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Education system return on investment – not good

An almost terrifying report released in April, McKinsey & Company, a very diversified consulting firm, reported kids were falling further behind the longer they stayed in the United States education system. The report compared four specific areas including comparisons to other countries, race differences, economic differences and geographic differences.

My interest immediately got me thinking about economic differences since data shows areas with a higher median family income have kids that do better in school. It’s not the student to teacher ratio, teacher benefits or dollars spent per student. I found it interesting that this report mostly avoided the cost spent per child.

The full report is 24 pages and a suggested read. Walter Williams had an article this week and quotes from the study.

[T]he longer American children are in school, the worse they perform compared to their international peers. In recent cross-country comparisons of fourth grade reading, math, and science, US students scored in the top quarter or top half of advanced nations. By age 15 these rankings drop to the bottom half. In other words, American students are farthest behind just as they are about to enter higher education or the workforce.

The racial gap is significant and a huge concern, but that can be directly attributed to the economic gap. Williams goes on to remind us about the failure of government involvement in education.

The teaching establishment and politicians have hoodwinked taxpayers into believing that more money is needed to improve education. The Washington, D.C., school budget is about the nation’s costliest, spending about $15,000 per pupil. Its student/teacher ratio, at 15.2 to 1, is lower than the nation’s average. Yet student achievement is just about the lowest in the nation. What’s so callous about the Washington situation is about 1,700 children in kindergarten through 12th grade receive the $7,500 annual scholarships in order to escape rotten D.C. public schools, and four times as many apply for the scholarships, yet Congress, beholden to the education establishment, will end funding the school voucher program.

The following is one of the reasons I enjoy reading Prof. Williams’ stuff and hope to thank him in person some day. He’s so right on the money here, with my emphasis in bold.

Any long-term solution to our education problems requires the decentralization that can come from competition. Centralization has been massive. In 1930, there were 119,000 school districts across the U.S; today, there are less than 15,000. Control has moved from local communities to the school district, to the state, and to the federal government. Public education has become a highly centralized government-backed monopoly and we shouldn’t be surprised by the results. It’s a no-brainer that the areas of our lives with the greatest innovation, tailoring of services to individual wants and falling prices are the areas where there is ruthless competition such as computers, food, telephone and clothing industries, and delivery companies such as UPS, Federal Express and electronic bill payments that have begun to undermine the postal monopoly in first-class mail.

One note about dollars spent per student. Although the study does not got into how much is spent per student, they do discuss how much is spent per “point” for the Program for International Assessment (PISA) test on page 9. I’ll just leave you with this graph and another pointer to the report. Click on the graph for a larger version.

school-spending-pisa

You’re seeing more honors graduates the past few years

I noted this phenomenon in 2002 at the graduation of a family member. There seemed to be a high number of students graduating cum laude, magna cum laude and/or summa cum laude.

I certainly did not remember such a high percentage of graduates with honors during my stint (late 1980s) in college. Were students getting smarter or were standards being lowered?

Knowing the academic world as I do, I figured it was the standards. At the time, I thought it would be a good idea to look at graduate statistics during the last 20 years to see what percentage of students graduated with honors.

gpa-trendsStuart Rojstaczer, a retired Duke professor, has looked into the subject and has a detailed Web page about grade inflation. Rojstaczer collected data from more than 200 schools and reviewed grade point averages, which directly reflect honors status.

Grade inflation started in the 1970s and accelerated in the 1980s. Click on the image to see recent GPA trends across the country.

Do take a look at the charts and comments on Rojstaczer’s page, he found grade inflation did not occur everywhere and one very substantial set of data showed no change – even a decline – in grades. Your reader participation homework is to find out where, and post it in the comments. 😉

Thomas Reeves at the National Association of Scholars took a look at Rojstaczer’s research and has a recap.

It is no secret that grade inflation is common within contemporary academia. The extent of it, however, is known to comparatively few. One student of the topic, Stuart Rojstaczer of Duke University, recently published data showing a steady increase in undergraduate grades from 1991 to 2007. In public institutions the average GPA rose from 2.93 to 3.11. In private schools the average GPA climbed from 3.09 to 3.30.

This escalation appears more dramatic within a historical context. Rojstaczer observed that in the 1930s the average GPA at American colleges and universities was about 2.35; in the 1950s, it was about 2.52. In the turbulent 1960s, grades soared; they leveled off somewhat in the 1970s, and then began again to escalate in the 1980s. “The grade inflation that began in the 1980s has yet to end.” And this is true at all sorts and conditions of colleges and universities in both the sciences and humanities.

Walter Williams comments today

Some college administrators will tell us that the higher grades merely reflect higher-quality students. Balderdash! SAT scores have been in decline for four decades and at least a third of entering freshmen must enroll in a remedial course either in math, writing or reading, which indicates academic fraud at the high school level. A recent survey of more than 30,000 first-year students revealed that nearly half spent more hours drinking than study. Another survey found that a third of students expected B’s just for attending class, and 40 percent said they deserved a B for completing the assigned reading.

Parents with kids in college… how does this make you feel?

Does it pay to be moral?

I certainly do think that being moral pays off. You feel good about yourself, you can sleep well at night and of course there is the positive karma that surrounds you. But when the government establishes it is necessary to take wealth from one half of the population and give it to the other half of the population, you need to ask the question.

Does it pay to be moral?

Today, Walter E. Williams writes about the big problem, immorality, and asks two questions that must be directed to every teacher and liberal politician. How would you answer the question?

Do you believe that it is moral and just for one person to be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another? And, if that person does not peaceably submit to being so used, do you believe that there should be the initiation of some kind of force against him?

What say you?

[poll id=”91″]

I’m going to assume you’ve answered No, since if you answered Yes, you’d have a hard time defending slavery.

A no answer would put them [who you ask] on the spot as well because that would mean they would have to come out against taking the earnings of one American to give to another in the forms of farm and business handouts, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and thousands of similar programs that account for more than two-thirds of the federal budget. There is neither moral justification nor constitutional authority for what amounts to legalized theft.

Have we crossed a certain threshold that will make it difficult or impossible to return? Remember, the “bottom” 50 percent of wage earners are now paying less than 2.5 percent of federal income taxes collected.

Williams continues…

Unfortunately, there is no way out of our immoral quagmire. The reason is that now that the U.S. Congress has established the principle that one American has a right to live at the expense of another American, it no longer pays to be moral. People who choose to be moral and refuse congressional handouts will find themselves losers. They’ll be paying higher and higher taxes to support increasing numbers of those paying lower and lower taxes.

Remember, Professor Williams’ column is mandatory homework for all Radio Vice Online readers, you can subscribe to his RSS feed using this link.

FDR’s New Deal stifled economy for 15 years

So why did the Great Depression last for more than 15 years? In 2009, many think the United States could be in a 1929 situation, where the government has the opportunity to take action by spending more cash, or let the capitalist system loose, cutting taxes and letting the free market run.

In the 1930s, FDR’s solution was to spend and spend, and get intimately involved with the wages of private company employees.

I’m not predicting another Great Depression, but we have great historical records from the 1930s and into the 1940s about what worked and what did not. We have the advantage of hindsight – isn’t that a great thing?

Malkin reminds us about the 2004 UCLA study that blamed the long downturn on FDR’s policies.

In an article in the August issue of the Journal of Political Economy, Ohanian and Cole blame specific anti-competition and pro-labor measures that Roosevelt promoted and signed into law June 16, 1933.

“President Roosevelt believed that excessive competition was responsible for the Depression by reducing prices and wages, and by extension reducing employment and demand for goods and services,” said Cole, also a UCLA professor of economics. “So he came up with a recovery package that would be unimaginable today, allowing businesses in every industry to collude without the threat of antitrust prosecution and workers to demand salaries about 25 percent above where they ought to have been, given market forces. The economy was poised for a beautiful recovery, but that recovery was stalled by these misguided policies.”

In the three years following the implementation of Roosevelt’s policies, wages in 11 key industries averaged 25 percent higher than they otherwise would have done, the economists calculate. But unemployment was also 25 percent higher than it should have been, given gains in productivity.

So they raised wages for everyone who had a job, but unemployment remained high and prices were higher too. That plan did not work out so well.

(I’m going to use arbitrary numbers here, and since trillions seem to be the new billions…)

What makes more sense?

  1. Have the government increase spending by one trillion dollars projects to “kick start” the economy.
  2. Lower federal taxes – permanently – by one trillion dollars and let the free market, states and municipalities decide where to spend that one trillion.

Spending this amount of money at the federal level leaves too many opportunities for graft, misuse and overspending. When was the last time you were able to go to a meeting with your US House representative or senator?

How about another option?

The money – if it is spent at all – should be spent at the local level.

Let’s cut federal taxes and in-turn cut the federal budget by 60 percent? I’m not kidding. Per our Constitution, they do not have the authority to spend most of that cash anyway.

Then, increase state and local taxes to cover the cash they do not get from the feds. Make it an equal sum game; dollar for dollar. Again, I’m not kidding.

More power would be returned to the states, cities and towns, and I bet more people would get actively involved in local government.

Stop for a second and answer this question. Can you name half of the members of your local school board?

Maybe the horse really is out of the barn, especially when today’s speech at George Mason University by the president-elect included the following, my emphasis added.

It is true that we cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe. Only government can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy – where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

There you have it. Only government can save the economy.

Maybe Obama should have stop in to see if Professor Williams had office hours today at GMU?

How about a debate between our friend Walter Williams and the president-elect? That would be so sweet.

Home page photo courtesy jimbowen0306 at Flickr.

Update: Morrissey at HotAir brings the subject up again. It’s definately worth a second look again.

Are you up on your civics? Take the quiz!

I’m going to be blunt. There are a lot of ignorant Americans walking the streets of this great country, and I’m not sure what to do about it. We already know dollars spent per student, teacher to student ratios nor the number of computers in the classroom have much effect on academic performance, so today let’s think about what will work; add your suggestions in the comments section.

What’s got me in this grouchy mood? Well, todays column from Walter Williams brings to light results from a national survey on civics awareness. You know, civics, the study of citizenship and government. The results, well, they suck.

Read more

Take the Intercollegiate Studies Institute civics quiz

I’m going to be blunt. There are a lot of ignorant Americans walking the streets of this great country, and I’m not sure what to do about it. We already know dollars spent per student, teacher to student ratios nor the number of computers in the classroom have much effect on academic performance, so today let’s think about what will work; add your suggestions in the comments section.

What’s got me in this grouchy mood? Well, todays column from Walter Williams brings to light results from a national survey on civics awareness. You know, civics, the study of citizenship and government. The results, well, they suck.

Read more

Does our government trade with Japan?

The short and correct answer is no, and our government does not trade with any other country either. Walter Williams offers us a timely lesson today since Congress, talk radio and the nation is discussing the proposed bailout of the nations big three automakers.

I’m not sure if GM, Ford and Chrysler really make up the nations big three anymore, but I do know that when we recently purchased a Toyota, we worked with a dealer – not the United States or Japanese government.

Read more

Does our government trade with Japan?

The short and correct answer is no, and our government does not trade with any other country either. Walter Williams offers us a timely lesson today since Congress, talk radio and the nation is discussing the proposed bailout of the nations big three automakers.

I’m not sure if GM, Ford and Chrysler really make up the nations big three anymore, but I do know that when we recently purchased a Toyota, we worked with a dealer – not the United States or Japanese government.

Read more

Redistribution – evil concealed by money

Another great Walter Williams column today. I enjoy reading Prof. Williams since he does something similar to what I try to do here at Radio Vice Online and Conservative247. He just does it so much better.

So, can an evil act be “transformed” into something that seems much more legit? Onward to your next lesson – using great analogies – about conservative principles. Read more

Redistribution – evil concealed by money

Another great Walter Williams column today. I enjoy reading Prof. Williams since he does something similar to what I try to do here at Conservative247. He just does it so much better.

So, can an evil act be “transformed” into something that seems much more legit? Onward to your next lesson – using great analogies – about conservative principles.

Read more