Our school boards are broken

That's not news, I know—you can find Mark Twain complaining about them, too. One of the big problems is that any idiot who may well lack any experience in education, or even any interest in education beyond destroying it, can run for school board and actually get elected. Case in point: Ken Willard, one of the Kansas rubes who tried to get Intelligent Design creationism into the curriculum, has just upped the ante and decided to run for the national presidency of the association of state boards of education. It's incredible—he's an insurance executive with no competence and no qualifications other than that he's a fervent dogmatist who wants his religious beliefs taught, and that he has the backing of the Discovery Institute. The association ought to be deeply embarrassed if he can get in, and he just might do it:
he's running unopposed.

If this boob can rise to the top, you know there's something rotten in the system.

More like this

The New York Times and Paul Decelles point out that wingnut Kansas Board of Ed. member Kenneth Willard is running unopposed to be president of the National Association of State Boards of Education. Willard's faults include voting for and strongly promoting the atrocious science standards last year…
August 1 brought a thrilling result, the overthrow of the creationist majority on the Kansas Board of Education. Unfortunately, there remain two races where creationists won and where we need to take the seat in the general election. The picture above shows 4 of the 5 Democrats in the race. Two…
Mousie Cat writes: our Ken-doll of the Religious Right is headed for big things So many options on who that could be. Sam Brownback? Fred Phelps? Jerry Johnston? None of them seems likely to reach higher office, thankfully. No, just little old Ken Willard, hero of the creationist board of…
Cringing in Kansas The renewed complaints of a few members of the Kansas state board of education about evolution is making Kansans cringe, according to the editorial board of the Lawrence Journal-World (June 15, 2012). As NCSE previously reported, when the board heard a presentation about the…

I've said it before: the heart of the problem here is that there is a de facto monopoly on primary schooling, and it's under government control. As long as this is the case, different factions will try to use it to push their agenda, with little if any regard for the purported mission of the schools, which is to educate children.

Separate school and state, and let the fundies send their kids to their own academies of ignorance, while smarter people send their kids to schools that teach science. Think of it as evolution in action.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

Think of it as evolution in action.

It's not as though people are supposed to worship "evolution", you know. Some things are better than evolution. Real "Intelligent Design" could be better than evolution.

@ #3
And yet one faction opposing GM products is the religious, on the grounds that we are tampering with their god's works.

It's not ok to design new organisms, because all organisms are designed? Silly religionists.

Still, if the introduction of exotic species into new environments is any indication, there will be unforeseen consequences to be dealt with before we get very far along. We only have the one test tube to experiment in.

By JohnnieCanuck (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

I've said it before: the heart of the problem here is that there is a de facto monopoly on primary schooling, and it's under government control. As long as this is the case, different factions will try to use it to push their agenda, with little if any regard for the purported mission of the schools, which is to educate children.

I'd suggest a short look at one or two other countries. Having parliamentary control on what people learn might turn out to be a good thing.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

I just wonder why nobody seems to want the job. Is it toothless? What does the NASBE actually do, anyway? How much power does its president have? Can the president ram policy direction through the board without a majority vote? I would guess that the pres. doesn't have any real power.

My fear is that the president would be the chief lobbyist to Congress on behave of NASBE, so if there are no write-in winners, be prepared to send Nick Matzke and Genie up to the Hill on the East Coast on a regular basis.

Why should there be any organization controlling what people can learn? Aside from being ethically unjustifiable, it just creates a target for special interests to control - whoever controls the organization can influence the minds of hundreds of millions.

Centralization of power and authority is generally a bad idea - a principle our primate-hierarchial minds seem to have trouble grasping.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

@5

Which countries are you referring to, exactly?

JohnnieCanuck: Still, if the introduction of exotic species into new environments is any indication, there will be unforeseen consequences to be dealt with before we get very far along. We only have the one test tube to experiment in.

Certainly there are some legitimate concerns with GMO crops, which scientists are well aware of.

I would caution you from resorting to metamagical thinking (a la 'unforeseen consequences' whooOOoOOo!) regarding farming and GMO crops. Not to be harsh, but just because Behe doesnt *get* evolution and just because you dont *get* farming doesnt mean the people studying those subjects dont.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. Courts have repeatedly ruled that creationism and intelligent design are religious doctrines, not scientific theories.

Still, it's nice to read an article that doesn't mince words about intelligent design and the so-called 'challenges' to evolution.

For those of you outside the US, do you have problems with your school boards (if you have them) or is this primarily an American issue?

By Paguroidea (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

ERV, one needn't "get" farming nor rely on magical thinking to be aware of the enormous potential damage caused by introducing exotic forms of life (whether bioengineered or just foreign) into new ecosystems.

Perfectly mundane transportation of exotic organisms has already wreaked inestimable damage upon our artificial agricultural ecosystems.

See the European corn borer, the Chinese chestnut, and the Australian rabbit for examples of the sorts of harm that can be done.

Personally, I'm all in favor of GMO crops - if they're altered to produce no viable pollen or seeds. Keep any alterations out of the gene pool proper, and everything's fine. One more thing, though: label them.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

JBL, why dont you explain the rice reproductive cycle to me real quick. No Wiki.

Then Id like to hear how you think Golden Rice is going to take over Tokyo and succeed where Godzilla failed. Vitamin A gives rice X-ray vision, or something? Completing the biocaratenoid synthetic pathway turns nice, Natural rice into Gremlin rice?

I see the crazy free marketers have shown up. The major benefit of public schools is they attempt (imperfectly, but better than the invisible handjob which attempts the opposite) to break down class barriers.

In short, if the Libertarians get their way, poor kids will have poor educations which get them low paying service and labor jobs, and rich kids will have the best educations that give them the best salaries, and such a system will transform America into an impenetrable aristocracy in less than a generation. When we guarantee that everyone has an average (and always striving to be better) education, we break the positively reinforcing caste structure inherent in capitalist systems.

As a former local school board member, let me enlighten you a bit.

NASBE is an association of state boards of education. State boards, like the nutbar Kansas one, can belong...a potential pool of 50 boards. These boards are either appointed or elected mostly in partisan elections. I'm sure it is an association in name only, an opportunity to go to conventions.

There is the NASB (National Association of School Boards) which is an association of local school boards, which number in the thousands. Having been to a couple NASB conventions and state ASB conventions and training sessions I can tell you that most local boarmembers are intelligent laypersons who understaned the ID hoax. Sure, there are a number of those who are like Willard, but not many.

If you are concerned that creationists might take over your local board the best thing to do is run for a seat when it's open. If you're on the board that's one less available space for a creationist. Remember, a simple majority is needed to make policy. For my board the simple majority was 4.

Also, it would be wonderful if all board members were in possession of doctorates in pubic education policy but nearly all are just citizens. Our board had hosewives (albeit with undergrad degrees), a handyman, CPA, truck mechanic, administrative assistant, lawyers, and environmental consultant-turned-teacher. The state Association of School Boards has training available for new board members, also continuing education to keep veteran board members up to date on issues that affect their governance.

School administrations have a vested interest in educating and preparing their board members to make informed, intelligent policy decisions. The board's decisions directly affect how the district does its job. It is imperative that new board members quickly understand that their job is one of providing vision, resources, and oversight on the work towards that vision. Problematic boards are ones that tend to micromanage, or allow single-issue cretins to get elected to the board.

Ugh, 'carotenoid biosynthetic pathway', not 'biocaratenoid synthetic pathway'. I wish we could edit typos on ScienceBlogs.

And to Caledonian-- Do you honestly think that the scientists working on GMOs have never heard of an invasive species? Do you understand how an invasive species and creating a crop with a completed metabolic pathway are completely different things?

It's an American issue.

In the UK we have a national curriculum, this kind of nonsense doesn't happen in mainstream state schools.

The nutters take their kids out and "educate" them in their own self-funded schools, leaving everyone else's kids to an uncontaminated education. There are some state funded religious schools (mainly set up to cater for Catholics, Anglicans and Jews), but not many, and restricted to the biggest three faiths - although this might change since Muslims are getting in on the act and applying for funding, apparently religious schools are "divisive" all of a sudden.

It's causing us all kinds of amusement watching what's going on over there, it's difficult to believe that a "civilised" nation could make up something like intelligent design and then teach it to children as fact. But then, Scientology....

We don't need no education.

By Michael Behe (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

In short, if the Libertarians get their way, poor kids will have poor educations which get them low paying service and labor jobs, and rich kids will have the best educations that give them the best salaries, and such a system will transform America into an impenetrable aristocracy in less than a generation. When we guarantee that everyone has an average (and always striving to be better) education, we break the positively reinforcing caste structure inherent in capitalist systems.

The alternative seems to be as follows: tax everyone to pay for shoddy schools that have watered-down standards, can't remove troublesome children because everyone's entitled to attend, and are a laughingstock compared to schools in other, more civilized countries, and then the rich will pay to send their kids to quality educational establishments, while everyone who can't afford to pay both the tax and the price of a private school is stuck with the public system.

What precisely is the advantage of the Socialist strategy over the Libertarian?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

For those of you outside the US, do you have problems with your school boards (if you have them) or is this primarily an American issue?

On a day to day basis, at the moment, no it doesn't bother me.

When I see the likelihood of inculcated gross arrogance in the next generation of movers and shakers, hell yes - that bothers me.

Do you honestly think that the scientists working on GMOs have never heard of an invasive species?

Do you honestly think that the groups capable of genetic manipulation of plants particularly care? Not to mention that some engineered pathways might be able to transfer themselves to other species - guess what the consequences of letting herbicide resistance into the weed gene pool might be?

No one in this country thinks even five years into the future. It's all about immediate profit margins, and that kind of thinking is lethal.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

The alternative seems to be as follows: tax everyone to pay for shoddy schools that have watered-down standards, can't remove troublesome children because everyone's entitled to attend, and are a laughingstock compared to schools in other, more civilized countries, and then the rich will pay to send their kids to quality educational establishments, while everyone who can't afford to pay both the tax and the price of a private school is stuck with the public system.

(emphasis added) Caledonian, are you aware that those schools in other countries are public tax-dollar funded state run schools? If a straight comparison is what you're looking for then this would indicate that the problem with the schooling system in America is too little intervention from trained regulated professionals, and too much from John Q "let's-vote-ourselves-bread-and-circuses" Public.

The experience in Australia has been that State regulation makes it harder for special interest groups to gain control, not easier. You want to fix a rotten sytem, that's commendable - but you're fixing the wrong bit and throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

My 2 cents...

Willy's comments about running for school board positions sound great. I hope some of you pro-science folks do.

However, in rural small town America (or at least where I live) a person who doesn't attend church would never get elected no matter how well-qualified they were. They wouldn't be trusted by the Christians who make up almost the entire community. Hopefully, that will change in the future. In other places I've lived in the US, the topic of the church you attend would never be brought up in election for school board members.

However, in rural small town America (or at least where I live) a person who doesn't attend church would never get elected no matter how well-qualified they were. They wouldn't be trusted by the Christians who make up almost the entire community. Hopefully, that will change in the future. In other places I've lived in the US, the topic of the church you attend would never be brought up in election for school board members.

Posted by: Tessa | May 19, 2007 08:59 PM

In Lancaster, Minnesota, about 5 or 6 years ago some creationists gained control of the school board and fired a teacher for teaching evolution as science. The students rallied for him, but the vote was against him no matter what they said.

Without eternal vigilance it can happen here.

5 stars. Joe Bob says "check it out."

Caledonian, are you aware that those schools in other countries are public tax-dollar funded state run schools?

Yes.

Lee Harrison, are you aware that America is neither a sane nor civilized nation?

Do you have any idea why our public-tax-dollar-funded state-run schools are so pathetic when compared to other nations'? It's because we're crazy. Solutions which have worked in other places don't work here.

Foreign school systems work very differently than the ones here. Foreign cultures, in respect to their respect for knowledge in general and specific types of useful knowledge in particular, are very different from the American cultural attitude. It's comparing apples to oranges.

I don't think the communal-leaning people here are ready to implement, say, the German school model, in which there are different schools for students attending college/learning trades. Judging by Stogoe's comments, such a system (in which everyone doesn't receive the same education) would face violent rejection by the "progressive" elements here.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

Solutions which have worked in other places don't work here.

I'm not sure that they have actually been tried the same way, but I truly do sympathise. I appreciate the difficulty well enough to at least be damn glad I live in Australia, anyway :-)

I think this just means that there is a discussion yet to be had in America. As I said, I do sympathise, but I think a little antidisestablishmentarianism might be in order.

As you said, though - I don't live there.

Somewhat off topic but not by much, per Lawyers, Guns and Money, there is THIS. Is it real? Is it satire?

ERV @#14:
The reproductive cycle of rice? Seriously? How about I give you the genetic makeup of wheat, instead? Durum wheat (where your pasta comes from) it tetraploid, a hybrid formed from two distinct species or strains of grasses. Bread wheat is hexaploid -- it has three copies of the basic wheat genome. Grasses are notable as a family for producing large volumes of pollen and seed, and for reproducing both rapidly and widely. The properties that have allowed them to become the staple crops of much of the world are also properties that make them extremely weedy and difficult to wipe out, as well as making them among the species most likely to share genetic material with wild strains.

As Caldonian and I have noted, of course, it doesn't even require genetic modification for the introduction of exotic strains of plant, animal or microbiotic life to wreck an ecosystem and have substantial ecological (and, indeed, economic) fallout. Phragmites, for example, is a reed (actually, its common name is "common reed") which over the last 50 years or so has gone from being an innocuous wetland plant to a major invasive across the eastern United States. The reason? Introduced strains (of the same species!), probably from Europe, are for some reason drastically more agressive than the preexisting strains. It's now turning wetlands (as well as less important places like the sides of highways) into monocultures, posing a serious risk to the specialist species which rely on other reeds and grasses, and has even been implicated in wildfires in New York City.

Finally, you've at least twice raised this canard about "the [unnamed] scientists who study GMOs." The scientists who are responsible for producing GMOs are not tasked with, and have no specialty in, assessing the potential damage to the ecosystem from their creations, and the companies with the rights to their product have a strong profit incentive against proper testing. While I have no particular interest in banning GMOs or forbidding their creation, I do have a very strong interest in seeing that a damn good effort is put into making sure we're not just screwing ourselves so Monsanto's shareholders can make a profit.

(No Wiki use involved. :-p)

Glad to see P.Z. on the issue, though I wonder also whether this is something we need to get exercised over, if it's just a figurehead position (is it?).

But while I'm poking around on the issue, I remember: NASBE is the bunch that the Texas State Board of Education pulled out of in late 2005, because NASBE had a suggested curriculum against bullying and -- brace yourself -- the curriculum said it was a bad idea to allow bullying of homosexual kids in high schools. Without directly endorsing the idea that homosexuals should be bullied, Texas pulled out of NASBE.

But, just try to find that anti-bullying curriculum now. Can anyone find it? My links all go to "page no longer exists." I'm not finding it on search.

Maybe there's a lot more rotten at NASBE. Anybody know for sure?

Well then there's only one thing for you to do, PZ...

Run against him and win.

So Caledonian is in favor of an immovably stratified society where those who are born well off get all their successes handed to them, and those who are born female, poor, or nonwhite are destined to be the serfs of the rich white males.

Sounds good, if you can guarantee you're one of the rich white males. Caledonian might pass the grade, sure, but there are probably a good 85% of the world who'll be screwed by him.

Caledonian is a monster.

(I know, I know, keep them stupid and uneducated, and the serfs won't know any different.)

Michael Behe #19: "We don't need no education."

That thoughtful double-negative...which explicitly means WE NEED EDUCATION. Desperately. Right?

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

Caledonian wrote:

schools [...] can't remove troublesome children because everyone's entitled to attend

Wrong.

@Caledonian

The reason German-style schools wouldn't work here is because we have centuries-long history of racism and oppression such that race and social class are inextricably linked. Because IQ and school performance are most heavily determined by what social class you're born into (yes, class determines IQ, not the other way around) means that we'd end up with all the darker skinned people in the lower and trade school tracks and a nice fair-skinned elite level with a smattering of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean kids mixed in for diversity. Notice I didn't say Asian because the Vietnamese, Filipino, and pretty much all of the rest of Asia would be with the rest of the brown-skinned kids.

Caledonian: there are plenty of examples of successful state school systems that don't stream early or at all. Australia, New Zealand, England, and Scotland to name a few. Even in Europe where streaming is the norm, it is not necessarily a barrier to higher education. If one fails to make the grade for a university track high school, you can still take the extra classes and go to university. It will take you a year or two longer though.

Lee @27 - It would be difficult to have antidisestablishmentarianism in the US: in effect they disestablished in 1776.

Someone else can provide the Princess Bride quote.

Bob

for #35

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.

"Wrong, Do it again!"
"If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?"
"You! Yes, you behind the bikesheds, stand still laddy!"

"I'd suggest a short look at one or two other countries."

David,

I grew up mostly outside of the USA; I've lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Germany. In Germany, for example, even though there is public funding for education, the money is attached to the student, and parents are free to choose their child's school, whether public or private. The upshot is that ALL of their schools are far better than ours, because they have to compete. A school run by creationists in Germany would be laughed out of business in a month.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

"if the Libertarians get their way, poor kids will have poor educations "

Oh, for crying out loud. A lot of poor kids in America don't get an education AT ALL today, they get incompetent babysitting at a cost to the taxpayers that's considerably above a typical private school tuition. If you're going to trot out your class warfare rhetoric as an argument in favor of our public school system, you're going to have to do far better than that.

If you honestly cared about poor children, you wouldn't be satisfied with the NEA cartel's "just give us more money and don't ask any questions about performance" BS that they've been selling us since the 1970's.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

ERV writes:

I would caution you from resorting to metamagical thinking (a la 'unforeseen consequences' whooOOoOOo!) regarding farming and GMO crops. Not to be harsh, but just because Behe doesnt *get* evolution and just because you dont *get* farming doesnt mean the people studying those subjects dont.

In my life, I've seldom seen scientists make the effort necessary, or even discuss the long-term consequences, of their mistakes when it comes the environment, food-supply, etc. Sure, a few of them might write a toothless and vague letter to the editor every now and then. Or sign some document with a bunch of other "concerned" scientists. But very few ever go to the lengths of a Rachel Carson and actual do anything worth a darn to fight the problems their collegues rush head-long into. So chiding others for acknowledging the potential problems and being concerned about unacknowledge/unforseen consequences is, well, bullshit.

Posted by: Caledonian

I don't think the communal-leaning people here are ready to implement, say, the German school model, in which there are different schools for students attending college/learning trades. Judging by Stogoe's comments, such a system (in which everyone doesn't receive the same education) would face violent rejection by the "progressive" elements here.

You so don't know what you're talking about. And it's so clear that you're massively distorting the issue to convince people who don't know better that your bankrupt educational philosophy has merit.

We have this here, in most major cities, in America, right now. My daughter, being in the Top 1% in her school system through elementary school, is now going to a feeder middle school (magnet program for Math & Science) for one of the Top-100 (Top-25 actually) high schools in America.

And, we had this in the past. My wife went to one of the Top-40 high schools in America, it was a gifted and talented program. My best friend in college went to a public HS that was, in it's time, one of the best HS in America (Bronx HS of Science). Both of which were, and remain, elite high schools.

OTOH, even in your regular public high schools, the track system exists. You have your college prep track, your general track and your trade-level/blue-collar track.

As for me, I went to a private HS for most of it. Due to a late-year move, my brother and I spent part of one year in a public high school. Tell you the truth, even though out private schools was "supposed" to be a great school, the results were spotty.

First, we used the same books, though the private school books were, in many subjects, a full revision (or two) older (that pesky profit motive there). Second, in most classes, the public school students were within pages of what we'd learned (except Chemistry, where my old school was a full semester ahead, but that was because we didn't do experiments (darn those costly chemicals hurt the profit margin) in my private HS).

A third issue was the teacher turn-over and quality. Fact of the matter is the bottom line profitability meant that teachers were under-paid. We had some great young teachers. All of whom left for public schools. And, ironically, it's still that way, today, at the local private schools in my medium sized American city.

Another issue was the teachers that didn't leave, were usually pathetic. We had a hack creationist biology teacher who refused to teach sex education. Our history teacher was drunk from 8:00AM until he left. Our brutally sadistic coach finally got fired after he got caught having sex with one of the girls on the softball team.

One more problem with your comment is the bullshit strawman. The REAL policy is "everyone is entitled to the same ACCESS to the opportunites of education." Not 'everyone is entitled to the same education.' And while they can't "kick trouble makers out," under the 'access to opportunities' doctrine, they do have warehouse schools for these disciplinarian problems; places where they go to ruin their lives without disturbing the students there to learn.

Personally, I'm all in favor of GMO crops - if they're altered to produce no viable pollen or seeds. Keep any alterations out of the gene pool proper, and everything's fine.

Except third world farmers are screwed, again.

Nobody likes the short-sighted tactics of Monsanto et al, but I would still point out that we have been unwittingly leaking modified genes and genomes into the environment since 10000 BC. Is it more important that those genes were modified by traditional means, or is it more important to try to predict the effects?

Wrong.

Kseniya, I went through the US public school system. I have a younger sibling who's a schoolteacher. It is far, far harder for public schools to get rid of troublesome children than it is for private - they just go around and around the revolving door.

windy, Third-World farmers are already screwed. Hybrid plants have to be purchased from the source every time they're planted. Many of the open-pollinated strains that they used to plant have been patented by corporations and cannot be legally used unless a fee is paid - which is usually greater than the amount being charged for the hybrids.

See Iraq and the changes that came in with biopatenting law embedded in their new constitution.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

OTOH, even in your regular public high schools, the track system exists. You have your college prep track, your general track and your trade-level/blue-collar track.

It's clear that you know virtually nothing about the German system, or you wouldn't be comparing our system with theirs. It is fundamentally different.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I would caution you from resorting to metamagical thinking (a la 'unforeseen consequences' whooOOoOOo!) regarding farming and GMO crops.

How is "unforeseen consequences" metamagical thinking or whoohoo. They happen all the time, much as we try we often fail to take into account something.

It's obvious to anyone with a decent knowledge of biology that what goes one way goes the other (HGT), and using an antibiotics resistance gene as a marker gene might be a dumb idea. It's obvious to anyone who has a smidgen of understanding of evolution that pouring massive amounts of herbicide on plant populations will produce herbicide reistant plants. These are just two things that didn't occur to the comcompnies producing GMOs.

I think maybe the companies and scientists involved are the ones that need chiding for metamagical thinking, that being that "if I don't investigate possible consequences then there won't be any"

Perhaps we could encourage more atheists to run for spots on their local school boards. I think it is important that the reality-based community be represented, especially in education.

#28,
Wow! Not sure myself but if it *is* real then satire has just become pointless. Someone please tell the Onion to pack it up.

By Fernando Magyar (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Stogoe, the pseudo-caste system that you so despise is precisely what the current system is producing. As convenient as I'm sure it must be to label your ideological opponents as class-obsessed elitists, sooner or later you're going to have to acknowledge that the educational system model you favor simply doesn't work very well.

You're also going to have to discard the idea that going to college is a magic ticket to quality jobs and social mobility.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Third-World farmers are already screwed. Hybrid plants have to be purchased from the source every time they're planted. Many of the open-pollinated strains that they used to plant have been patented by corporations and cannot be legally used unless a fee is paid - which is usually greater than the amount being charged for the hybrids.

That's absolutely true, but it seems that requiring biotech companies to make their GM seeds sterile would only give them more power to control what crops are grown. Monsanto already tried it with the "Terminator" technology.

Well GMOs are turning into a wonderfully fitting side conversation for a post on Creationism. Arguments from incredulity and arguments from arrogance and magical thinking all over the place. Yay.

JBL--The properties that have allowed them to become the staple crops of much of the world are also properties that make them extremely weedy and difficult to wipe out, as well as making them among the species most likely to share genetic material with wild strains.

Well boogadeeboogadee. So youre against rice/wheat/etc in general then? Or just against GMO rice/wheat/etc because Vitamin A will turn rice into Evil Rice that takes over Tokyo? You didnt answer me as to why this is so eeeeeeevil. Do you think Golden Rice is going to take over the planet? What is your argument here?

JBL--As Caldonian and I have noted, of course, it doesn't even require genetic modification for the introduction of exotic strains of plant, animal or microbiotic life to wreck an ecosystem and have substantial ecological (and, indeed, economic) fallout. Phragmites, for example, is a reed...

So you have no idea what the difference is between a GMO and an invasive species, yet thats not stopping you from talking condescendingly about people who do plant genetics for a living. Arg you are SO acting like a Creationist! Stop it!

JBL--The scientists who are responsible for producing GMOs are not tasked with, and have no specialty in, assessing the potential damage to the ecosystem from their creations...

Do you even know anyone who does plant genetics? My undergrad genetics professor was originally part of the Golden Rice team, until they decided to get the necessary genes from daffodils instead of corn. We spent about a month of intro genetics talking about the 'ethics' of GMOs/cloning/etc! I mean, at least at my university, ecology and ethics courses were required for biology majors. Where do you get off saying 'they dont know what theyre doing, and they dont care?' This is the pharma shill line in pretty new bonnet!

JBL--I do have a very strong interest in seeing that a damn good effort is put into making sure we're not just screwing ourselves so Monsanto's shareholders can make a profit.

OMG do you have any idea how much red-tape you have to go through to plant a GMO?? Especially one for human consumption?? UGH!

Moses--In my life, I've seldom seen scientists make the effort necessary, or even discuss the long-term consequences, of their mistakes when it comes the environment, food-supply, etc.

Except again for my professor, who was regularly invited to give presentations on GMOs and GMO ethics at other institutions, and even gave one at my request once for a charity 'hunger banquet' I was organizing.
Here we have the 'Scientists and their Ivory Towers' line in a different sun-dress. Have you even looked for a local presentation on GMOs? Have you asked your local university if they sponsor science outreach presentations that are open to the public? Where do you get off making this statement?

1) Pay teachers well. Train them well.

2) Reduce school and class sizes (drastically).

3) Eliminate bureacracy. Abolish school boards.

4) Eliminate support for the textbook industry.

5) Stop the practice of teaching to the test.

6) Mainstream those with disabilities, fast-track those who are gifted.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

GMO = ever-expanding corporatization of agriculture, loss of local control, loss of crop diversity.

That's my understanding.

Do we really want a few giant corporations to have so much control over the world's agriculture?

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

If I may interject something back on topic, there's a reason that the cream doesn't rise to the top in school board land. It's an unpaid elected position, although some towns offer board members medical insurance plans during their time of service. It requires many, many hours of work, and meetings can involve being bashed by the public until the wee hours of the morning. Campaigning can be a killer, because in small towns there are factions, there are groups of friends and family that have all but taken over in both employed and elected positions, and if you're a good-hearted, honest person who really has the welfare of the students in mind, you might not be able to handle the assaults. Your opponents write letters to the local papers - sometimes they're the editors of the local papers, so don't even think about getting any endorsements or praise. They're on all the internet forums, spewing venom and calling your character into question. The stuff they'll say about you in their mass-mailed campaign literature could give you PTSD. If, somehow, you manage to get elected to the post, you'll face active opposition from other board members, and even more of the kind of publicity that dogged your campaign. Local politics is a tight-knit boys' club (girls too, but you know what I mean) that's hard to beat. Anyone who's not part of the machine has to be thick skinned and aggressive, quick with a comeback, willing to fight fire with fire. People who are caring and compassionate, who want to see changes, just don't usually fit this mold, and I've seen such people become emotional wrecks after trying to run for a school board position.

This is why you see the people who grew up in town together, went to the same church all their lives, and share the same viewpoints and similar education levels rising through the ranks. You pretty much have to already belong to get into the club. Before anything can be improved, that system has to change.

As the income disparity increases, I certainly see more people with less education getting appointed or elected into educational positions. This is because the relative worth of an well educated individual will grow upwards from the mean that people are used to for tax-payer paid individuals. People are not going to be willing to pay $40-50k for a teacher, even though MS or even BS degree can easily get you that in the marketplace, especially when more than half of all Americans make less than that. While majority of Americans are falling behind in the curve for growth, the well-qualified portion of the population is growing rabidly outside the reach of publicly funded institutions.

That's absolutely true, but it seems that requiring biotech companies to make their GM seeds sterile would only give them more power to control what crops are grown. Monsanto already tried it with the "Terminator" technology.

How so? In the current system, the genetically-altered crops can easily contaminate crops that farmers want to keep unchanged. The farmers then cannot sell their crops as non-GMO, and the corporations charge the farmer for growing their patented strain - under current law, it doesn't matter if the crop was intentional or not, or desired or not: if it's found growing in the fields, the farmer must pay. It cripples anyone who wants to grow open strains.

With hybrids, we're already required to buy from the same source year after year if we want the same result. Farmers can't plant seeds taken from their previous crop without unleashing the wild unpredictability of F2 crosses.

How exactly do sterile-pollen and -seeded GM crops make things worse?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

There's a reason I included the disclaimer that universal public education was imperfect. It's because it is. But it's still the best way to combat the caste system.

Privatization and blind faith in the invisible handjob will do nothing but drive up costs and concentrate wealth, power, and education even moreso into those lineages that already possess it.

Take a look at the current health care industry for just a taste of what education will look like if we privatize. No education at all for tens of millions of people, and prohibitively high costs for even the most basic schooling.

Well, at least we can sue for malpractice. That solves everything.

Since I retired, I volunteer in my local middle school in the science class. WOW! What an eye opener THAT was. My usual venue is medical and graduate students, so public schools were a big change for me. For one thing, the classes are huge. In one class there are 31 students, 16 of them are "self contained". This is newspeak for "impaired in some way" They're (I don't know the PC words for these) retarded, autistic, ADHD, and a bunch of other acronyms I don't know.

There's supposed to be a special ed teacher to help, but he shows up for 10 minutes and then leaves. Apparently the school can't afford to hire enough so that each class can have one, so he has to rotate.

Students wander around the classroom, lie on the floor, refuse to do the work. When the parents are called, they respond in ridiculous manners. Here's an example: "Hello, your son is disruptive in class and doesn't want to work". Parent: "My child doesn't like your class, you should play music for him"

One child routinely doesn't turn in his homework. The teacher rags on him. Finally he responded: My father pointed a shotgun at me and threw me out of the house last night. Yes, I believe him, his father is an ex-con who is frequently drunk. That sure beats "the dog ate my homework". Another girl has head lice. The county health department cleaned up her house twice and replaced the furniture. She gets lice again. She's too embarrassed to come to school.

I should point out that we are not in Georgia (apologies), we're in a rich suburb of DC. Our county ranks 13th in the country in wealth, and our students are regularly on "It's Academic". The NIH is here, The U of MD has a campus here, by any standard, we're well off. Not bragging.

How bad is it in poor states/counties?

SG

By Science Goddess (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

But it's still the best way to combat the caste system.

Point #1: The purpose of education is to educate, not accomplish social-engineering goals.

Point #2: The best way to accomplish the social-engineering goal of avoiding a stratified society is to give people the opportunity to receive a quality education, not trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education.

Point #3: Trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education is utterly pointless. Those families who have the capacity to ensure their children have other options available will do so, so the most well-off will avoid the public schools if those schools cannot offer a good education. Everyone who can't - particularly those without money / time to arrange for private schooling or do it themselves - will be stuck with a garbage education that doesn't give them the capacity to do much of anything.

Given that the strategy you're embracing leads directly to the outcome you claim to want to prevent, I can only conclude that your position has less to do with observing reality and responding to it then forwarding an ideology that gains in influence when its crazy conclusions are treated as truth.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,

You keep talking someone trying to force "everyone to receive the same low-quality education". Where do you see this?

I love it, the creationists want to destroy public schools and turn them in to religious schools, the libertarians want to destroy public schools and turn them in to businesses.

I came from a state that had a very advanced voucher program and moved to one that has a very high number of charter schools. I can tell you that most of those schools, in both categories, suck. With the voucher schools they found that with the exception of the preexisting religious schools (Catholic and Lutheran), who also got to cherry pick their students eliminating any candidates with low scores, special needs, or behavioral issues, they did statistically well ... truly surprising [/end sarcasm]. The others?

Curriculum: downloaded worksheets from the internet.

Field trips to Mcdonalds.

Classrooms with no books, teachers ... oh, and no kids, but they were receiving vouchers for them.

A principal who falsely doubled his enrollement and bought matching Mercedes for his wife and himself.

In my current state? The charter schools are notorious for being diploma mills. Kids 3-4 semesters behind "graduate" in a couple of weeks. Of course they can't pass the state's high stakes testing, and have a hard time spelling "Cat" if you spotted them a "C" and an "A," but they have that deploama that showed they gradumagated.

Caledonia,

It isn't that difficult to remove students from a school or school district. We have a simple point system. If you have so many disciplinary incidents (of a high enough point value) you eventually get a 10 day suspension while the governing board evaluates your case and you go "bye bye." It isn't that difficult. You have a property right to education, that doesn't mean that right cannot be taken away through due process. It all depends on state and local laws and on the district's willingness to go through the process.

It is amusing, generally libertarians favor local control, but then decry how local control has established schools that don't function as well as they might if they had higher standards and centralized guidelines. The response? Privatize schools. Which of course would create even fewer controls and, thus far (as evidenced by my examples above) has produced poorer schools than the kids were attending in the first place. The response? "Competition will make them better." After how many generations? So far the corporate schools have shown a tendency to provide lower standards, lower quality teachers, equipment, and opportunities. They've gone through and weeded out the kids with learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and low test scores, and they've still failed. It's been a while since I've read the journals, but I believe it was San Francisco that turned over a number of their schools to a private business that was going to turn their schools around for them. All of the negative elements I mentioned took place prior to the city kicking the business out of their schools and terminating the contract. The end result? The business failed, both financially, and more importantly, educationally. They ended up with kids that were even less prepared to lead even remotely successful lives.

1) Pay teachers well. Train them well.
2) Reduce school and class sizes (drastically).

Your first two, I agree with whole heartedly, but where is the money going to come from? You'll have plenty of support until you mention that horrific "T" word. If you don't have that "cut" word in front of it, folks will freak out, especially those red state'ers.

3) Eliminate bureacracy. Abolish school boards.

You're going to have a lot of oppositon to this. People love their local control. Also it's been my experience that the boards don't create that much bureaucracy. Large city districts will generally have roughly the same size school boards as small districts, but vastly greater numbers of paper pushers and bureaucrats.

4) Eliminate support for the textbook industry.

You're going to have a major problem with this one. Two states, California and Texas, effectively dominate textbook purchases. I'd love to hear what your solution is though.

5) Stop the practice of teaching to the test.

Depends on what you mean by teaching to the test.

6) Mainstream those with disabilities, fast-track those who are gifted.

I agree with this to a degree, but what about those with disabilities that impact the learning of other students? Also it can be quite challenging to teach a mixed class. You have to balance assisting the disabled students with keeping the non-disabled students engaged. If you shift too far in one direction, you lose the disabled students, if you shift too far in the other direction, the non-disabled students become bored and you lose them. Shake up the mix with a few students with differing disabilities, and you really have fun. ;o)

I have to wonder, not that I disagree with you, but is it fair to include disabled students, but establish special classrooms for gifted students?

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I love it, the creationists want to destroy public schools and turn them in to religious schools, the libertarians want to destroy public schools and turn them in to businesses.

I came from a state that had a very advanced voucher program and moved to one that has a very high number of charter schools. I can tell you that most of those schools, in both categories, suck. With the voucher schools they found that with the exception of the preexisting religious schools (Catholic and Lutheran), who also got to cherry pick their students eliminating any candidates with low scores, special needs, or behavioral issues, they did statistically well ... truly surprising [/end sarcasm]. The others?

Curriculum: downloaded worksheets from the internet.

Field trips to Mcdonalds.

Classrooms with no books, teachers ... oh, and no kids, but they were receiving vouchers for them.

A principal who falsely doubled his enrollement and bought matching Mercedes for his wife and himself.

In my current state? The charter schools are notorious for being diploma mills. Kids 3-4 semesters behind "graduate" in a couple of weeks. Of course they can't pass the state's high stakes testing, and have a hard time spelling "Cat" if you spotted them a "C" and an "A," but they have that deploama that showed they gradumagated.

Caledonia,

It isn't that difficult to remove students from a school or school district. We have a simple point system. If you have so many disciplinary incidents (of a high enough point value) you eventually get a 10 day suspension while the governing board evaluates your case and you go "bye bye." It isn't that difficult. You have a property right to education, that doesn't mean that right cannot be taken away through due process. It all depends on state and local laws and on the district's willingness to go through the process.

It is amusing, generally libertarians favor local control, but then decry how local control has established schools that don't function as well as they might if they had higher standards and centralized guidelines. The response? Privatize schools. Which of course would create even fewer controls and, thus far (as evidenced by my examples above) has produced poorer schools than the kids were attending in the first place. The response? "Competition will make them better." After how many generations? So far the corporate schools have shown a tendency to provide lower standards, lower quality teachers, equipment, and opportunities. They've gone through and weeded out the kids with learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and low test scores, and they've still failed. It's been a while since I've read the journals, but I believe it was San Francisco that turned over a number of their schools to a private business that was going to turn their schools around for them. All of the negative elements I mentioned took place prior to the city kicking the business out of their schools and terminating the contract. The end result? The business failed, both financially, and more importantly, educationally. They ended up with kids that were even less prepared to lead even remotely successful lives.

1) Pay teachers well. Train them well.
2) Reduce school and class sizes (drastically).

Your first two, I agree with whole heartedly, but where is the money going to come from? You'll have plenty of support until you mention that horrific "T" word. If you don't have that "cut" word in front of it, folks will freak out, especially those red state'ers.

3) Eliminate bureacracy. Abolish school boards.

You're going to have a lot of oppositon to this. People love their local control. Also it's been my experience that the boards don't create that much bureaucracy. Large city districts will generally have roughly the same size school boards as small districts, but vastly greater numbers of paper pushers and bureaucrats.

4) Eliminate support for the textbook industry.

You're going to have a major problem with this one. Two states, California and Texas, effectively dominate textbook purchases. I'd love to hear what your solution is though.

5) Stop the practice of teaching to the test.

Depends on what you mean by teaching to the test.

6) Mainstream those with disabilities, fast-track those who are gifted.

I agree with this to a degree, but what about those with disabilities that impact the learning of other students? Also it can be quite challenging to teach a mixed class. You have to balance assisting the disabled students with keeping the non-disabled students engaged. If you shift too far in one direction, you lose the disabled students, if you shift too far in the other direction, the non-disabled students become bored and you lose them. Shake up the mix with a few students with differing disabilities, and you really have fun. ;o)

I have to wonder, not that I disagree with you, but is it fair to include disabled students, but establish special classrooms for gifted students?

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Remarkable: a prime example of individuals exploiting government handouts is offered as an example of why it's important for governments to offer handouts.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Apologies for the double post (no, this isn't a triple post to do that)... ;o)

Caledonia,

A few problems with your argument:

Point #1: The purpose of education is to educate, not accomplish social-engineering goals.

Actually this isn't quite true. Education has had multiple purposes dating all the way back to the "Old Deluder Act" of 1647. Social engineering and cultural indoctrination have been part of the overall goal for about as long as there has been education in this country.

Point #2: The best way to accomplish the social-engineering goal of avoiding a stratified society is to give people the opportunity to receive a quality education, not trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education.

I hear this a lot. Upon what do you base your claim that public education is low-quality education and private education is high-quality education?

Point #3: Trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education is utterly pointless. Those families who have the capacity to ensure their children have other options available will do so, so the most well-off will avoid the public schools if those schools cannot offer a good education. Everyone who can't - particularly those without money / time to arrange for private schooling or do it themselves - will be stuck with a garbage education that doesn't give them the capacity to do much of anything.

Again with this unsubstantiated claim that public education is low-quality while private education is high-quality. Is your goal actually to improve education, or are you simply pushing for the elimination of public education so you no longer have to pay taxes to support it?

Given that the strategy you're embracing leads directly to the outcome you claim to want to prevent, I can only conclude that your position has less to do with observing reality and responding to it then forwarding an ideology that gains in influence when its crazy conclusions are treated as truth.

The strategy that you are embracing not only isn't proven to improve education, studies examining areas where privatization of education has been implemented have shown, with few exceptions, that the quality of education goes down, not up. Who does it hurt? The children who need that education the most. Contrary to your assertions, private education is not a panacea, it doesn't solve the problems of our educational system (which isn't as bad as you would have people believe), and in most of the cases where it has been implemented, private education has made the situation worse, not better, impacting the poor and minority students disproportionately.

Now if you were talking partnerships, like what the Gates foundation has been piloting, or Dell has been attempting, I would agree with you somewhat. But a simpistic libertarian "market forces" argument to improving education doesn't work, hasn't worked, and wont work.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Remarkable: a prime example of individuals exploiting government handouts is offered as an example of why it's important for governments to offer handouts.

Ahhh, so it is simple self interest and opposition to taxation that motivates you.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Actually this isn't quite true. Education has had multiple purposes dating all the way back to the "Old Deluder Act" of 1647. Social engineering and cultural indoctrination have been part of the overall goal for about as long as there has been education in this country.

Let's rephrase that: the purpose of education ought to be education, not social indoctrination or engineering. (Your point is still incorrect, though: the earliest systems of education in this country were entirely about the acquisition of technical skills.)

I hear this a lot. Upon what do you base your claim that public education is low-quality education and private education is high-quality education?

What claim?

Again with this unsubstantiated claim that public education is low-quality while private education is high-quality.

I think you have some problems with reading comprehension.

Contrary to your assertions, private education is not a panacea

Hmm?

it doesn't solve the problems of our educational system (which isn't as bad as you would have people believe)

Bwa?

How about we only take tips on how to run an education system from people with a demonstrated ability to read and understand arguments?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

You're going to have a lot of oppositon to this. People love their local control.

Maybe the solution is to have more school boards. Statistics:

Just a couple of generations ago, it probably seemed that there was a school board on every corner. Neighbors bumped into their board members in the grocery store, sat with them in church and debated with them about the football team across the backyard fence.

That was certainly the case in 1933, when there were about 127,000 school boards across the country.

Today, that number has shriveled to 15,000 as America has moved from having a school board for every political ward or school to electing boards that govern larger districts.
http://www.post-gazette.com/localnews/20031130boardsmainlocal2p2.asp

With smaller schools, and more of them, if someone doesn't like a school board's choices, they should have an opportunity to put their child(ren) in a different school.

Yes, it's a pipedream and I'm talking off the top of my head but the current system is not working.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Libertarians argue for a return to - in essence - a feudal society, because they can't imagine themselves in any position but the top. Thus it is a failure of empathy that drives these twenty-something, white, male sociopaths.

Caledonian, show me how turning our education system into a for-profit industry won't drive us further, faster into an immovable caste system than universal public education does(as you suggest).

Ahhh, so now Caledonian has stooped to personal slights, the age old standby, "reading comprehension" attack.

How could I possibly take "not trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education." and "Trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education is utterly pointless" to imply that you find public education to be low quality. Wherever did I get that idea? (rolls eyes)

Let's rephrase that: the purpose of education ought to be education, not social indoctrination or engineering. (Your point is still incorrect, though: the earliest systems of education in this country were entirely about the acquisition of technical skills.)

Actually, no, they weren't. It was just as important to "Americanize" the children as it was to provide them with technical skills. The skills, while important, were a means to an end.

"How about we only take tips on how to run an education system from people with a demonstrated ability to read and understand arguments?"

I understand your flawed argument quite well, thank you. You use all of the buzzwords of voucher and charter school advocates, choice, options, etc., which is why I provided you with some examples of how well those systems have worked.

Of course I bothered to respond to your arguments prior to realizing that you were simply a selfish tax objector who benefitted from a system before wanting to deny it to others. Your public education is over ergo, eliminate public education.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

CalGeorge,

Don't get me wrong, I agree with most of your ideas (and maybe your increasing the number of school boards idea might work), the problem is, it is going to run in to selfish (as Stogoe put it) Fuedalists like Caledonian who not only wont want to invest the money for reforms like those you suggested, they want to cut funding and if possible eliminate it all together.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Actually, no, they weren't. It was just as important to "Americanize" the children as it was to provide them with technical skills. The skills, while important, were a means to an end.

Um, skills were the primary emphasis of apprenticeships. Making contacts and possibly inheriting a business were the others.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

It may be easier to kick people out of private schools, but that does not mean they actually do it. The rule at my private middle school was 15 detentions and you were expelled. The school was pretty lenient, 20 was hard to get and most people only had at most 1 or 2. But a few people had at least 5 times that number and weren't suspended, not to mention expelled. In the end I went to a public magnet school for high school. The standards at the private high schools were extremely low, it was pretty much impossible to get below an A and you had to try extremely hard to get below a B. Most of the people I knew who went to private high school are now bouncing around majors, dropped out of college entirely, or are working in low-paying jobs trying to crawl their way up. Many of the people from my private high school went into medicine, engineering, science, went on to get advanced degrees, own their own business, etc. It seems that the private schools were not set up to give a top education and definitely not to prepare people for the real world. They were set up to keep rich parents happy as long as they were paying tuition. Now I can't generalize that to every part of the country, but there were many private schools in my area and they all operated about the same.

By TheBlackCat (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Just to cut through all the nonsense, what we need to recognize is that the education of children is a communal goal which requires a community investment of resources, and which should be applied equally to all children. People who try to shoehorn that into a capitalistic model are simply nuts. Won't work. They are asking to perpetuate inequality and injustice.

OK, it will work if you don't mind inequality and injustice. I think we should be better than that.

Market forces tend to be harsh to people who can't distinguish between a quality product and garbage.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Um, skills were the primary emphasis of apprenticeships. Making contacts and possibly inheriting a business were the others.

Apprenticeships weren't public education, they weren't part of the system we were talking about. Apprenticeships weren't part of the Old Satan act, they weren't part of the Northwest Ordinance, they weren't part of the land grant system, there was no requirement that individual states provide apprenticeships. Jefferson, Madison, etc., didn't speak of apprenticeships or the need for them. Jeeze, you make a comment about someone else's intellect and you come up with this dipshit argument? To be fair, you may have just provided your strongest evidence against public education ... you.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

People who try to shoehorn that into a capitalistic model are simply nuts.

Denying resources to failing subsystems is nuts?

I can't help noticing that people here are rejecting the concept of communities investing their resources into schools.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Apprenticeships weren't public education, they weren't part of the system we were talking about.

No, they weren't part of the system you were talking about. There was no we.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

PZ,

I agree completely. It's interesting that people who favor market systems, who value investments and profits, can't seem to comprehend that universal public education is an investment. I guess its just selfishness and/or short sightedness.

I wonder how many cures for diseases, inventions, great works of art and literature this country has thrown away because of the inequities of our educational system. All so guys like Caledonian can have a couple more bucks in their pockets at the end of the year.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Apprenticeships weren't public education, they weren't part of the system we were talking about.

No, they weren't part of the system you were talking about. There was no we.

We being the intelligent people discussing this issue, public education, you probably were right to remove yourself from the "we." So now we have the shell game approach to debate. As you lose ground in the discussion, shift the topic to a tangential issue that is loosely related to the original topic in an attempt to change the focus to one more amenable to your position. So, what you're saying is that we should implement a system of apprenticeships, selling our children to businesses who will then train them to the level that they want to train them while treating them in whatever way they believe is appropriate? I don't want to misinterpret what you're saying, but you seem to be advocating a return to apprenticeships. If so, we could also return to selling children in orphanages to textile mills, their little fingers are so deft and agile.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

The value of market systems is not that they prevent failure in the short term, but that they punish failure and reward success. The standards that define failure and success determine how the system changes as some strategies thrive and others wither.

Whether educational systems are communal or private is in the short-term irrelevant - all that matters is that rigorous standards be applied that discourage maladaptive strategies and encourage adaptive ones. Market forces are (sometimes) an effective way of making people pay attention and supply resources to the best systems.

The real problem here is that Americans don't want to have to think for extended periods of time, they don't want to be bothered weighing scholastic options, and they don't want to have to make hard choices.

I rather suspect this is why the American economy has degraded as far as it has: people buy for convenience, not quality, and very few bother exercising discretion and judgment.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Denying resources to failing subsystems is nuts?

I can't help noticing that people here are rejecting the concept of communities investing their resources into schools.

Which subsystems are failing?

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

The value of market systems is not that they prevent failure in the short term, but that they punish failure and reward success. The standards that define failure and success determine how the system changes as some strategies thrive and others wither.

Some very serious problems with this argument. You're forgetting that the government had to step in and punish businesses in the late 19th and early 20th century not because they were not successful, but because they were too successful. Businesses were guilty of exploiting their workers, customers, resources, the environment, government itself, etc. I love how people who advocate market driven systems simply ignore the corruption, abject poverty, horrendous working conditions, poor quality products, etc. Unregulated free market systems created the need for socialism (which you so readily sneered at).

Whether educational systems are communal or private is in the short-term irrelevant - all that matters is that rigorous standards be applied that discourage maladaptive strategies and encourage adaptive ones. Market forces are (sometimes) an effective way of making people pay attention and supply resources to the best systems.

This is where your ignorance trips you up. Your knowledge of public education appears to be based upon news excerpts from Faux news with an occasional editorial from the Wall Street Journal. I provided you with a number of examples of efforts to use market forces to make people pay attention to education and "supply resources to the best systems." A vast majority of these efforts have been dismal failures. The problem with this approach is, a dismal failure doesn't mean you get to recall the product and repair its flaws. It means you create hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people who cannot function in our society. I'm not talking about just the kids in these failed "free market" schools, I'm talking about their kids, their grandchildren, etc. That is the primary reason we have multigenerational poverty. Intentionally poor educational systems were meant to keep minorities undereducated. You can't expect underfunded schools to correct generations of intentionally substandard education. They have to first overcome their overcrowding, lack of funding, etc., and then they have to overcome the ingrained lack of respect for education that was instilled in these people intentionally by the leaders who wanted them to effectively only be able to work in their factories (or on their farms) and be able to sign the dotted line to buy and sell things.

The real problem here is that Americans don't want to have to think for extended periods of time, they don't want to be bothered weighing scholastic options, and they don't want to have to make hard choices.

Wow, talk about overgeneralizations. A huge part of the problem that faces Americans today is directly related to your market system and market forces that you seem to cherish so much when it suits you. American families have to have dual incomes just to pay their bills. Sometimes they have to have three or more jobs to pay for those things that your free market has convinced them they must have. This is especially true because your free market has decided that the formerly high paying manufacturing jobs with good benefits can be done overseas for far less money, increasing the profits for their investors. It's funny, you tout the free market system, but when the results of the free market system don't fit in to the utopian idea you seem to see it as, you blame the victims of the system for its flaws.

I rather suspect this is why the American economy has degraded as far as it has: people buy for convenience, not quality, and very few bother exercising discretion and judgment.

Yeah, it has nothing to do with outsourcing, or poor American built products not being competitive, or corporate welfare, or off shore accounts denying to the country tax revenue, or superior foreign built products, or short sighted business plans, or any of the other free market forces. It's just the poor judgement of the consumer ... probably that public education system's fault again.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I'll slip into metaphor for a while:

We all have eggs that we want to get to market. Getting them there is the goal and the purpose. We could each pack and carry our own baskets, so that people who did both wisely would prosper and people who did neither wisely would lose their eggs, the long-term goal being to encourage people to invest effort and consideration in how the eggs are packed and delivered. We could designate qualified individuals to pack and carry a few large baskets, the long-term goal being to encourage people to invest effort and consideration in selecting the egg-carriers. The ultimate goal being to move the eggs, one strategy or another might be better or worse in particular circumstances.

With lazy people who can't be bothered to think, neither strategy will work. Many eggs will be lost, either way, because either people won't bother to pack and carry the eggs with due care, or they won't select the people who'll do both with due care.

All in all, if there's a minority of people who are willing to put in the mental effort (and there's no harder kind), they're better off having everyone be responsible for their own small baskets. That way they can carry their own properly without being liable for the foolishness of others. Once enough of the people who would choose the egg-carriers stop taking the trouble to think, everyone's eggs are put in unsafe hands.

People don't want to be bothered to think. They just want to feel that their eggs are taken away so they don't have to devote mental effort to them any more. With such people, having a few designated to carry large baskets is most appealing, because it involves the least work for the non-carriers.

And so it goes.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Caledonian,

Your arrogance is truly amazing. With one broad brushstroke, you condemn most Americans for being too lazy to think. You obviously haven't spoken to a single mother who is working two jobs to keep her children fed and clothed and who, valuing education, takes time off without pay to come in to a conference to try to figure out a way to encourage her child to value education and go to school, do his/her work, etc. This isn't a person who is lazy, who doesn't think, who doesn't care, who is putting her "egg" in unsafe hands, this is a person who is struggling to make ends meet and is consumed by her desire for a better future for her child and her fear that there aren't enough hours in the day for her to provide for the child and motivate the child to succeed. But to you, she's just to lazy to think.

Your egg analogy is flawed, as are your market arguments. You oversimplify the problem, you ignore the consequences of the outcome, both short and long term, and you ignore mitigating factors. You also ignore the constitutional requirement each state has to provide public education.

But don't let little things like reality and the law get in the way of your personal tax cuts.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

ERV @57: stop being an idiot. Your post is basically a long string on non-sequiturs and ad hominem attacks (how exactly would it matter to the validity of my points if I didn't know any plant geneticists?), combined with a stunning inability to recognize common linguistic modes such as "analogy" (in this case, between invasive species and GMOs). Go, re-read my posts, think about what I actually have said, and then come back if you have something meaningful to add.

To help you out, here are some possible things you could argue (supported with evidence, of course, not just a story about how nice your genetics professor was) if you want to have said something meaningful in this thread:
1) that there is no risk of crossover from GMOs to other plants
2) there is such a risk, but the likely effects of such crossover are insignificant
3) there are currently enforced government regulations or commercial policies in place to ensure that GMOs will be safe, both to the ecosystem and for human consumption

Now, I am skeptical that any of these three things is really true (on point 3, because of ecosystem damage; I think the likelyhood of damage to human health from consumption of GM plants is small). If you want to engage me, you should actually make one of these arguments (or some other related argument), supported with actual evidence, rather than repeated assertation and highschooler-like antics.

How can a person who wants to centralize and homogenize schools accuse others of "painting with a broad brush"? You're painting with a roller - and you seem to have missed a few spots nevertheless.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

How can a person who wants to centralize and homogenize schools accuse others of "painting with a broad brush"? You're painting with a roller - and you seem to have missed a few spots nevertheless.

I didn't say anything about centralizing and homogenizing schools. Amazing from someone who feels qualified to comment on another's reading comprehension. So really you have no substantative reply, you're just returning to jabs, slights, and I am assuming very soon, insults?

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I live in a small town. If our public school was privatized, I honestly wonder where our kids would get their education. The only other choices in our tiny community would probably be the same religious schools that operate today. Quit frankly, I'd rather have the option to directly influence the school boards than indirectly by means of pulling out my money (and kids). Considering how religious the community is, I doubt there would be even an option for secular institution. I suppose I would have to quit my job and teach them myself. But I don't think that would help us in the long term. My wages are now paying for the roof over our heads, and therefore going to pay partially for their college.

C'mon daenku32, you're obviously just too lazy to think about it. ;o)

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

daenku32, what would you do if your local public school board were taken over by the same people running the private religious schools?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I didn't say anything about centralizing and homogenizing schools.

You've been defending the idea that individual communities ought not be able to devote their resources to their local schools, but resources given out equally. How do you think that would be accomplished?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Holy libertarian claptrap batman!?!

The problems with most public schools in this country have little to nothing to do with funding or the fact that they have to serve all of the children. It really breaks down to the dichotomy of people demanding local control for their schools (something I think is very important) and the refusal to actually get involved.

The first stage in local control of schools is getting involved in the school boards. This means actually voting in school board elections and often times, running. It's easy to take the attitude that one has to be this or that, to actually get elected. This is bullshit. Very rare is the community that wouldn't elect reasonable voices to the board if two things happened. First, reasonable people have to run and second, everyone has to vote. When five to ten percent of the eligable community pays any attention and vote, it is a lot easier for special interest groups, especialy the religious, to take control. Of course, it is pointless for a lot of people to vote, if the only options they have are members of those special interests.

The other important factor in local control is even more local. Parents have to take an active interest in their childs education. This means paying close attention to what they are learning in school and supplementing their education. In my case, it has meant doing a lot of reading and learning of my own, so that I can then pass my new found knowledge on to my very inquisitive five year old. It means being involved in their childs school - paying attention to the people who are directly (and sometimes indirectly) involved in their child's education.

Very rare is the community that wouldn't elect reasonable voices to the board if two things happened. First, reasonable people have to run and second, everyone has to vote.

I really can't stand this attitude that if everyone votes, the system will somehow function properly. It's as if people believe there's some kind of sympathetic magic that ties civicmindedness to proper governance. That simply isn't how it works.

If everyone showed up and cast a vote randomly, would you claim the system would be likely to produce a valuable outcome? If everyone showed up and cast a naive and uninformed vote, would you make the claim then?

There's also the problem of how we define 'reasonable', since most people don't use the term to refer to the use of reason. Going by majority opinion makes your position self-referential - if what's 'reasonable' is what the majority wants, having the majority express itself will always produce it.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

I actually agree with Caledonian on a point. We do need to seriously work at overhauling education. While there is no real central authority, most public schools follow very similar and failing methods for education. I do not pretend to have the magic formula for schools that work - I doubt one exists. That is the serious danger of centralised, homogenized systems - they just mean that everything fails.

The problem is that too many folks are lazy and afraid of change. They would rather prop up and patch ideas that obviously don't work. It's far past time to get off our asses and actualy do something about it, instead of bitching about it. Don't like the way things are working in your schools - then bloody well do something about it. Run for the school board, get into the PTA or other community organizations that deal with the schools. Take a place on the schoolboard advisory panel - don't have one in your community - make it happen.

As my child is getting ready to go into kindergarten, I have discovered that the schools are desperate for parent and community involvement. I daresay this is the case in a lot of communities. Support your schools by getting involved - shit or get off the pot. Whining isn't going to accomplish a damned thing.

Caledonian -

The majority isn't always right, nor would I claim that. The more people who get interested and vote in their local elections, though, the far less likely it is that you get nutjobs on your school boards though. Reasonable is very subjective. In many communities it's simply the difference between creationist nuts with an agenda to subvert education and far more moderate people who will recognize that they can not and should not, push their ideology or religion, into the schools.

Of course, I'm sure that you would much prefer to just throw everything to the handjob of the market and fuck those who have not. Because deep down, your just as lazy as those who want to prop up a failing system. Except you'd rather just throw away the whole thing. The problem with privatising everything is that wealthier families will be able to provide a decent education, while the poor will get picked up by religous schools, shitty schools or no schools at all. I have to thus assume that a Dickensian society is your wet dream. Thankfully most of the country would prefer to keep that in the past - no matter how much many conservatives and libertarians want to get back to it.

daenku32, what would you do if your local public school board were taken over by the same people running the private religious schools?

I would take them to Court if they tried anything funny. The state education standards are fortunately secular, plus there is the separation of church and state that is protecting my family.

Would you? If the ACLU declined to give you legal assistance, would you actually take the time, money, and effort to take them to court?

By Caledonian (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

DuWayne, the problem with your argument is that you assume "the rich" will want and work for the "Dickensian society" you envision, when in fact the vast majority of rich people give liberally (no pun intended) through their taxes and grants to support schools and, indeed, better schools. The names of the much-reviled Bill and Melinda Gates spring to mind.

Rich people didn't get rich by ignoring reality. Rich people who own large businesses have no use, for example, for dumb employees. Rich people have no evil intention of keeping the poor man stupid and poor. Rich people have more at stake than you think in making sure education is effective. IF you think at all other than to assume rich people are the enemy of freedom and progress, that is.

By speedwell (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

"still the best way to combat the caste system."

Nonsense. It's the surest way to enforce a caste system: those with the money to pay twice for schooling (once through taxes, once through private tuition) will send their kids to private schools, and others will have to put up with the NEA going through the motions.

Hell, right here in california, there's a scam called "bilingual education". Sounds good on the surface, but its real effect is to simply segregate the hispanic kids and keep them away from the white liberal's kids. Kids who have NEVER spoken spanish in their lives are assigned to these classes, because they have a hispanic surname. Once there, they are damned by even lower expectations than the rest of California's dismal public school system.

Want people to get out of poverty? Then let them choose the schools that will teach them what they need to know. That's how the Jews, the Poles, the Irish, the Chinese and every other wave of immigrants made it out of their ghettoes.

-jcr

By John C. Randolph (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

One of the big problems is that any idiot who may well lack any experience in education,

Part of the reason why so many people think they can "fix" education is that everyone with an education has experience "in" education.

speedwell -

History is on my side with this one. The reality is that the rich, overall, want the population to be one iota smarter than they have to be to work for them. If they did, we wouldn't be in the crisis we're in now. Who the hell do you think ultimately holds the ability to affect change in the system. Certainly there are wealthy individuals and companies that are exceptions, that support education. But even those that do, often do so with their best interests in mind. Not that I dissagree with the idea of supporting vocational education, especialy that which is relevant to local industries, but this cannot be all that there is. Just as the idea of trying to put everyones education on a strict college prep regimen has been an abysmal failure, pushing everyone into a voc ed course will also fail.

The problem with privatizing education, is that it will simply reinforce an economic caste system. I don't doubt that business leaders will support the education of many individuals - still, that will leave many out and those who get educated, will get a sharply limited education. Why would very many businesses take an interest in supporting a well rounded education? What return would they get, for teaching kids more than basic skills, plus the skills they need to work for them? Do you really want to see religious institutions picking up the slack?

I fail to see how society has become any more benevolent than it was seventy, eighty years ago. Deregulation and privatization sound good on paper, but I see absolutely no evidence that either would lead us to anything but a regression to the bad old days, when "job growth" wasn't much more than positions opening because the previous holder either died or was maimed, due to unsafe working conditions.

In fact, the last several years give pretty good evidence that deregulation and privatization will lead exactly to the nightmare I propose it will. Whether in the workforce or education system, they have led to declining standards. In schools, this has shown itself in declining test scores, in the workforce, in fatalities. There are a lot of good ideas in libertarian philosophy, the major flaw is a complete inability to take reality into account. Rather than wanting to strike a reasonable balance and compromise, libertarians seem bent on their philosophy going into effect and damn the consequences. I'm sorry, but this is the real world. In the real world, pure ideology is and will always be, a recipe for disaster.

Personaly, I think it would do education a lot of good, if we paid less in federal taxes and paid more at the localized levels. Keep the paws of central authorities out of it - place even more control at state and local levels, respectively.

Caledonian,

How are uneducated parents supposed to discriminate between quality education and crap education? They themselves have never seen a decent science book, they don't know how to critically think, and they're getting a slick sales pitch from some ostensibly upstanding local citizen running for a school board. They've never heard of Kitzmiller, let alone read it, and they've never heard a discussion, like the one that's happening here, about the merits or different educational systems: they've never heard that, say, the system in Germany is different from the one where they live. (They probably couldn't find Germany on a map, either.) How are they supposed to know, in a pure free-market system, which schools actually offer their children a good education? How are they supposed to discriminate, when they have no powers of discrimination? Is it right for the child to suffer because of the ignorance of the parents?

It's sort of like asking a pregnant teenager from the sticks of, say, South Dakota, why she didn't know any better and use birth control, and she asks you what birth control is.

Me, I'm still trying to figure out why voting is inherently a flawed system (all because of those darn flighty little people), yet market forces (also driven by people) are not. Seems more like libertarian magical thinking at work -- at its heart, not unlike Underpants Gnome logic.

Step One: Magical Free Market!
Step Two: ...
Step Three: Everyone profits! (Except poor people, who are dumb, so screw them)

By minimalist (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Minimalist, if the market were run like voting is, then we'd all have to pick, in advance, which products of each type that everyone would have to buy each year. THere would be no such thing as 40% prefer Coke, 30% prefer Pepsi, and so forth... if the voters wanted Coke, Coke would be the only soda on the shelf.

If voting were run like the market is, then people's individual choices would count.

And what universe do you come from, in which people with no money get a say in what people who do have some money can buy for themselves?

By speedwell (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

cbutterb, so you are the person best qualified to tell someone less educated than yourself what they can and cannot teach their children?

I'm sure you know people better educated and more experienced than yourself. Might I suggest you turn over your childrearing decisions to them?

By speedwell (not verified) on 20 May 2007 #permalink

Speedwell -

I think you misunderstood minimalists snark. I'm pretty sure he was talking about putting the magic of the market to work in the schools, which we all assume you support, given your earlier response to me. Not my response to you mind, which you ignored. Sorry, but none of us really see how privatizing public education will do much but screw the poor and middle class kids and you have yet to show how it wouldn't.

By the way, I have nothing against those with wealth, even those with serious wealth. I have the utmost respect for Bill and Melinda Gates and many others like them. However, they cannot be expected to prop up education, as much as I am sure they would want to if cretins such as yourself actually managed to achieve your dream of a libertarian utopia.

If voting were run like the market is, then people's individual choices would count.

What that statement implies about you, is very disturbing - in case you were wondering where the cretin comment came from.

I doubt most people are as utterly incompetent as has been described. But for the sake of argument, let's assume that's the case.

How are these people supposed to vote properly? How are they supposed to choose intelligent and reasonable school board members? How would getting everyone to vote assist, given how completely incapable of acting intelligently the people you describe are?

Any system needs a certain number of thinking people to function. Saying "oh no market forces don't work properly when dealing with people who can't determine their own self-interest" may be accurate, but misleading: NO system will work properly if it's under the control of such people.

You, collectively, are suggesting having an aristocracy that will make decisions for the lesser peoples. That's ultimately a very poor system.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

Sigh. . . you've all missed the point.

This is a vast conspiracy put together by secular homeschoolers. We are trying to lure right-wing ultra-religious hsers back into ps.

Then we will not have to spend our time explaining that not all hsers are Bible bangers.

Now hush up while we get on with our conspiracy!

Geesh!

Nance

By Nance Confer (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

cbutterb, so you are the person best qualified to tell someone less educated than yourself what they can and cannot teach their children?

I'm sure you know people better educated and more experienced than yourself. Might I suggest you turn over your childrearing decisions to them?

You've done a couple dishonest things here. First, you elided the difference between "can" and "ought". Yes, of course someone educated and with exposure to issues such as science vs. pseudoscience is better qualified to judge the merits of a proposed educational system than someone less educated and without such exposure. That's a descriptive statement that follows from the definitions of the terms involved. Whether it is right to wrest educational decisions from the hands of less-qualified parents is a moral issue that must be decided on its own.

Second, you conflated "childrearing" with "education", as though placing educational decisions in the hands of qualified people is equivalent to taking away every vestige of autonomy from parents.

To answer your question, yes, of course I would entrust the education of my children to those who are more qualified at it than I am. That's the point of education.

off topic post

re:#28 'fraid not ...geocentricism has been rearing it's misinformed head in YEC creationist circles for a while now ...these people really are virulently anti-science

btw galileo figured out that to have all of the phases of Venus (venus and mercury have phases like the moon does) and visually keep close to the sun the way it does , Venus HAS to be in a heliocentric orbit ...a geocentric orbit would be missing some phases

By brightmoon (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

How are uneducated parents supposed to discriminate between quality education and crap education?

i agree, i see this all of the time in poor black neighborhoods ..the parents had a crap education so the kids don't learn much ..the very few that do get a better education went out of their way to get it ....that "better education job" is now being turned over to the churches ....mostly creationist churches ..where the kids are taught to be afraid of science and scientists....they are actually told not to speak to scientists/science majors/engineers ....

this polarizing because the scientifically literate are equated with unrepentant damned criminals (the other group that churchgoers arent allowed to associate with)

By brightmoon (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

I doubt most people are as utterly incompetent as has been described.

No, you don't. Here's what you said yesterday:

The real problem here is that Americans don't want to have to think for extended periods of time, they don't want to be bothered weighing scholastic options, and they don't want to have to make hard choices.

Posted by: Caledonian | May 20, 2007 12:42 PM

You only deny your belief in the stupidity of Americans when someone hangs it around your neck.

Further, I never proposed the ubiquity of such people. Rather, there are some parents who are incapable of discriminating good education from bad, and some who are capable of it. In a pure free-market system, the child has no way to benefit from the good education that still exists if the parents have chosen to shun it. By contrast, in a system of public education, it is still possible for the child to receive a good education, even if the parents made the analogous bad decision of voting for a cretin for school board. The child gets to benefit from the better judgment of others.

I know the obvious response: that everything about this circumstance could be flipped, and the counterargument would seem to be as good. The children of parents who do know how to discern a good education could be saddled with the poor educational system chosen by everyone else in the community. That's what force is good for. If the thing that makes the education poor is actually illegal, as in Dover, then force the issue, and make them stop. And even if that's not possible, the children of the smart parents aren't completely screwed, because, well, they have smart parents, who can mitigate the crap being flung their way in a way that the uneducated parents in the free-market scenario cannot.

OT. Hmm, anyone care to substitute the words "Health Care" for Education in the previous comments and post? There are a hell of a lot of things that are severely busted in this country and I don't think it is mere coincidence. Equality and justice? Get real.

By Fernando Magyar (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

You've been defending the idea that individual communities ought not be able to devote their resources to their local schools, but resources given out equally. How do you think that would be accomplished?

No, I've been defending public education from the idea that privatizing it, or placing it under the influence of market forces. Also, equalized funding does not require the elimination of local control. There are a number of states that utilize funding formula that redistribute funding in a more equitable manner while retaining the power of the individual school boards. Arizona, for example, has school districts pay their money in to the state and then, in a formula driven budget system, that money is doled out to the districts based upon their enrollment (with a number of modifiers determined by demographics). The district still has local control over how the money is spent, voters can still pass bonds that enhance funding and/or allow them to build new facilities, etc., outside the parameters established by the minimum state guidelines. Poorer districts are given the financial assistance they need to make the effort to help their children overcome their SES status while wealthier districts still have the ability to increase funding to enhance their children's educational opportunities.

So, in direct contradiction to your claim, here is an example of a more equitable system that retains local control, retains voter choice, AND provides a more equitable funding formula. And guess what? No privatization is involved.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 21 May 2007 #permalink

Why should there be any organization controlling what people can learn? Aside from being ethically unjustifiable, it just creates a target for special interests to control - whoever controls the organization can influence the minds of hundreds of millions.
Centralization of power and authority is generally a bad idea - a principle our primate-hierarchial minds seem to have trouble grasping.

I'm talking about a national curriculum: a minimum standard of what everyone who leaves school has to have grasped. For the life of me I can't see how that is a bad thing.

@5
Which countries are you referring to, exactly?

Lots. Probably all EU members for a start. The UK was mentioned.

No one in this country thinks even five years into the future. It's all about immediate profit margins, and that kind of thinking is lethal.

Hear, hear -- I agree with Caledonian: in order to work, capitalism must be protected from itself.

Do you have any idea why our public-tax-dollar-funded state-run schools are so pathetic when compared to other nations'? It's because we're crazy. Solutions which have worked in other places don't work here.
Foreign school systems work very differently than the ones here. Foreign cultures, in respect to their respect for knowledge in general and specific types of useful knowledge in particular, are very different from the American cultural attitude. It's comparing apples to oranges.
I don't think the communal-leaning people here are ready to implement, say, the German school model, in which there are different schools for students attending college/learning trades. Judging by Stogoe's comments, such a system (in which everyone doesn't receive the same education) would face violent rejection by the "progressive" elements here.

Firstly, I can't see how a national curriculum won't work. Secondly, it's not like all of the EU had the same school system. Not even all of Germany has the same school system -- you seem to describe the Bavarian one.

"I'd suggest a short look at one or two other countries."
David,
I grew up mostly outside of the USA; I've lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Germany. In Germany, for example, even though there is public funding for education, the money is attached to the student, and parents are free to choose their child's school, whether public or private. The upshot is that ALL of their schools are far better than ours, because they have to compete. A school run by creationists in Germany would be laughed out of business in a month.

Not just that. Evolution, among other things, is in the curriculum. Religious private schools do exist; they're allowed to put emphases where they want, they're allowed to teach all manner of things in addition to the curriculum, but they are not allowed to ignore any part of the curriculum. That is the difference.

(Oh, and homeschooling is forbidden in many, though AFAIK not all European countries. Helps make sure everyone learns the curriculum.)

Point #1: The purpose of education is to educate, not accomplish social-engineering goals.

Eh, purpose or not, education is social engineering. Voters who understand evolution won't likely vote for a creationist. Voters who understand that trickle-down economy was tried twice and failed twice won't vote for anyone who claims it's imperative to try it a third time (or just to continue the present experiment). And so on. Education is inevitably social engineering.

Point #2: The best way to accomplish the social-engineering goal of avoiding a stratified society is to give people the opportunity to receive a quality education, not trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education.

The best way to accomplish that is to force everyone to receive at least a middle-quality education -- to impose a minimum. In the "more civilized countries" you mentioned, this is done.

Remarkable: a prime example of individuals exploiting government handouts is offered as an example of why it's important for governments to offer handouts.

If the handouts are actually an investment the, you know, voters decide to make for themselves...

Denying resources to failing subsystems is nuts?

Not if we can spare the "subsystems" in question.

The value of market systems is not that they prevent failure in the short term, but that they punish failure and reward success.

In this case, however, we need to prevent failure, both in the long and in the short term. We can't afford failure to happen. We need to prevent maladaptive strategies because we can't pay the price for them.

Punishing schools for failure would be like... like killing Job's children just to teach him a lesson.

DuWayne, the problem with your argument is that you assume "the rich" will want and work for the "Dickensian society" you envision, when in fact the vast majority of rich people give liberally (no pun intended) through their taxes and grants to support schools and, indeed, better schools. The names of the much-reviled Bill and Melinda Gates spring to mind.
Rich people didn't get rich by ignoring reality. Rich people who own large businesses have no use, for example, for dumb employees. Rich people have no evil intention of keeping the poor man stupid and poor. Rich people have more at stake than you think in making sure education is effective. IF you think at all other than to assume rich people are the enemy of freedom and progress, that is.

Some rich people are intelligent, I don't deny that. Not all are, though. Let me just mention Captain Unelected and Richard the Lying-Hearted.

Personaly, I think it would do education a lot of good, if we paid less in federal taxes and paid more at the localized levels. Keep the paws of central authorities out of it - place even more control at state and local levels, respectively.

Why? Won't that ensure that people from red states will always get a red-state education (you know what I mean)? Keep in mind that the "central authorities" are no longer King George III of Great Britain and Ireland.

Minimalist, if the market were run like voting is, then we'd all have to pick, in advance, which products of each type that everyone would have to buy each year. THere would be no such thing as 40% prefer Coke, 30% prefer Pepsi, and so forth... if the voters wanted Coke, Coke would be the only soda on the shelf.

Ever heard of a coalition government?

No, of course not, because this kind of thing can't exist in the USA where the government depends on the president instead of on the parliament. I think you fit comment 108.

You, collectively, are suggesting having an aristocracy that will make decisions for the lesser peoples.

I'm not. I'm suggesting having such decisions made democratically, and on the local level -- except that "local" refers to the state or, better yet, the nation.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 23 May 2007 #permalink

Paguroidea: In many cases the Quebec schoolboards seem redundant - they don't seem to DO too much. So at least they are not as annoying as they seem to be in the US, but still not too friendly.

John Marley: That might not work. I was a member of a student's council party way back when called "None of the Above".

I've said it before: the heart of the problem here is that there is a de facto monopoly on primary schooling, and it's under government control. As long as this is the case, different factions will try to use it to push their agenda, with little if any regard for the purported mission of the schools, which is to educate children.

I'd suggest a short look at one or two other countries. Having parliamentary control on what people learn might turn out to be a good thing.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 19 May 2007 #permalink

Why should there be any organization controlling what people can learn? Aside from being ethically unjustifiable, it just creates a target for special interests to control - whoever controls the organization can influence the minds of hundreds of millions.
Centralization of power and authority is generally a bad idea - a principle our primate-hierarchial minds seem to have trouble grasping.

I'm talking about a national curriculum: a minimum standard of what everyone who leaves school has to have grasped. For the life of me I can't see how that is a bad thing.

@5
Which countries are you referring to, exactly?

Lots. Probably all EU members for a start. The UK was mentioned.

No one in this country thinks even five years into the future. It's all about immediate profit margins, and that kind of thinking is lethal.

Hear, hear -- I agree with Caledonian: in order to work, capitalism must be protected from itself.

Do you have any idea why our public-tax-dollar-funded state-run schools are so pathetic when compared to other nations'? It's because we're crazy. Solutions which have worked in other places don't work here.
Foreign school systems work very differently than the ones here. Foreign cultures, in respect to their respect for knowledge in general and specific types of useful knowledge in particular, are very different from the American cultural attitude. It's comparing apples to oranges.
I don't think the communal-leaning people here are ready to implement, say, the German school model, in which there are different schools for students attending college/learning trades. Judging by Stogoe's comments, such a system (in which everyone doesn't receive the same education) would face violent rejection by the "progressive" elements here.

Firstly, I can't see how a national curriculum won't work. Secondly, it's not like all of the EU had the same school system. Not even all of Germany has the same school system -- you seem to describe the Bavarian one.

"I'd suggest a short look at one or two other countries."
David,
I grew up mostly outside of the USA; I've lived in Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Germany. In Germany, for example, even though there is public funding for education, the money is attached to the student, and parents are free to choose their child's school, whether public or private. The upshot is that ALL of their schools are far better than ours, because they have to compete. A school run by creationists in Germany would be laughed out of business in a month.

Not just that. Evolution, among other things, is in the curriculum. Religious private schools do exist; they're allowed to put emphases where they want, they're allowed to teach all manner of things in addition to the curriculum, but they are not allowed to ignore any part of the curriculum. That is the difference.

(Oh, and homeschooling is forbidden in many, though AFAIK not all European countries. Helps make sure everyone learns the curriculum.)

Point #1: The purpose of education is to educate, not accomplish social-engineering goals.

Eh, purpose or not, education is social engineering. Voters who understand evolution won't likely vote for a creationist. Voters who understand that trickle-down economy was tried twice and failed twice won't vote for anyone who claims it's imperative to try it a third time (or just to continue the present experiment). And so on. Education is inevitably social engineering.

Point #2: The best way to accomplish the social-engineering goal of avoiding a stratified society is to give people the opportunity to receive a quality education, not trying to force everyone to receive the same low-quality education.

The best way to accomplish that is to force everyone to receive at least a middle-quality education -- to impose a minimum. In the "more civilized countries" you mentioned, this is done.

Remarkable: a prime example of individuals exploiting government handouts is offered as an example of why it's important for governments to offer handouts.

If the handouts are actually an investment the, you know, voters decide to make for themselves...

Denying resources to failing subsystems is nuts?

Not if we can spare the "subsystems" in question.

The value of market systems is not that they prevent failure in the short term, but that they punish failure and reward success.

In this case, however, we need to prevent failure, both in the long and in the short term. We can't afford failure to happen. We need to prevent maladaptive strategies because we can't pay the price for them.

Punishing schools for failure would be like... like killing Job's children just to teach him a lesson.

DuWayne, the problem with your argument is that you assume "the rich" will want and work for the "Dickensian society" you envision, when in fact the vast majority of rich people give liberally (no pun intended) through their taxes and grants to support schools and, indeed, better schools. The names of the much-reviled Bill and Melinda Gates spring to mind.
Rich people didn't get rich by ignoring reality. Rich people who own large businesses have no use, for example, for dumb employees. Rich people have no evil intention of keeping the poor man stupid and poor. Rich people have more at stake than you think in making sure education is effective. IF you think at all other than to assume rich people are the enemy of freedom and progress, that is.

Some rich people are intelligent, I don't deny that. Not all are, though. Let me just mention Captain Unelected and Richard the Lying-Hearted.

Personaly, I think it would do education a lot of good, if we paid less in federal taxes and paid more at the localized levels. Keep the paws of central authorities out of it - place even more control at state and local levels, respectively.

Why? Won't that ensure that people from red states will always get a red-state education (you know what I mean)? Keep in mind that the "central authorities" are no longer King George III of Great Britain and Ireland.

Minimalist, if the market were run like voting is, then we'd all have to pick, in advance, which products of each type that everyone would have to buy each year. THere would be no such thing as 40% prefer Coke, 30% prefer Pepsi, and so forth... if the voters wanted Coke, Coke would be the only soda on the shelf.

Ever heard of a coalition government?

No, of course not, because this kind of thing can't exist in the USA where the government depends on the president instead of on the parliament. I think you fit comment 108.

You, collectively, are suggesting having an aristocracy that will make decisions for the lesser peoples.

I'm not. I'm suggesting having such decisions made democratically, and on the local level -- except that "local" refers to the state or, better yet, the nation.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 23 May 2007 #permalink