Things Come Together

"Our new principal, William Simpson, a Cambridge man in the colonial education service, set about rebuilding the school. And what a job he did! His experience of colonial education must have persuaded him that 'excessive devotion to bookwork is a real danger' as he constantly intoned for our benefit, and that the cramming which often passed for education in the colonies was in fact education's worst enemy. Though Simpson was a mathematics teacher, he made a rule which promoted the reading of novels and prohibited the reading of any textbooks after classes on three days of the week. He called it the Textbook Act. Under this draconian law, we could read fiction or biographies or magazines like Illustrated London News or write letters or play Ping-Pong or just sit about, but not open a textbook, on pain of detention. And we had a wonderful library from Robert Fisher's days to support Mr. Simpson's Textbook Act."--Chinua Achebe, The Education of a British-Protected Child, p. 21.


Furloughs and the Hawaii DOE Budget

When any bureaucracy faces a budget cut, it typically cuts services before it cuts fat. When a bureaucracy cuts services, it enlists the public as an ally in defence of its budget. Further, the high-paid, do-nothing jobs in a bureaucracy typically go to politically-connected insiders, who can best defend their positions. The DOE Furlough Friday has Hawaii parents scrambling for day-care and screaming for higher taxes. Unasked and unanswered is the question: "How much money is enough?"

Raw statistics on the DOE budget appear with suspicious infrequency in the print and broadcast news media. Although politicians and DOE administrators make self-serving and deceptive statements which their pet media shills seldom question, one source, the DOE accounting branch, files an official financial summary, the Public Education Finance Survey, which carries a penalty for false reporting.

Hawaii DOE total revenues, fiscal year 2006-2007

Hawaii DOE, current expenditures

Hawaii DOE revenues and expenditures, fiscal year 2006-2007:
c=Total revenues = $2,985,593,000.
d=Current expenditures = $2, 061, 560,000.

DOE enrollment, 2006-2007
e=enrollment= 180,728


Since 1970, DOE per pupil expenditures have more than doubled, in inflation-adjusted dollars.
Hawaii DOE current expenditures per pupil, 1969-70 to 2005-06:
$4,280 to $10,131 (inflation-adjusted dollars).

No country on Earth spends more, per pupil, than Hawaii's $11,000.
International comparison and US average:
#1 Switzerland ($9,348.00). #3 USA ($7,764.00).

It does not take 12 years at $11,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. State (government, generally) provision of History and Civics instruction is a threat to democracy, just as State operation of newspapers would be (is, in totalitarian countries).

Neither George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, nor James Madison attended a government-operated school. Cyrus McCormick and Thomas Edison were homeschooled. The Wright brothers were high school dropouts.

Consider what we do to our kids. Is it really a good idea to send your 6-year-old into a room full of 6-year-olds, and then, the next year, to put your 7-year-old in with 7-year-olds, and so on? A simple recursive argument suggests this exposes them to a real danger of all growing up with the minds of 6-year-olds. And, so far as I can see, that's exactly what happens. Our present culture may be largely shaped by this strange idea of isolating children's thought from adult thought. Perhaps the way our culture educates its children better explains why most of us come out as dumb as they do, than it explains how some of us come out as smart as they do.
--Marvin Minsky

Why is $11,000 per pupil-year insufficient? Is there any amount of money so great that the out-of-classroom parasites who infest the DOE bureaucracy cannot waste it?

Across industriies, across countries, State-monopoly enterprises deliver wretched services at high cost. In abstract, the education industry is an unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation. The education industry is not a natural monopoly. Beyond a very low level, there are no economies of scale at the delivery end of the education business as it currently operates. Education only marginally qualifies as a public good as economists use the term and the "public goods" argument implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not State (government, generally) operation of an industry.

Gerard Lassibile and Lucia Navarro Gomez,
"Organization and Efficiency of Educational Systems: some empirical findings"
Comparative Education, Vol. 36 #1, 2000, Feb.
Furthermore, the regression results indicate that countries where private education is more widespread perform significantly better than countries where it is more limited. The result showing the private sector to be more efficient is similar to those found in other contexts with individual data (see, for example, Psucharopoulos, 1987; Jiminez, et. al, 1991). This finding should convince countries to reconsider policies that reduce the role of the private sector in the field of education.
Current policy in Hawaii and most other US States restricts parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy to schools operated by State (government, generally) employees. This policy originated in anti-Catholic bigotry. This policy survives on dedicated lobbying by current recipients of the Hawaii taxpayers' $2.9 billion/year K-12 education subsidy. The "public" school system has become an employment program for dues-paying members of public-sector unions, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. If this is not so, why cannot any child take, at any age, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' age 6-18 education subsidy toward post secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified (say, has filed W-2 forms on at least three adult employees for at least the previous four years) private-sector employer?


Delicious Spam

Harriet occasionally receives education-related commercial appeals. Most go into the trash folder. Harriet elevates this offering to a post. The future has arrived. Perhaps this advertisement contains the seeds of a rebuttal to Neal McCluskey's argument against free degrees from US Service academies.

jsr solution the software developing company is going to organize an entrance test for free software training. the test is held on 14 November 2009 at quest institute of Chandigarh mohali (landra) . this test is absolutely free. and the students who will pass out this examination will get free software training. for the registrations please visit following link:-
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The Burris Challenge

Harriet left a comment at the Akamai Politics post of 2009-10-31 ("Furlough Mess Gets Worse"), correcting the New York Times figure for the DOE budget. The Times put the budget at $1.8 billion, while the Commerce Department, using DOE figures, put it at $2.9 billion. While waiting for the comment to pass moderation (it must be all the vulgarities, like "and" and "the"), Harriet browsed the Akamai Politics archive.
In a post of 2009-10-25, "Furlough Game of Bluff", Mr. Burris writes:
There is nothing to stop the DOE and the teachers from shifting some of the furlough shifts to non-instructional days. And there is nothing to stop Lingle from working with Democrats in the Legislature to find money to restore some of the lost funding to the DOE.

That’s what should happen.

What does "should" mean? Why is $15,000 per pupil-year insufficient?

Harriet announces the Burris Challenge: In the entire archive of "Akamai Politics", find any figure for "Total Revenues to Education" or " Total Current Expenditures" for the Hawaii DOE with a cite from an official US government (Commerce Department or Department of Education) statistics repository. Find any comparison between Hawaii and international per-pupil spending.

The comments which Mr. Burris has not yet (2009-11-08-1620 GMT) passed through moderation:...
(2009-11-05-0814 HST): The New York Times editorial: "The governor, who had ordered the Department of Education to cut its $1.8 billion budget by 14 percent, now says she had not expected the union to take its furlough days from instruction time."

They're only off by $1 billion. In 2007 (the last year for which complete figures are available), the Hawaii DOE reported "total revenues to education" of $2,985,593,000 and a total enrollment of 180,728, which works out to more than $16,000 per pupil-year, and current expenditures (total minus capital improvements and debt service) of $2,199,604, which gives a per-pupil budget over $12,000.

Why is this insufficient? Even with a 20% cut, this is more than enough.

(2009-11-05-11:59 HST):
Sorry. Add three zeros. That's $2,199,604,000 current expenditures for fiscal 2007-2008. Google-search "Public Education Financial Survey".

Homeschool. Parents do not need to sacrifice an income to homeschool. Nothing in Hawaii Revised Statutes requires that homeschool instruction occur between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Pool resources with five or six other families extend day care to age 17, then take the GED.


Don Your Hip Boots

Former Honolulu Advertiser editorial page editor Jerry Burris, who used to write the Advertiser's education-related editorials, notes the national attention which the Hawaii DOE furlough policy has attracted. Mr. Burris cites the criticism of US Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the New York Times editorial page.

From 1993 to 1997, reporters and editorial writers of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and Honolulu Advertiser (that would include Mr.Burris) bemoaned "cuts" to the DOE budget. Harriet gave to Education writers and editorial writers of both papers copies of reports which the Hawaii DOE makes to the US DOE which showed budget increases, both in aggregate and per-pupil terms. Writers for both papers continued to complain of "cuts" to the DOE budget. They lied. Harriet eventually called in to Rick Hamada's morning talk show and related the above facts. The papers temporarily stopped lying about "cuts" to the DOE budget.

Secretary Duncan's Department suppressed a favorable review of the DC voucher program before the program came before Congress for reauthorization. As Superintendent of the Chicago School district, he claimed credit for illusory performance gains.

No matter how mistaken or deliberately deceptive an argument, most attempts at persuasion proceed from assertions which the proponent believes his/her audience will accept. Secretary Duncan's criticism of the Hawaii DOE's furlough policy combines trite truisms with bald assertions and bait-and-switch misdirection. He writes: "...we need to invest in our future (1). Too many of our schools are not preparing students for success in college and careers.(2)...On international tests, American students are struggling to compete with their peers around the globe. Twenty-seven percent of the nation's ninth graders don't finish high school within four years. In Hawaii, 36 percent of freshmen don't complete high school on time...(3)...now is not the time to decrease investment in education(4)."

1. Like, we can invest in our past? What a maroon.
2. Why give this failing institution more money?
3. Okay. See point 2, above.
4. Not ("school"="education"). Cuts to the DOE budget and to the span of compulsory attendance do not equal cuts to education.

From the NYT: "The governor, who had ordered the Department of Education to cut its $1.8 billion budget by 14 percent, now says she had not expected the union to take its furlough days from instruction time."

They're only off by $1 billion. In 2007 (the last year for which complete figures are available), the Hawaii DOE reported "total revenues to education" of $2,985,593,000 and a total enrollment of 180,728, which works out to more than $16,000 per pupil-year, and current expenditures (total minus capital improvements and debt service) of $2,199,604, which gives a per-pupil budget over $12,000.

Why is this insufficient? Even with a 20% cut, this is more than enough.

Remember when, as a child, you got caught in a lie, and tried to cover that lie with another, and another, until the fable collapsed? The persistent lies about "public education" proceed from the false assumption that society at large benefits from a State (government, generally) role in the education industry.

Beyond a very low level, the education industry exhibits no economies of scale at the delivery end. Education only marginally qualifies as a public good as economists use the term, and the "public goods" argument implies subsidy and regulation, at most, not State operation of schools. The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education", but then the State's definition binds students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers. Since oversight of State functions is a public good which the State itself cannot supply, State sssumption of responsibility for the subsidization of public goods transforms the collective action problem at the root of "public goods" analysis but does not eliminate it.

The Hawaii "public" (i.e., government-operated) school system originated in anti-Catholic bigotry. The "public" schoool system has become an employment program for dues-paying members of the NEA/AFSCME cartel, a source of padded construction and supply contracts for politically-connected insiders, and a venue for State-worshipful indoctrination. If this is not so, why cannot any student take, at any time, an exit exam (the GED will do) and apply the taxpayers' age 6-18 education subsidy toward post-secondary tuition or toward a wage subsidy at any qualified (say, has filed W-2 forms on at least three adult employees for at least the previous four years) private-sector employer?

Update (2009-11-06): I left a comment at Mr. Burris' blog supplying a correction to the NYT budget figure. That comment sat in moderation until it evaporated.


Furlough Friday

Hearing Notice


Senator Brian Taniguchi, Chair
Senator Will Espero, Vice Chair


DATE: Friday, October 30, 2009
TIME: 12:30 p.m.

PLACE: Auditorium
State Capitol
415 South Beretania Street


The purpose of this meeting is to receive public input regarding the options available to address the issue of teacher furloughs and the loss of instructional days in our public schools.

Testimony will be limited to 4 minutes per person. Written testimony is highly recommended and can be emailed to senespero@capitol.hawaii.gov . Please indicate the measure, date and time of the meeting.

In person: 1 copy of their testimony to the committee clerk, Room 207, State Capitol.
By fax: Testimony may be faxed if less than 5 pages in length, to the Senate Sergeant-At-Arms Office at 586-6659 or 1-800-586-6659 (toll free for neighbor islands), at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. When faxing, please indicate to which committee the testimony is being submitted and the date and time of the meeting.

If you require special assistance or auxiliary aids and/or services to participate in the meeting (i.e., sign language interpreter or wheelchair accessibility), please contact the Committee Clerk at 586-6823 to make a request for arrangements at least 24 hours prior to the meeting. Prompt requests help to ensure the availability of qualified individuals and appropriate accommodations.

For further information, please call the Committee Clerk at 586-6823.

To: Special Senate Committee to Consider Approaches to Teacher Furloughs
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
In re: DOE budget

How the DOE can address the projected revenue shortfall depends on what caused the shortfall. If the shortfall is a natural (though extreme) instance of the business cycle, then it might make sense to use special funds, like the hurricane relief fund. If government policy caused the downturn in business activity then it is reasonable to suppose that legislators and government administrators must address problems in government policy. Regardless, the Legislature has an obligation to use tax revenues effectively and to avoid waste.

Here are two links to US government sources of school system finance data. Search "Public Elementary-Secondary Finance Data".

This source gives a Hawaii DOE total revenue figure for fiscal year 2007 (latest available) of $2, 985,593,000.00 and a 2007 enrollment of 180, 728 (Table 1). The table calls this figure "total revenues", whcih would include construction (capital improvements) and gives a per-pupil budget of $16,519.00. By some magic of accounting, the table gives a per-pupil budget of $11,060.00. This table also contains a figure for total current expenditures of $2,199, 604.00.

This source gives a "total revenues (2007)" figure of $2,950,803.00. Search "Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year 2006-07 (Fiscal Year 2007)".

One response which the legislature might consider is load shedding. Just as a hospital in a budget pinch could save money through greater use of outpatient care, the DOE could reduce costs to taxpayers by reducing the age at which students may take the GED. In Switzerland, students may leave school for apprenticeship programs after sixth grade. In Germany, students who intend a non-academic career may leave school before the end of Hocshule, for aprenticeship programs. It does not take 12 years at $15,000/pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom.

The DOE could reduce its demands on taxpayers by adopting policies more friendly to homeschoolers. Richard Arkwright was homeschooled. James Hargreaves was homeschooled. Thomas Highs was homeschooled. Thomas Edison was homeschooled. Bertrand Russel was homeschooled. Yehudi Menuhin was homeschooled. Benjamin Franklin attended school for two years and apprenticed at age 12. Abraham Lincoln attended school sporadically for two years. David Farragut joined the US Navy at 9, went to sea at 11, and commanded his first ship at 15. Robert Fitzroy, the Beagle captain who took Charles Darwin around the world and founded the British Weather Service attended the Admiralty school from age 12 to 14 and went to sea.

I tutored Eugene So from 3rd through 6th grade. His parents homeschooled him after 7th grade, which meant that they went to work and Eugene went up to the University and sat in on Math classes. He took the GRE before he turned 17 and entered the UH Math program as a graduate student. He earned his MS (Math) before he turned 19. He skipped high school and college, and saved Hawaii taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars.

Short of radical modifications to compulsory attendance policies, I suggest that the Legislature eliminate programs (and staff) outside of school complexes, such as the Ellison Onizuka Space Center and the Teacher Standards Board. The Space Center is dead weight, and the Teacher Standards Board inflicts evpensive and counter-productive credential requirements across the DOE.

Cutting non-school programs, however, is like looking for quarters under the sofa cushions. You will likely not find enough to cover the shortfall. It will also be politically difficult, as the people who occupy these high-paid, do-nothing jobs got these jobs in the first place through political clout.

"What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. Numerous small school districts or a competitive market in education services will provide more information than will a State-monopoly school district. A State-monopoly provider is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. The Legislature put itself in this box when it allowed Senator Sakamoto to kill decentralization in conference. The Legislature nailed the box shut when it killed the Governor's decentralization proposal and passed Act 51, which further centralized DOE functions. I cannot honestly say that I sympathize with your discomfort, as the Majority has for years sacrificed students, parents, taxpayers, and real classroom teachers to politically connected construction contractors and to the HSTA/HGEA/UPW/UHPA cartel.

Whatever the legislature decides, it will likely not solve the problem of the revenue shortfall or of waste in the Hawaii DOE. Hawaii (and the US) has not hit bottom yet and the parasites responsible will ride this collapsing enterprise into the ground. Parents should homeschool. This does not require that parents sacrifice an income. Nothing in Hawaii Revised Statutes requires that homeschool instruction occur between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. It is perfectly legal to extend daycare to age 18.

Thank you for this chance to testify.

The legislature will raise the General Excise Tax. Revenues will continue to drop, as Arthur Laffer would predict.


College Costs

In a small way, Harriet has participated in a discussion of college costs. Though a theoretical separetion of the concepts of K-12 and post-secondary schooling may not hold (each industry sustains the other), Harriet contends that the post-secondary education industry is more corrupt (though less destructive) than the K-12 education industry.

Neal McCluskey piqued Harriet's interest with this comment. Harriet commented here on McCluskey's objection to college support. McCluskey responded here. Harriet is mulling a rebuttal.

Cato initiated the most recent iteration of the ongoing discussion with a forum on college costs. A Professor of Education rose in defense of her employer: The Education Optimists: New Tune, Same Stupid Key and Neal McCluskey addressed these objections here. Harriet left the following comment on the professor's blog. It has not survived moderation (evidently--as of 2009-10-09-1837 GMT it has not appeared).
I would add a few comments on the language used in this discussion.

1) You call educational freedom "the freedom not to be helped by the government".

"Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun"--Mao Tse Tung

Eduardo Zambrano
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
Rationality and Society, May 1999; 11: 115 - 138.
Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is an important question left for further work.
The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition). The State (government, generally) cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education", but then students, parents (in the case of pre-college education), teachers, and taxpayers are bound by the State's definition. Tax-supported tuition "help" comes at great cost, in money, in time (e.g., the expansion of required core curricula, the proliferation of classroom-required occupational licensure), and in the opportunity cost to society of the lost innovation which a competitive market in education services would generate.

2) "Ideological" is an uncomplimentary way to say "systematic" (the antonym is "scatter-brained").

3) "Simplistic" is academicese for "stupid". William of Occam cautioned long ago against unnecessary complications. To people of an instrumental bent, simplicity is usually a virtue.


Jay Greene on President Obama's Address to Schoolchildren

Jay Greene wrote a post on the President's address to America's students (is President Obama a publicity-hound or what?), and I left the comment which appears in an expanded form below.

(Jay Greene): "...compulsory education privileging government-operated schools is an intrusion of the government on this parental responsibility...As an empirical matter, government-operated schools are actually less effective at conveying that common set of ideas than are schools selected by parents."

Two points:
1) "Compulsory education" puts compulsion before education. Before anything else, schools which assemble their clientelle through compulsory attendance statutes teach children that strangers will command their time and that their parents will be powerless to prevent this. I can imagine a few lessons more destructive of families and of the values of a market-oriented democracy, but not many. Memory often treats people well, and traumas fade. This explains the widespread acceptance of the brutal custom of separating children from parents. Convenient memory does not make compulsory attendance statutes any less brutal or the effects of age-segregated, one-size-fits-all regimentation any less destructive. Parents betray their children when they surrender their children to the arbitrary authority of strangers, to school-yard bullies, and to the monotony of a standardized curriculum. This betrayal damages the beneficial bonds between children and parents. Further, compulsory, unpaid labor is slavery. For twelve years schools teach children to think as slaves, to eschew initiative, to wait for "instruction" --take that word apart--, or to rebel. The cost to taxpayers of the US "public" school system far exceeds the $500 billion+ per year which various Departments of Education spend. The cost of this system includes reduced lifetime productivity, lost income, welfare, losses due to crime, and the cost of prison for the poor minority children whose lives we trash.

2) Often, the words in which people express their arguments predispose them to their conclusions. For example, "mass transit" means literally how lots of people get around. The term could apply to bicycles and roads or to shoes and sidewalks, but proponents of centralized transportation systems pull a bait-and-switch to leap from an agreement that a "mass" of people must "transit" from home to work to the conclusion that some city or other needs a centralized transit system. Similarly, defenders of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's exclusive position in receipt of the taxpayers' K-12 education subsidy pull a bait-and-switch when they confuse "education" with "school" and "public education" with "government-operated schools". Part of this confusion relates to a deep ambiguity of language. "Somewhere in Hawaii a woman gives birth every five minutes---and we have to find that wahine (woman) and make her stop!" is a comment on syntax which probably has parallels everywhere. Even with their precise notation, mathematicians have to pay attention. "For all X there is a Y such that F(x,y)..." "For all" really means "for each". Consider the attention paid to the concept of "limit".

"Parents should control the education of their own children" still leaves open the possibility that the mechanism through which parents exercise this control requires them to do so through collective action. Who composes the resolutions on which parents vote? When are the Board meetings? Who holds the gavel? Who counts the ballots?

Joel Fried
Pots and Kettles: Governance Practices of the Ontario Securities Commission
There is, however, an additional problem in the public sector that does not exist for private firms. The firm has a well defined objective function – the maximization of profits – whereas the apparent objective for the government is the maximization of some index of a (weighted) level of welfare of the electorate. An unambiguous index of social welfare has been impossible to construct and, in its absence, monitoring the public sector is further complicated because data is generally lacking on whether or not the objective was actually approached and/or achieved and what the costs are that are linked to any specific objective. In effect, because of distribution issues and public goods, the cash flows measured with traditional accounting procedures will be, at best, only superficially correlated with that objective. Thus, looking at cash flows will provide the principals an extremely poor method of monitoring their public sector agents.
Why suppose that collective decision-making processes will yield results which better represent the preferences of individuals, collectively, than will market mechanisms? What does it mean to aggregate the preferences of individuals? What would Americans eat if we voted on each day's breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu? How many people would prefer the result of such a process to the result of the current market-oriented mechanism?

Eduardo Zambrano
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
Rationality and Society, May 1999; 11: 115 - 138.
Aside from the important issue of how it is that a ruler may economize on communication, contracting and coercion costs, this leads to an interpretation of the state that cannot be contractarian in nature: citizens would not empower a ruler to solve collective action problems in any of the models discussed, for the ruler would always be redundant and costly. The results support a view of the state that is eminently predatory, (the ? MK.) case in which whether the collective actions problems are solved by the state or not depends on upon whether this is consistent with the objectives and opportunities of those with the (natural) monopoly of violence in society. This conclusion is also reached in a model of a predatory state by Moselle and Polak (1997). How the theory of economic policy changes in light of this interpretation is an important question left for further work.
My response to advocates for universal health care: "I didn't know the universe was sick."


Aloha, Rose Friedman

Aloha, Rose Friedman, and mahalo.

When my father died, I reread The Epic of Gilgamesh, a story of loss and one of mankind's oldest works of literature, and Tennyson's Tithonus. When my mother passed, I again reread Tithonus. Great writers remind us that countless generations have walked this path, and dealt with this grief.

"The troubls of our proud and angry dust
are of eternity and shall not fail.
Bear them we can and if we can, we must.
Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale."

Some years ago I tried to interest a very bright and very compassionate 4th grader (a Christian) in Evolutionary Theory, and he said he did not like to think about evolution, since it reminded him of death. I did not persist, beyond observing that the brain, which allows us to observe death and to feel grief, is a product of evolution. Without an evolved brain, we could not feel love and loss. I count myself lucky to have met briefly a few great evolutionary success stories: Paul Cohen, Milton Friedman and, briefly, Rose Friedman. I do not expect to be so lucky again, outside of the narrowing circle of my aging friends and relatives. The friends of the Friedmans enjoyed a rare good fortune. They will pay a price: only the living suffer.

Aloha, Rose Friedman.


Immigration Reform

Please read Sunshine's 2009-Aug.-04 post. In a sane world, competition between countries and within countries for talent would limit the abuse she describes.


Ivar Berg: Education and Jobs; The Great Training Robbery

Ivar Berg's Education and Jobs; The Great Training Robbery begins its discussion of excessive credential requirements with the observation that the US fought WW II with an army composed largely of soldiers whose formal schooling had ended at high school or below. Berg was there. Berg observes that the US military during the war introduced new technologies like sonar and radar, and required that soldiers learn to use unfamiliar machinery. The unschooled army of 1940 rose to the task. In a later chapter, Berg recounts the response of the FAA to the expansion in air traffic. Just as corporals become sergeants when a war begins, when an army expands to meet a foreign threat, the FAA promoted experienced air-traffic controllers as new recruits assumed entry-level positions. FAA employment practices did not restrict the demanding and highly responsible job of air-traffic controller to college graduates. The unschooled recruits rose to the task.

Berg also observes that prior to around 1950 nursing, among other occupations, did not require a college degree. What does any employer get from a policy which restricts employment opportunities, in some lines of work for which a high school educuation or less suffices, to college graduates? Berg raises this question and leaves it unanswered. John Ray provided a link to this article on the expansion in college enrollment since WW II, which offers a likely explanation. Tax subsidies like the G.I. Bill may explain the increased consumption of college, but not the costly up-grading of hiring and promotion criteria by supposedly competitive private business. Tarran suggests that businesses use(d) college degrees to shield themselves from liability for racial discrimination under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Where the representation by race of the workforce, which a company's internally-generated hiring criteria might (would likely) generate, might invite legal action, a college degree is a State-sanctioned criterion. Judges and college professors, as members of the highly-schooled population, could hardly discount the value of a college degree. College faculty, with their clear financial interest in excessive credential requirements, allied with personnel managers in the corporations' self-protective strategy. In plain words, companies contracted-out pre-employment screening to (State-run) high schools and universities.

Berg observes that the K-Ph.D. education industry uses degrees as employment criteria for the instructors whom it hires. Berg also mentions that advanced degrees contribute nothing to teacher effectiveness. More recently, Joanne Jacobs provided a link to work which supports that conclusion.

Berg acknowledges a distinction between "schooling" and "education", and between "education" and "experience", but consistently uses "education" when he clearly intends "schooling". This blog raised the issue of the difference between "education" (or "schooling") and experience here.

As I wrote here and here, it does not take 12 years to teach a normal child to read and compute.

John Ray reviewed Berg's book here.


Reckless Mendacities

The University of Hawaii (Manoa campus) bookstore has stocked its shelves with required Fall semester texts. Every semester, I scan these texts for mention of the name "Kozol". Jonathan Kozol describes shabby classrooms in inner city schools, and relates these conditions to the tax base of the school district. As the evidence given here indicates, Kozol indicts innocent parties. Kozol's thesis fails on two counts: (1) those poor, inner-city, minority school districts get more money per pupil than the State average, in most US States, and (2) as indicated by abundant evidence from foreign countries and from independent schools and homeschoolers, it does not take 12 years at $12,000 per pupil-year to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most US schools get too much money.

EDCS 625
Professor: Halagao, Patricia E.
Text: Lies My Teacher Told Me (required)
Author: James W. Loewen

Course description
EDCS 625 Social Studies Curriculum (3) Examination and evaluation of social science content, societal values and research findings as basis for development and revision of social studies materials, texts, curriculum guides, methodology. Pre: ITE 322 or equivalent, social studies teaching experience, or consent.

From the text
Meanwhile, history (sic) text books blithely tell of such federal largesse to education as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, passed under Lyndon Johnson. Not one textbook offers any data on or analysis of inequality within educational institutions. None mentions how school districts in low-income areas labor under financial constraints so shocking that Jonathan Kozol calls them "savage inequalities".

The structure of the US education industry imposes the "shocking" financial constraints under which inner city districts labor. These districts get more than enough money, as indicated by the performance of US Catholic schools, US homeschoolers, and schools in foreign countries. Urban districts in the US must support construction contractors, swarms of out-of-classroom parasites, and an artificially extended span of compulsory attendance

EDEA 620
Professor: Roberts, Stacey
Title: American Public School Finance
Author: William Owings, Leslie Kaplan

Course description
EDEA 620 Education Finance (3) Educational revenues, apportionments, budgetary procedures, costs, business management, economics of education, measures of productivity.

From the text (on vouchers)...
...any program that would take monies out of public education would be of concern to all educators now and in the future. (p. 366)
Here is a naked expression of the authors' preference for State (government, generally) provision of education services. Not ("public education"="State-operated schools"). Vouchers take money from the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools and support each participating parent's choice of school. Since, as many scholars have found, the private sector of the education industry yields higher performance at lower cost than State schools, it's the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel which takes money from public education.
All states attempt to compensate for the impact of local wealth and education spending (much more will be explained later in the book), but wealthier school districts usually outspend poorer school districts by a wide margin. The poorer school districts tend to be urban poor and (sic) isolated rural districts which have great demands and few available resource. These inequalities tend to have a "savage" impact on the neediest students.(39)
(39)with all due respect to Jonathan Kozol. For an excellent and disturbing read detailing these impacts, see his book Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools.
Their Kozol endorsement, on the central topic of their book (school finance) discredits their voice.

EDEF 310
Professor: Tavares, Hannah M.
Text: American Education: A History
Authors: Wayne Urban, Jennings Wagoner

Course description
EDEF 310 Education in American Society (3) Interrelated historical, philosophical, and socio-cultural contexts of education with an emphasis on contemporary problems and applications. Students enrolled in colleges other than the College of Education are asked to confer with the College of Education director of student services before enrolling in 310. A-F only. DS

The text gives a brief but balanced account of the development of the voucher argument, although it ignores the common use of voucher-like policies in colonial British North America and the early post-Revolutionary US. The text follows that balanced account with this...
From the text
Despite the evidence offered by [James] Coleman and the powerful arguments of [John] Chubb and [Terry] Moe, the school choice movement made relatively little headway in the 1990s. On several occasions, states included school choice initiatives on their ballots and, in every case, voters rejected the policy. Many factors contributed to these defeats, perhaps including voters' instinctive recognition that school choice could function only as a release for individual students and parents dissatisfied with public schools and not as a large-scale deplacement for public schooling. Strong lobbying against the school choice movement by most members of the educational establishment, particularly teacher organizations such as the NEA and AFT, also contributed to their defeat.(p. =?)

Will the professor remark how quickly "voters' instinctive recognition" evolved, I wonder. Perhaps the authors intend "instinctive" metaphorically, but how to interpret "recognition that school choice could function only as a release for individual students and parents dissatisfied with public schools and not as a large-scale replacement for public schooling"? In Belgium, Hong Kong, Ireland, and the Netherlands, a majority of the school population attends independent or parochial schools at taxpayer expense. See OECD, Education at a Glance and G.T. Kurian, World Encyclopedia of Education.

Many leading state equity suits to date involved cases in which the tax base of rural districts was compared to that of suburban districts. These cases have largely ignored inequaliities found in large city school systems. Here, equity suits have accomplished little. In New York, for example, the contention that city school systems are overburdened financially because of higher costs than in suburban or rural districts, and are therefore entitled to financial relief from the state, was denied by the state Supreme Court. The reluctance to address the special needs of poor urban students indicates that the United States is a long way from addressing some of the most persistent and troubling aspects of educational inequality of the late twetieth century.
The problems of urban schools, many of which stem from funding problems faced by those school districts, have been highlighted most recently in Savage Inequalities, a book by Jonathan Kozol In this provocatively titled volume, Kozol chillingly depicted the many educational deprivations that affect the largely poor and minority student populations in the nation's largest cities. However, Kozol did not refer to the issue of 'overburden', a term that points to the high cost of educating the urban poor, as brought up in the New York State school equity case. If he had, he would have been better able to answer those who point out that in some large cities, such as Atlanta, Georgia, the per pupil expenditure substantially exceeds the state average, without yielding any corresponding increase in achievement. (p. 424, 425)
Without a definition of "overburden" which does not involve urbanization, the authors make a circula argument. The direct financial cost of a school district equals its expenditures. The authors here assert that inner city minority schools cost more because they spend more money.


A Theory of Mass Psychology/Politics

Or, why has hate become so popular?

A puzzled feminist mulls the feminist reaction to Sarah Palin, as though this differs from Bush Derangement Syndrome, from the vehemence of the response to the nomination of Robert Bork or the deluge of sewage poured upon John Tower when President Bush the First nominated him to the office of Secretary of Defense. Frustration with the progress of the Vietnam war leaked into public responses to the Johnson Presidency generally (remember MacBird! and the insinuations that President Kennedy's assassination was an inside job?), but President Johnson's critics usually limited their vehement disapproval to defence policy. So I wonder.

Since Reagan, Orwell's Five Minute Hate lasts years. Why? Emotions are drugs, a few milligrams of protein in the blood. Perhaps we all become addicted to some emotion and some of us find a mix of drugs (emotions) interesting. Why have so many become addicted to hate and why these targets?

Someone once wrote that not all religions need a God, but every religion needs a devil. Whose dogma requires that the public dance like marionettes, pulled by these emotional strings?

Here is my guess: (1) public sector union leaders, (2) insecure, lazy, narcissistic journalists, and (3) power-addicted politicians.

1) Because standard economic analysis would call into question the role of the State in the provision of education services (among other things), and because a realistic history of the US education industry would not flatter the institution of State (government, generally) schooling, History, Civics, and Economics teachers will, in general, present a contorted course of instruction.

While membership in private-sector unions has been shrinking, the public sector has been growing. Much more than dues revenue is at stake. The difference between free marketeers in office (Reagan, Palin) and socialists (Democrats, mainstream Republicans) in office is, to the leaders of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, the difference between earning a living doing honest work and skimming the taxpayers $500billion+ K-12 revenue stream.

The politics of personal destruction is bare-knuckle unionization tactics.

2) Admit it: the kids who hung out in the yearbook/school newspaper room in high school were the socially adept fad followers with trendy clothes. Most jocks had more on the ball. The motorheads did, too. In college, things did not improve. What does this imply? Of course some journalists could have majored Physics instead but intellectual limitations make many journalists natural socialists. The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition). Private property (title) and the Federal principle (States' Rights) institutionalize humility. "What works?" is an empirical question which only an experiment can answer. A centralized government or a State-monopoly enterprise is like an experiment with one treatment and no controls, a retarded experimental design. Socialism is an infantile power fantasy: "What a wonderful world it would be if I ran it". On this theory journalists do not love Barak Obama, they love themselves. People hate what they fear. Free marketeers threaten journalists' self-congratulatory power fantasies.

Further, despite its avowed skepticism the profession of journalism comes with a built-in respect for authority. Otherwise, why should anyone believe them? A journalist with no respect for authority might as well use randomly selected pedestrians as sources for stories on global climate change or nuclear waste storage as use Professors of Paleoclimatology or Nuclear Engineering. Furthermore, if the DOE Public Relations Office will write a reporter's stories and allow him to put his name to them, why would he bust his butt researching and writing three articles per week for $45,000? Ready-made authority, such as an academic title or institutional position, is just too convenient to disavow.

3) Unionized J-school faculty filter journalism students. Public-sector unions sustain a permanent campaign in support of growth in the public-sector workforce. These factors shape a politically effective constituency which will reliably supply socialist (D) power addicts with an electoral fix every two, four, or six years. You have read about some meth addict killing his grandmother because she would not let him pawn the TV. That's your average State legislator, Congressman, Senator, or Governor, selling children into bondage to the NEA and taxpayers into bondage to the Chinese (your national debt), for a power fix.

So journalists stoke the fires of hatred for free marketeers and federalists, and Socialist Studies teachers contort US History and Economics classes. Three generations of school kids since widespread public sector unionization and here we are. That's my theory, anyway.

Update. There's this from Instapundit.

Kill your television.


Credit where Credit is Due

Neal McCluskey at the Cato Institute notices an interesting Obama administration initiative to develop a Federal curriculum. Mr. McCluskey expresses reservations: "Washington would for all intents and purposes be on the way to creating a federal university, and not one like the service academies that is constitutionally justifiable under federal defense powers. No, this one would be completely and utterly unconstitutional, and would unfairly compete with lots effective private — including for-profit – institutions."

This is a problem because...?

Most of those "private" institutions survive on tax-subsidized tuition support, tax-subsidized "research" grants, and legally-mandated degree requirements for professional licensure (physicians, surgeons, lawyers, engineers, social workers, teachers, professors).

McCluskey: "And, of course, there’s the little matter of how this would be paid for."

In this answer to that question lies the resolution of the larger issues of federalism and the crowding-out of independent institutions by tax-subsidized competition. The service academies (the Naval Academy at Annapolis, the Air Force Academy at Boulder, the Coast Guard Academy at New London, and the US Military Academy at West Point) serve a constitutional defense function. Mr. McClusky probably would object to the subsidization of the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Mr. McCluskey observes that the creation of a Federal University would subject independent schools to subsidized competition. Again: this is a problem because...?

The best is the enemy of the good. If a free curriculum (defined by designated text books and tests), coupled with a competitive market in examination services, reduces the burden on taxpayers, what's the problem?

The real problem is that effective reform probably will not happen; college professors are well-paid, articulate, and have a lot of free time. They (like public school teachers) defend their interests effectively. Reform will come only when legislators can no longer afford the wasteful State-monopoly school system. Public sector unions and their kept legislators will bankrupt this country (consider California) before they face this financial reality.


Learning, Disabled

Joanne Jacobs asks: "Do Schools Create Learning Disabilities?".

According to a Federal Department of Education official quoted in a Cato institute publication on homeschooling, the rate of dyslexia in a population falls as the age at which reading instruction is institutionalized rises. Later is better. While early education confers benefits, early institutionalization damages children.

In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins observes that children have to be gullible to survive. Before civilization reduced the number of sharp edges children encounter, children did not have time to learn, on their own, the accumulated knowledge of their parents. Which plants are edible? Which insects are venomous? Which non-human mammals attack? Evolution has shaped young children to attend to their parents (especially their mother). Young children will work their hearts out for the love of their mother. Reading instruction goes down like dessert if the infant, basking in the warmth and security of mom’s lap, follows the moving finger across the printed page. Strangers cannot substitute. Subject that same infant to a roomful of crying strangers and to the shouted commands of an apparently angry strange adult ("SHUT UP! SIT DOWN! LISTEN!: 'A', 'B', 'C'…") and you lose that child for a very long time.

The Hawaii DOE counts about 10% of its student population in special education. The largest categories of special education are "emotionally handicapped" and "specific learning disability" (meaning the students have trouble learning to read and compute. Notice that these disabilities occur in the subjects with the least ambiguous measures).

Is there a Math teacher alive who, upon revealing his/her occupation, has not heard the response: "That was my worst subject"? Why does this happen? Basic Math fluency requires no more than normal language ability and a fascination with puzzles like crossword puzzles and jigsaw puzzles. Why then do we see widespread Math aversion?

I know three people who actively dislike classical music. Their parents compelled them to study piano when they were small.

From Karl Bunday’s site: “It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly (“Autobiographical Notes,” in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Paul Schilpp, ed. (1951), pp. 17-19 © 1951 by the Library of Living Philosophers, Inc.)

We hold this truth to be self-evident: that no men other than monozygotic twins are created equal. Parents roll dice when they put their kids together and some kids come up snake-eyes. Evolution shaped the human brain. Unless current instructional methods work equally well with humans, dogs (your cousins), and nematodes (distant cousins), variations in genetic endowment influence variations in brain structure and function, and so variations in learning ability. Politicians can do little to change that. The next generation’s genetic endowment is not a policy variable. As a wise Israeli politician once said: “No solution? No problem.”

Instruction acts on a individuals from a range of genetic endowments. Differences between teachers, schools, school districts, and countries, in the instructional methods which they apply, strongly influence differences in instructional performance (as measured by aggregate statistics of student performance on standardized tests of Reading and Math). Policies which give to individual parents the power to determine for their own children the choice of curriculum and the pace and method of instruction place control in the hands of people who know those children best and who are most reliably concerned for their welfare. While there will always be a bottom 10%, that 10% level of performance responds to policy variables. The Singapore 5th percentile score (1996 TIMSS 8th grade Math) is higher than the US 50th percentile score. The range of curricular methods available to parents is a policy variable. Open enrollment between numerous small independent school districts, tuition tax credits, charter schools, school vouchers, subsidized homeschooling, and (my preference) Parent Performance Contracting expand the range of instructional options available to parents.


Self-Assured Ignorance? Or Self-interested Disingenuousness?

The Headmistress of The Common Room linked this teacher's attack on homeschooling. If any homeschooling family needed more evidence in defense of their decision to homeschool, Jesse Scaccia unwittingly provides it.

His "top ten reasons why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing":...

"10. 'You were totally home schooled' is an insult college kids use when mocking the geeky kid in the dorm (whether or not the offender was home schooled or not). And… say what you will… but it doesn’t feel nice to be considered an outsider, a natural outcropping of being homeschooled."

If true, he's established that some conventionally-schooled kids are pointlessly rude and envious, no more.

"9. Call me old-fashioned, but a students’ classroom shouldn’t also be where they eat Fruit Loops and meat loaf (not at the same time I hope). It also shouldn’t be where the family gathers to watch American Idol or to play Wii. Students–from little ones to teens–deserve a learning-focused place to study. In modern society, we call them schools."

Mr. Scaccia may call the building in which he works a "school", but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If homeschooled kids are so geeky (see point 10, above), as to earn the envy and hostility of his charges (as well as admission to college a year or more ahead of his charges), the memory of yesterday's dinner obviously did not interfere with their education. Mr. Scaccia's "shoulds" and "shouldn'ts" are his personal (ill-considered) idiosyncracies. Is not a one-room schoolhouse a "school"? Wouldn't students who attended a one-room school have taken lunch in the same room they occupied for instruction?

"8. Homeschooling is selfish. According to this article in USA Today, students who get homeschooled are increasingly from wealthy and well-educated families. To take these (I’m assuming) high achieving students out of our schools is a disservice to our less fortunate public school kids. Poorer students with less literate parents are more reliant on peer support and motivation, and they greatly benefit from the focus and commitment of their richer and higher achieving classmates."

In general, taking care of one's self is a generous act. It reduces the burden on caregivers and so allows caregivers to devote their attention to more needy cases. Further, Mr. Scaccia does not limit his indictment, "homeschooling is selfish", by time, yet his evidence, "students who are homeschooled are increasingly from wealthy and well-educated families", implies that, previously, homeschoolers were less wealthy and less educated. So, it was not selfish earlier?

The "peer effects" argument is important; too important to depend on say-so. There is some evidence that the "peer effects" argument works against conventional schools. Chubb and Moe found that schools which practiced "tracking" (by which I believe they meant ability-grouping) outperformed schools which did not. If "peers" may successfully exert their effect from across the hall, why not from the house across the street? Also, peer effects may work against overall system performance if negative peer effects (e.g., point 10, above, the hostility which Mr. Scaccia claims his disciples direct at their intellectual betters, or the pressure against "acting white") outweigh positive peer effects.

"7. God hates homeschooling. The study, done by the National Center for Education Statistics, notes that the most common reason parents gave as the most important was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction. To the homeschooling Believers out there, didn’t God say “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”? Didn’t he command, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me”? From my side, to take your faithful children out of schools is to miss an opportunity to spread the grace, power and beauty of the Lord to the common people. (Personally I’m agnostic, but I’m just saying…)".

In "Schools and Simple Justice: Toward the Dignity of Choice", Boalt Hall Professor of Law John Coons argued that school choice protects parents' right of speech, to speak through their children to their community and to succeeding generations. This argument applies with equal force to homeschoolers. Their "witness" consists of their choice to homeschool, and the children they send into the world. Mr. Scaccia's "witness" consists of...see point 10, above. See also...
Roland Meighan
"Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications", Educational Review, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.

"The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of schooled children of such poor quality?"

"The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school." ...p. 277
"12. So-called 'school phobia' is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem

(Personally, I was raised in no church. I'm a materialist. That is, the only things which require explanation are observations, and the only things which count as explanation are observations.)

"6. Homeschooling parent/teachers are arrogant to the point of lunacy. For real! My qualifications to teach English include a double major in English and education, two master’s degrees (education and journalism), a student teaching semester and multiple internship terms, real world experience as a writer, and years in the classroom dealing with different learning styles. So, first of all, homeschooling parent, you think you can teach English as well as me? Well, maybe you can. I’ll give you that. But there’s no way that you can teach English as well as me, and biology as well as a trained professional, and history… and Spanish… and art… and counsel for college as well as a school’s guidance counselor… and… and…"

Homeschooling parents do not need to know everything; there are these amazing resources known as "books", and programs like Rosetta Stone, and tutors.
btw, I will be seeking work come September. I charge $20/hour (or invite me to lunch and I'll arrive an hour early and provide instruction free--but no teacher or tutor outperforms a loving parent).

"5. As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off. (That’s good enough for #5.)"

People hate what they fear. Homeschooling challenges the justification for the entire State-school apparatus, and threatens the revenue stream of system insiders. That's good enough for a rebuttal.

"4. Homeschooling could breed intolerance, and maybe even racism. Unless the student is being homeschooled at the MTV Real World house, there’s probably only one race/sexuality/background in the room. How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?"

Homeschooling parents have chosen to homeschool, not to move to Mars.

"3. And don’t give me this 'they still participate in activities with public school kids' garbage. Socialization in our grand multi-cultural experiment we call America is a process that takes more than an hour a day, a few times a week. Homeschooling, undoubtedly, leaves the child unprepared socially."

Conventional schools provide bad socialization. See Meighan, above. See also this Marvin Minsky comment on school, this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie, and these charts which I got from a statistician in the office of the Hawaii Attorney General.

"2. Homeschooling parents are arrogant, Part 2. According to Henry Cate, who runs the Why Homeschool blog, many highly educated, high-income parents are 'probably people who are a little bit more comfortable in taking risks' in choosing a college or line of work. 'The attributes that facilitate that might also facilitate them being more comfortable with home-schooling.'

More comfortable taking risks with their child’s education? Gamble on, I don’t know, the Superbowl, not your child’s future.

Socialists just do not get it: "What works?" is an empirical question, which only a competitive market can answer. Professors of Education treat John Dewey as some sort of diety. It always seemed odd to me that Dewey lauded "inquiry" as a model for dealing with life, yet defended the State's (i.e., government's) role in prescribing curriculum. Every decision is a gamble. Aggregation of authority (for curricular decisions, for example) raises the level of risk.

"1. And finally… have you met someone homeschooled? Not to hate, but they do tend to be pretty geeky***."

Meaning, homeschooling works.


House-sitting, Reading, and a Bit of Math

My younger sister and her husband are on vacation from their retirement. This is not to say that they went back to work, but that they have taken their two-year-delayed 25th anniversary vacation to Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Crakow, and points in between. While a friend feeds Bully, my cat, in Honolulu, I feed three cats and two dogs in Honomu.

This time of year, the sun rises around 0530 local time (1530 Zulu) here, over the ocean, casting a long house-shadow upslope toward Mauna Kea and the telescopes. Makai (seaward) the land falls away for 1000 feet, to the East-Northeast. I have always been an extreme lark and rise before the sun, unless some night-owl has led me astray. With no temptations around, it's easy to be temperate, and, nuked cup of yesterday's coffee in hand, I walk the 100 yards to the mailbox for the Hilo Tribune-Herald, then watch daylight spread.

My sister and her husband majored in History, so, as you would expect, books line the walls of this house. Since I had resolved on New Year's Day to read two books for every new one I order and had some catching up to do, I brought from Honolulu Clayton Cramer's rebuttal, Armed America; The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie, to Michael Bellesiles' Arming America; The Origins of a National Gun Culture, Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, Ivar Berg's Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery, and the State Auditor's latest indictment of the Hawaii DOE.

Two down. I read slowly, chewing over things, arguing with the author, and rereading things I do not understand. I recommend Armed America, not only for the major point but for the incidental details (for example, in the early Republic, young teenagers, including free black teenagers, routinely carried guns; legislatures in some frontier slave states required plantation owners to arm their slaves). Dambisa Moyo's Dead Aid makes a strong case against foreign aid, but leaves unanswered her pointed question: "Who will bell the cat?" The aid industry, like the education industry, employs a large number of articulate, well-paid people who have a lot to lose in a transformation to a more effective institutional structure.

Which brings me to Ivar Berg's Education and Jobs: "...The indirect (i.e., circumstantial) evidence of dollar earnings favored by human capital writers, in urgent and insistent support of claims about the 'social value' of diplomas and degrees, was especially troubling. The theme in these claims was straightforward: better educated Americans earn more because they are more productive, and we know they are more productive because they earn more. Cliches are cliches and may be indulged because they are true; it is the case generally, though, that tautologies are likely to be more than just a tad problematic."

Just a tad. I expect to like this book, too.

The Math?
I. Q: Why does 1530 Zulu (Universal Time) equal 0530 Hawaii time?
A: 360/24=15, so every 15 degrees away from the Greenwich meridian means one hour time difference. Hawaii's longitude is about 153 degrees or so West of Greenwich, so that's 10 hours difference. Add two (0500 Zulu is 7 p.m. Hawaii time, the day before) or subtract ten (1530 Zulu is 0530 Hawaii time).

II. You have seen the teasers for IQ tests: how many triangles in the repeated pattern? I take the things and click "submit", then cancel out when the site wants personal information, but anyway, the formula which relates a level "l" to the number of all up-oriented triangles plus unit down-oriented triangles is a 3rd degree polynomial with leading coefficient 1/6. 1/6 because a hexagon tiles the plane. I'm working on a general formula for down-oriented triangles, but that's more complicated.
Update (2009-06-08-0150 Zulu): Got it, sort of. I have two functions (one for odd and one for even) that yield correct values up to ten levels. The real work will involve demonstrating that these functions yield correct values for the general case.

III. The last kids I tutored (US-born Japanese-Korean and US-born Korean intermediate or high school kids) could do this:

Find "t" such that 187^^t (exponentiation) gives a remainder of 16 when divided by 43and a remainder of 25 when divided by 47.

I guess that this stuff finds application in error-correcting codes, but I do it because it's fun and my students do it because it's easy. It leads to consideration of the Euclidean Algorithm and generalizations of the Chinese Remainder Theorem (generalizations which I do not understand). I have been computing the cyclic subgroups generated by exponentiation of the congruence classes mod a prime, for all primes from 2 up to...well, I don't know when I'll get bored. I finished 61, am not looking forward to 67 or 71, but expect to have fun with 73. Maybe then I'll stop and do something useful, like yardwork.


Bailing Out Government Schools

In "Bailing Out Government Schools", Mary Theroux writes "...government spending on K–12 public education in America is at an all-time high. The national average current expenditure per student is around $10,418". This somewhat understates the US taxpayers' per-pupil K-12 budget. Updated figures only strengthen the author's argument. This table, from the NCES, gives a 2005-2006 total US K-12 "public" (i.e., government) school budget (revenues) of $520.644 billion, and a total enrollment of 49.113 million students. This table gives a 2007 fiscal year total US "public" school budget of $555.336 billion, and this table gives a 2007 fiscal year enrollment of 49.256 million students. Unless I pushed the wrong buttons on this calculator, these numbers imply a US per pupil budget over $11,000.

Okay, "total revenues" differs from "total expenditures" and "total expenditures" differs from "current expenditures", but still...why? Why would "revenues" differ from "expenditures" in an organization which can neither assume debt nor carry over funds? In Hawaii, the State (not the DOE) creates the debt which funds school construction.

Hawaii education reporters (e.g., Loren Moreno, Susan Essoyan) and Hawaii DOE officials (e.g., BOE Chair Garrett Toguchi, Superintendent Pat Hamamoto) regularly understate the Hawaii DOE budget.

Let a equal Hawaii's 2006-2007 school year budget: $2,950,803
Let b equal Hawaii's 2006-2007 enrollment: 180,728

a/b=$16,327 per pupil.

Consider this table. What does the wide variation between States in the ratio of "Facilities acquisition and construction" costs to "Replacement equipment" costs imply? Does this reflect differences in accounting definitions? What does the wide variation between States in the ratio of "Total expenditures" to "Interest on debt" imply?

Thanks to John Ray for the link to the Theroux essay.


Why School? (Reprise)

I left this comment (with a small modification in this version) at Ken DeRosa's place.

(Ken): "A portion of everyone's taxes goes to schooling the children of others. For those that have children, a portion of taxes goes to educate their own children. So I don't see why at least that portion should not be controlled by the parents so long as it is going to educate their children."
(Dick): "Because it's about everyone's children, not just about 'my' child. The public schools serve a social/acculturation function. Some place no value on the civic/common good. I personally favor open enrollment in all public schools, which would turn every school into a 'charter'. "

We are all public citizens and private individuals. Children in independent or parochial schools are as much "the public" as are children in the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel's schools. Unions, even "public sector" unions, are private 501-c(5) corporations. What you call "the public school system" is a policy which restricts parents' options for the use of the taxpayers' pre-college education subsidy to schools operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel. There is no coherent welfare-economic argument for this restriction.

In abstract, the education industry is an unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation. Children vary widely in their interests and abilities. The possible careers they might pursue vary enormously. Systematic expertise in "education" matters far less than local knowledge about individual children's interests and abilities.

Per pupil costs rise as school districts increase in size. Beyond a very low level, the education industry exhibits no economies of scale at the delivery end. The education industry is not a natural monopoly. "Natural monopoly" is the usual welfare-economic argument for State operation of an industry.

Abundant evidence supports the following generalizations:
1) As institutions take from individual parents the power to determine the curriculum and the pace and method of instruction which their own children will experience, overall system performance falls.
2) Political control of school harms most the children of the least politically adept parents.

The "public goods" argument for a State role in an industry implies subsidy and regulation of an industry, at most, not State operation of that industry. The State cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". Given the argument for subsidies to the sub-adult education industry, the issue then becomes: who best represents taxpayers' interests in determining who shall receive that subsidy?

I reason axiomatically here.
1) Most parents love their children and want their children to outlive them.
2) If you live among people, there are basically three ways you can make a living: (2.1) you can beg, (2.2) you can steal, (2.3) you can trade goods and services for other people's goods and services.
3) Most parents accept proposition 2 and prefer 2.3 for their children.
4) Therefore, most parents want from an education system what taxpayers want from an education system, that children be educated to assume productive lives.

The interests of insiders of the State-monopoly school system differ systematically from the interests of parents and taxpayers. Insiders have a direct interest in inefficient delivery of services. Thus, we see the increase in the span of compulsory attendance and systemic hostility toward self-paced instruction. Teachers need to be needed.

Please read this one page Marvin Minsky comment on school and this article on artificially extended adolescence by Ted Kolderie.

Although vouchers, tuition tax credits, and subsidized homeschooling (as in Alaska) would be large improvements over the State-monopoly school system, for various reasons I prefer a policy I call Parent Performance Contracting.




Tracks in the Forest

Comments at Joanne's place on merit pay.
Comments at Joanne's place on the Swedish voucher program.
Comments at Joanne's place on school violence.
Comments at Jay Greene's place on the WSJ DC voucher editorial.
Comments at Jay Greene's place on centralization and federalism.
Comments at Ken's place on reform visions.
Comments at Ken's place on President Obama's education policy address.


Chris Matthews confirms his partisanship

"When you left the country in our hands".

He could hardly be more direct.

Chris Matthews makes a decent point about the explosion of spending under Bush II (though it's a wet firecracker compared to President Obama's nuke), but still..."our hands"?


Book Meme

The Headmistress posted the following list, which seems to me to contain fiction--school-assigned fiction--disproportionately. Why so much Dickens and so little Melville? Why Arthur Conan Doyle and not Saki or O. Henry? Among moderns, why Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker and not Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and/or Chinua Achebe? Why on Earth would anyone choose to include Frank Herbert's Dune over Karl Capek's RUR or The War with the Newts? Why Gabriel Garcia Marquez and not Jorge Luis Borges? How 'bout a list of non-fiction classics?

Bold those you have read. Italicize those you intend to read.
My responses, with comments.
Mostly, I'm doing this so my siblings can humiliate me through their vastly greater acquaintance with this canon.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (Sorry. I do not like magic).
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 1984 - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (In high school. Magazine publishers paid Dickens by the word, and it shows).
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (A 9-11 Truther before his time).
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger (One day).
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot (I suppose. My wise older sister recommends George Eliot, but then, she likes Dickens, too).
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (A Hindu street vendor in Singapore saw my copy of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and recommended Tolstoy's War and Peace: "Leo Tolstoy is a very pious man.")
25 The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I recommend)
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck (What's the bid deal with Steinbeck?)
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (You'd have to pay me).
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (I preferred The Inheritors).
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert (Pompous trash).
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens (In high school. I liked it at the time. Not anymore).
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley ( I recommend).
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (One day, maybe)
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas (Infantile fantasy).
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (I recommend).
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker (Fluff).
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo


Teacher Standards Board

They're at it again. The Hawaii Legislature started hearing bills. The fun never stops in the Education committees. Senator Norman Sakamoto serves as Senate Education committee chair.

Please DO NOT support SB 142 Senate Bill 142, Section I constructs a false history of the Hawaii Teacher Standards Board. It asserts:
1 In 2001, the legislature transferred
2 responsibility for licensing teachers from the department of
3 education to the Hawaii teacher standards board. The transfer
4 was based on recommendations from the Hawaii Policy Group of the
5 National Commission on Teaching and America's Future, a national
6 organization with twenty-three partner states, including Hawaii.
First misrepresentation: Participation in NCTAF by individuals or organizations within the State of Hawaii does not make Hawaii a member or partner of NCTAF, any more than churches are members or partners of State governments.
By authorizing the board to assume responsibility for teacher
8 licensing, the legislature sought to strengthen the teaching
9 profession by making the board self-governing and accountable
10 for teachers who obtain and maintain licenses in Hawaii.
Second misrepresentation: In the initial legislation, the Teacher Standards Board was a non-cost bill which proposed a temporary Board, which was to develop licensing criteria for new-hire teachers and then to go out of business. The initial legislation did not empower the Board to revoke licenses of teachers already in service or to charge teachers already in service for the privilege of being less secure in their jobs. 3000 teachers signed a petition against this expansion of the Board's powers.

The initial legislation mandated a nine-member Board, with four members from the HSTA, three from the HGEA, one from the College of Education (the UHPA is an NEA subsidiary) and one member from the Board of Education. Counting the UHPA member, the NEA has a majority on the Board. Counting the HGEA, public-sector unions dominate the Board eight-to-one. This places the public-sector unions in a very convenient conflict of interest situation: any teacher whom the HGEA and HSTA find inconvenient can be terminated through revocation of her license, with no consequent obligation by the union to defend her. It is as though the Legislature has given to a board of lawyers the power to determine which clients lawyers on retainer must defend. Basically, the Teacher Standards Board empowwers the HSTA to renege on its contractural obligation to defend teachers.

The Board's performance standards for teachers required that teachers develop coherent sequences of lessons, that they adapt lessons to individual learning styles, and that they take advantage of spontaneous opportunities for instruction. These are all good ideas, but they are inconsistent, and so cannot qualify as "standards". The Board required that teachers align instruction to the DOE's curriculum content and student performance standards. The "standards" to which this requirement referred were those of the Final Report of the Hawaii State Commission on Content and Performance Standards (the "Blue Book") which the DOE abandoned after three years as complicated, contradictory, and vague. My point here is that the members of the Teacher Standards Board would not know a standard if you dropped one on their toes.

The Teacher Standards Board requires that teachers have degrees from an accredited teacher preparation program. No statistical, empirical evidence supports such a restriction.

The Teacher Standards Board has supported salary enhancements for teachers with National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification. No statistical, empirical evidence supports such a policy.

The Value-Added Achievement Gains of NBPTS-Certified Teachers in Tennessee:
A Brief Report
J. E. Stone, Ed.D.
College of Education
East Tennessee State University
The findings of this study present a serious challenge to NBPTS's claims regarding its teacher quality standards and certification process. At the very least, they suggest that public expenditures on NBPTS certification and teacher bonuses should be suspended until it can be clearly and independently established that NBPTS certification delivers what it promises.

Abolish the Teacher Standards Board.


The Common Room: School Reform and Self-Perpetuating Institutions

The Headmistress collects arguments against a State presence in the education industry: The Common Room: School Reform and Self-Perpetuating Institutions. The State (government, generally) cannot subsidize education without a definition of "education". This definition then binds students, parents, real classroom teachers, and taxpayers. The State's current operational definition amounts to "attendance at institutions operated by dues-paying members of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel". Since politicians cultivate allies who support their reelection, and since the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel wields enormous electoral clout, systemic reform will likely not occur as a result of democratic politics. Against this view: budget considerations may compel reform.

Governments at all levels have made more promises than they can keep. Some sort of default will occur. Either the State (government, generally) defaults openly (e.g., raising the age at which people qualify for Social Security, reducing Medicare coverage) or disguises a default by paying debts in devalued dollars. Given the power of the NEA/AFT/AFSCME cartel, politicians will most likely put the State-subsidized education industry last in line for budget cuts.

Parents need not and should not wait for politicians to empower parents in their education choices. At least here, in Hawaii, parents may homeschool, and they do not need to sacrifice an income to do so. Nothing in the law requires that parents provide instruction between 1800 and 0030 Zulu time (8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Hawaii time).


Engineers' Dreams

Tough Choices, Tough Times
I read the executive summary. Sometimes I skipped a bit, as my eyes glazed over.

Consider four categories of sentences in this document:
1. Assertions as to fact
2. Value judgments
3. Inferences (from 1, 2, or 1 and 2)
4. Recommendations.

I agree with some of the assertions as to fact and disagree with others. For example, the authors note the role which expanded opportunities for intelligent women in the civilian employment market played in the decline of talent in the teacher workforce. I agree. They assert that expanded opportunities for minorities played a similar role. This I doubt: the government school school system discriminated against minorities not (as with women) in favor of them.

The authors implicitly equate "education" and schooling. Not ("education" = "schooling"). The authors contend that "education" (by which they mean "schooling") contributes to GDP growth. Not so much. Clear title and contract law, transparent and honest bureaucracy, and simple taxation at low rates contribute far more to GDP growth than does the number of PhDs in Women's Studies and Political Science per 100,000 of population.

The contention that low-skilled jobs will move overseas does not reflect reality. Most of the world's work is grunt-work, and most of this work cannot be done through the internet. Just try have your car washed by someone in Chengdu. The waitress in the Cascade Lodge, in Lutsen, Minnesota cannot do her job from Bombay.

I (mostly) agree with the (largely implicit) value judgments, although once you make them explicit, the problems become clear. Literacy enhances quality of life and productivity. Okay, but are there not decreasing marginal returns to investment in literacy? Where are they, for any particular individual? Can some State bureaucracy determine this any better than can the individual himself?

Make the same objection to mathematical skill, or any particular vocational skill.

The recommendations really raised my hackles. Freeman Dyson called this sort of grand planning "engineers' dreams". The authors recommend a vast expansion of State-supervised formal education at the expense of informal education and training which employers and others undertake on their own.
Step 1
Our first step is creating a set of Board Examinations. States will have their own Board Examinations, and some national and even international organizations will offer their own...A Board Exam is an exam in a set of core subjects that is based on a syllabus provided by the Board....The standards will be set at the expectations incorporated in the exams given by the countries that do the best job educating their students.
Will they now? The authors do not describe the politics which the determination of which countries "do the best job educating their students" will entail.
Students who score well enough will be guaranteed the right to go to their community college to begin a program leading to a two year technical degree or a two-year program designed to enable the student to transfer later into a four-year state college.
So success in school qualifies students for more school? Do the authors aticipate that any students will ever want to exit this treadmill?
Step 4:
Develop standards, assessments, and curriculum that reflect today’s needs and tomorrow’s requirements...
Government direction of investment used to go by the name "industrial policy". It failed. State planners could do no better than non-State actors in anticipating future demands for goods and services. Why expect that investment in human capital differs?
Step 5:
Create high performance schools and districts everywhere — how the system should be governed, financed, organized, and managed...
While you're at it, why not give every commuter a car with a 100 mpg carburetor, every child a flying pony, and your local power company a clean fusion reactor?
The schools would be funded directly by the state, according to a pupil-weighting formula as described below.
Bureaucrats have no clear way to assign weights to various conditions. What weight will they assign to a student who reached age 7 speaking Cantonese or Tamil? Is this a disability? People in China and India do not think so. Plato was not LD.
Provide high-quality, universal early childhood education For decades, researchers have almost universally concluded that high-quality early childhood education is one of the best investments a nation can make in its young people.
Early institutionalized childhood education does more harm than good. Studies which find a benefit from "high-quality daycare" compare the performance of children of deficient parents who receive high-quality care to the performance of children of deficient parents who do not. This result DOES NOT generalize to the population at large. By analogy: locate 500 people stranded in the Sahara, without foor or water. Divide this population into two groups, Treatment and Control. To people in group T we will give polluted water, spoiled vegetables, and rotten meat. People in group C get nothing. Assess longevity, post-treatment, of both groups. If people in group T live longer, on average, than people in group C, can we assert that polluted water, spoiled vegetables, and rotten meat will enhance the lifespan of people with access to a normal food supply? Advocates for early childcare say "yes". They lie.
Step 7:
Give strong support to the students who need it the most. The Commission’s proposals, taken together, should transform the prospects of disadvantaged
children. The proposal to abandon local funding of schools in favor of state funding using a uniform pupil-weighting funding formula, combined with the addition of $19 billion to the system as a whole, will make it possible, for the first time in the history of the United States, to have an equitable means of funding our schools, while at the same time leveling up the funding of the system as a whole, so that relatively well-to-do districts will not have the incentive to defeat the system that they would have if the existing funds were simply redistributed.
1. Define "need".
2. What "incentive to defeat the system" do "relatively well-to-do districts" have in the current system?