Want Less Inequality? Stop Subsidizing Schools And Universities

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Want Less Inequality? Stop Subsidizing Schools And Universities

On Sept. 6 an article appeared on CNN.com about a school principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She told the journalist that she was leaving the profession. She said the reason was that the parents expected teachers to be more “nannies” than educators:

We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see children in a different light than parents do. Yet parents fight the advice rather than digesting it, and do not accept anything negative. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children. The truth is, a lot of times it’s the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.

By sheer coincidence (or perhaps not ) a few days later, front page news in Montreal’s newspaper was a grim statistic: 50% of Quebec’s population are virtually illiterate, meaning they cannot grasp more than simple statements. The percentage is not much better for Canada as a whole, standing at 45%. The numbers should not be that surprising, since some 55% boys and 45% girls drop out of high schools in Quebec.


On the same day, a flyer was distributed in all the boxes of HEC, Quebec’s top French business school, lending credibility to the aforementioned principal’s other statement. The flyer, written by HEC’s Student Service office announced that it would give four seminars to the students about the following:

Learning methods/ Studying efficiently;
Managing stress;
Organizing your time and managing your motivation;
Back to your studies.


Nanny situation indeed for the 19-years and older. And at a business school, where one would expect some self selection based on both drive and being able to deal with stress (what business career is there without it?). By 19 you would also expect to be able to study efficiently and know how to organize your time.

Which brings us to more fundamental questions about education, some of which I addressed in previous columns.

Canada has spent fortunes on education, schools, and universities during the last few decades, as has the U.S. and other Western countries. So how is it that 50% of its population are virtually “illiterate?” And how is it that 19-year-olds can get into some of the better universities and not know either how to study or be motivated?

It is not difficult to provide answers. At one time attendance at high schools and universities was based on the idea of “selection.” That selection was based on the enforcement of strict standards, rather than wishy-washy, feel-good, high-grades to satisfy the education bureaucrats’ statistical criteria of “competence.” With little exception, such selection, be it at the school or university level, has gone with the wind.

No matter how good and dedicated teachers might be, if students are mediocre and below, they will remain so. You can change class sizes, or waste billions on computers, but neither will change the distribution of talents. Brilliant students will benefit from access to the subsidized technology, and they will do brilliantly even if their teachers are mediocre. Above average students situated in class with brilliant student will perhaps raise their own performance.

But let brilliant teachers teach mediocre and below-mediocre students, even with the most up-to-date equipment, and you’ll only get, at best, good statistics about education and more paper degrees. At worst, you’ll get students bored to death – and boredom is a source of vice.

If you want education to have results, be more selective about students. ”Nannying” students has only drastically increased schools’ and universities’ administration costs, weakening education rather than enhancing it.

Maintaining stricter selection policies and directing students toward various technical skills with which they may be well-matched does not imply that the latter will end up earning less money. Plumbers and electricians earn more than graduates in various humanities or so-called “social sciences.”


In fact the much discussed increasing inequality in the U.S. and other Western countries may be, in part, explained exactly by the fact that governments subsidize so extensively high-schools and universities. After all, the best and brightest benefit disproportionately from these subsidies.

If someone is not thrilled about math and the sciences, but is excited to repair cars, and would like to open a garage, the government doesn’t offer him a $50,000 to $100,000 subsidy. Yet the bright kid gets just such subsidy – and more – when studying math, engineering, biology, or medicine. Guess what? Inequality will increase and the distribution of wealth becomes more skewed. Add to this the fact that lower skilled employees and even the mediocre ones face increasing amounts of competition from the rest of the world, and the much decried inequality becomes even more pronounced.

President Obama in his recent jobs speech announced that his plan would put back teachers to work with $30 billion in additional funds. With the present institutional arrangements, that will only add to spending, and would not produce any additional education.

Perhaps if this $30 billion dollars came with strings attached to fire first the huge education bureaucracy, bring about far better selection, and close down some schools it may be worth it. But that would defeat the silly short-term, Keynesian “job-creation” idea.

Perhaps his advisers should talk to the aforementioned principal, who concluded: “Some parents are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don’t want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren’t succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.”

Indeed, what the U.S. needs now more than ever is the creation of opportunities and options for long-lasting careers, not short-term statistical illusions of “jobs.”
Want Less Inequality? Stop Subsidizing Schools And Universities - Forbes
 

SKATTERBRANE

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I cannot explain why today's schools are but a shadow to what they were 30-40 years ago. More money is not the answer. If kids do not learn reponsibility, work ethics, manners, character at home, then there is really nothing a teacher can do, especially if their efforts are thwarted by the parents.

The actual basic subject matter should not have changed (cursive writing thread) computers should NOT be used as study aids, but certainly HOW to use a computer or programs would be useful.

Every generation has its problems. Style over substance, information over critical thinking, test scores over comprehensive learning.

The answer instead of the process. WHY two plus two equals four is far more important than THAT two plus two equals four.

The results of how poorly kids are educated is reflected right here, very often, on MLP by the grammar, spelling and composition displayed. And the ATTITUDE that these things are not important is the core of the issue. It is really a lack of self respect and laziness.

The attitude of "why do I need to study algebra, science or grammar, I am going to be a ROCK STAR!" is prevalent.
 

bildozr

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Too many people coming through just getting by with the bare minimum and expecting 60k a year straight out of school.

Personally, without aid I couldn't afford school, but with too much aid, my tuition prices go up. Catch 22.
 

River

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WHY two plus two equals four is far more important than THAT two plus two equals four.
Well, yeah. That IS more important.

"Stop Subsidizing" may be just a sensational headline, but I take it at its word. Stop subsidizing education and we are up shit's creek without a paddle. Our competition subsidizes the shit out of it - successfully.

Reform funding? Yeah, I'm all for it. Cut it off? You may as well cut off your nutz.
 

Thumpalumpacus

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Too many parents take too little interest in little Johnny's education. The attempt in America to shift the entire responsibility for a child's education to the schools is in part responsible for the dumbing-down of the general population, imo.
 

KSG_Standard

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There ARE other colors besides black and white...I'm thinking the thrust of the article is to change the funding and that more money doesn't mean a better educated populace...I could be wrong.
 

SteveGangi

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I am against cutting back on schools. However I am also against the current system of No Child Left Behind, as I understand it because it forces schools to "teach the test" and penalizes those schools most in need of some sort of assistance. As a teacher acquaintance told me, the "business model" can not be applied because the raw material (bad or stupid students) can not be rejected at the door. However, I do agree that schools should not be forced to be nannies and babysitters, and parents should not expect this, nor should they fight the schools when their little angel turns out to be no. damn. good. Parents have a job to do. If they do not want to do it, then by damn they should not foist it on anyone else (stop breeding) or say squat when that stuckee has to control their little demons.

Maybe it was a different time, maybe it was an Italian thing, who knows, but I did not defy teachers (openly at least) or cheat and then expect my parents to fight the school for me. If I got in trouble at school, I was automatically in trouble at home - unless I had a damn good reason.

If you want education to have results, be more selective about students. ”Nannying” students has only drastically increased schools’ and universities’ administration costs, weakening education rather than enhancing it.
Like I said, schools don't have that luxury. A factory can reject bad parts, a school is not allowed to.

I blame the kid (how's that for accountability) and the lazy parents that enable them. Maybe schools need to have more leeway and more authority to use expulsion as they see fit.
 

River

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IMO, we need to elevate the "shop" curricula to equal respect with "college prep". The "shoppies" have been in the toilet for as long as I can remember. They shouldn't be.

We do need highly-, college-educated physicists, chemists, and geologists. But we also need welders (hey, AXE), heavy equipment operators, plumbers, and electricians (and I don't just mean household crap).

But, rely on their parents to pony up for the education? Ha! If they're not happy doing so by paying taxes, do you really think they're going to pay for it out of beer money? Fat chance.
 

Skintaster

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Both my Mother and grandmother were teachers for as long as I could remember. My grandmother taught until she was 80, in fact.

There has been a long downward spiral as far as education goes, and I don't have any idea what to do about it. Many parents just treat school as "free" babysitting for their kids, and don't give a sh!t about their grades or behavior.

I'm no elitist, but I always said that if I ever had kids (Not likely anymore) I'd do whatever it took to put them in a private school.

One thing that I think would help, is if people in general accepted that a college education is not the only track to success, and that it's a bad path to encourage for certain kids. If they demonstrate an interest in certain vocations, and not in regular classes, then maybe they should be encouraged to train in that vocation and pass on college.

Better than finding out later that they don't have the aptitude for it.
 

SteveGangi

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IMO, we need to elevate the "shop" curricula to equal respect with "college prep". The "shoppies" have been in the toilet for as long as I can remember. They shouldn't be.

Absolutely. My dad was in heating and air conditioning, working the skyscrapers in Manhattan. Many would have considered him a "shoppy" of sorts, but I can assure you, his text books and manuals had some very serious heavy physics, on a par with any college degree course. My uncle who lived down the street, was an electrician in those same buildings. He was real smart too.
 

Thumpalumpacus

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My son is a public school boy. He's made honor roll for the last five or so years without fail and has just started in a technical, college-prep public high school here in Ventura, one which enrols by competitive exam.. While the school system here doesn't share many of the problems LA or SF schools have, at the same time, a big part of his success has been his mom's and my interest in the nuts and bolts of his education, and taking the time to pull our weight in that task.

Needless to say, I'm terribly proud of him, but we also understand that this is the beginning and not the end. Education, done well, is a lifelong commitment. Inculcating that attitude in him was much more important that teaching him, say, how to factor a quadratic equation.

I have little sympathy for parents who complain about the quality of schooling when they won't get down to brass tacks: answer your children's questions, make books available in the home, take them out hiking or biking or boating and while you're out there explain the natural phenomena you see.

Children are born brilliant, learning machines. It takes adults to dumb them down.
 

Roberteaux

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We do need highly-, college-educated physicists, chemists, and geologists. But we also need welders (hey, AXE), heavy equipment operators, plumbers, and electricians (and I don't just mean household crap).

I've made plenty of money performing skilled, blue-collar-type trades-work over the years. My bosses are currently flipping out as they try to figure out exactly how they are going to replace me. Meanwhile, I make well over 50K per year on straight time (before taxes, of course), while various bean-counters, clerks, and administrative types (who all figure that they are somehow "better" than me) are lucky to see even forty AND have to put up with the less-than-pleasant, backstabbing company of one another in their miserable office setting.

I only see my immediate boss about once a week... if that... and otherwise work completely alone. But everyone knows that if something breaks or merely fouls up, then I will have things under control and back in order very quickly. I am the airport's version of Quinn the Eskimo, and everyone is very happy when I show up with my bagga toolz to take care of whatever their latest problem might be. I enjoy the respect of others, and am frequently thanked for doing that which is merely just my job to begin with. But you have to know a little bit of everything, if you want to handle my shift!

That is one hell of a sight better than when I was a cop-- when even the victims were unhappy with me 'cause I couldn't fix any damned thing! So it has been a very good fifteen years for this dawg, and I might be crazy to retire at a relatively early age... but oh: a muse beckons me with her irresistable call, and I see that I simply must respond or die a bigger fool than ever...

If not for that, I would probably stay here until it killed me. The trades have been very, very good to me!

--R :D
 

Skintaster

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I've made plenty of money performing skilled, blue-collar-type trades-work over the years. My bosses are currently flipping out as they try to figure out exactly how they are going to replace me. Meanwhile, I make well over 50K per year on straight time (before taxes, of course), while various bean-counters, clerks, and administrative types (who all figure that they are somehow "better" than me) are lucky to see even forty AND have to put up with the less-than-pleasant, backstabbing company of one another in their miserable office setting.

I only see my immediate boss about once a week... if that... and otherwise work completely alone. But everyone knows that if something breaks or merely fouls up, then I will have things under control and back in order very quickly. I am the airport's version of Quinn the Eskimo, and everyone is very happy when I show up with my bagga toolz to take care of whatever their latest problem might be. I enjoy the respect of others, and am frequently thanked for doing that which is merely just my job to begin with. But you have to know a little bit of everything, if you want to handle my shift!

That is one hell of a sight better than when I was a cop-- when even the victims were unhappy with me 'cause I couldn't fix any damned thing! So it has been a very good fifteen years for this dawg, and I might be crazy to retire at a relatively early age... but oh: a muse beckons me with her irresistable call, and I see that I simply must respond or die a bigger fool than ever...

If not for that, I would probably stay here until it killed me. The trades have been very, very good to me!

--R :D

I work as a butcher at the moment, although I'm also back in school again.

People (Well meaning ones usually) will occasionally say something like "You seem like a pretty smart guy, why are you a butcher?"... Or something to that effect... As if smart people don't usually do things like become a butcher, or plumber, or whatever.

I usually want to tell them that I used to work in a tax office, but could tell the economy was about to tank, and thought it would be "smarter" to at least temporarily retreat to a family owned business that was doing well, than it would be to stick with a company whose bread and butter was managing people's property taxes. :laugh2:
 

River

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"Quinn The Eskimo", eh?

That's such a remarkable coincidence that I doubt that it is one. :hmm:
 

SteveGangi

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I work as a butcher at the moment, although I'm also back in school again.

People (Well meaning ones usually) will occasionally say something like "You seem like a pretty smart guy, why are you a butcher?"... Or something to that effect... As if smart people don't usually do things like become a butcher, or plumber, or whatever.

I usually want to tell them that I used to work in a tax office, but could tell the economy was about to tank, and thought it would be "smarter" to at least temporarily retreat to a family owned business that was doing well, than it would be to stick with a company whose bread and butter was managing people's property taxes. :laugh2:

Just tell them what my butcher cousin used to say ...


You guys may get good cuts of meat but I get the BEST ones :naughty:

And yes, he made a very good living at it.
 

nauc

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Because cutting funds to schools can have no negative effects.

But seriously. Make the job desireable, and maybe people will work harder at it. Having a poorly educated populace is bad for the entire country.

not for those who want to take advantage of dumb people.. hint hint, the leaders
 

River side

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"want less inequality"

Is that a double negative? In a story about education?

Sheesh.
 

tazzboy

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If you want see how bad the teacher are watch are you Smarter Then a 5th Grade it will floor you on how bad our school teachers are.

I mean these are the people who responsible for teaching our children and they don't know crap.
 

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