Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why do rich kids do better than ever at school?

This will be an enraging finding to equality-mongers but for me the interest is in the explanation. The author below has few explanations so I may not do much better but let me try.

I think it goes back to the deteriorating quality of public schools. I think I learnt more in grade school 50 years ago than most kids now learn in High school. Does the fact that even some Harvard freshers (about 20%) have to be diverted into remedial math and English classes before they can go further tell you anything?

So it is only the rich who can afford to go private or live in high class areas who now have a chance of giving their kid a good education. A most lamentable change.
The Widening Academic Achievement Gap between the Rich and the Poor: New Evidence and Possible Explanations

Sean F. Reardon,


In this chapter I examine whether and how the relationship between family socioeconomic characteristics and academic achievement has changed during the last fifty years. In particular, I investigate the extent to which the rising income inequality of the last four decades has been paralleled by a similar increase in the income achievement gradient. As the income gap between high- and low-income families has widened, has the achievement gap between children in high- and low-income families also widened?

The answer, in brief, is yes. The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier. In fact, it appears that the income achievement gap has been growing for at least fifty years, though the data are less certain for cohorts of children born before 1970. In this chapter, I describe and discuss these trends in some detail. In addition to the key finding that the income achievement gap appears to have widened substantially, there are a number of other important findings.

First, the income achievement gap (defined here as the income difference between a child from a family at the 90th percentile of the family income distribution and a child from a family at the 10th percentile) is now nearly twice as large as the black-white achievement gap. Fifty years ago, in contrast, the black-white gap was one and a half to two times as large as the income gap. Second, as Greg Duncan and Katherine Magnuson note in chapter 3 of this volume, the income achievement gap is large when children enter kindergarten and does not appear to grow (or narrow) appreciably as children progress through school. Third, although rising income inequality may play a role in the growing income achievement gap, it does not appear to be the dominant factor. The gap appears to have grown at least partly because of an increase in the association between family income and children's academic achievement for families above the median income level: a given difference in family incomes now corresponds to a 30 to 60 percent larger difference in achievement than it did for children born in the 1970s. Moreover, evidence from other studies suggests that this may be in part a result of increasing parental investment in children's cognitive development. Finally, the growing income achievement gap does not appear to be a result of a growing achievement gap between children with highly and less-educated parents. Indeed, the relationship between parental education and children's achievement has remained relatively stable during the last fifty years, whereas the relationship between income and achievement has grown sharply. Family income is now nearly as strong as parental education in predicting children's achievement.


Escaping the FedEd monster

Trent Kays, writing in the Minnesota Daily, got almost everything wrong about education, beginning with his article's headline, "Ron Paul's War on Education." The correct headline should have been "Ron Paul's War for Education."

Paul advocates abolishing the federal Department of Education; however, Kays says "that is not the right way to solve education problems."

But once the concept of "education" is properly defined, abolishing FedEd is the only way to solve education problems.

Government, by definition, doesn't "educate." Government is force. Government consciously and purposefully "indoctrinates."

Had Mr. Kays studied history alongside journalism he might have learned how this came about. He might have started with the Mackinac Center's "School Choice in Michigan: A Primer for Freedom in Education" by Matthew J. Brouillette, specifically the chapter entitled "The 1830s and 40s: Horace Mann, the End of Free-Market Education, and the Rise of Government Schools.

The Classics Illustrated version is that Horace Mann (the "father of American public school education") brought the Prussian system of state-controlled (and mind-controlling) education to America.

As award-winning educator John Taylor Gatto put it, the traditional American school purpose - "piety, good manners, basic intellectual tools, self-reliance, etc." - gave way to Prussian state socialism and its centralized schooling system designed to deliver obedient soldiers to the military, obedient workers to mines, factories, and farms, compliant civil servants to the government, subservient clerks to industry, and submissive citizens to the nation-state.

The results are all around us today.

Contrast this with another early German educational theorist, Wilhelm von Humboldt. Although he believed in "free and universal education for all citizens" (i.e., coercively taxpayer funded) Gatto notes his "brilliant arguments for a high-level no-holds-barred, free-swinging, universal, intellectual course of study for all, full of variety, free debate, rich experience, and personalized curricula."

So while Ron Paul advocates turning public schooling over to the states, thereby creating 50 little authoritarian indoctrination monsters instead of one big one, libertarians believe in free market education.

How will the free market answer Kays' objections of who will ensure that a standard of education is maintained, or ensure that poor children get an education, or who will give deserving students money for college?

One short article can't make up for years of government indoctrination. For that, Kays needs self-education. He could begin here and then keep on going:


Australia: Red tape blocks school science lessons

IT'S the age-old question - which came first, the chicken or the egg? Queensland's 650,000 school students are now unlikely to be given the chance to find out after a recent crackdown was ordered on egg hatching in classrooms. In a decision criticised for tying schools up in more red tape, teachers must now submit a 15-page application form before their students can watch chickens hatch from eggs in an incubator.

Teachers are now saying the paperwork is too time-consuming and they won't bother with the once-popular classroom activity. The application form is the same one used to gain approval to dissect rats and toads in school laboratories.

The ruling that books and chooks don't mix has led to the cancellation of dozens of hatching kit orders after some Catholic schools booked incubators in time for Easter before realising they now needed formal approval from the Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee.

Exasperated owners of hatching kit businesses fear at least 1000 unwanted embryo eggs that had been pre-ordered must now be destroyed.

Ann Richardson of Henny Penny Hatching said schools had been threatened with fines of more than $30,000 if they hatched eggs in the classroom without formal approvals, which could take six months. "Teachers are just finding it too hard," she said. "There was no negotiation. We don't know what to do."

One teacher wrote to Ms Richardson in dismay at the decision, saying bean plants would prove a poor substitute for her life-cycle classes.

Opposition education spokesman Bruce Flegg said the paperwork burden had made it "virtually impossible" for teachers to continue the activity. "It is really a case of bureaucracy and red tape being imposed on the education of our children to their detriment," he said. "Any animal, whether at home or school, should be treated humanely, but our children have a right to learn about the natural world."

Teachers were previously able to conduct chicken hatching in schools without formal permission.

But Animal Ethics Committee project officer Brad McConachie said that has changed after advice from the State Government that poultry programs in schools needed formal approval by the committee under the Animal Care and Protection Act 2001 code of practice.

An Education Queensland spokeswoman said chicken hatching was complex and the welfare of the animals needed to be taken seriously.


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