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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

So, Bernie Sanders just introduced his latest single-payer healthcare bill, and most of the serious Presidential candidates for 2020 have signed on. My kick-ass Senator, Kamala Harris, has signed on. Elizabeth Warren, another kick-ass Senator, has signed on. Kirsten Gillibrand, *another* kick-ass Senator often mentioned as a possible Democratic Presidential candidate, has also signed on.

And the reaction of Clintonistas?

“You liberals are doing it wrong!”

We’re not telling people how we’re going to pay for all of this, they whine. We must have a detailed policy proposals with 1,000 page policy papers describing every detail, they whine. At which point, I gotta say: Wha?

Look, Clintonistas: You fucking lost. You lost to an orange-hued baboon that proposed building a 2,000 mile wall and proposed a funding mechanism (“Mexico will pay for it!”) that was so stupid that only an idiot (or 48% of Americans, but I repeat myself) could believe it. You lost to an orange-hued baboon that proposed deporting 15 million workers without any hint as to how to replace them in the workforce given that we don’t have 15 million unemployed Americans. You had your fucking chance, people. You had your 1,000 page papers out the fucking wazoo on your candidate’s web site. And she fucking lost, okay?

Have Democrats learned something? Yeah, they’ve learned that embracing mediocre incrementalist “third way” proposals like Hillary Clinton did is how you lose elections. This was an election that shouldn’t have even been close, you had a political pro against a complete amateur, you had a candidate with experience and poise against a reality show host most noted for being an ass on the public airwaves, you had a candidate with detailed policy proposals against a candidate who fucking handwaved everything, and your candidate fucking lost. Trump went big with “build that wall!” and “drain the swamp!”, and he beat Hillary everywhere that it counted. Unless you go big, you go home. Figuring out the details is something that happens after you get elected, first you have to get elected.

So yeah, Democrats learned something. Well, some Democrats learned something. Mainstream Clintonian “Third Way” Democrats with their thousand-page position papers and detailed cautious and incrementalist policy proposals… not so much.

So these Clintonistas say that “Free College for All” and “Universal Health Care” without attempting to determine how to pay for those things or even how much they might cost are false promises which usually means not following through on those promises because they’re unrealistic. Here’s the thing. First of all, if you don’t get fucking elected, you can’t do a goddamn thing anyhow. People like free shit, so just handwave paying for it, already. Don’t scare people with details they really don’t give a shit about. Second, we know the money is there to pay for universal health care, because we’re already paying for it, just in the most inefficient way possible, thanks to emergency room visits and other such things caused by lack of access to primary care. And we already know that the money is there to pay for college for everybody who qualifies for college, because we’re already paying for it, just in the most inefficient way possible (and in a way that basically lands a lot of young people into what’s little more than slavery, forever giving virtually all of their money to debt collectors). If there’s one thing that government is efficient at doing, it’s collecting taxes — there’s a *reason* why we fund roads through taxes rather than tolls. Setting up the street in front of my house as a private toll road would be horrifically expensive given that it has maybe ten cars per hour go down it. Collecting the taxes at a far smaller number of gas stations and via my registration fees for my car is far cheaper than that.

So in my opinion it’s fair to say “we’re already paying for that, we’re just going to do it in a fair and efficient way” and leave sweating the details until after being elected. And they’re unrealistic promises only because rich fucks don’t want to give up any of their billions that were earned by the labor of their 180 million peasants in order to provide basic services for those peasants. Hey, just serfin’ USA, yo. (In case you wonder what I’m talking about — the Walton family would make $0 if it wasn’t for all the checkout tellers and store stockers and truck drivers who make it possible for their store to sell stuff, yet, the Waltons get all the money and the people who make it possible for the stores to operate get to go on the government dole to make ends meet).

– Badtux the Serfing Penguin

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58% of Trump voters say higher education is bad for the country.

Fifty. Eight. Percent.

And this surprises me not at all. The worship of ignorance is rampant in the United States. Experts who’ve spent their lives studying and researching a subject have their expertise dismissed with a few pithy talking points by a bleach blonde Fox news bimbo, and millions believe her. Millions willingly embrace bizarre conspiracy theories like NASA is running a child slave colony on Mars or shape-shifting reptilian people control our world. Even the notion that the world is flat has taken on new life in the modern United States.

It’s no wonder, then, that so many of these pro-ignorance people willingly embrace fake news. They are so ignorant that they lack the fundamental knowledge to tell the difference between fake news and real news. And furthermore, they’re proud of their ignorance. None of that sissy intellectual stuff for them, nosirree! And science might contradict the Bible, so it’s clearly out too!

It’s not some foreign enemy that’s going to destroy the United States. It is the cult of ignorance that dominates the nation, where everybody thinks they’re an expert after a couple of Google queries turn up a few web sites. There’s no way that a population so ignorant, so hateful of education, can maintain or sustain an advanced economy. No way. In the end, the United States is going to collapse from within, hollowed out like a rotten apple by the ignorance of the people charged with keeping it intact.

– Badtux the Educated Penguin

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That’s what a survey just found — the majority of Republicans, 58% of’em, think higher education is bad for America. ‘Cause it teaches you that thare book larnin’, not, like, Bible larnin’. Why, you might even stop thinking that the world is flat and an invisible sky demon makes the Sun rise every morning if you got too much of that thare book larnin’.

Now, you might say, what about the America that send men to the Moon and such? How we gonna do shit like that again if we don got no edumacation? But look. We don’t need colleges here in the United States anymore, ’cause we can hire them thare edumacated dot-heads and chinks to do all that nerd work now, and they cain’t vote ’cause they ain’t citizens so they ain’t gonna be votin’ fer school bored members that let that thare evil “science” and “history” stuff into our classrooms. When everbody in this here cuntry gets Bible Studies all school year long (all five days long of it after the budget cuts come through, ’cause we’uns need tax brakes for our bajillionaire job creators, y’all!), then it’s gone be a Christian nation, like, again, or maybe for the first time if them LIE-berals wuz correct about how our founding fathers wuz Deists rather than Christians but hey, everbody knows them thare lie-berals, they’uns LIE.

And when them thare lie-berals say that our glorious leaders are sociopathic lizard people who view us as prey rather than as people and ain’t got our best interests in their hearts by telling us that this hare edumacation stuff is overrated… well, them thare lie-berals just bein’ mean, y’all. That’s all. ‘Cuz Big Brother loves me, I know it’s true, ‘cuz the television, it says so too, just like my preacher man. So thare!

— Bubba the Suthern Penguin

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So, you get your economists who are saying, “competition will always reduce costs!”. Yet that is quite clearly incorrect for at least two places where the United States has more competition than in any other nation on the planet — healthcare, and higher education. WTF is going on here?!

The deal is that old criticism of economists — that they know the price of everything, and the value of nothing. If you have a life-threatening illness, the value of a cure for that illness is practically infinite to you. You’re not looking for the cheapest doctor. You’re looking for the doctor that can cure you — that has the latest certifications, the latest equipment, prescribes the latest medications, you’re going to pay for the best you can get. Because if you’re not cured, you’re *dead*. What good is saving money if you’re dead? So hospitals and doctors compete for your business not by being cheap. They compete by getting the latest certifications, the latest equipment, prescribing the latest medications. The fact that this results in an oversupply of doctors with that certification and equipment, and results in demand for that medication that allows its manufacturer to hike its price, is irrelevant to the doctors because they’re not paying the bill — patients (and their insurers) are, through higher prices and through overprescribing diagnostic tests.

The same is true of higher education, to a certain extent. Economists know the cost of higher education. But they don’t know the value of higher education. Education is your future. So you’re going to try to get the best education you can get, regardless of cost, because the better your education, the better your future will get. So colleges compete with each other based on how many high-priced “big name” scientists they have on staff, how much equipment they have in their labs, the plushness of their dormitories, the gleam of their shiny bright new classroom buildings and football stadiums, rather than competing with each other based on price.

Now: you and I both know that shiny isn’t always best. I graduated from a somewhat shabby state university with minimal college debt. I get paid the same as the people who graduated from Stanford or Cal-Berkeley that same year who will still be paying off their college debt a decade from now. Unfortunately, outcomes information is almost impossible to come by. So people use proxies such as the labs having the latest and greatest equipment, even if cheaper equipment would be just as good for their purposes. Which brings up another point that the “competition will always reduce costs!” guys just don’t get: they assume a world in which everybody has perfect information, where it actually is possible to tell that doctors A and B have equal results but doctor A is cheaper. But we don’t have perfect information. Hell, for a lot of things, we don’t have any information — we don’t have the outcomes information needed to know that doctors A and B have equal results, and it’s absolutely impossible to get pricing information out of doctors, they shrug and refer you to their back end billing people who then ask who your insurer is and tell you that it’d require submitting a claim etc. to know, literally nobody in that whole entire office knows how much your treatment will cost.

But the question of information is a topic for a post in and of itself, so I’ll leave you with the final takeaway: Competition does not always result in lower costs. In fact, we’ve proven with both healthcare and higher education that it can increase costs.

So take that and stick it up your ass crack and light it, neoliberal economists. Because reality simply *is* — and your “reality”, laughably, isn’t.

– Badtux the Economics Penguin

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Answer: We do. You and I. One way or another. Either up front, by providing them with adequate schools and opportunities for college, or on the back end, when they survive any way they can doing anything they need to do in order to survive, a path that invariably leads them to prison.

So either we pay for schools, or we pay for prisons. Either way, we pay. Personally, I prefer paying for schools. Because the things that desperate people do to survive generally aren’t nice, and tend to be somewhat destructive of the life and property of people like you and I.

So the next question is, what kind of school has the best results? Betsy Devoss knows. It’s private charter schools. ‘Cause they’re run by private companies, not by the government. Thing is, that’s not what the data says. What the data says is that if you weren’t learning anything in a public school, you won’t learn anything in a private school either. Because charter schools compete for students, many of them, the ones that can’t cherry pick, instead compete by dropping their standards. Students get A’s because teachers make easy tests, not because they’re learning more. I talked to a student at one of these schools and he was really bitter about the education he was getting and the general school environment. He said he could get away with anything, because if they expelled him, they’d lose the money they were getting to “school” him. He said he never turned in homework, and wrote just anything on tests, and they passed him anyhow because they didn’t want him to go to another school and take that money away from them. His experience is pretty much the same as mine was in Jesus School forty years ago, when I briefly attended a high school run by a Southern Baptist church. Most of the kids got A’s, because they were teaching basically 4th grade math to 8th graders.

Which of course didn’t prepare me for high school, but that’s another story.

So anyhow, That’s what Cruella De Ville… err… Betsy Devos… did to Detroit. The resulting charter schools are mostly junk, teaching poor kids no better than the public schools did, but with the downside of regularly going out of business in the middle of school years, having a low-paid itinerant workforce that doesn’t contribute to creating a core of middle-class teachers in the community, and in many cases being even more chaotic than the public schools. But hey, Jesus. So.

department-education

Hey, at least it makes for a nicer-looking logo for the Department of Education, which will shortly get abolished and replaced with the Department of Jesus Schoolin’.

– Badtux the Snarky Penguin

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Are we drugging our kids too much?

I guess the difference comes down to “won’t” versus “can’t”. There’s children who “won’t” behave appropriately in the classroom. They have the fundamental physical capability to do so, just not the desire. Then there’s the children who just physically can’t behave appropriately in the classroom. Their brains just aren’t organized that way. They want to do right. But they end up doing something impulsive or spontaneous and end up looking like a hound dog that’s been kicked too much.

Half the kids who are on drugs probably don’t need them because their problem is one of parents who aren’t interested in teaching proper behavior and are willing to take the easy way out of drugging the kid rather than teaching him how to behave properly. but there’s also number not on drugs who do need them. If you say “we’re not drugging our kid!” for a kid who really does need the drug to function well in a classroom environment, this leads to an unhappy kid who isn’t learning as much as he could, a frustrated teacher who is spending more time on your kid than on all the other kids combined because he can’t stay on task (*physically* can’t stay on task, it’s got nothing to do with him not “wanting” to stay on task, his brain just isn’t wired right to stay on task), and a classroom environment where less learning is taking place than could be taking place. Theoretically speaking, a kid with severe ADHD can be taught effectively with a strong behavior modification program that basically reprograms the way his brain responds to common classroom scenarios. But practically speaking, a teacher with 35 kids in her classroom just doesn’t have *time* for that. Maybe in a special education environment with six kids and a teacher plus aide, but school districts are already spending 25% of their budget to teach the 8% of the kids who are in special ed, and proposing to spend *more* budget… where is the money going to come from? Are we going to take yet *more* resources away from regular classroom teachers and the children in those regular classrooms?

In an ideal world schools would be organized differently with better ways to cope with kids who aren’t developmentally on the same path as the rest. But that isn’t the world we live in *today*. A kid suffering because of a theoretical utopia that might exist at some point in the future is still a kid suffering.

In short, any answer to “are we drugging our kids too much?” has to start one question: Which kid?. Trying to say there is one answer for all kids results in a disservice to both the kid and to society as a whole, which ends up with one less person living up to his full capabilities.

– Badtux the Education Penguin

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Over 26,000 black teachers have been fired or pushed out of the profession and replaced by over 160,000 white teachers in the past eight years. In some school districts, as many as 60% of the black teachers have been pushed out and replaced by white teachers.

If there was a competency gap between white teachers and black teachers I might think there was some improvement going on. But having taught in black schools with mostly black colleagues, I found no such competency gap. The black teachers were far more effective with their mostly-black students than the white teachers were, even when the white teachers had the best education and training that money could buy. And the numbers — and the research — back up my personal experience. When it comes to teaching black kids, black teachers simply do it better than white teacher do.

So the fact that inner city school districts are laying off black teachers and closing black schools — at the same time that they’re opening charter schools staffed by all white teachers — has nothing to do with improving education. What we’re basically seeing is ethnic cleansing — ethnic cleansing of both school administration (because the charter schools are staffed with white administrators) and ethnic cleansing of the teaching staff. The charter schools don’t want experienced black teachers — those teachers might have their own ideas about the best ways to teach black children, ideas that might interfere with profits for the private corporations that run them. They want inexperienced young white teachers right out of college who don’t know any better who think that the half-ass way that the charter school is being run is the way things are supposed to be. Inexperienced young white teachers who are *cheap*. Because that’s how to make profit running a private charter school, yo.

Which is why charter schools don’t perform any better and often perform *worse* than the public schools they are supposedly a “reform” upon, and in the meantime concentrate the worst students — those with the least involved parents, those with special needs, etc. — into a smaller and smaller number of public schools that are not in any way being given the resources to deal with the large numbers of special needs students that are being left behind. Just another way we’re all being fucked by the corporations that have taken over our governments and turned this country into a giant banana republic, a kleptocracy for the benefit of a handful of filthy rich oligarchs that is every bit as fucked up as any banana republic ever has been. But as usual, black people are getting fucked over worse.

– Badtux the Education Penguin

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