Saturday, January 29, 2005

Making College More Expensive: The Unintended Consequences of Federal Tuition Aid

As Congress debates the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, it should heed Friedrich Hayek's warning that democracy is "peculiarly liable, if not guided by accepted common principles, to produce over-all results that nobody wanted." One result of the federal government's student financial aid programs is higher tuition costs at our nation's colleges and universities. Basic economic theory suggests that the increased demand for higher education generated by HEA will have the effect of increasing tuitions. The empirical evidence is consistent with that-federal loans, Pell grants, and other assistance programs result in higher tuition for students at our nation's colleges and universities.

The diversity of objectives, resources, and types of governance among the thousands of colleges and universities makes it difficult to adequately measure the exact amount by which tuitions rise in response to federal student assistance. Therefore, estimates of the amount vary in the literature. Congress can at best know that its policies increase tuitions and that some portion of the federal assistance ends up being captured by state governments and by the colleges and universities.

Also, when large numbers of students begin to rely on the federal government to fund their higher education, and the federal government uses this financing to affect the behavior of state and private institutions, we should be concerned about how the resulting loss of independence of our colleges and universities affects the ability of voters to form opinions about public policy that are independent of the government's position.

Rather than expand the current system, Congress should consider a phase-out of federal assistance to higher education over a 12-year time frame. As the federal government removes itself from student assistance, we should expect several things to happen. First, sticker tuition prices should decline. Second, the private market should respond to the phase-out of federal assistance. That response would likely take three forms: additional private-sector loans, additional private scholarship funds, and perhaps most importantly, the expansion of human capital contracts. Human capital contracts, first suggested 40 years ago by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, would allow students to pledge a portion of future earnings in return for assistance in paying their tuition.

More here

The Leftist double standard: "It is interesting that the major supporters of government education, modern liberals, often complain when their taxes go to projects with which they disagree. During the Vietnam War era they often advocated tax resistance because their funds were being sent to support a war they found morally objectionable. And more recently some have proposed similar measures vis-.-vis Bush's war in Iraq. Yet, they see nothing wrong with forcing fundamentalists to pay for government schools that teach what fundamentalists consider an abomination. And this includes not only Darwinism but, often, sex education and other value-laden topics to which children of parents who object should not be subjected."


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, January 28, 2005


Lee H. Walker, president of The New Coalition for Economic and Social Change, knows how important it is for children from limited environments to have a teacher or role model who can open their eyes to the breadth and freedom of opportunity available to them here in the United States. That's because Walker has lived the experience himself, growing up as a black child in the segregated Deep South of the 1940s and being inspired by the example of Booker T. Washington to pursue a successful career as a corporate executive in New York and Chicago.

Walker's own educational experiences also underlie his support for school choice, for giving children from all backgrounds the opportunity for an education to prepare them for pursuing their dreams. "Get an education," the old people used to tell him. Although the 1954 Brown decision was supposed to make that easier for blacks to achieve, Walker's views on the ruling are mixed because he sees so much effort was wasted in pursuing integration at the expense of educational excellence.

Walker speaks:

The schools became half-equal when they integrated, with blacks sitting in the same classroom as white students. That didn't last too long, and they soon had segregated classrooms, even in the North. There would be a 7A class for all the smart kids, and a 7B for the others. All the whites and maybe one or two blacks were in 7A.

My whole argument with Brown is that integration never should have been a goal, it should have been a result. A quality education should have been the goal. If it had been, we would not still be dealing with the achievement gap 40 years on. Integration isn't really the goal. A nice neighborhood is. A decent salary is. A good school is.

Watching television--and the movies--I saw that all of the successful white men lived in New York, and they worked as executives in two places: in Rockefeller Center or on Wall Street. I saw that and I said, "I want to be an executive." I didn't know what the heck an executive was. All I knew was they had white shirts and attaché cases. But I followed the Booker model. I left home, went to New York, and enrolled at a city college.

Then I discovered corporate America didn't choose their important employees from the city colleges, and so I left Brooklyn College and went to New York University. But when I got to NYU, they tested me and told me I needed to take six months of reading and writing comprehension, and six months of college algebra. Now, before 1964, no one was talking about diversity at NYU. If you didn't score high enough, you had to take remedial courses whether you were black or white. But after taking the courses, as I did, you entered the regular program. Everybody in the regular program knew you had to pass the test to get in and so you didn't go in with any stigma, as blacks do now with affirmative action.....

I held my first meeting on school vouchers here in Chicago in 1984 with the help of Sears and The Heritage Foundation. We had a seminar on vouchers and Marva Collins was the keynote speaker. I'm for school choice for two reasons. Number one, the present system is failing. Number two, school choice would give parents the opportunity to put their children in an environment that is better than the one they've been assigned to by the school district. I don't think choice is a panacea, but you have to be out of your mind to want to stay in a burning house. With choice, at least you can get out.

I think the system itself is the problem. It's not a school system, it's a bureaucracy. And for low-income children, this bureaucracy perpetuates low expectations. Teachers need to broaden the horizons of opportunity for students and encourage self-sufficiency. One way to do that would be to give families some say in where their children go to school. The money should follow the child.

Education has always meant a lot to black folks. Black Americans understand the true value of education because they know their individual freedom depends on it.

More here


When the National Endowment for the Arts last summer released "Reading at Risk: a Survey of Literary Reading in America," journalists and commentators were quick to seize on the findings as a troubling index of the state of literary culture. The survey showed a serious decline in both literary reading and book reading in general by adults of all ages, races, incomes, education levels and regions. But in all the discussion, one of the more worrisome trends went largely unnoticed. From 1992 to 2002, the gender gap in reading by young adults widened considerably. In overall book reading, young women slipped from 63 percent to 59 percent, while young men plummeted from 55 percent to 43 percent......

Although one might expect the schools to be trying hard to make reading appealing to boys, the K-12 literature curriculum may in fact be contributing to the problem. It has long been known that there are strong differences between boys and girls in their literary preferences. According to reading interest surveys, both boys and girls are unlikely to choose books based on an "issues" approach, and children are not interested in reading about ways to reform society -- or themselves. But boys prefer adventure tales, war, sports and historical nonfiction, while girls prefer stories about personal relationships and fantasy. Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys.

Unfortunately, the textbooks and literature assigned in the elementary grades do not reflect the dispositions of male students. Few strong and active male role models can be found as lead characters. Gone are the inspiring biographies of the most important American presidents, inventors, scientists and entrepreneurs. No military valor, no high adventure. On the other hand, stories about adventurous and brave women abound. Publishers seem to be more interested in avoiding "masculine" perspectives or "stereotypes" than in getting boys to like what they are assigned to read.

At the middle school level, the kind of quality literature that might appeal to boys has been replaced by Young Adult Literature, that is, easy-to-read, short novels about teenagers and problems such as drug addiction, teenage pregnancy, alcoholism, domestic violence, divorced parents and bullying. Older literary fare has also been replaced by something called "culturally relevant" literature -- texts that appeal to students' ethnic group identification on the assumption that sharing the leading character's ethnicity will motivate them to read.

There is no evidence whatsoever that either of these types of reading fare has turned boys into lifelong readers or learners. On the contrary, the evidence is accumulating that by the time they go on to high school, boys have lost their interest in reading about the fictional lives, thoughts and feelings of mature individuals in works written in high-quality prose, and they are no longer motivated by an exciting plot to persist in the struggle they will have with the vocabulary that goes with it.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Thursday, January 27, 2005


There is no question that leftist views have infiltrated our colleges and universities. But what most people may not know, is just how far left the pendulum has swung. Ben Shapiro is a recent graduate from UCLA. He is also the youngest syndicated columnist in the United States. What he says has crept into American universities is astonishing. Sharpiro said, "You go on campus, you pick up the campus newspaper and see editorials comparing Ariel Sharon to Adolf Eichmann. And then you walk outside class and you see the Muslim Student Association handing out pamphlets actively fundraising for Hamas and Hezbollah, and you figure, boy, I better do something about this."

When he tried to do something, he was fired from the UCLA Daily Bruin, the campus' newspaper. Shapiro commented, "It had something to do with insensitivity, they actually later would claim that I was a racist for attempting to expose the fact that student dollars were going to the promotion of terrorism."

So how did our colleges and universities become havens for anti-American thought and rhetoric? Some say the Leftist agenda that is running rampant today got its roots in the 1960s. The radicals of the Sixties Revolution are the same men and women at the head of our educational institutions and are in charge of shaping the minds of our young people today. And it is not just anti-Americanism that has escalated. Just look at this list of courses taught at some of America's top universities:

At Columbia, Sorcery and Magic
At Dartmouth, Queer Theory, Queer Texts
At Cornell, Gay Fiction
At Swarthmore, Lesbian Novels Since World War II
At the University of Wisconsin, Goddesses and Feminine Powers
And, at the University of Pennsylvania, Feminist Critique of Christianity,
to name just a few.

In his new book, Freefall of the American University: How Our Colleges are Corrupting the Minds and Morals of the Next Generation Jim Nelson Black says it will take a massive uprising of concerned citizens, students, parents and allies to turn the situation around

More here


Once upon a time, education was a way to rise out of a poor background. No longer. Public education is now so useless that family background is again the big determinant of life success.

Today, for example, we may still believe American society is uniquely dynamic, but we're deceiving ourselves. European societies, which seem more class riven and less open, have just as much social mobility as the United States does.

And there are some indications that it is becoming harder and harder for people to climb the ladder of success. The Economist magazine gathered much of the recent research on social mobility in America. The magazine concluded that the meritocracy is faltering: "Would-be Horatio Algers are finding it no easier to climb from rags to riches, while the children of the privileged have a greater chance of staying at the top of the social heap."

Economists and sociologists do not all agree, but it does seem there is at least slightly less movement across income quintiles than there was a few decades ago. Sons' income levels correlate more closely to those of their fathers. The income levels of brothers also correlate more closely. That suggests that the family you were born into matters more and more to how you will fare in life. That's a problem because we are not supposed to have a hereditary class structure in this country.

But we're developing one. In the information age, education matters more. In an age in which education matters more, family matters more, because as James Coleman established decades ago, family status shapes educational achievement.

At the top end of society we have a mass upper-middle class. This is made up of highly educated people who move into highly educated neighborhoods and raise their kids in good schools with the children of other highly educated parents. These kids develop wonderful skills, get into good colleges (the median family income of a Harvard student is now $150,000), then go out and have their own children, who develop the same sorts of wonderful skills and who repeat the cycle all over again. In this way these highly educated elites produce a paradox - a hereditary meritocratic class.

It becomes harder for middle-class kids to compete against members of the hypercharged educated class. Indeed, the middle-class areas become more socially isolated from the highly educated areas. And this is not even to speak of the children who grow up in neighborhoods in which more boys go to jail than college, in which marriage is not the norm before child-rearing, in which homes are often unstable, in which long-range planning is absurd, in which the social skills you need to achieve are not even passed down.

In his State of the Union address, President Bush is no doubt going to talk about his vision of an ownership society. But homeownership or pension ownership is only part of a larger story. The larger story is the one Lincoln defined over a century ago, the idea that this nation should provide an open field and a fair chance so that all can compete in the race of life.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Attempts to discourage bullying and abuse in schools are important if not essential but stigmatizing dislike of homosexuality as bullying is surely not. If homosexuality is to be discussed at all, teachers need to acknowledge that many normal people find it disgusting or immoral and that dislike of it or its practitioners is NOT bullying or ipso facto abusive

"Using a young readers' novel called "The Misfits" as its centerpiece, middle schools nationwide will participate in a "No Name-Calling Week" initiative starting Monday. The program, now in its second year, has the backing of groups from the Girl Scouts to Amnesty International but has also drawn complaints that it overemphasizes harassment of gay youths. The initiative was developed by the New York-based Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network, which seeks to ensure that schools safely accommodate students of all sexual orientations. GLSEN worked with James Howe, the openly gay author of "The Misfits" and many other popular children's books. "Gay students aren't the only kids targeted — this isn't about special rights for them," Howe said. "But the fact is that 'faggot' is probably the most common insult at schools." ... "The Misfits" deals with four much-taunted middle schoolers — one of them gay — who run for the student council on a platform advocating an end to nasty name-calling.

GLSEN is unsure how many schools will participate in this week's event, but says 5,100 educators from 36 states have registered, up from 4,000 last year. Participation in a related writing-music-art contest rose from 100 students last year to 1,600 this year; the winning poem was written by Sue Anna Yeh, a 13-year-old from Sugar Land, Texas. "No Name-calling Week" takes aim at insults of all kinds — whether based on a child's appearance, background or behavior.

But a handful of conservative critics have zeroed in on the references to harassment based on sexual orientation. "I hope schools will realize it's less an exercise in tolerance than a platform for liberal groups to promote their pan-sexual agenda," said Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute. "Schools should be steering kids away from identifying as gay," Knight said. "You can teach civility to kids and tell them every child is valued without conveying the message that failure to accept homosexuality as normal is a sign of bigotry." In Iowa, complaints by scores of parents about the gay themes in "The Misfits" prompted the Pleasant Valley School Board to rule that teachers could no longer read it aloud to elementary school classes, although it could remain in school libraries....

One of GLSEN's most persistent critics is Warren Throckmorton, director of counseling at Grove City College, a Christian school outside Pittsburgh. His skeptical comments about "No Name-Calling Week" have been widely circulated this month on conservative Web sites. "There's no question middle school can be a difficult place — I'm not advocating that any group gets mistreated," Throckmorton said in a telephone interview. "But it will definitely make traditionally oriented teachers and parents and kids feel very uncomfortable, if they happen to object to homosexuality on moral grounds," he said of GLSEN's program. "If you disagree, you're hateful, you're bigoted, you're a homophobe. They're using name-calling to combat name-calling." "

More here. For more on "homophobia", see here.


A LEVELS and GCSEs would remain the gold standard in education, Ruth Kelly said yesterday, dealing a blow to the most ambitious education reforms to secondary schooling in 60 years. Days before the Government officially responds to the proposals, the Education Secretary clearly indicated that the exams would not only remain in place but would be built upon to stretch the most able pupils.

In her first policy announcement, Ms Kelly also pledged to stamp out low-level classroom disruption with a new zero-tolerance policy. Ms Kelly said: "We have got to build on GCSEs and A levels, which after all are recognised as very important and good exams out there by the general public and by employers. So, yes, as we go forward and, as we widen opportunities and bring in a range of vocational options for students as well as academic options, we really do need to make sure that we have GCSEs and A levels remaining in place and build upon that."

In October Sir Mike Tomlinson, the former chief inspector of England's schools, proposed a ten-year programme of reform that envisaged a four-level diploma with literacy, numeracy and information technology at its core, to replace GCSEs and A levels by 2014. An extended personal project would replace existing coursework and a programme of "main learning" would allow students to follow both vocational and academic courses. Last night Sir Mike said he agreed that A levels and GCSEs should be the building blocks of any future educational framework. "I always envisaged they would remain in content and assembly, and would look, if not exactly the same, similar to what we have now," he said, adding that he did ultimately see the end of the exams in their current form.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, insisted that the comments did not indicate the end of the radical reforms. He said: "The question remains open as to when the names disappear, as they assuredly will do eventually, but she is correct to say they are a proven system and must form a large part of the building block of the new system."

Ms Kelly also made it clear that after two months in office she had put improving classroom discipline at the top of her agenda. She said: "I would like to see the teacher being able to remove disruptive children from the classroom completely and have either alternative provision within the school or indeed off the school, and may be working together with other schools in a particular area to provide that."

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Tuesday, January 25, 2005


As the private sector offers services in more segments of the $500 billion K-12 education sector, special interest groups are working to discredit not only private-sector involvement in public education, but also the private sector as a whole. Two recent examples illustrate how teacher unions and other education advocacy groups often present their members with a negatively biased view of the private sector and its involvement in education. This approach leaves educators unexposed to the larger body of evidence that shows competition and privatization have improved service in almost every business sector, including education.

In the September 2004 issue of NEA Today, the monthly organ of the National Education Association, a series of articles collected under the title "Cash Cow" highlights privatization failures and gives union members advice on how to fight privatization initiatives. The report fails to mention the hundreds of case studies showing benefits to children and the public from school privatization. The NEA Today series argues that when "private profits outweigh public accountability, educators and kids pay the price." As evidence for the failure of privatization initiatives, the articles offer stock horror stories of privatization missteps and selected studies showing privatization is more expensive than traditional public-sector operation.

The series fails to mention the large body of research that shows substantial cost savings and improvements in service quality from privatization of school support services. According to the most recent school privatization survey conducted by American School & University magazine, 32 percent of the nation's school districts outsource transportation and about 17 percent outsource food service. Extensive literature reviews of cost savings have found between 20 and 40 percent savings from school outsourcing. For example, in 2002, the Philadelphia school district faced a $28 million deficit. By turning to privatized transportation, custodial, food service, and other support services, the district saved $29 million over two years and erased its deficit--while running a robust teacher recruitment program and without firing any teachers......

The NEA position on outsourcing was echoed in a September 2004 report on commercialism in education from Arizona State University's Alex Molnar, who negatively portrays private-sector involvement in education as exploiting children. Even sponsorships, such as corporate support of the National Merit Scholarship Program, are dismissed as programs that "often serve the donors' commercial purposes." The report, Virtually Everywhere: Marketing to Children in America's Schools, measures what Molnar views as the evils of commercialism in schools by counting the number of media references to private-sector involvement in education. Those references include not only privatization but also corporate sponsorships, exclusive licensing agreements, sponsored educational materials, and fundraising. Molnar reports that media references in five out of eight categories of schoolhouse commercialism increased between July 1, 2003 and June 30, 2004. Overall, he finds media references to commercialism increased 9 percent as compared to the 2002-2003 school year.

Molnar and his Commercialism in Education Research Unit at Arizona State are affiliated with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national coalition of health care professionals, educators, advocacy groups, and concerned parents. CCFC's mission is "countering the harmful effects of marketing to children through action, advocacy, education, research, and collaboration among organizations and individuals who care about children. CCFC supports the rights of children to grow up--and the rights of parents to raise them--without being undermined by rampant consumerism.".....

Molnar's report offers no evidence of corporations limiting curriculum or blocking participation in the democratic process. His report and the recent NEA Today demonstrate the need for a more balanced presentation of private-sector involvement in education for the benefit of administrators, teachers, and parents.

More here:


Several days ago, I ran across an article about a 52-year-old man who had lived with his 12-year-old daughter in a tent in a Portland , Oregon park for four years. When they were discovered, the girl was described as "well-spoken beyond her years." Actually, this girl, who would have been in the seventh grade, tested at the 12th grade level. And what did her educational materials consist of? A set of old encyclopedias and a Bible. A few days ago, in one of those odd synchronicities that happen to all of us, I ran across another article about a father encountering three high-school girls who were talking about a party they had attended. He writes:

"Seemingly still semi-drunk from the party, the 16- and 17-year-old girls began to recount how much coke, weed, vodka, guys and girls they did the night before. Listening to the F-bomb riddled report of the previous night's peccadilloes left me thinking, how sad . . . and . . . what a waste . . . ."

He recounts how he and his wife pulled their daughters out of the public schools: "It's been eleven months since we pulled our teenage daughters out of the public school system and started to home school them, and I could kick myself for waiting so long. The educational, emotional, spiritual and physical progress they have made has been amazing."

I'm certainly not defending an obviously extremely eccentric father raising his daughter in a tent from the ages of eight to 12. But I am sympathetic to his reasons. It's entirely possible his daughter might have turned into one of those bragging 16- and 17-year-olds. I find it bizarre that I am sympathetic at all to a man raising his daughter in a tent in a park. But I am. It's because of what the public schools have finally, after all these years, created: kids whom I wouldn't want for my own.

When I ask myself if I would like to be raised like that, of course I say, "No." But then a little voice says, "Remember seventh grade?" When it comes right down to it, in some ways the tent in the park would have been better. When a girl raised in a tent in a park, with only a Bible and an obsolete set of encyclopedias, turns out so much better than kids from the public schools that a comparison isn't even close, it shows the public school are now beyond repair.

I'll bet this 12-year-old isn't damaged at all. In ten years, I'll bet she'll be just fine. She certainly will have some interesting stories to tell. As for the three girls soused on the coke and booze and weed? Well, who knows? Only time will tell. But I've met these people, lots of them, and so have you. Not all of them make it out okay.

I'm sure those who support the public schools are having a conniption fit over this fundamentalist Christian father raising his daughter in a tent. Oh, the horror or it all! Yet, when it comes to those three girls and others like them, all we hear are excuses. And, of course, the eternal whining that more money is needed.

The public schools have been going bad for a long time. They were going bad when I was in them. Even with all the partying we did, we would have thought those three drunken and stoned girls were nuts, the kind almost all of us would have stayed away from. They were the exception then. Now it looks as if they are becoming the norm.

Some people claim we need the schools to "socialize" kids. Schools don't socialize kids; they traumatize them. I am reminded of the popularity of Stephen King's first novel, Carrie, which was about the shark pit that high school can be. And King, who obviously based the novel on his time in school, went to high school in the '60s. Now it's 40 years later, and worse, not better.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Monday, January 24, 2005


There IS a fair solution

Last week, a federal judge ruled on a nationally-watched Georgia case, in which the Cobb County school board had ordered warning stickers to be placed on the outside of biology textbooks. The stickers indicated that evolution is "a theory, not a fact." The decision to add labels to the textbooks sparked controversy. A group of parents who opposed the policy filed a lawsuit against the school board on the grounds that the stickers are an unconstitutional endorsement of religion.

Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper agreed with the challengers, saying that the labels send "a message that the school board agrees with the beliefs of Christian fundamentalists and Creationists." (The school board is appealing the ruling.) The judge's decision is a little ridiculous, based on the text of what the school board-supported stickers say. The entire disclaimer reads: "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

The statement does not mention God or religion. It is hardly an endorsement of a belief that the world was created in six literal days. And if there is one thing progressive educators usually endorse wholeheartedly, it is "critical thinking."

However, the sticker itself is not the real issue. Nick Matzke, a spokesman for the National Center for Science Education, identified what would have happened if his side had lost this court battle: "We would have seen it pop up all over the country." What is the "it" to which he referred? "It" is creationism itself. Lynn Hogue, a Georgia State University constitutional law professor, made clear that the issue is bigger than just a "critical thinking" controversy. "Anti-evolutionists can take their case to the pulpit, but they have no business making it in public school classrooms through stickers in textbooks paid for by taxpayer dollars."

Of course, a very large percentage of the people living and paying taxes in Cobb County are Christians. Why is it acceptable to force them to use their tax dollars to teach their children something to which they strenuously object, but unacceptable to place a sticker on textbooks that asks other people to consider, even for a moment, beliefs contrary to their own? That question gets to the crux of the problem: No matter how divergent their views and values, all Americans are forced to pay for public schools, no matter what the educators teach. But how can millions of people get what they want out of a one-size-fits-all-so-deal-with-it system? The answer is that they cannot. And the fight over evolution is just one of numerous struggles precipitated by a system for which all must pay, but only a select few control.

This past December, for instance, a lawsuit was narrowly averted when a Wisconsin school district lifted its ban on students distributing Christmas cards with religious messages. Last May, a Kentucky girl was barred from attending her high school prom because she was wearing a dress styled after the Confederate flag. She is currently suing the school district for violating her right to free speech. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, parents and educators warred over whether phonics should be the basis for how schools taught reading.

Thankfully, there is a way for all parents -- the phonics crowd, whole language enthusiasts, creationists, defenders of Darwinian dogmas, etc. -- to get their way: privatization. If governments were to let parents choose their children's schools, then fights over educational standards would disappear, becoming matters of consumer choice, not political power. If the state of Georgia decided tomorrow to disband its public schools, divide the funds that it currently spends on education equally among school-age children, and issue a voucher to every child, we would see a lot of positive things happen. Educational controversies would be resolved between parents and educators, not by court order, parents would no longer be set against each other in a struggle to determine what their children are taught. And schools could get on with the business of educating children.



California legislators in recent years have concentrated on ensuring that no-one is forced to learn English and ensuring that it is great to be "transgendered" etc, but what about getting some education into the kids?

California's public school system lags behind most of the nation on almost every objective measurement of student achievement, funding, teacher qualifications and school facilities, according to a new RAND Corporation analysis that is the first comprehensive examination of measurable dimensions of the state's education system. The study issued today chronicles how the state's K-12 school system has fallen from a national leader 30 years ago to its current ranking near the bottom in nearly every objective category. It was funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which is working to build support for improving California schools.

While the assessment of California schools is generally negative, researchers also note several positive trends, including significant improvement in student math achievement in recent years, and funding increases for school construction and repair. "A lot of people have expressed concern about the state of K-12 education in California," said Stephen Carroll, a RAND senior economist and lead author of the report. "We found that those concerns are well placed. California schools are lagging behind most other states and these findings suggest policymakers need to make major changes in order to repair the problems. Despite some improvements, the state has a long way to go to reclaim its standing as a national leader in K-12 education."

"This report makes the scope of the California education crisis crystal clear," said Marshall S. Smith, director of the Hewlett Foundation's education program. "We need so much more than short-term Band-Aids - we need long-term solutions that deal with the system's underlying problems. To secure California's future, we need serious school finance reform to ensure that all children have the educational resources to achieve high standards." California currently spends more than $50 billion each year to educate about 6 million elementary and secondary students - about 12.8 percent of the nation's school-age population.

RAND researchers examined the status of K-12 education in California across several broad measures, including student academic achievement, teacher qualifications, school facilities and non-educational benchmarks such as teenage pregnancy rates. Among the findings:

* California student achievement on national standardized tests is near the bottom of the 50 states, ranking above only Louisiana and Mississippi. California's low scores cannot be accounted for by a high percentage of minority students, who generally have lower scores because many come from low-income families and sometimes must learn English as a second language. Controlling for students' background, California's scores are the lowest of any state.

* California students have made gains on national achievement tests in both math and reading. In particular, the improvement seen among 4th graders in California in the past seven years has been greater than their peers in other states.

* California has the second highest ratio of students per teacher in the nation, even after a major effort began in 1996 to reduce ratios for K-3 and 9th grade. California K-12 schools have an average of 20.9 students per teacher, compared with a national average of 16.1.

* California school districts' teacher standards are generally lower than in other states. Just 46 percent of school districts in California require teachers to have full standard certification in the subjects they teach, compared with 82 percent nationally.

* The real average annual teacher salary in California during the 2000-2001 school year was about the same as it was in 1969-70, when adjusted for inflation. The adjusted annual average salary of about $39,000 (in today's dollars) places California last among the five largest states and 32nd nationwide.

* While California spent less per pupil on school facilities than other states during the 1990s, progress has been made in recent years with passage of both state and local bond measures. However, schools in central cities and in rural areas still have a high number of inadequate facilities.

More here


For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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Sunday, January 23, 2005


What does it say for America's "real" educational qualifications when nobody can tell the holders of them from diploma-mill frauds? It sure looks like America's whole education system is not far short of being one vast diploma-mill

Laura L. Callahan was very proud of her Ph.D. When she received it a few years ago, she promptly rewrote her official biography to highlight the academic accomplishment, referring to it not once or twice but nine times in a single-page summary of her career. And she never let her employees at the Labor Department, where she served as deputy chief information officer, forget it, even demanding that they call her "Doctor."....

One employee was skeptical of Callahan's qualifications, however, and began quietly asking questions. The answers worried him, especially after Callahan was hired in 2003 as the Department of Homeland Security's deputy chief information officer. His concerns and the resulting investigation ultimately revealed a troubling pattern of r‚sum‚ fraud at federal agencies, including several charged with protecting Americans from terrorism. The scandal raises serious doubts about the government's ability to vet the qualifications of public employees on whom the nation's security depends.

"When she was running around telling people to call her 'Dr. Callahan,' I asked where she got her degree," says Richard Wainwright, a computer specialist who worked for Callahan at Labor for two years. "When I found out, I laughed." It turns out Callahan got her precious sheepskin from Hamilton University. Not Hamilton College, the highly competitive school in Clinton, New York, but Hamilton University, the unaccredited fee-for-degree "distance learning" center in Evanston, Wyoming, right on the Utah border. Such diploma mills frequently use names similar to those of accredited schools.....

To get her Ph.D., Callahan merely had to thumb through a workbook and take an open-book exam. The whole correspondence course-which includes instruction on business ethics-takes about five hours to complete. A 2,000-word paper (shorter than this article) counts as a dissertation. In short, Callahan's diploma isn't worth the paper it's written on. Though there is that nice leather-bound holder. It gets worse. Callahan owes her entire academic pedigree to Ham U. The bachelor's and master's degrees in computer science she lists on her r‚sum‚ were also bought at the diploma mill.....

At the time, Callahan had applied for an important high-level position at the Department of Homeland Security. The job was deputy chief information officer, similar to the post she held at the Labor Department. But this new job required integrating and managing some of the nation's most sensitive databases in a time of war. Callahan clearly wasn't qualified, no matter what her r‚sum‚ said. Wainwright wondered if she could even be trusted with a top-secret security clearance.

After Callahan landed the post in April 2003, Wainwright anonymously tipped off a Beltway trade journal about her phony degrees and fraudulent r‚sum‚. Government Computer News broke the story about Callahan, triggering an 11-month congressional investigation that culminated in government-wide reforms meant to curb the use of diploma mills by federal employees, whose tuition is often financed by taxpayers.

"She was in a position where she could cause$)A!-damage to the United States," Wainwright says, speaking publicly for the first time about the case. "And that's why I did what I did." Callahan's fraud was exposed in May 2003. Curiously, she wasn't forced to resign until March 26, 2004, after being placed on administrative leave-with pay-the previous June. That means she continued to draw her Department of Homeland Security salary of between $128,000 and $175,000 for nearly 10 months while under a serious ethical cloud. Misrepresenting qualifications on a r‚sum‚, an official bio, or an application-including submitting false academic credentials-is grounds for immediate dismissal, according to federal rules written by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).....

After Callahan's phony degrees were exposed, Congress asked its investigative arm, the GAO (recently renamed the Government Accountability Office), to audit other federal agencies to find out how widespread the problem of bogus academic credentials is inside the government. Congress also wanted to get a sense of how much, if any, federal money pays for tuitions at diploma mills.

Looking at the personnel of eight federal agencies chosen at random, the GAO found that 463 employees showed up on the enrollment records of just three unaccredited schools. (It actually looked at four colleges, but only three responded to its request for information and only two fully cooperated.) This was merely a sampling of the dozens of mills operating nationwide, not an exhaustive audit; given the limited nature of the GAO's investigation, the true number of federal employees who are academically unqualified to fill the positions they hold could be in the thousands.

Agencies tasked with defending America from terrorism were among the top employers of workers with phony diplomas identified by the GAO. The Department of Defense employs 257 of them. Transportation has 17. Justice has 13; Homeland Security, 12; Treasury, eight.

The GAO also found that two diploma mills alone have received a total of nearly $170,000 in payments from a dozen federal agencies for tuition for 64 employees. Hamilton University refused to cooperate with the GAO in its audit of federal payments for student fees, so it remains unclear whether Callahan's tuition was subsidized.

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Yet systematic education was introduced into England by the Church, not the state. And the education was indeed systematic, with each parish having access to a church school. There were more than 12,000 elementary church schools by 1891, and the Church's enterprise in mass education was so successful that, throughout the 19th century, British literacy rates exceeded those on the Continent... Only in 1870 did the Lords pass the famous Act to create state schools. Between 1870 and 1891, the state and church schools competed levelly - and the state schools lost: practically nobody attended them, and their over-provision created more than a million empty school places.

It was the Conservatives under Lord Salisbury who nationalised the church schools. The Tories, worried by the German threat, wanted the schools to teach military drill, but the church schools refused to become Prussian academies. So, in 1891, Salisbury made the state schools an offer: he would abolish their fees if they taught military drill.

Fees were then 10 shillings a year (except for the children of the poor who, at both state and church schools, were educated free) but, Salisbury suggested, if their fees were abolished, the state schools might attract pupils. To pay for the "free" state schools, Salisbury did not double the income tax of the rich; instead he doubled the domestic rates, the tax that preferentially hit ordinary people.

Under this double whammy of targeted taxes and "free" schools, a third of all parents had, by 1902, transferred their children from church to state schools. The church schools thus found their margins so squeezed that they had to apply for government grants - which were provided only if they accepted local authority control and if they introduced . . . military drill.

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For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

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