Oct 19

Teacher credentials: licenses and certificates

Why does one need a license or certificate to teach? Do bureaucrats think that students are too stupid to choose among available teachers? Or do they really think that the credentialing process automatically creates competency? It seems to me that neither of these statements is true. That this would only be the case in some sort of make believe, comic book world. What would be the harm in letting anyone teach who desires to do so? As long as students are paying specifically for each class and remuneration to teachers was tied do these payments, certainly the worst teachers wouldn’t last beyond a single semester. And what would the result of these type of system be? Teacher scarcity would be mitigated, education prices would fall and quality would improve. Perhaps it is the case that the “education prices would fall” part of this equation is a problem for the status quo.

Of course, that isn’t how it works in the real world. In the real world, teachers have unions and tenure. State credentialing and aggressive education requirements limit the supply of teachers. Funny thing is non-credentialed teaching occurs in the United States all the time. I personally am uncredentialed and unlicensed but have taught many classes at my place of employment. I have also taught classes at local clubs. The same bureaucrats and control freaks who insist that teachers must be credentialed haven’t said a word about this that I’m aware of. True, this is outside of their control, but surely they would at least publicly voice a concern over this travesty. Could this be yet another sign that their concern is with the “education prices would fall” thing I mentioned before?

Put simply, education is a cartel and nothing good comes from cartels. In fact, not only is it a cartel, but it is a state and federally sponsored and funded cartel. The thing about cartels is they don’t die easily, especially when most people are convinced the whole structure is necessary. There is only hope of solving this problem. Education (and many other institutions) is fundamentally changing, driven by technology. As the price of traditional education keeps going up, the opportunity to undermine the system grows. Entrepreneurs see the opportunity and they will solve it. If you’re part of that traditional system, I hope you’re ready for it.

 

Oct 18

Rising inequality and public education

Here’s a gem of a piece from the Washington Post on the subject of opportunity for the rich vs the poor. Let’s face it. The post, and other dying mainstream media outlets, are desperately trying to hold on to readers. People, they are telling you what you want to hear, and right now it’s just the newest craze to bash the rich and claim the poor have no opportunities. But it’s pretty easy to flesh out the heavy bias in this article. Take a look at this statement:

Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves. You can see that in the chart above

The chart is pretty simple (cartoon like, the way it’s readers like). It’s bold conclusion? Rich high school dropouts do better than poor college graduates financially. So according to this article graduating from college is “doing everything right”. Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. If it was that easy to categorize people, it would be easy for recruiters to hire the right people. But it isn’t. But there’s a lot more to being successful than graduating from college. The above statement is just silly. But if you hate the rich, the silliness just magically melts away!

But maybe the problem is just the author of this article, right? Maybe there’s more to this. The author references a book written by a distinguished team of economists, sociologists, and experts in social and education policy, “Whither Opportunity?” (at 50$, I guess you need to be among those considered more equal to afford it).  So who are authors? :

GREG J. DUNCAN is distinguished professor in the Department of Education at the University of California, Irvine.

RICHARD J. MURNANE is Thompson Professor of Education and Society at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Not surprisingly, they are professors, so they wouldn’t really know much about the skills required to fill the positions these “rich kids” are working at. And frankly, I doubt they know what it’s really like to grow up poor either. (and in case you’re wonder, I do). But what of this distinguished team? Indeed, there are 52 contributors, nearly all of them in academia. Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU, etc.

I’m not going to shell out 50$ and spend hours of my time reading this book. I will say that, based on the summary, I don’t see any solutions proposed. However, not surprisingly, all these professors decided that the best solution is improved public education! I guess it never occurred to them that public education might be responsible for:

the gap between rich and poor children’s math and reading achievement scores is now much larger than it was fifty years ago

The last sentence in the summary is:

For generations of Americans, public education provided the springboard to upward mobility. This pioneering volume casts a stark light on the ways rising inequality may now be compromising schools’ functioning, and with it the promise of equal opportunity in America.

But is it rising inequality that is compromising schools? Does this make any sense? What is causing the inequality? Do they even rase that question? See, they don’t have to. It’s not their concern. They have a hammer and they WILL find nails.

 

Oct 18

Obama sanctions hurt Russia?

I read Washington’s Blog quite a bit. The information on U.S. foreign military intervention is good. And, despite leaning left, these guys don’t pull any punches when it comes to Obama. They see the problem with the current White House. They understand the difference between real progressivism and D.C. politics. But they also seem to hold out hope that the next coming of FDR will come along.

But when it comes to economics, they seem to frequently lack fundamental understanding. In a recent post on effect of U.S. policy on Russia, I came across this:

“Russia has responded to those sanctions by simply increasing its trading with other nations”

You can’t simply “increase” the purchasing or sale of something. Every buyer needs a seller. You can increase purchasing of some product by increasing the amount you’re willing to pay, but if prices were correctly set prior to that, this would result in a net decrease in total economic efficiency. You can increase sales by lowering prices, with the same inefficient change. Russia may be able to shift purchase and sales among countries, but again, there was a reason why the original buyer/seller was chosen. The new buyer/seller will reduce economic efficiency. 

The most efficient way to conduct trade is always to let traders do what they desire to do voluntarily. Any government interference necessarily reduces net utility since you are not allowing them to do just that. 

Oct 15

Was Bill Gates always this dumb?

This is a quote from Bill Gates regarding Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital:

Like Piketty, I’m also a big believer in the estate tax. Letting inheritors consume or allocate capital disproportionately simply based on the lottery of birth is not a smart or fair way to allocate resources.

It’s easy to see Gate’s line of thinking here, but doesn’t this beg the question “Will government bureaucrats spend estate tax money more effectively than inheritors?”. Until this question is asked and discussed, Gates comment has little meaning. I think the fact that he doesn’t ask it at all says something about his intentions here. The policies of liberals are often driven by nothing more than envy. However, in Gates case, I think he has the opposite problem: guilt.

Oct 15

U.S. bombs wrong targets in Syria

It appears the United States military has bombed civilian oil refineries in Raqqa, Syria. Wether these were the “wrong” targets, I can’t tell for sure, but some think so. U.S. officials aren’t saying, but then U.S. citizens and the media aren’t asking either. You can see for yourself by doing a google search and noting the lack of mainstream coverage. If there is any mainstream coverage, it tends to ignore the glaring error and focus on other things.

Of course politicians will claim there will be no blow-back, and if they attack us, it’s because we are just so darn awesome. You can always count on the N.Y. Times for the best propaganda. The Syrians may see this differently.

Oct 12

From Russia, with love (2)

This is part 2 of an installment of thoughts on a book I’m reading, E.M. Newman’s Seeing Russia. I caught note of this interesting statement regarding communism that I’m sure won’t surprise anyone:

Wherever one goes, long lines of people are to be seen waiting their turn outside the government stores or at some government agency. And nowhere do these long lines of people achieve greater proportions than at the railroad stations, which almost invariably have one ticket window for all classes of passengers. This is supposed to emphasize the spirit of equality. It is not unusual for prospective travelers to wait three days and nights in line for a ticket.

It’s hard to believe intelligent people could believe such nonsense, but there you have it. And next we have a little hint that perhaps marxist ideas or nothing more than the result of envy:

The former aristocracy, man of whom remain in Leningrad, are considered “useless”. Some of these former aristocrats are in rags, their medals and decorations the only external evidence of their formal status; one finds them cleaning the streets… or doing similar jobs. These men have no status whatever in  the new order of things, despite the fact that they could be useful citizens. The new aristocracy is the proletariat, and the old aristocracy is nothing – less even than were the workers of Czarist times.

Apparently Marxism isn’t concerned about the struggle of the common man so much as retaliation for a former ostentatious life. It seems the workers were more concerned with a reversal of things than anything based on fundamental philosophical foundation. One gets the feeling reading this that this grand experiment was doomed from the start.

 

Oct 12

How the world works, unfortunately

Here’s yet another article about a police officer doing “bad” things.

Unfortunately 90% of the people who read this seem to see it thru “cartoon glasses”. There’s some science to this. Apophenia is the human tendency to see patterns in meaningless data. Michael Shermer calls this patternicity. On top of that, some psychologists believe the overwhelming amount of information we deal with daily has caused us to lose focus, become distracted, etc. Most people are busy, too busy to look at the details of subjects that don’t seem to affect them directly every day. That’s “cartoon glasses”.

There’s also a strong human tendency to take sides on an issue. This not only helps us simplify our lives but allows us to easily fit into a social group.

So how do people see the event with the police officer? Well, obviously they take sides! But which side do they take?

It’s easy to see the flaws in this guy.  It’s harder to understand we all have the same potential flaws. It’s even more difficult to know what to do about it. In one decade, we cheer public servants on. In this case, driven by the emotion of 9/11. Then the fallout from 9/11 allows powerful sociopaths to spend billions of dollars to spy on us and create the police state. So, regarding our respect for law officers, the pendulum begins to swing back the other direction.

Do you see how that works? No need to take the time to see the individual, or link todays world to the past. That’s too much work. It sounds like I say that sarcastically, but in fact, that is really what happens.

So, be a skeptic. Don’t worry so much about fitting in socially. Think and say what’s on your mind. The human race depends on it.

Oct 09

From Russia, With Love

I’m reading an interesting book I found at the antique store last Saturday: Seeing Russia, by E. M. Newman (1928). I picked it up because, one, it was only $8.50 and two, the first sentence in it was:

I did not go to Russia to solve an problems, nor did I go to commend or condemn what the Soviet Government has done. I went to study and observe…

I wondered what would be written about post-revolution, communist Russia from an author who was self-proclaimed unbiased. At this point I’m only on page 52 of 382, but I’m finding the book fairly interesting. Newman, considering the period, does a reasonably good job of staying unbiased. Today our attitudes toward communism are quite negative but at the time, it was a largely untried concept. I can easily see how someone in that period could be very interested, even excited, about such a grand experiment. Here is a statement from Newman relevant for today:

Thus we are likely to feel, when we learn the facts, that the general public information has been principally misinformation or misleading

There are times when Newman shows his feelings toward Russia:

Doubtless, there will be an improvement with the passing of the years, and many of the inconveniences experienced in these days of the so-called transition period will become but memories.

and:

I declare frankly that I consider it the most interesting human experiment ever made.

One of the more interesting paragraphs dabbles (poorly) in the field of economics:

The Soviet has sought to establish intercourse between urban industries and rural agriculture on the basis of mutual exchange, and to a large degree has succeeded. Peasants supply the raw materials and foodstuffs and obtain necessary finished products, obviating the necessity of dealing with individuals, as all exchanges are made by the state industries.

What are strange statement. Are those in the state who make the exchanges not “individuals”? Did peasants literally not exchange goods outside their realm before the state came along? Newman seems to largely accept the idea that trade doesn’t happen without government.

That’s all for now, but I hope to add more to this as I read the book.

Oct 08

Retirement

The whole idea of retirement is a snow job invented by politicians. In this case, the idea came from Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck in 1883. Somehow we got thru the first 2 million years of our existence (i.e. genus Homo) without the concept. But now, we’re told, we have to “save” for our “golden years”. I’m not sure about you, but quite often I’ve seen those who retire end up dead not much later. Depression and alcohol usually. How can one become so depressed when they have their very own American association? Heck, at AARP you can be a member at 50! Yippee!

All politicians after Bismarck are surely thankful – this was a whole new avenue for government butter. And President Roosevelt took full advantage with the Social Security Act of 1935. Thank goodness. I can use that money to pay for a few rounds of golf and depends.

Seriously, I don’t even know how to define or think about retirement. Does it mean I stop doing the main job I did for a few decades? What If I stop doing that job and work as a Walmart greeter?

I have no plans to retire, whatever bureaucrats are defining that as these days. So those of you elected and living off my labor, go do your sheep herding somewhere else.

Oct 08

Biden disses Obama

Biden: “I was given every s*** job in the world by Obama”

This is politics. Nothing more. Biden & Obama probably discussed this privately before he said it. No politician does something like this without a reason and a plan. So to all the “boo-hoo” comments on this post, congrats: you are still falling for the same old crap.

It really is sad how easily you all are manipulated by these people. John Kerry admits publicly that the internet makes it “too hard to govern” : do you think any of the others are different? We are all tax cows. Chattel slavery is illegal, but that’s ok. They’ve figured out a way around that.