accuracy, minimal bias, and clarity for the level of student. It's also free to the student. The cost to the school is spread over several years. Online resources are currently too expensive or scattered and useless.

Bias is similarly easier with a book - Howard Zinn was a socialist. Knowing that meant you could easily work around it or extol it but you'd always be dealing with a known quantity. Websites change too often for you to trust them without verifying.

Hoo boy, trust. What if that website you linked to in August is kaput and serving ads in December when the parent tries to follow it -- or worse, gets squatted on by Stormfront -- and that parent hits (NSFW) instead of the main page for the King Center (the real one). A textbook gets vetted once.

Accurate? Accuracy matters: Read here:
Technology might be the Answer but not ... for the story of the definition of Radian.

I think the iPad (or similar) will be the textbook of the future, as soon as Apple drops the ridiculous iTunes Store file limitations and opens up the platform to flash. It would be wonderful. It's the right size, has color, can run video, touch screen and type, has everything except openness. We're close but until Steve Jobs realizes the goldmine he could be sitting on, we'll still have books. He'll charge for the convenience, but it would beat paper.

Free online doesn't necessarily mean free to the student. I've noticed that free materials invariably are better and easier to use when printed - that's a cost for the student, especially if we're talking about inkjets. It always amuses me when conference people make a big noise about "saving money, paper and the environment by not printing out notes and handouts" and then you look around at all the attendees who printed everything out themselves at their expense on less efficient inkjets. 

Then, there's readability. Those textbooks that are free on the web -- I'm thinking the California initiative -- are not easily read. I'm reminded of the study comparing ease of reading of Kindle, iPad, paper and computer screen (including laptop). "iPad, Kindle, and the printed book all scored fairly high at 5.8, 5.7, and 5.6, respectively. The PC, however, scored an abysmal 3.6." Imagine if they had been working with a math book? Again, I have hopes for the iPad or a similar, but it's not quite worth it yet.

Let's pretend that we're not printing out material, just accessing it.  How trustworthy is it?  Is it "Wikipedia good?" Has it been edited recently by someone who knows the truth or is the urban legend version of history taking hold here?  Just because everyone knows that "tea partiers" are the only true patriots doesn't mean that it's a true fact. I have confidence in that printed book.

Why is the online textbook free? Is it free because it's the pdf version of the second edition, copyright 1990?

Organization is another big issue for me. The material for a typical history or even math course would be so widespread over the internet, it would be a tremendous pain to find and collate. Why should I spend that time and effort finding and verifying what the book publisher is willing to do for me? Nothing will be free but I think that iPad (click above to enlarge) holds the most promise.

Then there's linkrot. I took an online thing this summer and 1 of the links had expired and was serving ads - less than a month after the link was created. You would have to recheck everything every year to be sure that the page hadn't changed nor had any others on the same site.

Finally, there's cost. You can't carry a desktop computer. Laptops and netbooks have a serious distraction issue, they're delicate and they're tough to read because of that vertical screen. iPad shows the most promise but, starting at $499, isn't affordable by every student. With an initiative, we could supply them to every student -- cheaper than a laptop -- and escape the problems with laptops in the classroom, damage, viruses, etc.

In sum, we're close. I can taste it already. We just need a little push.

Friday, August 20, 2010

2010 Darwin Awards

Warms my heart.
"3rd Place
After walking around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter. Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by Paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Incentives and my Degree.

Joanne Jacobs has this article on Lower pay for math, science teachers.
Math and science teachers earn less than their colleagues in 19 of 30 large districts in Washington state, reports the Center on Reinventing Public Education. That’s because salary schedules reward only longevity and graduate credits. "The analysis finds that in twenty-five of the thirty largest districts, math and science teachers had fewer years of teaching experience due to higher turnover — an indication that labor market forces do indeed vary with subject matter expertise.
She comments that "Differential pay for high-demand skills would keep more math and science teachers in the classroom."

I strongly disagree. What I see as far more likely is that those math and science teachers would get paid more,and since they don't have a clue as to the particulars of teaching, they'd leave just as quickly. Five or ten thousand bucks can't overcome that. Teaching is TOUGH -- TFAs and other dilettantes aren't going to stay no matter what.  Shoveling money into the pockets of a few teachers solely based on the course they teach is not conducive to cooperation, teacher satisfaction, morale, or the work environment as a whole. 

The fact that those with a STEM degree can and do move on to other options is unfortunate but also a good motivator. "Hey, kids! Look what applying yourself in these subjects can do for you. Mr. Smith just got a job paying  ... "

Importantly, you can never pay those folks enough to keep them in the classroom, if they are chasing the dollar. TFAs are only thinking of a two year commitment and then it's off to the "Real World" of 6-figure salaries.  No school can compete with that. $100k or more -- is this what you want to pay a teacher in their first couple of years before you even know if they can teach? (What is this, some freakin' NBA rookie deal?)

Also, remember that they were not trained to be a teacher. Teaching math and doing math are different. They were trained to build machines, or solve complex systems, or write enormous amounts of code. There's nothing there about dealing with math-phobic 15-year-olds and material you learned easily twelve years ago. My biggest difficulty in the beginning was that, by and large, few of my students was as capable as I -- I had to figure out how to reach all the kids.

I'm a math teacher with an engineering degree, but I'm okay with the salary schedule paying all teachers similarly regardless of course. English is necessary, too, you know. As is art and music and history and science and computers and languages and woodshop and tech program and forestry and, and, and. Only a few students are going to specialize in math -- one could make the argument that the other teachers are more valuable to more students. How can anyone justify paying one teacher more than another based on the job offer that someone else might have gotten?

On the other hand, refusing pay increases doesn't make for a good environment either. My principal can't even visit my classroom more than once in four years and can't understand anything I teach - how is he going to fairly set my salary? I don't work for him; I work for a vague entity called the "District." It's not his money and he has no incentive to save it. This is not the classic "Boss" everyone thinks about.

The pay needs to be enough to keep money out of the conversation. The best way to do that is with the salary schedule. Then, there's no administrative BS, favoritism, stupidity, etc. You don't get worthless teachers (albeit with shiny degree) getting 5-figure signing bonuses and still skipping out after a year or two. Fairness is an issue and the evaluation process is too unclear for people to bet thousands of dollars based on it. You also don't get people comparing notes or holding out for raises in the middle of the year.

For more on motivation, go here: Dan Pink's talk on motivation.

Of course, if you want to pay me more, I won't turn it down. It's not why I teach, though. I had many choices that paid more -- industry, entrepreneur -- but I chose teaching. I'm paid well enough, I get my vacation all at once instead of having every night and weekend free and a couple weeks in August, and I enjoy what I do when I'm teaching. For me, it's a good choice.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


From the Washington Post,
Teacher accountability schemes let teens off the hook
By Daniel Willingham
Not long ago a student told me a story about taking the SAT. Students were to bring a photo I.D., and the girl in front of her in line had not brought one. When she was told that she couldn’t take the test without the i.d., she was incredulous. She literally did not believe that there would be a consequence for her forgetfulness. She assumed that there would be a Plan B for people like her. When it became clear that plan B was “go home and next time, bring your I.D.,” she was angry and scornful.

I see this attitude not infrequently in freshmen I teach. They are unaccustomed to the idea that they are fully responsible for their actions, at least in the academic arena. In contrast, professors at most colleges very much think of students as 100% responsible for their own learning. Professors may not notice or care whether students come to class, study, or learn. Most professors figure that their job is to teach well. Whether the student learns or not is up to him or her.

This attitude may seem uncaring, but I believe it’s no different than the attitude 18-year olds would find in the military or in the workplace.

Setting aside the issue of whether college freshmen should carry 100% responsibility for their learning, consider this question. Given that that is the state of the world, what happens during K-12 education to prepare students for this responsibility? It seems to me that almost nothing is done. But shouldn’t students become increasingly aware of this responsibility as they get older?

I can see telling a first grade teacher: “You can’t expect the kids to come to you. You’ve got to reach them.” But if we say the same thing to a high school teacher, we’re failing to teach students something important.

Yet all of the formulations of teacher accountability that use student performance data fail to take this factor into account. Student learning is used to evaluate high school teachers and lower elementary teachers in the same way. But if you believe that students should become more responsible for their learning as they age, shouldn’t teachers become less responsible?

I’m not discussing parental responsibilities here, but that doesn’t mean I think that they should be off the hook.

A quality we prize in adults is the ability to learn something from everyone. Being able to learn from different teachers is an important life skill, one that we should build into our students’ education. To my knowledge, it’s not done.

Naturally, the danger is that teachers will be only too glad for students to assume responsibility for their learning. My suggestion is predicated on a different model of teacher accountability, one in which teachers are accountable for teaching well. Students are responsible to do their part
Damn, I love the way this man thinks.

Jet Powered School Bus

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sports and Pay-to-Play

Coach Brown is talking about the ACLU going after pay-to-play in schools. Snarky political commentary aside, his points are the usual ones and deserve repeating because the current climate of cost-cutting is driving schools to make some tough decisions.

First, PTP is illegal in California (specifically mentioned in law) because it prevents equal access to education. I'm not so sure equity applies here but we Americans have always had trouble with the decision of whether sports (as opposed to PE) are an integral part of school for every student or not.
BYU women's soccer team.

PTP changes the game to "support the GOOD teams." Freshmen sports will go first and then any sport whose attendance is "parents only." Football is way too important because of the "We need to beat Westside" factor and long term psychological investment of the fans in the team.

Parents and lawyers will pit girls against boys with the high-school version of the Title IX conflict. You can't cancel the 9th grade softball if you don't cancel the 9th grade baseball, even if one is undermanned and the other is full. Tournaments are out. Travel monies? Ha! (Forgetting that the travel costs are roughly the same as the cost of officials for home games - but home means you keep the gate. Decisions need to be made, but lawyers always suck cash and influence choices.

For many participants, sports provide "some of the most influential lessons they might learn in school." Very good point, bringing us back to the question of whether sports or PE is integral to education. I find that PE classes are pretty lame. Sports coaches talk about academics, morals, attitude, sportsmanship. Team building is important. PE teachers run classes that kids stand around in and tune out. 

You can make any number of correlations between the rise in importance of PE classes and the increasing emphasis on health education to the expanding waistlines of American schoolchildren, but I think there are confounding factors here. We need to overcome those confounding factors, though, and having the kids do half-assed archery, bowling, walking, pickleball, dodgeball isn't having much long-term effect.

I agree with Coach when he suggested that "physical education needs to reprioritized near the top," but I disagree that it should be "classified as an Advanced Placement style course." That's too much for PE. I can make a case (and have) for allowing a full season of a sport (including cheerleading) to count as a 1/2 PE credit. That makes sense in terms of time and effort.

That'll mean a loss of PE enrollment and at least one PE teacher would go. I'd be okay with that, but the Union wouldn't. It would also mean that the sports teams would experience a boom enrollment since most kids hate the standard pickle-ball games and would do most anything to get that PE credit playing a real sport.

That may be the real difference. The PE games and exercises are too varied and scattered and feel as if the teacher pulls something out of his butt for the day. No one has a chance to get truly good at anything and you have the ultimate in heterogeneous grouping. Sports, on the other hand, are "tracked." Contrary to most educational current demagoguery, students like homogeneous grouping and thrive in it.

Besides, coaches are cheaper than teachers. If it's just about the money, of course.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

College ROI from InSty

Glenn Reynolds says the Higher Ed Bubble is about to Burst. Nah. It already burst. Some stupid people didn't get the message yet, but that's just the left end of the curve.

Not everyone should go to college. Some people aren't ready, others aren't appropriately placed there. Partying for four years is cheaper if you leave out the tuition, room and board and simply get an apartment and leave the door unlocked. Better to join the military and get the stupid out. You'll be prepared after your six.

Half of the college degrees are crap. If your degree is in Religious and Women's Studies, I don't know why you're going to college instead of starting a church in Provincetown.

If you need to borrow $100,000 to get it, then you'd better get a degree that will help you pay that off, eh? $40,000 per year or more should get you into an MBA or engineering or something lucrative. Unless you're rich to start with?

Bubble bursting? Only for those who dreamed of pink ponies, rainbow unicorns and cotton candy worlds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

School Spending

Here's a nice little "exposé" from the CATO Institute about school spending and how they hide their "true" expenses from the public.

While I agree that all expenses should be published, I don't think that all should be lumped into the per-pupil numbers in the way suggested. I think it's perfectly appropriate to have them separated.

Should everything be clear? Yes. Should everything be understandable by the average taxpayer? No, because the average taxpayer doesn't know jump about financing and accounting. The ones who do know something about it (not pros mind you but knowledgeable) should be able to figure things out on their own and the information should be available.

The comparison to private school tuition is an interesting slight-of-hand and is the real reason I picked up on this. He says something like "private schools tell you what it costs to educate your kid," which is true to a point. Private schools DO tell you the tuition. They do not tell you what it actually costs, though. That's a key point because he is complaining about how the Public schools left out information. He forgot to mention that the Private schools left out the same information.

I'm always amused by the claim that the local Catholic School is "so inexpensive." Yeah, because they don't own or maintain a building. The Diocese does, and the School rents it for a dollar a year. Likewise, many of the usual "costs" are off the budget. Of course, it always helps if you have nuns teaching - they are incredibly good but historically have been paid next to nothing. And, it this case, many are on the Diocese payroll. Presto, "lower cost per student."

Most private schools are 501c(3), non-profit organizations which means that people can donate to them and write it off their taxes. That's money that isn't charged to the parents. Private schools also don't have a capital bond. They have a capital fund drive instead. Nearly every building on a private school campus has someone's name on it - the name of the person who gave the money to build it.

(It's funny. Public schools name things after a late teacher or principal who made a huge impact on the school. Private schools name things after the person who donated money for it.)

The Alumni Director is an important and well-paid position because the alumni give big bucks. There is a Development Director whose sole job is begging for money. There are dozens of fund-raising situations every year at every school. Parents in another local academy are required to help in the fundraisers.

Then the bookkeepers rise up. In a private school, fees are the thing. The parents pay for all sorts of things. Books are obvious. But also, most field trips and activities are extra. Don't for get the lab fee and the materials fee and the art materials fees. If it costs the school, it gets passed on to the parents. I know. I ran a school for years.

That's the big difference between public and private and is always ignored when people tout the relatively low cost of private schools.

But then, who expects politics and money to be anything but contentious?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dan Meyer in the News Again,

We all get famous for Something:
"California-based mathematician Dan Meyer says it takes about 3 seconds to scan each item, but over a minute per customer for greetings and payment" from this Yahoo News article.