Archive for the ‘education’ Category

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.


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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Slate says that we shouldn’t have free college tuition, because 50% of college students don’t belong there, as demonstrated by the fact that they drop out of college. So let’s get this straight — those kids tried college, and it didn’t work for them, so they should now be required to pay off student loans for the rest of their lives?

The reality is that a college education is the gateway to success in our society. Without a college education, all you can do is work McJobs, now that all the good-paying factory jobs are gone to China and all the building trades are now dominated by illegal Mexicans that white foremen hire in preference to Americans because illegals can’t file OSHA complaints without being deported. So people are going to try their hardest to go to college regardless of the cost and regardless of whether this self-entitled prick at Slate thinks they’re properly prepared or not. All he’s doing is justifying a system that punishes kids twice — once for attending K-12 schools that inadequately prepared them for college, and then for the rest of their lives with not only the lower salary of a McJob, but an unpayable student loan too. There’s kids who are going to fucking *retire* fifty years from now *still* with those goddamned student loans hanging over their heads — which will then see a chunk get taken out of their meager Social Security to *still* pay the vultures, the only retirement income they’re going to have because any attempt to put money in the bank for retirement would immediately get seized by the student loan cartel.

But hey, this doesn’t concern this self entitled jackass by the name of Charles J. Sykes. He’s concerned, concerned I say, that colleges are being polluted by these peasants! Why, the nerve of people, trying their hardest to get ahead! How dare they!

What a motherfucking jerk.

– Badtux the Callin’ an asshole an asshole Penguin

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I mentioned that as a throw-away line in my previous post. But it’s true — American schools are more segregated today than they were in 1968, and the Supreme Court doesn’t care.

And even when black kids do attend majority-white schools, often the desegregation is by name only. I was a student teacher at one suburban high school that supposedly had 10% black students, and a substitute teacher at a small city high school (the only high school for that entire area, and thus officially “desegregated” with 20% black students). I did not see a single black student at either high school. My student teaching was mathematics, Algebra and up, and the black students were tracked into “vocational” tracks, not higher math. Same deal with the substitute teaching, I was substituting for a math teacher who’d gone out on maternity leave, and because she was a senior teacher she’d been assigned Algebra II and Geometry courses. Again, all white, the black students were tracked into “General Math” and other non-college-track classes.

So what about lunch and P.E., you say? Well, the way the schedules were laid out, the black students all ended up in their own lunch period. Same deal with P.E., you’d go in the gym and it was all white people or all black people, but never mixed. This was in a school district that was officially certified as desegregated.

The reality is that you have peckerwoods flying Confederate flags from the back of their monster pickup trucks who’ve never had a single class with a black classmate, never sat at the same cafeteria as a black classmate, never played basketball at P.E. with a black classmate… and then you wonder why they perpetuate the same bigotry and hate towards black people that their parents and grandparents had? There’s nothing to tell them that black people are people, they’ve only seen black people from a distance, even though they supposedly are attending the same schools!

Thirty years ago, there was the hope that desegregation would lead to less bigotry in the future. That hope is gone, defeated by conservative Supreme Court justices that have allowed segregation to creep back into our schools with nary a peep. And this is exactly why Donald Trump’s “basket of deplorables” is still full fifty years after the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was signed.

– Badtux the (De)Segregation Penguin

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