Saturday, September 18, 2004


"No one disputes the value of a college diploma. Not only do college graduates earn $20,000 a year more than high school graduates, but they're more likely to find jobs in an increasingly demanding global economy

[And the people who are smart and hard-working enough to get degrees would almost always do miles better anyhow]

In fact, the continued success of the U.S. economy depends on ensuring that workers get the best possible education, corporate leaders and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan have warned.

That's why a report Wednesday that shows the country's commitment to higher education slipping is so disturbing. After growing since the 1970s, the percentage of recent high school graduates continuing their education has leveled off in the past decade to about a third, according to the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, a think tank.

Why? Because students can't afford the surging tuition costs, or colleges don't have the space. Both obstacles stem from state cutbacks in higher-education budgets to close gaping shortfalls in recent years.

While the savings may help balance the books for now, they will cost states dearly in the long run. An investment in higher education today produces a handsome return in taxes, as employers are drawn to the state to take advantage of a highly skilled workforce.

Yet states are ignoring the payoff....

[Odd that!]

More here.


"The legal, regulatory, and political bunkers manned by soldiers from the Democratic coalition make school choice a slow and difficult battle. What little ground reformers gain is constantly under threat of being lost. The school choice movement should step around these obstacles by concentrating their efforts on a drive, in each state with an income tax, for Universal Tuition Tax Credits (UTTCs) that allow all parents a true choice in education.

Universal Tuition Tax Credits, rather than vouchers or charters, are the most promising mechanism for providing an escape from failing schools to poor children, expanding the education market, and improving public education. All that is required is a relatively simple and popular revision of state tax law -- combining, expanding, and spreading existing tax credits.

Personal use tuition tax credits allow taxpaying parents to reduce the state taxes they owe by the amount they pay in tuition to a private school -- an individual who owes $10,000 in taxes and spends $4,000 on tuition gets a $4,000 tax credit. They end up paying only $6,000 in state taxes. Tax deductions, on the other hand, only reduce the amount of taxable income, which means there is much less bang for each buck.

Donation tax credits provide the same kind of state tax credit to businesses and taxpayers that contribute to non-profit Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). These SGOs pay tuition for children from low- and middle-income families -- ensuring that children from poor families that don't pay much in state taxes can attend private schools as well.

Universal Tuition Tax Credits combine personal use and donation tuition tax credits. Under this system, any taxpaying parent can get a state tax credit for her child's private school tuition, and any taxpaying individual or business can donate a portion of their state taxes to scholarships for poor children rather than send it to the state.

UTTCs tap a huge reservoir of private funds for school choice, cover a broad constituency, and thereby avoid much of the education establishment's arsenal.

More here.


"It's back-to-school time. Unfortunately, despite school report cards and mandates like No Child Left Behind, many public schools still treat parents like mushrooms: feed them guano and keep them in the dark.

This occurred to me when, like any good parent, I called the principal's office at my local public elementary school to check it out before sending my son. Alas, despite spending $20,000 per child, our school had trouble returning three phone messages left during normal business hours. On my fourth try I reached a live person, and had a brief conversation:

"Hi, I'm Bob Maranto. I'm a parent who lives in [your school's] attendance zone. My son will be old enough for kindergarten next fall. He's actually right on the edge, so he could go next fall or the following fall, and I was wondering if I could come visit the school sometime."

"We don't have any visiting this year," the administrator replied. "We're doing construction and a lot of things are going on."

"Could I watch a class in session?"

"No, even when there's no construction you could not watch a class."

"Well, could I meet my son's teacher?"

"No, the teachers are busy teaching all day and then they go home." .......

But some public schools do better. Last year I led an accreditation visit to an Arizona charter school, Tucson's Academy of Math and Science. I slipped away from the guided tour, roaming the parking lot as school let out to question parents about how school staff treated them. Thirteen of 14 parents said their school welcomed their input. As one put it, "if you complain about something, they let you act on it to fix the problem." Parents designed the dress code and sports program, and helped evaluate teachers. Half the parents had watched classes. As one lady assured me: "it's easy-- you just talk to Mrs. Shannon at the front desk, tell her which class you want to go watch, and she'll tell you which room it's in."

Why can't all public schools work like that?

After seven years of research, I'm convinced that Arizona public schools cater to parents because of school choice combined with heavy reliance on state funding rather than local property taxes. Unlike most states, Arizona has open enrollment across district lines as well as 500 charter schools--many started by teachers--so parents unhappy with one school can easily find another. In addition, state funding means that education dollars follow enrollment, so schools that alienate parents lose money--which in turn alarms school boards and makes principals unemployed.

More here

Friday, September 17, 2004


On October 15-17th, Duke University is scheduled to host the Fourth Annual Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement. This year's event was originally slated for the West Coast (last year's was at Ohio State), but the organizers had to look elsewhere because of reports in Frontpage Magazine and elsewhere that chants of "Kill the Jews" were heard during the proceedings of the first conference at UC-Berkeley. The same chants were repeated at the University of Michigan conference the following year, where the guest of honor was Sami al-Arian, the U.S. head of the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Al-Arian won't be appearing at the Duke event because he is currently in federal lock-up. His group is responsible for the murder of more than 100 people inside Israel including some American citizens. The campaign Frontpage Magazine waged against the conference at Ohio State, the third conference site, undoubtedly contributed to making university administrators in California skittish about holding such an event again.

Duke was chosen because it is a private university and less beholden to the public than taxpayer-supported institutions. Duke also has a history of inviting terrorists to proselytize its students. Two years ago Duke invited Sami al-Arian to keynote an academic conference on "National Security and Civil Liberties." Al-Arian was invited as a civil liberties expert. Last year, Duke's African and African-American Studies Department invited Weatherman terrorist Laura Whitehorn who had set off a bomb in the Pentagon and served 14 years in federal penitentiary for her act. The Duke faculty presented Whitehorn to Duke students as a "revolutionary anti-imperialist who spent over fourteen years in federal prison as a political prisoner."

The Ohio State Solidarity conference presented one face to the outside world and another to those who attended its closed workshop sessions. The press conference before the event was a propaganda show as the organizers claimed to be hosting an academic meeting to discuss ways to bring a non-violent settlement to the Middle East. Once the press was gone, the interior workshops addressed to ways to conduct war against Israel and its supporters by promoting divestment, getting control of campus newspapers, joining a campaign to ruin the business of the Caterpillar Corporation (because the Israeli army uses these bulldozers to unearth terrorist tunnels), and other like concerns. Ways to counter negative press reporting of suicide bombings were also discussed - but never whether one should condemn them.

The Ohio Solidarity Conference used airport-style metal detectors to confiscate tape recorders and cameras, while the press was barred. The Duke Solidarity Conference will follow the same procedures......

More here


Just have a look at this piece of absurd propaganda: "A new, independent report card flunks America's colleges in a key subject for many students and parents: affordability. While noting progress in areas such as student preparation, the biennial study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education drops the country to an "F" in affordability from the "D" it received in the nonprofit group's report two years ago". It is an "F" compared to what? Nobody is saying. It is an "F" compared to an imaginary idea dreamed up in some Leftist's head seems to be the answer. As far as I know, the USA tops the world for the percentage of its population that gets college qualifications. That seems to indicate a very high level of affordability to me.

And why should it be affordable? Are Cadillacs affordable? Not very. But a lot of American education is in the Cadillac class: Expensive but dubious value for money.

Thursday, September 16, 2004


This table gives the latest U.S. unempoyment statistics in the rightmost column. Note that for those without a High School diploma the unemployment rate is 8.1% and that unemployment drops with each level of education so that those with a degree of some sort have an unemployment rate of only 2.7%.

The conventional interpretation of these statistics would be that education enhances your employability. What I think the results show, however, is quite the opposite. It shows that the amount of education you get under the present system makes remarkably little difference to your employability. If the current U.S. educational system was of much practical use, being without even a High School diploma should be a big handicap. Since 91.1% of those without such a diploma do in fact get a job, why even bother with High School, let alone a degree? Why not just start work six years earlier and acquire money instead of debts? Clearly, there are many more important factors than education in determining who gets a job. I am sure I don't need to name the factors concerned. The obvious retort to what I have just said is that college graduates get higher-paying jobs but, on Berg's figures, the total pay-difference is still negligible over a lifetime. Poorly paid graduates and well paid truck-drivers are, after all, hardly news.

Sorry to be so cynical.


I have just put online an article written over 30 years ago which might as well have been written yesterday. It offers a critique of the Leftist educational theories and practices that still plague our schools today. Excerpt:

l. Over the last few decades, wrong methods and the abandonment of scholarship as the main aim of education had destroyed the value of much of our schooling, and produced a crisis of 'non-education' in our schools.

2. The New Education, with its rejection of the basic disciplines in favour of sociologically 'relevant' topics on the one hand, and individual juvenile 'creativity' on the other hand, would deal the deathblow to education.

3. The New Education with its inherent tendency to place contentious social issues (and suggested solutions) before uneducated minds, had opened the way for indoctrination of our children and the consequent subversion of democracy.

4. That whatever we may think of 3, our present educational system, having abandoned syllabuses, inspection and examination, left our children entirely at the mercy of individual teachers who might or might not be worthy of their charge. This point is irrefutable, and alone would warrant action at government level.

Criticism of my article has mainly consisted, apart from personal attacks, of loose restatements of the case for the New Education emphasising its 'relevance' in our modern world. I am accused of being in an ivory tower because I believe that children should have a store of basic knowledge before they deal with 'relevant' subjects. Colleagues and I, and most parents and teachers, do not accept the theoretical case for the New Education, and are dismayed at the results of its practical application. In particular, we believe that the sense of frustration among so many of our school-children comes precisely from the failure of modern schooling to provide them with basic knowledge within recognised disciplines.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


"Until this moment, political indoctrination by faculty has been traditionally (and formally) regarded by the American Association of University Professors and all academic administrations as a violation of the educational mission of the university. Until this year, in fact, indoctrination was explicitly recognized by the UC administration as academically unacceptable. Thus rule APM 0-10 of UC Berkeley's Academic Personnel Manual, written by UC President Robert Gordon Sproul in 1934 stated quite clearly:

"The function of the university is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the processes whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary in performing this function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined, not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts..Essentially the freedom of a university is the freedom of competent persons in the classroom. In order to protect this freedom, the University assumed the right to prevent exploitation of its prestige by unqualified persons or by those who would use it as a platform for propaganda."

Unfortunately, these noble words have been honored more in the breach than in the observance for a long time in the UC system. But the mere fact of their existence was annoying to faculty ideologues at Berkeley. Consequently, at the behest of former UC president Richard Atkinson, they were summarily removed this year by a tiny minority of the UC community in a 43-3 vote of the faculty Senate, which took place on July 30. 2003. The academic freedom clause was replaced by another, which essentially said that professors can teach anything they want in the classroom. This is a momentous and ominous event in the life of American universities, and therefore the academic context in which it occurred needs to be understood.

Two incidents precipitated the change in UC policy on academic freedom. The first was the complaint of a student at UC Berkeley that her Middle Eastern studies lecturer had told students that the notorious Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, was true. The Protocols describes a Jewish plot to control the world and was a document used by the Nazis to justify the extermination of Jews. The student's complaint was dismissed by university authorities. An official of the UC Academic Senate defended the professor's preposterous and bigoted statement as coming under the protection of "academic freedom".....

The second incident involved a required freshman English writing class conducted by instructor Snehal Shingavi. Shingavi is the head of the International Socialist Organization, a group that describes itself as "Leninist" and calls for violent revolution. He is also head of Students for Justice in Palestine. Shingavi organized an anti-American demonstration on September 11, 2001 after the World Trade Center attacks and has been arrested for leading illegal and violent demonstrations on campus. Shingavi's course was called "The Politics and Poetics of Palestinian Resistance," and was listed in the catalogue along with the warning "Conservative thinkers are encouraged to seek other sections." This sentence led to public ridicule and outrage. It was removed from the catalogue by university officials, but the course itself was allowed to continue.

More here


Australia has a tradition of heavy Federal subsidies for private schools. It's Australia's alternative to vouchers. Mark Latham, leader of Australia's major Leftist party, has just announced a policy of big reductions in funding for what he regards as "elite" schools. He overlooks the fact that many people on modest incomes choose such schools for their children. One such is a reader of this blog who writes:

"I am intensely angered at Latham's very divisive school 'funding'

My husband and I were on a very average income in the early 1980s, in fact I ran a small business for which I took no salary (my husband took the same as our lowest paid assistant) I worked four full evening shifts nursing, per week in all I was literally working 7am to 11.30 pm 7 days a week to give our children what we hoped was a better start at a Private school, as at that time we felt that they were not gaining the assistance they required at their State school. They had to attend as boarders as we were unable to get them into a school near home -- we had not booked them in at birth which was essential at that time.We did not send them to develop elevated ideas of their own worth but to develop into good citizens which they did.

I would never be able, under a Latham regime to have had this option even though EVERY cent -- that is EVERY cent -- I earned went into the school fees, my husband became Mum, we had no holidays apart from a couple of camping trips-NEVER not ever went out to dinner. We worked so hard for 25 years and now are 'self funded retirees' and still get no benefits from the goverment. We sold our home in Melbourne and moved to a cheaper one in the country to fund our retirement.

We have no complaints and would do the same again. We both come from the battling 'working class' and believe very much in people being encouraged to be self-reliant. We have private health cover -- we pay our Dr the full fee and get our rebate from medicare and think ourselves very fortunate.

However we have very wealthy aquaintances who sent their children to state schools, boast about not having private health care and enjoy a more lavish and self indulgent lifestyle because they spent nothing on their childrens education. Children at the 'Elite' State schools benefit and the aspirational 'battlers' who wish for a choice, the backbone of this country, are to be 'screwed' by this left wing spite-monger, bully and his petty motley crew.

Another thing: Many kids from rural Australia are boarders who have to attend such schools or move to rural towns and live alone to get further education".

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


"Fifty-three percent of Los Angeles area workers are functionally illiterate, according to a United Way report.

Continued immigration and a stubborn high school dropout rate have stymied efforts to improve literacy in Los Angeles County, where more than half the working-age population can't read a simple form, a report released Wednesday found.

Ten percent of poor readers take an adult literacy class, but half drop out within three weeks. That's what happened when my mother volunteered to teach reading to Mexican immigrants; most of those who signed up never came at all, even though the class was held at the restaurant where they worked".

Cribbed from the excellent Joanne Jacobs

Teachers in rush to UK high-pay jobs


THOUSANDS of top Australian teachers are being lured to work in British schools by offers more than double their existing salaries. A "Sunday Mail" investigation revealed British principals and recruitment agencies had headhunted about 3000 Australian teachers since January 2003. This comes at a time when teacher shortage is a serious problem affecting Australian schools.

British schools also claim to be experiencing a staff crisis. The dropout rate is high, with 55 per cent leaving five years after completing their training.

Schools in London are also offering incentives including free flights and accommodation. Starting salaries for teachers in the UK are between $60,000 and, $90,000, compared with an average $41,109 in Australia. In inner-London schools, one in four teachers is from Australia. Britain's National Union of Teachers said schools relied heavily on Australians' talent.

But Australian principals are fed up with their best teachers being poached. Secondary Schools Association vice-president Bernie Shepherd said Australia could not afford to continue losing teachers.

Queensland Teachers Union president Julie-Ann McCullough said the brain drain had been a problem for years. "I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing for some teachers to work overseas for a while - but it's important to get them back again." Ensuring attractive conditions in Australia would help retain staff and encourage others to return.

The background to the above report is amusing. British schools are so politically correct that most discipline is impossible. No wonder British teachers give up and move on to other jobs as soon as they can. And the Australians who go there mostly do so for a short while only also -- for a working holiday. But even then they need the enticement of comparatively huge salaries to put up with the mess that is British schools, London schools in particular.

The above report appeared on p. 19 of the Brisbane (Australia) "Sunday Mail" on Sept. 12th., 2004

Monday, September 13, 2004


Gregg Easterbrook has a big article saying that students getting into an elite university like Harvard are not markedly better off than students who attend many relatively unprestigious universities. The graduates of elite colleges do have slightly higher lifetime earnings but not by much.

Brian Micklethwait and Michael Jennings have made a few comments about their own university experiences which seem broadly in line with that judgement. I myself am not in much of a position to comment. I went to three Australian universities but it was at a time when all Australian universities were publicly funded and so had very similar standards. Insofar as there was any status ranking among Australian universities at that time (in the '60s), the University of Sydney was probably Top Dog. I did my M.A. there but I cannot say that there was any clear difference between it and the other two universities that I attended. In recent years in Australia, however, all sorts of technical colleges and the like have been "converted" into universities so going to a long-established university does now have some cachet here. My son is certainly going to a "sandstone" university next year. The same one I went to for my B.A., in fact.

The passage in Easterbrook's article that interested me most was this: "Research does find an unmistakable advantage to getting a bachelor's degree. In 2002, according to Census Bureau figures, the mean income of college graduates was almost double that of those holding only high school diplomas."

That does at first sight run counter to the seminal findings of Ivar Berg (review of the first edition here) -- who found that tertiary education did NOT improve lifetime earnings. The contradiction is only superficial, however, as Berg used much more sophisticated econometric calculations which not only took into account the loss of income while studying (opportunity costs) but also applied realistic interest rates to that income.

And from what Easterbrook says, employers are now much more skeptical of educational prestige than they were when Berg did his original research. So the bottom line is much more radical than even Easterbrook imagines. Not only does it matter little what college you go to but it matters little if you go at all! And given that many university courses these days are more propaganda mills than sources of higher learning, the worth of the degrees concerned is likely to be of ever-diminishing importance. So unless you feel a strong avocation towards studying some particular subject, my advice would be that you are wasting your time getting a university education. Get into business instead!

In the Australian army (where I was once a sergeant) there is a saying that you should never ask your troops to do what you would not do yourself so I feel obliged to follow that piece of advice by noting that I personally went in both directions. I had both an academic career and a business one and did well in both. But it was my business career that enabled me to retire at age 39 now 22 years ago! Beat that! Learning how to become a successful capitalist is much the best lesson but only life can teach you that. I must also confess to some amusement at the fact that many years of study have given Michael Jennings a job as an equities analyst with a big banking firm. I didn't do five seconds of formal study in that subject or any related field but my share portfolio has increased in value by over 50% in the last 3 years. And I did it all in blue-chips. Beat that too!

Sorry to be such a smart-ass but it's relevant. Most formal education always has been useless. My son is going on only because, like me, he is a born adademic. We enjoy academic pursuits, whether they are useful or not.

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Excerpt from "News from the Front" -- the newsletter of Students for Academic Freedom

San Francisco State University reversed the expulsion of student Tatiana Menaker, a Russian Jewish refugee, who had been expelled for five years after comments she made objecting to a Palestinian campus demonstration at which activists shouted "Hitler didn't finish the job." She was not granted a hearing in her own defense, but instead was immediately escorted off campus by three uniformed campus police officers. Students for Academic Freedom organized a "Tatiana Menaker Defense Committee" which succeeded in negotiating her immediate reinstatement as a student.

At Metro State (Denver) student George Culpepper was banned from the Political Science Association by its faculty advisor Oneida Meranto, along with all College Republicans. When he testified about the episode to a Senate hearing for the Academic Bill of Rights, Professor Meranto publicly attacked him in the Denver Post, claiming that his testimony was sour grapes because he was failing her class. In fact, Culpepper was earning a B+ in her course until he voluntarily dropped it because of her bias. In making this false statement to the press, Meranto violated the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), which forbids teachers from discussing their students' grades and educational progress publicly. SAF took up Culpepper's defense, bringing widespread media attention and Meranto's resignation as faculty advisor to the student Political Science Association.

At Georgia Tech, Ruth Malharto, a public policy major was told by her public policy professor that she would fail her course hecause she went to a conservative conference in Washington. SAF notified the dean of diversity at Georgia Tech, congressman Jack Kingston and the office of Governor Sonny Perdue. All three intervened in behalf of the student who was allowed to withdraw from the course without penalty.

At Roger Williams University, located in Rhode Island, SAF helped to expose and document a clear-cut case of censorship. The president and administration of the school froze the funding of a conservative student publication, The Hawk's Right Eye, and publicly castigated the paper's editors for their viewpoints after the newspaper printed articles criticizing the lack of intellectual diversity among university-sponsored speakers this fall. Following a public outcry, the funding was unfrozen.

At Indiana University, Bloomington, Students for Academic Freedom launched an investigation into a Workplace Safety course which had been turned into a propaganda class against the United States and Israel and their efforts in the War On Terror. SAF students on campus spearheaded a movement joined by the Indiana Association of Scholars and faculty members on campus, to expose the misleading course description and ask the administration to make changes. The course has been completely revamped and the instructor reassigned.

At DePauw University in Indiana, Students for Academic Freedom supported College Republicans who were attacked by Director of Multicultural Affairs Jeanette Johnson-Licon because they had invited David Horowitz to speak on campus. After SAF helped to publicize her comments, both Johnson-Licon and the university administration made full apologies to the students and to David Horowitz. The DePauw College Republicans and SAF chapter are planning meetings with the campus administration at which they will encourage the University to adopt the Academic Bill of Rights.