Tuesday, November 29, 2011

School lunch folly

Initially I only published this at my local blog, but just realized it is repeating in towns small and large all across the USA and abroad.

The local tiny-town weekly reports an outstanding debt of $18,000 in the school lunch program. Next month the school board will consider a proposal to sell that debt to a collection agency. They, in turn, will add 1/3rd to it and start working the parents over to pay off their ‘enhanced bills’.

Unsurprisingly, I find some things wrong with this. The big one, of course, is how did the food service department, business manager and school board let this debt get so dang big? The Food Service Director reports, “We have some families who haven’t paid for years.”

If somebody was shopping in your grocery store without paying their bill, how long would you let them continue to haul groceries out the front door? Not long at all with YOUR money, I’m sure. However, the school is working with other people’s money. That, of course, is the obvious difference.

These school two execs who make 140% or 240% of the average Kuna income seem to assume that the scofflaws are just being mean holding out on paying for these lunches. They will be shocked and amazed to learn that in many cases, the school lunch bills turn out to be among many the recently unemployed or underemployed are behind on. Do they even know that part of the world exists?

The school board chairman says he’d rather send a bill to collection than serve a child peanut butter sandwiches – “That would be demoralizing for the student, and other students would know what was going on.”

Oh my gosh, we can’t have students understanding that there is a limit to money – until we club them over the head with that fact the day after they depart our government-run school system and enter the real world.

We can’t send a message that, as Heinlein put it, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch“. That is, not until they are buried in making a living and paying half of that out in taxes to support someone else’s free lunch.

And we most certainly wouldn’t want to FORCE teens into making their own lunch… at least not while they are young and learning the ways of the world. Oh no, far better that we teach them that the government will take care of their needs. All they have to do is accept that adults are thrown in debtors prison every once in a while for what will probably appear to be inexplicable reasons.

If you, I or any rational business person were running the school lunch program, it would be a mere offering of lunch in a marketplace of lunch options. When I hired labor raised in Hispanic cultures, they were amazed that I would buy them lunch… mostly because none of them usually stopped working in the middle of the day. In 7th through 9th grades, if it wasn’t raining, I ate one peanut cup and played basketball for lunch. Those are only two among infinite choices that a real-world marketplace of ideas for lunch offers.


British universities see 15% slump in UK applicants as school leavers shun huge rise in fees

Universities face a record 15.1 per cent slump in UK applicants after the tripling of tuition fees, official statistics show. Rising numbers of British students are being deterred as charges of up to £9,000 a year are introduced next autumn. The Ucas statistics are a blow to the Coalition and suggest a looming meltdown in higher education after years of unbridled expansion.

Universities Minister David Willetts has insisted it is too early in the applications cycle to make predictions about demand for places. But experts believe the overall drop in applications for next year’s courses is one of the biggest.

Vice chancellors are likely to become reliant on lucrative overseas students who pay the full cost of courses – as much as £26,000 a year – to help boost their coffers.

The figures show that 133,357 home students have applied for 2012 degree courses at UK institutions so far, a drop of 23,759 compared with the same point last year. Applications from other EU students have fallen 13.1 per cent to 9,034.

However, the number of applicants from outside the EU has risen by 11.8 per cent – from 14,306 to 15,996 – amid extensive overseas recruitment drives. There has been a 31.8 per cent rise in applications from Hong Kong alone – up to 2,248 – as British institutions target this market.

Overall applications – including British, other EU and non-EU students – to UK universities by November 21 have dropped by 12.9 per cent to 158,387. At the same point last year, overall applications for courses starting in autumn 2011 had soared by 11.7 per cent to 181,814. Students cancelled gap years in the rush to get places ahead of next year’s increase in fees.

Last night Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, said: ‘I think this is the highest drop outside of the two World Wars, when some universities almost became bankrupt due to falling applications. They were rescued by State support. ‘In the 1980s, when the number of 18-year-olds dropped by a third, the shortfall in applications was made good by mature students and part-time students.’

He added: ‘It will be the less popular universities that will struggle. ‘Students will be questioning whether they would be getting sufficient value from £9,000-a-year from those universities.’

The largest fall in applications (17.1 per cent) is among Scottish students, even though they get free tuition in Scotland. This is believed to be due to a fall in the birth rate, together with a 19.1 per cent fall in their applications to English universities.

Applications are down among English students by 15.2 per cent, Welsh by 10.3 per cent and Northern Irish by 16.9 per cent. Areas of the UK with the largest falls in applications include the North East (-21.4 per cent) and the East Midlands (-20.1 per cent).

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the figures were worrying, adding: ‘Putting financial barriers in front of young people who have been told their entire lives to aim for university is nothing more than a policy of penalising ambition.’

Ucas chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘We expect some depression of demand due to a decline in the young population, but it is much too early to predict any effects from changes in fees.’

Mr Willetts said: ‘Most new students will not pay up front and there will be more financial support for those from poorer families.’

Students have until January 15 to apply for 2012 courses.

Research suggests they will face an average total bill of £48,503 for three years’ study at a Russell Group [elite] university, including the higher fees and living costs.


The University of Sydney Ranks 18th in the World for Arts and Humanities

As a graduate of the USyd Arts faculty I am rather pleased by this. There are a lot of universities in the world (7,000 in the USA alone by some estimates -- depending on what you call a university)

I thought it was pretty impressive in my day in the late 60s too. The philosophy school was particularly distinguished and I did study philosophy there. John Maze influenced me quite a lot -- as this paper shows

The University of Sydney is ranked 18th in the world in the field of arts and humanities, according to the most recent figures from Times Higher Education.

Three Australian institutions have made the top 20, led by Australian National University in Canberra. Ranked second in Australia is The University of Sydney, which has this year beaten out University of Melbourne, which came in at spot number 19.

The Times Education ranking system claims that their highest consideration factors when comparing universities are the learning environment, research and research influence (citations), innovation and international outlook.

Professor Duncan Ivison, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences says of the achievement "The Times Higher ranking for Arts and Humanities places our Faculty in the top 20 faculties of its kind in the world, which is a remarkable tribute to our staff and the extraordinary work they do as teachers and researchers."

"Although ranking exercises such as this must always be treated with care, over the past five years our Faculty has been consistently ranked in the top 25 faculties across a range of different measures, and that suggests we are clearly on the right track. There is still even more we want to achieve, but I am delighted the University of Sydney is now unquestionably seen to be one of the best places in the world for the humanities."

The University of Sydney overall was placed at number 58, therefore to be ranked 18th in the arts and humanities shows that this area is performing particularly strongly at Sydney.


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