Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Flipping Students the Bird

How "helping" students can backfire

Steve Jobs was suspended from high school for playing a salacious prank on the graduating senior class. Biographer Walter Isaacson says Jobs and his friends tie-dyed a bedsheet with the school colors and enlisted one of their mothers to paint a large hand extending its middle finger across the sheet. Jobs hung the homespun banner from a school balcony and flipped off the seniors during their commencement procession.

It was as if the eventual college dropout and entrepreneurial billionaire wanted to say: “Eff formal education. I will learn and earn on my own terms.”

Today, President Obama is effectively giving college students and their parents his middle finger. Whereas Jobs’ prank was harmless and symbolic, the President’s plan to bail out student loans will derail the entrepreneurial dreams and financial security of countless young people.

By executive order, the President’s unconstitutional “We Can’t Wait - Pay As You Earn” plan modifies the existing Income-Based Repayment Plan so that, effective in 2012, graduates may cap their loan payments at 10 percent instead of 15 percent of their discretionary income. Anything remaining after 20 years (formerly 25 years) becomes fundamentally the taxpayers’ responsibility. And, if a student wants to become a public servant (i.e. work for George Soros) his loan will be forgiven after just 10 years.

Jobs dropped out of college because he was worried about wasting his parents’ money. He also told Isaacson he had: “no idea how college was going to help me…” Jobs self-started Apple by selling his Volkswagen bus so he and Stephen Wozniak could pool together about $1,300 of initial capital. Jobs could have squandered his parents’ money. Instead, he used his money and their garage to build a company that would create countless jobs and terrific products for people all over the world.

If Jobs had frittered away four years of his life in college instead of pursuing creative opportunities, I wouldn’t have written this column on a Mac and you wouldn’t be tweeting it to your friends from your iPhone. And, if Taylor Swift had gone to college you wouldn’t be playing her music on iTunes because she’d be an unrenowned member of a college choir.

I think young people and their parents deserve to know the truth about the President’s program.

First, the program deceptively leads students to believe they will advance and save money by taking out big loans for four years instead of skipping college altogether or taking steps to graduate debt-free—like working part-time and maintaining academic scholarships with good grades. The average student will only save between $4 and $8 a month on this program. Upon graduation, they could end up with unmarketable skills, a poor education and a 10 percent excise tax on their income for 20 years. Awesome.

Second, Pay As You Earn encourages college graduates to pursue jobs they don’t want. Students will accept lower-paying jobs in public service simply because they can get their student debt written off in 10 years—not because their skills or interests fit public service.

Third, this program discourages natural entrepreneurship. Inc. Magazine reports: ‘As part of the “We Can’t Wait” initiative, the White House also announced an unusual partnership with Gen Y Capital Partners.’ Basically, once students qualify for Pay As You Earn, Gen Y will help them with up to three years of their student loan payments and potentially help them find free room and board for up to two years on a participating college campus. Gen Y’s founder, Scott Gerber, defended the partnership in The Huffington Post as necessary during “a time when our nation is in desperate need of economic stimulants…”

Huh? Natural entrepreneurs do not need free housing from a college that will over-structure their life or possibly try to take credit for their ideas.

Realistically, I see this partnership encouraging young people to set their sights low and develop stupid companies with meager growth prospects in order to get their student loans forgiven. A calculator on the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website reveals that if a young entrepreneur reports an income under $20,000 a year, their monthly student loan payment would be $0.

The President should be encouraging entrepreneurial youths to ditch college and pursue a private Peter Thiel-style fellowship rather than pushing them to spend four years of their life accruing needless information and burdensome debt. Extreme innovators like Steve Jobs, Taylor Swift, Rush Limbaugh, Michael Dell, Bill Gates, and Ralph Lauren helped themselves and society by “selfishly” skipping overpriced, cookie-cutter experiences like college.

Pay As You Earn lets colleges get off the hook for rising costs and failing educational programs and hangs young people out to dry. I think students and their parents deserve more than the President’s middle finger in exchange for their votes in 2012.


Teachers' union fat-cats live high

According to the propaganda of the teachers unions, these are bleak times for public education. Younger teachers are being laid off, school employees are making benefit concessions, and unions are losing bargaining privileges.

Heck, things are so (allegedly) bad that President Obama is barnstorming the country in an effort to whip up support for his latest bailout for Big Education.

In the midst of all the wreckage, one group has emerged completely unscathed: the leaders of the American Federation of Teachers. The fat cats at the AFT are living large – dare I say like the 1%?

The union’s recent financial report filed with the federal department of labor reveals President Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten saw a cool 15% increase in her compensation – a bump of over $65K, taking her to $493,859. An additional 193 employees make more than $100,000.

Remarkably, the union – while being bludgeoned in places like Wisconsin and Tennessee – apparently sees value in supporting new teachers unions around the globe.

The report reveals several expenditures to unions around the country, including:

* Federacion Colombiana de Educatores - $51,876

* Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions - $51,875

* KK NSZZ Solidarnosc (Poland) - $51,876

* National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa - $42,951

* NASWUT (UK) - $42,951

* Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (Philippines) - $46,200

The union also reported paying $6,934 to “Wild Africa Safaris Inc.” which appears to be a Canadian travel agency specializing in African and Middle Eastern destinations.

But the union doesn’t just “spread the wealth” abroad. They know how to have a good time in America as well. Check out these separate expenditures totaling over $500,000, just in Las Vegas:

* Flamingo Las Vegas - $175,476

* Flamingo Las Vegas Adv. Dep. - $129,859

* Harrah's Las Vegas - $71,716

* Harrah’s Entertainment - $77,500

* Flamingo Las Vegas - $28,592

* Harrah's Las Vegas - $10,511

* Harrah’s Entertainment - $12,500

* Mirage Hotel-Lodging - $6,152

The reality is the union can spend its dollars however it sees fit. If it wants to pay Weingarten a million dollars a year – and push her further into the 1% – that’s its choice.

But there are thousands of teachers across the country who have no choice but to financially support the union as a condition of their employment. They are just the “host” that the parasitic union leadership feeds off of.

The “peons” can labor in the classroom, while Weingarten and her ilk live large in Vegas. The least Weingarten could do is bring back some souvenir shirts that read, “My leadership went to Vegas on my dime, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”


British primary schools to be run on High School lines

Children as young as five will be taught by specialist subject teachers under a Government plan to give pupils the best start to their education.

A new wave of primary teachers will be trained to give dedicated lessons in disciplines such as mathematics, science and foreign languages, it was announced. It signals a dramatic shift in the primary school workforce which has traditionally favoured all-rounders who can teach any subject.

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said the move would put state-educated pupils on a par with those in fee-paying schools. “Children in private sector through prep schools get primary specialist teaching in core subjects such as maths and sciences,” he said today.

“We want to make sure children in the state sector can benefit from the same opportunities. Learning about maths and science early on in life can enthuse a child to develop a love of the subjects later on in their education.”

The reforms are outlined in a radical blueprint designed to overhaul the system of teacher training in England. From 2012, funding will be reallocated to allow more state-funded training places to be made available for subject specialist primary school teachers.

They will get priority places over students taking general primary courses and schools will be offered the chance to train their own primary specialists.

Trainees teaching science, maths and foreign languages could be offered extra financial rewards because the subjects are seen as vital to pupils’ future chances of getting into top universities and securing a good job.

Ministers will also toughen up the selection process to weed out unsuitable trainees and introduce a package of generous incentives to attract the brightest graduates.

For the first time in 2013, students must pass basic tests in English and maths to start postgraduate training courses – and will only be allowed to re-sit assessments twice. Tests themselves will also be toughened up and the pass marks will be raised.

It will replace the current system in which student teachers normally take exams half-way through one-year courses and are permitted unlimited re-sits.

As reported on Tuesday, the Government will also introduce a system of tapered bursaries designed to attract graduates with first-class honours degrees.

The top students will be able to claim £20,000 scholarships – given out in monthly instalments throughout their course – to teach physics, maths, chemistry and modern languages. The best students will also be eligible for £9,000 bursaries to teach other “priority” secondary school subjects and to train as primary teachers.

Graduates with a 2:1 or 2:2 degree will handed smaller awards, while those with third-class degrees will be banned from claiming state funding.

But teachers condemned the move as elitist. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “A first class degree does not necessarily a first class teacher make.

“The real incentive which Government needs to address in order to attract people into teaching is not simply bursaries. “Teachers need to be given greater control over what goes on in the classroom, the unnecessary bureaucratic workload needs to go, pay and conditions need to remain competitive and of course Government needs to ensure a good pension.”

In further reforms, the Government will create a new training programme specifically to allow former Armed Forces personnel to gain qualified teacher status.

Alternative positions will be available in schools for ex-soldiers to act as advisors on discipline and “work with students at risk of exclusion or exhibiting anti-social behaviour”.


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