Why the Education Gap?

By James Kwak

Probably the most important and intractable economic problem we face is not restarting the economy after the financial crisis, but the decades-old problem of stagnant wages for the lower and middle classes and the consequent massive increase in income inequality. This is something that Raghuram Rajan brings up in the first chapter of Fault Lines, and, like many people, he points the finger at education. Citing (like everyone else) Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz, he writes (pp. 22-23),

“As agriculture gave way to manufacturing in the mid-1800s, the elementary school movement in the United States created the most highly educated population in the world. . . . The high school movement took off in the early part of the twentieth century and provided the flexible, trained workers who would staff America’s factories and offices. . . .

“Recent technological advances now require many workers to have a college degree to carry out their tasks. But the supply of college-educated workers has not kept pace with demand–indeed, the fraction of high school graduates in every age cohort has stopped rising, having fallen slightly since the 1970s.”

There are certainly many problems with our educational system. Rajan lays some out, and Arianna Huffington has a longer discussion in Third World America (pp. 113-21). The list includes huge disparities in early childhood preparation; expensive college tuition and insufficient financial aid; the property tax funding system for K-12 education, which means that rich towns (usually) spend more on their schools; unions that make it impossible to get rid of bad teachers; the fact that we don’t even know what exactly makes a good teacher; and, though not that big a factor, the fact that some parts of the country insist on teaching children that human beings aren’t subject to the laws of evolution.

I don’t claim to know how to fix our educational system. But I have an idea about why it hasn’t been fixed, which I’m sure someone can write up as a cute two-period economic model. Assume that society is divided into the capitalists and everyone else, and the capitalists make investment decisions for society as a whole. Until 1980, if the capitalists wanted to make more money, they needed to invest in technology, which meant they needed an increasingly educated workforce, and therefore they were willing to invest some of their profits (via taxes and public schools) in education. And, according to Goldin and Katz, from 1930 to 1980 the average educational level of Americans increased by 4.7 years.

But since 1980, and especially since 1990, the world has become more open. If the American capitalists want to make more money, they still have to invest in new technology, and they still need an increasingly educated workforce. But now, because of globalization, they can get that workforce anywhere in the world. You can think of this as arbitrage: China doesn’t have that many college graduates as a proportion of its population, but they come cheaper than American college grads. Or you can think of it as free riding: if China (or Korea, or India, or Brazil, or anywhere else) is willing for whatever reason to invest in increasing the number of domestic college graduates, the American capitalists can simply expand their operations over there and save themselves the trouble and expense of investing in the American educational system. (And for China, the returns on investment in education might be higher than the returns for America, because the marginal productivity of new investments in education is probably higher.) And as a result, average educational attainment only went up by 0.8 years from 1980 to 2005.

Put another way, if you own Accenture–the largest consulting firm in the world–and you can hire all the talented, educated people you need in India, what incentive would you have to invest your profits in the American educational system? Why not just move to Bermuda and leave America’s problems behind?*

I have long had this instinct that it is the interests of big corporations that determine government policy in the United States. This instinct is certainly wrong in detail (how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?) but, I think, possibly right on a high level. Applied here, it means that if our large corporations needed better domestic education in order to make more money, then one way or another it would happen, just like it happened for the first two centuries of our history. But since they don’t need it anymore–at least as long as they can free ride off of other countries’ investments in education–it won’t.

* Actually, I checked Wikipedia and apparently Accenture moved its residence from Bermuda to Ireland.

106 thoughts on “Why the Education Gap?

  1. I think your instinct about interests of big corporations determining government policy is correct – even (especially?) as it relates to Iraq.

    Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial interests. Haliburton (think Dick Cheney), Blackwater, Boeing, etc. did quite well because of “business” in Iraq.

    And oil companies that previously couldn’t do business because of trade restriction on the Saddam regime are again doing quite well on their Iraq business.

  2. “[H]ow do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?”

    What if the answer is taxpayer funding to train mercenaries experienced in the nuances of permanent low-intensity conflict?

  3. A civilization is made of decisions… this is the ‘social energy’ that makes it all go.

    *social energy: individual and collective decisions operating within the limits of available resources and natural law which (quite literally) result in the product you see as a civilization. A decision here is defined as an idea + an action. Decisions can be motivated by any number of factors. Technologies result from previous decisions thus becoming available resources. And decision here is defined broadly… everything from “Let’s build a pyramid for the pharoah!” to “I’ve got a headache I think I’ll lie down.”

    All we see that is a civilization can be most fundamentally defined as a product of decisions: ideas + actions.

    Political and economic systems are ‘decision technologies’…

    However, group decision in scaled social organisms face biological drives that don’t scale directly… especially the boundaries of biological altruism…

    The “capital” of a civilization in ultimately the result of an interaction between its decisions and the environment.

    Money acts as a store of ‘decision rights’… imperfectly and regrettably with subtly pernicious effect over time… even with the best of intentions. (Bernanke et al aren’t evil… just blindly biased)

    The effects of loss of proximity and ‘money’ concentration have distorted decision mechanisms in representative political systems (as is obviously the case in Authoritarian systems).

    Technologies are available to counter-balance the monopoly of concentrated money to distort collective decisions.

    These ‘decision rights’ CAN be more equitably utilized by facilitating direct peer-to-peer capability for the co-ordination of very small amounts of money.

    And this catalyzes additional opportunities for peer-to-peer empowered interaction in the Commons.

    Empowering the Commons: The Dedicated Account (Part I)

    On Creating Communities

  4. P.S. Re “how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?”…

    In the broadest sense it doesn’t… however it distorts the perspectives and decisions of a much narrower but very powerful set of players dominant in this area of policy.

    There are much wiser approaches to take.

  5. This strikes me as about right, although it’s worth extending a bit historically, and also looking at swings in politics and social movements, especially the turning points of 1932 and 1980. So, I think it’s safe to say that generally the influence you describe for capialists was high before Roosevelt, still significant but somewhat reigned in for thirty or forty years after that, and then then they have been back in the sadle since Reagan. This is, I think, very important in terms of proposing solutions. If, in the happy event that we manage to reign in business influence again (not seeming too likely just now, but one hopes), do we then end up with just a swinging pendulum that will before long swing back the other way? Is it possible to permanently contain capital with robust social movements and institutions (as Polanyi thought post-depression–erronesously, it would seem)? Or will Capital always, by the very nature, deep down, of its exploitative tendencies, the requirement of constant accumulation, and the concentration of power, manage to muscle its way back into control? If the latter, is there a way to change the system at a deeper level, or is this just a force of nature we are stuck with until something else comes along? Certainly the Marxists (David Harvey especially) and the World-Systems theorists (Wallerstein (who’s down the street from you in New Haven) and Arrighi) have a lot to say about this and are worth checking out if you want to go further with the implications. In any case, nice to see this post!

  6. p.s. Well, the world-systems guys would add a longer historical perspective and a second-order of economic and political cycles. So Wallerstein was predicting something like the current state of affairs more than a decade ago as the end-phase of a centuries-long cycle, and I believe Arrighi and others of that ilk were to some degree in agreement with him. I’m reaching here on the details, but definitely the longer perspective starts to jump out at you when you read these guys. Wallerstein was the pioneer and continues to have very interesting ideas but has become a bit of a hip-shooter late in his career, while Arrighi (who sadly died last year) has, I believe, a more careful and detailed contemporary analysis. There are others, too, of course.

  7. I started reading your article with a certain degree of skepticism, but realized that you did have some strong arguments. However, this situation is just another in a long line of situations where we the people have ceded our country and our responsibilities to greedy, power-hungry so-called leaders. It is time to take our country back by exercising our duties as citizens of what was a great country but is now on a downward slope.

  8. “How do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?”

    Maybe business overall wasn’t served, but there were certainly many businesses that profited greatly from the war and its no-bid contracts. Haliburton, Blackwater and numerous military suppliers are obvious examples.

  9. Although I could agree with the fact that Business interests determine/influence government policy – the real issue for the American worker is that American business is lying to us.

    1) American business avoids hiring and training entry level employees. Read any want ads section. American biz wants people who can hit the ground running. And many are willing to wait *years* in order to find these people, despite the fact that they could have trained in that time.

    2) Not only do they want ppl who can hit the ground running, they want them cheap (and preferably young).

    There is no engineering shortage in America as many people graduate with engineering degrees and can not find entry level employment.

    Older workers, who often have the experience, often command a wage premium generally that business are unwilling to pay.

    Even when the older working is willing to take a pay cut – a going concern in recent times wants someone younger, or is willing to wait until the perfect candidate arrives.

    3) This is all separate and apart from the problems our education system faces.
    – poor curriculum
    – poor instruction
    – poor study habits and diligence
    – misguided technology policies
    – increased funding over the last 40 years with little in return.
    – the focus on creaming

    I could go on, but American education has huge conceptual problems imo, that few want to address.

    The first one is quite simply, “Why educate?”

  10. James, I think you’re hitting a nail on the head. Let me add some thoughts I’ve been working on (and write about in my own blog)that reinforce your thoughts.

    There are three classes of systems in the economic system: constructed systems (cars, buildings, computers, etc.), living systems (plants, animals, people, microbes) and mental systems (beliefs, skills, emotions).

    All systems are products of tradeoffs which make them more fit in specific environments and simultaneously unsuited (or pathogens) in others. Each of the three classes of system has unique tradeoffs and all classes share common characteristics. As systems they use resources to produce coherent results, they have definable boundaries across which resources are brought in and wastes (including heat) are exhausted, they have coherent infrastructure used to produce some coherent, rather than random, results.

    They are all subject to the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: unless energy is expended to maintain or grow their infrastructure, they will disintegrate. Thus, the economic system has the same imperative: grow or maintain all three or have the economic system decline. (The stable, or default state, is a concentration of mental and constructed systems in the hands of a few who use them to control living systems and the per-capita flow of commerce is but a trickle of modern economy. That was the state of pre-industrial revolution economies and today’s third world economies.)

    We are prone to look at the Industrial Revolution as a profusion of new “constructed” systems. In reality it was a co-evolution of constructed systems and mental systems…for the constructed ones were created and produced by the mental ones; you mention the formal development of some mental infrastructure by formal education and classroom regimentation (which conditions people to work environments), however much more occurs outside of formal education in the family and in experiences (like developing the mental infrastructure of language or personal loyalties, etc.).

    If we look at a nation as a system, in which the economy is an essential subsystem, it too needs effective borders within which it manages its resources and regulates the inflow of resources and the exhaustion of waste.

    What multi-national corporations do, in conjunction with global communications and transportation, is to perforate a nations borders and disrupt its ability to regulate its own resources of constructed, living and mental systems. Today, all of them can freely move across borders. (Money, by the way is a mental system.)

    However, multi-nationals don’t do this out of perverse selfishness, they do it because it best serves their need to survive in a borderless world. Their structures and sizes make this a necessary competitive tactic. It is one of the essential trade-offs produced by scaling up small businesses into large ones, or small personal fortunes into large ones. The benefit of multinationals is to increase the symbiotic relationships of nations, the down side is that they undermine a nation’s ability to govern itself.

    All systems are tradeoffs, their designs are compromised for a limited set of objectives and in other contexts are subversive. What is good for a multi-national may be, as you point out, bad for our nation. However, it is a structural tradeoff, not primarily a matter of human selfishness.

    As long as we foolishly believe in Free Trade (of resources, constructed, living and mental systems) and its enabling sub-systems “behemoth multi-nationals” and as long as we bias our government to enable and support both, we will not be able to govern ourselves.

    Note that Russia, upon having a poor harvest, blocks grain exports. They are managing their national health by controlling their borders. Britain did this in spades during the Industrial Revolution…they also prohibited immigration of experienced textile workers, design of machines and the establishement of banks in the Colonies. Just examples of managing borders to maintain national health and growth.

  11. On the profits for American business from the iraq war:
    Iraq is preparing to buy as much as $13 billion in U.S. arms and military equipment, including tanks, armored vehicles and ships. The sales will make Iraq one of the world’s biggest customers for U.S. military arms and equipment.

    I had originally sourced this a s quote from a USA Today article, but it seems to have been redacted out. It may be that the powers that be want this to remain cloaked.

    Any other sources for this information would be interesting.

    Also when you understand the nature of foreign defense equipment buying you realize that tax defense aid dollars go to an American based account on behalf of the foreign country; then American defense contractors are paid out of that account to drop ship to the foreign buyer. It is direct subsidy of exports. The money never leaves the States/

  12. I won’t grant your assumption that capitalists make decisions for everyone else in the area of education. It doesn’t ring true.

    In the US, individuals are empowered to make decisions for themselves when it comes to their thinking and their focus of attention. (Do I choose to spend my time sitting on the couch eating Cheetos and watching reruns, or do I learn how to write a multi threaded program in Java?)

    At some point, individual choices and cultural values come into play here. But you haven’t mentioned them at all.

    That’s crazy.

    I mean, honestly, James, look at your own history as an individual.

    You have chosen to spend a lot of your time studying and thinking and climbing an academic ladder. And it’s hard work.

    How did you escape the clutches of American Capitalists who wanted to set your educational policy for you?

    I don’t know, but I’ll guess that was the easy part. (The American Capitalist “education police” are easy to evade. I haven’t seen one on my block for a long time.)

    The hard part is embracing, on a personal level, a value system that prioritizes education over almost every other thing.

    But not every one in American has such a value system. And the US Constitution guarantees each person the freedom to embrace a value system wherein a globally competitive education is really low on the priority list.

    A state government may force children to attend school, but it cannot enter their home and mandate that TV sets, video games, junk food, and books about creationism (or for that matter sociology) be replaced with books by Donald Knuth and instruction manuals for a DNA sequencer.

    American capitalists are an obstacle to a lot of good things, but they’re not the main obstacle to a globally competitive American work force. Far from it.

  13. First of all you have to question this assumption:

    “Recent technological advances now require many workers to have a college degree to carry out their tasks.”

    You need talented workers but a degree is only required in many fields is because HR and the businesses prefer certification over talent.

    This is completely in line with a philosophy of treating employees as interchangeable parts and is a good deal more convenient from the perspective of bureaucratic process.

    It simply isn’t very smart if you are going to leverage the real human resources available in the workplace.

    American business wants the best possible people for the job, but it wants to be able to “cherry pick” without contributing to the process of developing that talent.

    As with all opportunistic strategies, the pool of real opportunities is limited and is already showing signs of being depleted.

    This is ‘capitalism’ operating against not only the national interest but it’s own long term interests.

    Not the first time, certainly not the last.

  14. I’ve traveled extensively throughout the country, and have visited on my own the great libraries of all state universities,private,and public. What peaked my interest were the disproportional numbers of foreign students indulging in our educational systems from the 60’s through the 90’s. I questioned myself about the imbalance – for the foreigners tuition was just a pittance more than the indigenous alumni. Why? How is it that our government actually (arrogantly and implicitly) subsidizes their (foreign) tuitions…knowing they will never contribute to our countries internals…rather leave for home an incubate their learned riches enhancing their education system with the very foundation we offered up at near gratis. How could we as a nation with limited seats give the foreigners priority over our own which is happening today at a franatic pace, and no one dares question how the expense factor doesn’t play out…since most foreigners come from wealthy families and governments with a rather different/questionable view of america’s democracy – yet openly granted all the fringe benefits that the middle/lower class can ill afford today? My children as a prime example were troubled with this scenario…and they all have open minds as their father. Thanks James and Simon :-) PS. But…if a guy/gal wants to give 6 years +/+ of his/her life in a fabricated war…he’s got a shot at getting some kind of education if he doesn’t come home in a body bag! The Cost of “Free (Education) dom” doesn’t equate!

  15. The quality of the responses to this post is so high. THIS is why I read Baseline Scenario. Thank you, everyone!

  16. Re: @ AFL___Germany as always has found a pragmatic solution to attrition – migrating (not terminating employment) tenured employees – integrating their invaluable experience in unison with fresh graduates – thus enhancing the thought process of experienced minds not-to-trump fresh innovated idealism for a more productive workforce. PS. Ego’s have no place in a successful work enviroment.

  17. Your comments resonate.

    Two of my children are UCLA Graduates from the 80s and 90s. At the Time, UCLA was referred to as:
    the University of Caucasians Lost in Asia. Another graduated from UC Santa Barbara where she studied in the library,her dorm being a center of social activity. Her observation was that all the Asian students were in the library studying while her caucasian friends were elsewhere partying.

    Perhaps the universities had to search outside the US for enough serious students.

    To quote the Bard: “The fault… is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings”

  18. I recommend the movie “Katyn” by Andrew Wajda.

    Nothing new under the Industrial Revolution sun. If everyone starts to appreciate the current Stalin-lite era of USA “capitalism”, then everyone can read between the lines about all the different ways the “older” workers can be dispatched to make way for…I’m sorry, what progress are they standing in the way of…?

    And that still seems to be the question – what are people to be educated to do? With 5 billion years of solar power left for Spaceship Earth, the collective world vision is certainly up for grabs.

  19. I agree with what you say, particularly about HR looking for certification over talent. However, this applies only to large businesses (particularly the multinational behemoths) and not to small businesses. The differences between small businesses (fewer than 500 people) and larger ones are profound. For example: small businesses hire on the basis of competence. They can’t afford to hire empty suits. Usually the manager who will supervise the job leads the hiring process, HR takes a supportive role. In large companies HR takes a leading role and acts bureaucratically… that is, it focuses on avoiding accountability for failure rather than achieving success… so it filters on the basis of credentials. If an employee later fails (and most failures are never identified and eliminated in large companies) they have a CYA excuse for their role: right credentials.

    By the way, CEOs of large corporations are normally selected on credentials rather than competence, which is why so many of them are pathetic. (But that’s another story which I’ve written about extensively. CEOs of small companies self-select and seldom have the credentials…. entrepreneurs always self-select, bureaucrats wait to be selected by others. Steve Jobs, self-selected as CEO of Apple and lacking even one year of college, replaced by a man with credentials hired by his professional Board, and then fired by this man of credentials who then took Apple down, fortunately Steve came back having started another two successful companies in the meantime. Bill Gates, self-selected, no college degree, etc.

    Too much of this discussion about opportunities is a bureaucratic one of waiting for someone else to create them. Colleges seldom produce entrepreneurs who take risks to pursue new opportunities. They do produce some good supporting casts.

    I was a college graduate, engineering, and self-selected CEO of a small company for 16 years. Also co-founded another successful company and two other learning experiences. Have worked with many behemoth corporations at all levels. My eyes are wide open about the trade-offs between small companies and large ones.

  20. I beg to differ.

    Yes, individuals choose what path they follow in our system. But they do not define the system.

    When I was young, the nation invested in good primary and secondary schools, and college and graduate school were easily affordable. For college I didn’t need financial aid–my parents paid (and it was no strain for them, despite being solidly middle class). For post-college education I received grants (and had I not, earning the necessary money would have been difficult by feasible.)

    Today a person with the same proclivities and values I had faces serious obstacles. First of all, the secondary schools no longer prepare students as well for college. Their writing abilities are poor compared to my generation’s. And knowledge of math and science today is abysmal compared to what my generation learned in public schools. For today’s youth to prepare themselves to the level I was simply given by society would require extensive supplementary work outside the formal curriculum–and those extra courses also cost a lot of money.

    Then there is college itself: today the typical student must taken on 5-figure debt to complete college. It hits 6-figures if you proceed to graduate or professional education. The quality of higher education is more variable than secondary, and there are still many excellent universities. But some universities have dumbed-down their curricula over the decades, and some new ones with dubious curricula have sprung up.

    The point is that were I born 40 years later than I was, achieving the same education that I was given at little effort and expense would require enormous striving and resources. It is no surprise that, while some still do it, they are fewer.

  21. I too beg to differ. A good technical education requires two things: good and readily accessible educational infrastructure and personal motivation.
    As we starve governments by cutting taxes, and they in turn reduce education budgets, the educational infrastructure crumbles and access dwindles. Class sizes increase, school years get shorter and teachers get less for working harder; educational quality suffers. (One of the top three correlations to educational results is class size.)

    A second point: there were two cultures in the US, the Southern Plantation culture based on slavery and the Northern one based on free but poorly paid work forces. The Southern Culture forbade education of slaves… that is large plantations (or today’s behemoth corporations)only need a handful of skilled workers and an army of virtual slaves. Ignorance makes workers more docile because they see fewer options. Although the South lost the civil war, many of its elite seem to be pursuing their vision of a Plantation society…. it’s easier to manage than an educated society; and most of the managers of behemoth corporations inherited their jobs by putting in time, not on the basis of managerial competence… or, to put it bluntly they are lousy managers.

    I’ll suggest that when the Dixiecrats joined the Republican party decades ago, these cultural ideas about economics and education came with them.

  22. James Kwak,

    K-12 Education Expenditures Per Capita, State & Local Government, Inflation-Adjusted to 2007 Dollars went from about $900 in 1980 to just short of $1,800 (reading from a graph) in 2007.

    If, as you suggest, the capitalists have been making the investment decisions, this was not a good one.

  23. James
    Greetings from a rainy Dublin and thanks for your many insights. Things would be hopeless without dedicated people like you. Good luck with your law career and everything else.

  24. “how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?” may be the wrong question. The better question is whether, prior to the war, the expected outcome of invading Iraq served American business. History is replete with bad business decisions and the Iraq war certainly qualifies.

    If you start with the premise that the elites are doing fine without investing in the rest of us, a lot of government decisions start making sense.

  25. Scene – a POW camp outside of Katyn housing the entire faculty of Jagiellonian University and 20,000+ Polish Armed Forces officers. Conversation between two childhood friends, both officers,

    POW 1, “I trust my intuition.”
    POW 2, “What does it tell you?”
    POW 1, “They have been treating us too well, letting us celebrate Christmas. It’s suspicious.”
    POW 2, “Don’t share your suspicions with anybody else.”
    POW 1, “That second lieutenant up there in the top bunker tried to hang himself again yesterday. We need to set a positive example.”
    POW 2, “For how long do we need to do that? England and France will stand up for us. They can’t leave 20,000 officers behind the front lines. Canons or tanks can be rebuilt, but a trained officer is irreplaceable.”
    POW 1, “I just hope certain thoughts won’t cross the comrade’s minds.”
    POW 2, “Chin up, Lieutenant.”

    How far will re-education go when the Wrecking Crew establishes its capitalist “values” on those stupid enough to believe that just because the “elite” say the same thing, that “a trained officer is irreplaceable” does not mean they have the same PLAN for what to do with “irreplaceable” people.

    So much to “learn” about today’s labor market, that assuming about 99% of the specialist bloggers reading along here either might not know the rest of the story, or be part of the “elite” who are carrying out the secret plan

    the 20,000 were taken – one by one, a cynical philosophical nod to the irreplaceability of an “individual” – to be dispatched Bolshevik style (yup, same signature execution style as many have copied through to today in the lucrative assassin profession) – a single bullet through the back of the head.

    But of course we have advanced way beyond such aggressive and revolutionary changes in building a modern and shape-shifting labor force. It’s much more passive-aggressive now that resumes and CVs are only accepted via the internet and the “gatekeepers” just need to hit a “delete” key. A victim-less crime…especially since labor is a moveable feast across the globe – one can winter in the warmer clime and summer in the cooler.

    Here’s an opinion from the forbidden book that many people might end up agreeing with, “And any attempt to shift parental responsibility to state or church will prove suicidal to the welfare and advancement of civilization.”

    Parents post WWII focused on providing access to the TOOLS of education for the greatest number – up to and including class trips to where people made “stuff”…

    The last “family” student to enter college recently confided in me, (“I can’t tell my parents this”) after her field trip to England to augment her “Urban Planning” curriculum,

    that she “feels” like she isn’t being taught anything that should be learned…that conversation with her will be ongoing…can studying the “theory” of a dominant cult be the only point of a higher “education”?

    Anyone have a clue what today’s parents want to teach their own kids?

  26. Corporations aren’t the only beneficiaries of arbitrage. We’ve been importing doctors trained in other countries as our own medical education infrastructure fallen short because we’ve failed to adequately enlarge and maintain it.

  27. Or you can think of it as free riding: if China (or Korea, or India, or Brazil, or anywhere else) is willing for whatever reason to invest in increasing the number of domestic college graduates, the American capitalists can simply expand their operations over there and save themselves the trouble and expense of investing in the American educational system.

    The “whatever reason” is that under neoliberalism (i.e. gangland thuggery dressed up as policy and ideology) there’s no such thing as “China” any more than there’s such a thing as “the US”.

    Rather the Chinese elites steal the produce of the people and “invest” it in ways profitable for them. If that means pimping it out to Western gangsters, fine. “It’s all profit!” as Henry Hill says in Goodfellas.

    The costs are all socialized on the people.

    That’s also the answer to how Iraq is profitable for favored US interests. The loot is conveyed to them, the costs are borne by the American people, the real economy, and of course the people and economy of Iraq.

    The fact that it’s obscenely destructive of wealth for America as a whole is irrelevant under this political/economic dispensation. Or I should say, that’s a feature, not a bug.

    As for education, there again is the problem. Under the corporate order education is rationed by ability to pay and conformism rather than by merit and aptitude. The system’s not intended to produce thinkers, but cogs. It’s another example of how this system has long since passed from its innovative, entrepreneurial stage to a stagnant, calcified rentier stage, where the goal is the restoration of feudalism.

    There’s not much education needed for those slated to slave in the fields and mines.

    So to want a human educational system implies wanting the overthrow of this entire Hobbesian (dis)order and the restoration of a human order. You can’t fix any large-scale aspect of a kleptocracy by itself. You fix the whole thing or nothing.

    You will the end, you have to will the means. Today every reform end has to be subsumed under fully transformational means and ends.

  28. Ok, ok.

    When I said I would not grant the assumption that American Capitalists make public policy decisions
    in the area of education, I went to far. I will grant that point.

    But, still, I think educational results depend very greatly on personal motivation and a system of priorities and values that put education first or close to first.

    Someone commented below “Perhaps the universities had to search outside the US for enough serious students.”

    That person raised a good point. Why aren’t there enough “serious students” in America?

    Do I really need to conclude that it’s a bunch of “American Capitalists?” Well, who are they, specifically? And which of their decisions have caused this educational deterioration?

    And, shall we hold blameless the millions of individual voters who continue to support property tax policies that result in underfunded schools?

    And what about the millions of families that choose (consistent with their constitutional right) to create a home environment that fosters obesity and WWF fandom over the pursuit of physical fitness and a bachelors degree in engineering? Do we hold them blameless too?

    Surely the home environment is a critical part of “the system.”

    This “American Capitalists” argument is overstated.

  29. If the addition of Dixiecrats to the Republican Party has been the most important (or even *an* important) cause of California’s educational deterioration then, please, tell us all about it.

    (For those outside of California, Democrats have been, by and large, the dominant political party in California’s legislature since at least 1980. Democrats make up a majority of the state’s voters.)

    I’m not knocking Democrats. I vote for them some times. But, this Dixiecrat concept appears to have some limitations.

    Help us out here, Mr. Lee.

  30. Way too corporo-centric. Educational levels in the US increased from 1930 to 1980 for two principal reasons: the federal support for college attendance under the GI bill and subsequent grant and loan programs; and the broad social movement to encourage students to graduate from high school as well as have access to community colleges thereafter. Both had achieved their major successes by 1980. Corporations and capitalists, acting as such, have little impact on education per se. While many capitalists support their alma maters with generous gifts, their public policy effects via taxes and public support are relatively benign. Indeed, one could argue that the educational disaster that is California occurred despite the best efforts of the business community: California unilaterally disarmed thanks to a local taxpayer revolt. The biggest threat to education is not cosmopolitan capitalists, but rather local know-nothings who want no taxes, no government, no public services.

  31. From the Boston Globe 12/10/2008 concerning tests given to Massachusetts school kids as well as school children in other countries.

    “Massachusetts students significantly outperformed their peers nationwide on a prestigious math and science exam, putting the state on an elite international tier, according to results released yesterday….In many cases, the state’s impressive showing on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (conducted by Boston College) puts Massachusetts in the same league with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore – academic heavyweights that have long made US policy-makers fearful of losing an economic competitive edge…”

    And it was done without having to overthrow the capitalist class in the State.

  32. The problem is not a lack of education, but the lack of payoff for education, as purposely engineered by our elites:

    See: “How and Why Government, Universities, and Industry Create Domestic Labor Shortages of Scientists and High-Tech Workers”, a working paper by Eric Weinstein.
    (n.b.: not actual but perceived labor shortages).

    And the manipulation never stops (2010):

    In summary:

    “The reason Americans hesitate to study science and engineering is simple: pursuing an advanced degree in these fields is a bad investment.”

  33. I should mention I simply linked to vdare.com for convenient link to some material (netted via Google). I do not condone vdare.com at all!

  34. “Anyone have a clue what today’s parents want to teach their own kids?”

    I vote for Chinese.

  35. ” local know-nothings who want no taxes, no government, no public services”

    Yes, and another kind of know-nothing, too. School boards are typically chosen in low-turnout special elections. These boards are frequently captured by groups of people who know nothing about education (and not much about anything else either, it seems) but have strong ideological, religious, cultural, ethnic, or sexual agendas which they seek to pursue in the schools at our children’s expense.

    Although the concept of the local school board is, in theory, to give parents a voice in their children’s education, in practice the boards often are completely unrepresentative of the parents. (It is not uncommon for the school board members not even to be parents, or to have their children educated outside the school system they govern.)

    I’m not aware of any other developed nation that tolerates this kind of nonsense–though I will admit that I know very little about the education systems of other countries.

  36. Speaking of jobs leaving the US, a buddy of mine who works at one of the largest life insurers in the US just informed me that the company has decided to expand the scope of jobs to be off-shored to include some internal audit jobs. I think this is notable because most companies off-shoring say they are just sending the very low level jobs over. I believe it is just a matter of time before complete accounting “back offices” will be based in India. Being a CPA and holder of a Masters degree in accounting, that scares the sh*t out of me. They shooting for parity? Hmmmm, can you say “housing values still to plummet”?

  37. That only makes small business worse imo.

    A fortune 500 company can “take a chance” on a newly minted Harvard Grad, but a small business can’t take that same chance. A kid that just graduated @ the top of their class from a state university really only has grades to show the small employer. And small businesses want to know what the kid can do. By default that makes them even more selective than the big businesses that choose on credentials.

    So basically, small business is an even bigger part of the problem, where the incentives put profits over people.

  38. I’m not convinced that your focus on supply-side market failures in the labour market provides all the answers. I do suspect that market failures are also demand-side based, so that traditional supply-side policies are nowadays largely ineffective.
    Then what about demand-side intervention?
    How? We know a lot about this kind of intervention in markets from the fields of antitrust and consumer protection. What about then figuring the employee as a customer and applying the insights from antitrust and consumer protection? For example, is there any info asymmetry regarding salary levels and ranges face by current and prospective employees that needs some rebalancing, this is particularly so for those at their beginning, with too short a tenure to be able to guess. Is there a problem with rival employers pulling together their remunaration treatments to survey their relative positions – or, wouldn’t it be only fair that these surveys were accessible also by employees? Would it be good practice that rival employers compete fairly to offer fairer payment, rather than enforcing those perfomance policies that are meant to put colleagues one against each other? Would this fairer system constitute a comparative advantage with which rival employers could compete for best resources, those more happy to work in a fairer and more collaborative job place? Wouldn’t the introduction of a trustworthy mark like the one used for “organic”/”fair trade” product signal this comparative advantage and reinforce such a virtuous circle in consumer markets as well (consumers who are largely employees).
    And so on and so forth.

  39. “This instinct is certainly wrong in detail (how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?”

    Are you kidding? It was a goldmine. Look at the money made by blackwater, for example. If the war had gone well (which is obviously what they expected) it would have been epic for the oil companies.

    So if the question is how did *staying* in Iraq help US business interests, that’s a better question. Maybe that’s what you meant.

    But clearly going in, companies expected to make money. But the money spent on the war: a large portion went into the pockets of military contractors.

  40. There is merit to your argument, James, but the key to education is community and family commitment in holding all of the factors accountable.

    Sadly, California has led the way, primarily through Prop 13, in destroying accountability. Taxpayers are no longer required to contribute their fair share to public schools. Combined with two working patent households and general complacency, educational attainment has suffered.

    But don’t worry, just like Laughernomics will balance the budget by raising revenues through tax cuts, less than optimal funding for students will result in more advanced educational achievement in the long run. Because. . . we’re America goddamnit, the global home of ‘truthiness.’

  41. Thank you Carla and Oregano for expressing my thoughts. An intelligent, high level intellectual exchange to rev up my aging brain.

  42. Nice point.

    People may also be interested in this graph:

    The fact is that per capita college attainment levels are still pretty high in the US. But we can’t quite compete globally.

    What’s the real problem here?

    Could it be that, as in health care, the US population is being ripped off by an inefficient, wasteful, over priced educational system?

  43. The Indian system is good at churning out “factory-type” engineers. That is, graduates who can solve known problems. However, its rote-based learning and strong emphasis on grades kills the creativity factor. The American system develops innovation and creativity, which is in many ways better and needs to be nurtured.

  44. One of the challenges California faces is that it has idealistically committed to educate all who come, without exclusion, without filtering, without any means to control the demand for K-12 educational resources.

    But taxes are insufficient to pay for this commitment. The result is poor education and the lowest per capita K-12 budget in the nation.

    The system is overwhelmed and the commitment to excellent education is one in name only.

    Probably the best way to fix the problem is to sharply raise taxes on people who live in relatively wealthy areas like Los Gatos so that the state can pay for the education of people who live in Los Angeles.

  45. This is a truly great post for what you don’t say, since you don’t really need to say it. You may be a bit generous in using the term “corporations” when we know you must mean corporate directors.

    Well done,


  46. Here in my part of academia we have a wide range of ethnicities in my sector of the sciences, and I view this as fantastic. Yes, some come, learn, and then leave, but others come, expecting to leave, and fall in love with the US and stay. The synergy outweighs the subsidy, in my view. We have a large number of foreign students studying here in the US because they are more motivated to spend their 20s working for a better future, while the native sons and daughters are represented anemically owing to anti-intellectualism and a secret hope that they, too, can somehow game the system and circumvent the notion that one has to earn what one receives.

    Advanced degrees in the hard sciences can be obtained without the accrual of additional debt, but the ever-increasing cost of a bachelors degree, coupled with financial aid packages intimately coupled to the assumption of debt, taints the American Dream with neo-feudal debt peonage, especially in weak economic times when graduates need to start paying down their loans right away. The rising cost of the college education is a very troubling development, but the problem runs deeper. Ultimately, I believe that any individual can, with sufficient determination, rise to their level of proficiency in their chosen field. I also think that the networking available to the sons and daughters of the privileged is a real and tangible advantage that favors the rich. This nepotism protects accumulated wealth and is distasteful to me; I am reluctant to embrace any role this may have played in helping me in my career trajectory, but all who are successful can cite some fortuitous circumstance that helped them. After all, victory has many fathers, but defeat is an orphan.

  47. I find this to be very different from my experiences. I graduated high school in 1974. As far as I know I was the first student to study calculus in our high school ever: alone with a text and workbook and in consultation with an excellent math teacher. Having recently visited the school as part of a 35 year anniversary celebration I found AP calculus classes averaging 30 students per year on very close to the same total enrollment since my years there. Likewise the Spanish and German instruction has been augmented with French and Chinese. AP chemistry, biology, statistic (and probably other fields) are offered and well attended. I received a good preparation for college from my high school, but not so good as is available today. I have nieces and nephews that have gone to 3 widely separate public high schools around the country and each of them entered college with many credits already granted towards their degrees. I do agree that college/university degrees are strangely much more expensive now, but there seems to have been an arms race amongst institutions to provide everything first class and first class costs.

  48. First, globalization is unstoppable so, in a certain sense, the rest of the world is just catching up. They’re getting their rightful share of the high tech market.

    Second, mastering technology is beyond the abilities of a great segment of any population. Probably more than 90% simply can’t do it.

    Third, there’s a racial gap. The evidence is overwhelming that blacks and mexicans (central americans?) simply can’t do as well as whites and most asians. It’s politically incorrect to notice but the evidence is so strong that there wouldn’t be any dispute if we were talking about trees instead of people.

    Fourth, we are heading towards an aristocratic world, one dominated by a very few with the rest as servants or worse.

  49. Why on earth should Accenture invest their profits in the school system? And under the no free lunch hypothesis, what kind of junk would such an investment inject into the curriculum? Corporations are not the problem here: reasonable people can disagree about the relative impact of funding disparities, teachers’ unions, pop culture, family breakdown, American complacency, and so on. And corporations are certainly not the solution, any more than BP was on the verge of getting us beyond petroleum. You seem to have a problem with corporations, James: you are looking for both love and hate in all the wrong places.

  50. Re: @ jeff simpson___There is a wonderful publication offered up annually by “U.S. News & World Report” – The Ultimate College Guide”. It is the most comprehensive leader in college ranking (JMHO) throughout america’s best colleges – eg. Address; Website; Affiliation ie. private, religious, or public; enrollment…Key Stats: U.S. News College Ranking; ACT Scores (percentile); Tuition Cost (in state – out of state, etc.); Selectivity (room & board, etc.); Acceptance rate {(%) & Average Debt)}; *Student/Faculty ratio & ** Proportion who borrow (% $$$. Lastly…I only mentioned this because of the high percentage of students who borrowed (it is astronomical $$$), and quite frankly, “Scary”! Ref: http://www.usnews.com/student

  51. As long as we think of education as a kind of deliverable, so that the longer you sit in a classroom the more education you have, we’re screwed. Economists have the very bad habit of confusing things than can be counted (say, the averaged number of years a population has spent in school) with things we want to measure (say, a population’s general level of education). These are not the same, and the former can only ever be a dim reflection of the latter.

    What would be really useful is an economic analysis of the kind of the cumulative _effects_ that our educational processing have on people. Is greater productivity even one of these effects? Because I think it’s a damning fact that smart kids hate school.

  52. So do you want teachers to teach what you believe, spider, in public schools or in private schools?

    Is the curriculum book students have to buy already published? Is the cost reasonable risky?

  53. Teachers have to teach what somebody believes, don’t they anonymous? Hopefully, what’s taught is our best understanding of reality, rather than what’s politically correct. Hopefully.

  54. spider, “Teachers have to teach what somebody believes, don’t they anonymous?”

    And there’s the problem in a nutshell, spider

    I could care less what you believe and if I had to be stuck in a room listening to your version of reality or be shunned from society, I’ll take the shunning.

    I taught the kids in my realm how to take care of the resources of the planet and how to take care of the “powers” of delusion that trashed the planet.

  55. You’ve managed, in a few sentences, to turn a discussion of education, into personal insult, obviously because you are incapable of dealing in a rational way with opinions which are substantially and substantively different than your own…thus proving what other have already stated; formal education (which you possess) is vastly different from real education (which you entirely lack and will never obtain).

  56. Prop 13 has undoubtedly put a crimp in California’s ability to raise property taxes. And with its income and sales taxes already being high by national standards, that really doesn’t leave many options open.

    But historically, it is well to remember that before Prop 13, there was a rapid run up in property values (largely due to inflation, rather than real) that led to rapidly escalating taxes. Many elderly people and working people were facing loss of their homes as a result.

    Prop 13 may have been too blunt an instrument, and it may even be analogous to rent control in New York City in terms of having created serious distortions in the housing market. But it was not simply an attempt for people to avoid accountability.

  57. James Kwak,

    “TechNet, a lobby group comprising top American tech CEOs and venture capitalists, [in March 2005] warned U.S. policy leaders that profound changes in the global economy put America’s competitiveness at risk. In the face of this challenge, the group unveiled an Innovation Policy Agenda designed to maintain U.S. global leadership through policies that encourage entrepreneurship, job creation and economic growth by strengthening innovation.”

    “The Innovation Policy Agenda is the product of a year of regional summits and collaboration among the nation’s leading visionaries from industry, academia and policy-making.”

    Among the recommendations …
    “Strengthen education and develop a skilled technology workforce. Specific education recommendations include continued implementation and full funding of the No Child Left Behind Act; making science, math, engineering and technology education a national priority by increasing funding for math and science partnerships; effective retraining for displaced and unemployed U.S. workers; and, efforts to ensure that foreign innovators trained in the United States are able to remain to create technologies, companies and jobs.”

    “TechNet also announced … the formation of an CEO Education Task Force. It includes Craig Barrett, CEO, Intel Corporation; Art Coviello, President and CEO, RSA Security; Paul Deninger, Chairman, Broadview – A Jeffries Company; John Doerr, Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers; John Morgridge, Chairman, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Henry Samueli, Chairman and CTO, Broadcom; Stratton Sclavos, President and CEO, VeriSign; Jeff Taylor, Founder, Monster Worldwide; and Joe Tucci, President and CEO, EMC Corporation.

    This is evidence that American capitalists want, need and are working for a highly trained and skilled US workforce.

  58. Thanks for the erudite commentary and discussion.

    The gap in education is directly linked to the wildly expanding gap in income.

    This piece http://www.slate.com/id/2266025/entry/2266026/ touches up what to me are the obvious underlying causes of the education gap.

    Public education is hopelessly mismanaged. Education consultants and administrators rake off inordinate funds that never reach the classroom.

    The causes of this divergence and radical increase in inequality are the ends of the 30year march of sociopaths in the predatorclass, under the false flag of the gop who are delirious with greed and imagined exceptionalism, and insidiously promote and advance fundamentally supremist and fascist ideologies.

    These fiends have killed the idea’s and many of the structures of equality, democracy, good citizenship, social responsibility, true free enterprise, fairness, justice, and even freedom and certain inalienable rights that formally defined and shaped America – and erected new more toxic, greedcentric, supremist, elitist, and fascist idea’s and structure that are driving America to the precipice of ruin. Of course, that nation will continue to exist, but the social landscape that is insidiously being constructed this very hour – is anathema and contrary to core principles this nation founded upon.

  59. in 90% of all small business there is no HR department as the boss is the owner, if there are any employees to begin with. unless you have a very strange definition of ‘small’ business.
    and most of these ‘small’ business pay minimum wage as they have no need for any skills

  60. Al (was it AI?) has the basic point: personal choice. There has been no “market failure”; on the contrary, there has been extensive expansions of markets. Policy designs and opinions depend upon a singular market. All efforts in that direction are fruitless. There are too many markets. The problem with market successes is the shopping. What some here have referred to as “information assymetries” are a side effect of extensive markets. Shopping is expensive. I can shop or I can study what is truly valuable, spending my time on basics: math and literature.
    But, should I study Java or Python? Should I use Qt or wxWidgets? Anyone familiar with the programming world will know that the number of languages in which to program is mind-boggling!
    The idea that “capitalists” and corporations are making the decisions is hilarious. The problem is that there are too many markets.

  61. Spider says: “Second, mastering technology is beyond the abilities of a great segment of any population. Probably more than 90% simply can’t do it.”

    I agree with you. At least 90% (including me) don’t have the interest, even though some of us might have the ability if we were to apply ourselves. There are technologically savvy people who can’t write a coherent sentence. You’re clearly not in that group, but I’m thinking you might grant me the point.

    You continue: “Third, there’s a racial gap. The evidence is overwhelming that blacks and mexicans (central americans?) simply can’t do as well as whites and most asians. It’s politically incorrect to notice but the evidence is so strong that there wouldn’t be any dispute if we were talking about trees instead of people.”

    Well, spider, as a spider you should know, we’re not talking about trees. I could write PAGES in response to your statement, but why? So many others have done it better than I ever could. If you are really interested in why African Americans and Latinos IN GENERAL don’t do as well as Caucasians and “most Asians, I have a long reading list for you.

    I’m guessing you’re not going to ask for it. Of course, you could surprise me. That would be delightful.

    And then you say “Fourth, we are heading towards an aristocratic world, one dominated by a very few with the rest as servants or worse.”

    Sad to say, I entirely agree with you on this point.

  62. “As long as we think of education as a kind of deliverable, so that the longer you sit in a classroom the more education you have, we’re screwed.”

    How right you are. But in an unthinkingly capitalistic society, everything is reduced to a product.

    And we must ask: precisely who is being screwed? The elites who operate the global corporate structure? I think not.

    So all of this may very well be by design.

  63. you’re right, spider, what you wrote is NOT educational, so I apologize for channeling how the smart kids “feel” about your educated opinion since you don’t need to know how anyone “feels” about your prophetic pronouncements (or is it perception is reality)

    Since I don’t want my kids to learn anything from you and you don’t want to educate them about anything other than your opinions (ie. Teachers have to teach what somebody believes, don’t they) then we have gotten closer to “do people deserve to be educated in the first place?” and by whom.

    All is a learning moment, thanks for one neither of us expected to have today since your script didn’t work and I told you something you did not know about the education my kids received at home.

    Spider, “First, globalization is unstoppable so, in a certain sense, the rest of the world is just catching up. They’re getting their rightful share of the high tech market.

    Second, mastering technology is beyond the abilities of a great segment of any population. Probably more than 90% simply can’t do it.

    Third, there’s a racial gap. The evidence is overwhelming that blacks and mexicans (central americans?) simply can’t do as well as whites and most asians. It’s politically incorrect to notice but the evidence is so strong that there wouldn’t be any dispute if we were talking about trees instead of people.

    Fourth, we are heading towards an aristocratic world, one dominated by a very few with the rest as servants or worse.”

  64. In the public sector, about 8% of the GDP is now “invested” at every level of government. That’s more money that we spend on the Defense Department, by the way. Before 9-11, the public school were spending about twice what the DoD was spending.

    For anyone who is championing “more money”, will there be a refrain of “gimme some results” in that song?

  65. > Prop 13 has undoubtedly put a crimp in
    > California’s ability to raise property taxes.

    With the exception of one year (until most recently), California’s income increased every year. While Prop.13 did hold property taxes to a 2% yearly increase (assessed value), the market has doubled every ten years (or so), which has allowed properties that changed hands to be reassessed at “market rates”. In many places, residential homes have traded hands every 7-10 years.

    CA just created new fees/fines/taxes as time passed. Prop.13 may have put a “crimp” on new property taxes, the government was not constrained from creating new revenue sources out of whole cloth.

  66. “Probably the best way to fix the problem is to sharply raise taxes on people who live in relatively wealthy areas like Los Gatos so that the state can pay for the education of people who live in Los Angeles.
    You are absolutely correct. Prop 13 more than anything was class warfare as richer white folks did not want to pay for poorer folks kids to be educated.

  67. How do you propose to stop globalization? And if you can’t how are you going to prevent people from India and China and everywhere else from competing for high tech jobs? How are you going to prevent them from using the price advantage which is and will be theirs until the cost of living equalizes across borders?

    All evidence I’m aware of indicates that technological mastery is closely related to IQ or some similar measure and so is limited to a very small portion of humanity.

    The racial gap in academic and workplace achievement, across all periods of time and in all societies, is a fact. Not disputed. What is in dispute is its cause or causes. All those who’ve claimed they could close it have, over the last half century have failed. That doesn’t prove it can’t ever be closed because there are lots of things we don’t understand, such as IQ creep, and perhaps a half century is not long enough. But we needed a lot less evidence to suppose that a perpetual motion machine was impossible…as was exceeding the speed of light.

    If technological advancement concentrates economic and military power in fewer and fewer hands its reasonable to conclude that the powerless will soon lose their civil rights.

    Those are my reasons for thinking as I do. Reasons and facts. Two things which are entirely absent from your comments…which are little more than religious screeds. You’ve made it quite clear that you prefer your ideology – your religion – to any alternative approach to reality which makes you feel uncomfortable.

  68. I didn’t come by my opinions on on the racial gap by not reading opposing opinions. I am NOT “Anonymous”. In my last reply I stated – as succinctly as I could – my reasons for believing what I do.

    Let’s not make this a discussion of that point. I raised it only to point out that there are good reasons why schools have been dumbed down and why they and neighborhoods remain as segregated as they were in the ’50s.

  69. “Someone commented below “Perhaps the universities had to search outside the US for enough serious students.”

    That person raised a good point. Why aren’t there enough “serious students” in America?”

    There are lots of serious students. It’s serious faculty that are in short supply.

    And yes, I’m serious.

  70. There weren’t two cultures. There were three cultures. The two you mention, plus the New England based Puritan intellectual culture with its emphasis on tax funded universal common schooling from the earliest colonial times.

  71. Which, I will add, northern labor tried very hard to replicate for itself in the years after the revolution.

  72. Well, especially in the cities where nobody’s home, and finance guys work on how to loot your tax money, while liberals throw condoms at the canaille.

    Sometimes we get the schools we deserve.

  73. James, shame on you for this:

    “I have long had this instinct that it is the interests of big corporations that determine government policy in the United States. This instinct is certainly wrong in detail (how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?)….” This is the MIC’s profit making machine, are you kidding me!!!

    Anyway, back to the question of education. If we look to our competition in other countries, most of the more highly educated ones approach education in a far more rational way. My Russian wife has two degrees, both in difficult areas. She never paid for college. As long as her grades met certain criteria, her education was paid for. And Russian schools are very demanding and competitive, certainly as much on average over there as the very best are here.

    We have lots of issues, and many of them are related to irrational ways of approaching education. I grew up in a system which compares favorably to today’s Charter Schools, but it was all public. I was a “B” student in high school, and would have been an “A” student were it not for my lingering dyslexia. On the SAT’s (with no prep course) I got a 1487. My brother, also without a prep course got a 1600. There were no unions. If a student misbehaved, they were subject to corporal punishment, suspension or even expulsion. Classes were generally about 30 students. Tests were tough, and the entire school did well on, at that time, the standardized California and Iowa tests. Teachers didn’t teach to the tests, they taught to excite students about learning. Did all kids do well? Of course not. But, I never had a friend who failed a subject. If a student was doing poorly, the teacher would meet with the parents to resolve the problem. To this day, some 50 years later, I still have proficiency in French, which I studied to two years. I still can do quadratic equations, and my vocabulary in Latin is reasonable. The problem is that we place too high a value on achievement, and not enough value on learning.

  74. In my youth I witnessed the decline of federal support for education begin with Ronald Reagan in 1980, whose ruse of “small government” pleased conservatives then as now. James’ observation about the support or nonsupport of education by the economic powers-that- be is an illumination —-I am often left unaware of where the power lies when the political circus is so loud and annoying.

  75. Beyond high school, most jobs don’t require a college degree, the credential just signals that the applicant has enough intelligence and/or work ethic to get through college, and depending on the school, provides networking opportunities.

    There are other ways for a society to provide this (networking, IQ and work ethic signals) to citizens without them going deeply into debt.

    “The IDF is a citizens’ army in the classic sense: at the age of 18, the great majority of Israelis are herded through basic training and assigned to tasks ranging from serving in an elite commando unit to serving coffee…”

  76. “I taught the kids in my realm how to take care of the resources of the planet and how to take care of the “powers” of delusion that trashed the planet.”

    For someone taking on a “spider” nom de plume, I expected you to know the difference between biology, organic and inorganic chemistry

    and political delusions such as “totalitarianism” revolutions which have trashed the planet to where no one sane can be expected to ignore the pollution.

    The numbers are not working in favor of “globalization” – too few elite to rule without wisdom or vision.

    No amount of IQ-ism can compensate for the fact that team work by average minds with common sense problem solving abilities produce more of value than an “elite” depending on theory and abstraction.

    I don’t argue that “elitism” may be the next step on the civilization ladder for many varied “global” cultures, but why would you be trying to sell that “global” ladder that is missing a few rungs here in the USA as an “absolutism”?

    Hearing someone’s opinions and fortune telling speculations start calling itself prophecy that cannot be “stopped” qualifies as a “religious” screed, I dare say.

  77. Freeways, public parks, public hospitals, and public schools: if you build it they will come. And in California, even if you don’t build it they will come.

    Is there really a solution to this problem?

  78. Economist Dean Baker has something to say on the matter of importing foreign trained doctors into the US.

    See for example, here: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/08/02/the_doctor_is_in__bangkok/

    A couple of interesting facts emerge:

    1. It’s not easy at all for a foreign trained doctor to obtain a license to practice here in the US

    2. There is a kind of protectionism for MDs which protects and artificially inflates their fees. Other job categories (e.g. manufacturing, dishwashing, etc) are not similarly protected from competition with foreign workers, whatever their location.

    Since many other countries offer medical care on par with what is available here, but at a significantly lower cost, Baker advocates legislation that would allow US senior citizens to go overseas for medical procedures and have Medicare pick up the tab.

    So, maybe it doesn’t matter that we do not educate more doctors here. US doctors cost too much anyway.

  79. True that Susan Jenkins. Biggovernment is bad when the monies flow to classrooms, and the majikally biggovernment is good when a thousand times more money is wasted fighting evildoers in faroff lands to benefit bushcrimefamilycabals, oil, energy, military, intelligence, private military and private intelligence industrial complexes, or bailing out the den of vipers and thieves in the financial oligarchs who piloted the entire world to the brink of and inevitable economic collapse. This is the insidious doublespeak and intentional mangling of language the the gop, and their bedfellows in Nazi Germany utilize with brutal success to turn day into night, dark into light, black into white, and economic domination into privatization. Painting lipstick on pigs is fashionable and evidently quite useful, but in the end we are left with pigs.

    With regard to education. The classroom and the actual education process should be lavishly funded. The administration, consulting, contracting, and privatization of the education industrial complex for the obscene profits of a few predatorclass oligarchs is robbing our children of education and our nation of a viable future.

    Any cursory examination of history proves that whenever and sociopathic and criminal predatorclass illegally and illicitly commandeers a society, or a government, or even an empire – those societies, governments, and empires are soon reduced to rubble and ruin.

  80. Education System needs changes.Some decay goes the education was provided with great afford from master side and students also respect the education provided by there master.Today technology is there but no right person who teach it.When I was student I also faced a lot of difficulties as no one was there to give the answer of my question.Hope one day real education will be provided which actually turn the individual.

  81. The Department of Education Organization Act was signed into law in 1979 by Jimmy Carter. The United States Department of Education (DOE) began operating on May 16, 1980.

    DOE Budget in Reagan years (billions):
    1980 14.0
    1981 14.7
    1982 14.7
    1983 15.3
    1984 15.3
    1985 18.9
    1986 17.8
    1987 19.5
    1988 20.0
    1989 22.8

    Click to access edhistory.pdf

    “Real spending in the 1980s, during all the Reagan-era cuts we hear so much about, actually grew at a faster rate–21 percent between 1981-82 and 1986-87–than in the previous decade, when it increased by “only” 16 percent.”

  82. After a crucial economical crises the most of the attention disperse from eduction because to gain knowledge one has to pay a lot from his pocket.For the poor education is becoming tougher due to financial aids.

  83. During Reagan’s tenure defense spending (according to a wikipedia figure) went from about $500b/yr to about $800b/yr. Perhaps a comparable increase in terms of percentages, but the actual numbers show relative prioritization. If you look at the total dollars spent, Reagan pumped $300b a year more into defense while DOE spending when up by maybe $8b. Totally different order of magnitude.

    Reagan suffered from having a Democratically-controlled congress and so he had to borrow instead of being able to make the social program cuts he wanted to make.

  84. The ABSOLUTE “rich” got rich, originally, by trashing the planet – they’re a bunch of “pigs”. They are now aware of the limitations of getting rich in that way, so they have turned their attention to consuming EVERYONE picking through the trash trying to survive.

    “They” – the omniscient “they” channeling the Supreme Being Bankster – ADMIT to being out of bullets, so to speak, and yet their loyal army of brown-nosers

    continue to push the delusion that SPECTACULAR failures by “elites” don’t matter – on some metaphysical plane…and we should all perish as a sign of loyalty.

    On the circus side of this, let’s have a symbolic burning of the Patriot Act and then we’ll SEE which “religion” is destroying “western” culture.

    It’s an unacceptable freak show of a “civilization” to have one half of the country SPYING on the other half for NO OTHER REASON than to STEAL the fruits of EVERYONE’s labor.

    You can’t keep ’em down on the farm after they’ve seen the big city, right?

    THE MIDDLE CLASS knows exactly what happened, we have the paperwork. As lovely as Huffington may be at times, she still works for the plutoRATS

    who finally ARE running scared.

    The Jim Jones-ing of D.C. is painful to watch.

    Never EDUCATING people about how the “joneses” abuse the fact that human beings don’t come out like a horse, able to stand up right away,

    but rather need a lot more time to develop the skills for living.

    If I had young ones today, I would not dream of sending them off to “school”….so Reagan’s education worked well – fund wars through merciless extraction of labor’s wealth and you take care of the real problem – “social” services such as education.

  85. I was responding to Susan Jenkins’ comment that there was a decline in federal support for education beginning with Ronald Regan in 1980. The data refutes that.

    Are you saying that the problem was not that Reagan cut dollars spent on education but that he didn’t grow them enough? How much would have been enough? What should additional money have been spent on?

    How much would be enough today? What should additional dollars (if any) be spent on? Remember, this is in addition to state and local money that almost doubled (per student, 2007 dollars) betwen 1980 and 2007 (see my comment above).

  86. There is no one answer. Paying good teachers more would be a nice start. Removing administrators, professional educators (those with degrees in Education who have only style and nothing to actually teach), and other various and sundry bureaucrats would be another important step. This could probably be done without increasing the DOE budget. Paying crappy teachers more probably won’t help, unless the crappy teachers start doing a better job because they feel better about their station in life.

    One problem with education is that it doesn’t pay very well, so many (but not all) who might otherwise be attracted to the profession are not. Wall Street was the place to go to make serious money back in the 1980s. And again after the repeal of Glass-Stegall (1933) ca. 1999. In some sense, the decline of educational quality is a logical offshoot of a zero-sum system with more attractive career alternatives.

  87. A resource.

    “Bing.com/REDU is designed to be a place to keep up to date with what’s going on in the education dialog. It will give you a place to see, learn and discuss how this critical issue is evolving. We will celebrate great teaching and programs and highlight the ways all of us can help improve education in America, whether you have kids or not. And we will ensure that there are great resources on the site for you to take action – whether it’s learning how to become a teacher, giving money, volunteering at a local school, finding tools and curricula or getting involved in the policy debate – REDU is designed to be the place you can come to take the action you want to have an impact.”

  88. Well … not sure how it was then, but …
    1. I think good public schools prepare students VERY well for college, crappy ones don’t. I think a kid coming from a good public HS now knows a lot more math and science than one in the 1970s (how much computing did you know then ? how about DNA ? binary math ? set theory ?)

    2. You do NOT *need* to come out of college with high debt (although this may be true for certain states). In Georgia, you can come for free (HOPE scholarship), at least free tuition; tuition is about $3000 per semester for undergrads, if you don’t qualify for HOPE, and, of course community colleges are way cheaper.

  89. Daniel, I’m with you(r longue durée school of thought) on this–see also my reply to the 1st comment.

    The neo-Marxists are right and social designers (aka Supreme Court justices and Congress people) would do well to consider the former’s line of thought. While accepting the inevitability of the neo-Marxist conclusions is a different story, we would be better off if the designers slowed down if not rectified some of the capitalist trajectories.

    In actual fact, we allowed the ghost of ‘free markets’ to function as a screen for capitalist hegemony (control of the state and so on). It’s going to take a while to see through, but it will happen.

  90. Yeah it was those darned rich white folks. If the rich had been in any other racial/ethnic category, they would have volunteered to pay an extra couple hundred percent on their property tax.

  91. Children who do not do well in school and do not have a medical reason for it are often children of parents who do not value education (that said I do feel we do have some school systems that are poorly run). We as a society need to stop thinking that everyone wants to be at a certain educational level. As such we need to have jobs for all educational levels and understand there will be poverty. That said, looking at this with Economic models it would mean that given the supply of more educated people, wages would stagnate eventually. They should possibly even go down as outside people are brought in for jobs. If outsiders are not brought in then wages should go up encouraging more to go into that field, but the wages must go up to pay first for the added educational costs and the time spent learning. Science though is taught wrong in the very early grades where the basics of watching and observing should be taught. (Maybe econimists might do better if this was taught to them early also. Fortunantly, I have an Anthro. background for science even if it is archaeology.)

    Now on to lower incomes: If you assume that those who are less skilled become less in number do to education, barring illegals, then wages should go up for less desirable low education jobs. Here though is where new technologies often come into play to keep wages low as now the less educated are competing against low cost technology. The more desirable low education jobs are then a competitive realm for students who are going on in education and wages stay low as there is more competition, with often very high turnover.

    The real question isn’t how to bring wages up. But, the number of people in the world and the fact that living standards are not the same all over the world allowing for businesses to move to where it is more favourable to their profits. Here we the consumer also have a hand as we are always looking for greater value at a price we are willing to pay that then causes increases in imports of goods at prices we are willing to pay for them. Add that enough people are mobile to bring wages down and you get what we have.

    Not very surprising as you seem to think and not easy to fix until world wages equalize.

  92. Sorry new laptop and I seem to be deleting lines. First paragraph should read.

    Children who do not do well in school and do not have a medical reason for it are often children of parents who do not value education (that said I do feel we do have some school systems that are poorly run). We as a society need to stop thinking that everyone wants to be at a certain educational level. As such we need to have jobs for all educational levels and understand there will be poverty. That said, looking at this with Economic models it would mean that given the supply of more educated people, wages would stagnate eventually. They should possibly even go down as outside people are brought in for jobs. If science type jobs with high educational needs are not filled and outsiders are not brought in then wages should go up encouraging more to go into that field, but the wages must go up to pay first for the added educational costs and the time spent learning with a semi understanding their will still be a need after the educational investment. I do agress though that Science though is taught wrong in the very early grades where the basics of watching and observing should be taught. (Maybe econimists might do better if this was taught to them early also. Fortunantly, I have an Anthro. background for science even if it is archaeology.)

  93. Please watch The Dylan Ratigan Show segment aired yesterday about “technology” toy builders in China and give me a projection of when the 20% unemployed will be rehired at the same pay scale?

    I keep hearing that by 2015 the middle class will be buck naked starving landless and homeless

    (thanks to a monetarily sovereign government who COULD do that to millions of its bad stupid citizens and DID/WILL DO)

    so a crowded bunk filled room outside the factory, straight 35 hour shifts at 30 cents per hour wage and incomes will be “globalized”….

    the perfect plan – my how do theoretically perfect plans always go more wrong than the imperfect plans of common sense…?

  94. Annie, I really doubt that you heared that the middle class will be basically using my words pennyless by 2015. I have yet to watch your show and I don’t know who Dylan Ratigan is though looking him up on the internet says why — I don’t have cable and am not likely to get it. If it wasn’t for my husband I wouldn’t own a TV except to play netflixs on it.

    I would suggest subscribing to many papers and good magazines like foriegn policy, the economist, Foreign Affairs, Political Science Quarterly,etc. and a few good books like Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, The Perils of Prosperity by william E. Leuchtenburg, and maybe some Hume or Lock.

    There you have found my status item as mentioned in the other post you responded to me about and the things I cannot resist buying — reading material, classical music (though you will find me listening to 93X and Cities 97 out of the Twin Cities), music by the Pogues and Flogging Molly.

    You can now feel statisfied that I have broken my rule for Simon and James’ blog in talking about me and not staying on subject.

  95. Sid, while Gatto has some good points, his longer pieces have some serious flaws. For example, he points to exceptional people like Benjamin Franklin and how they grew up as examples of the kind of model society(not just teaching) should be. It turns out to be a stealth-libertarian propaganda piece. But what Gatto fails to realize is that you cannot argue from the exceptional to the many. The case of some of the smartest people in their generation, as a model for how all kids should be taught. Its extremely fallacious. Its compelling, but fallacious. If he sticks solely to talking about the problems of education, then yes, he’s very correct, but when he starts talking about other stuff, including a solution, he very quickly becomes wrong.

  96. how do seven years of war in Iraq serve American business?

    I can’t believe you have to ask that question. In another one of your posts you said 65% of american GDP comes from the MILITARY, healthcare, finance and entertainment. The wars have been a big boost to the american economy – the military has had to replace all that equipment that it blew up and wore out. If that goes away with our skewed economy these days then we will really be in recession. On course no one bothers to point out that this represents big (well respected?) corporations living off the teat of the government. No we only get complaints about all those lazy welfare mothers living off the teat of the government.

  97. For those of you who are still following this… The Economist Debate Series is currently having a debate on Education and Innovation. Their Motion is “This house believes promoting maths and sciences education is the best way to stimulate future innovation.”

    I do not know if non-members may read the debate, but for members who only read their weekly publication, they have a good website and relatively good debates.

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