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sugarkang
06-30-2011, 10:57 AM
I wanted to compare some numbers this morning. The internet never seems to put the information in a way that I'd like to see it, so I made my own chart.

I'm sure most of us know that Finland is the bees knees. I'm not so interested in Finland particularly since that discussion has been had. Socialism, well trained teachers, okay. I think what hasn't been discussed is cost-effectiveness. Japan destroys all others in this regard.

Thoughts?

http://img837.imageshack.us/img837/2701/captureayo.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/837/captureayo.png/)

CIA World Factbook
Wikipedia GDP per capita

Starwatcher162536
06-30-2011, 08:05 PM
I'm not sure if the numbers tell that at all. Does "per capita" mean per child or per person? If it's per person then countries whose age distribution has a negative skew, like Japan, will look much better then they should merely because how the numbers are calculated.

Even if the numbers themselves are aggregated in a decent manner, there is still much more that needs to be done before they mean much at all to me. One example follows;

A confounding factor in seeing if the Japanese model should be tried to be imported here is differences in mean population density. Are Japanese schools mean student body larger then the United States? Do the Japanese save on economies of scale that is not accessible to the United States because of the large rural population?

ledocs
07-02-2011, 06:22 AM
One thought is that there is no measure of literacy in your chart, of reading comprehension.

So the obvious thing to say that it is easier to educate people in a homogenous society, such as Finland or Japan, than it is in the US. And it is easier to educate people to do well on objective tests in a disciplined society in which standards of success are widely shared by parents, in which there is less concern with "self-realization" of the individual child than there is in the US. But the success of the Japanese system in achieving high cost-effectiveness in science and math education is impressive, if the chart is generally correct. My impression is that the Japanese have very high discipline, lots of classroom hours, lots of drill, lots of repetition, more school days and longer school days than the US, and fairly high suicide rates due to the pressure to succeed on exams. I've never been to Japan, I know virtually nothing about it. But its educational methods are presumably inextricably linked to the kind of society that it is, just as those in the US are.

So one question would be whether Japanese teaching methods could be adopted by US society with any success. And I have no idea. The other question is, why and how are the Japanese managing to spend so little on education? Do teachers in public schools there have high prestige that is not linked to salaries that must be relatively low by world standards, for example? If that's true, is that something that could ever be duplicated in the US? I would not think so. In order to make any sense of your implicit question, we need to have a basic understanding of how the Japanese system functions financially, and I don't have this.

I am guessing that administrative costs are much lower in Japan than in the US, partly because there is a national curriculum and system. The US system of decentralization means that many potential economies of scale are lost, and administrative costs are higher than they need to be, I would think, a fact that one never hears uttered by "conservatives," obsessed as they are by tailoring education to every insane local whim and to the avoidance of anything that smacks of control at the national level.

Ocean
07-02-2011, 07:55 AM
One thought is that there is no measure of literacy in your chart, of reading comprehension.

So the obvious thing to say that it is easier to educate people in a homogenous society, such as Finland or Japan, than it is in the US. And it is easier to educate people to do well on objective tests in a disciplined society in which standards of success are widely shared by parents, in which there is less concern with "self-realization" of the individual child than there is in the US. But the success of the Japanese system in achieving high cost-effectiveness in science and math education is impressive, if the chart is generally correct. My impression is that the Japanese have very high discipline, lots of classroom hours, lots of drill, lots of repetition, more school days and longer school days than the US, and fairly high suicide rates due to the pressure to succeed on exams. I've never been to Japan, I know virtually nothing about it. But its educational methods are presumably inextricably linked to the kind of society that it is, just as those in the US are.

So one question would be whether Japanese teaching methods could be adopted by US society with any success. And I have no idea. The other question is, why and how are the Japanese managing to spend so little on education? Do teachers in public schools there have high prestige that is not linked to salaries that must be relatively low by world standards, for example? If that's true, is that something that could ever be duplicated in the US? I would not think so. In order to make any sense of your implicit question, we need to have a basic understanding of how the Japanese system functions financially, and I don't have this.

I am guessing that administrative costs are much lower in Japan than in the US, partly because there is a national curriculum and system. The US system of decentralization means that many potential economies of scale are lost, and administrative costs are higher than they need to be, I would think, a fact that one never hears uttered by "conservatives," obsessed as they are by tailoring education to every insane local whim and to the avoidance of anything that smacks of control at the national level.

Great post.

Cultures that subordinate individualism to collective interests are more likely to be disciplined and committed to study or work while putting off leisure time. Unfortunately, creativity and our Western idea of personal development and happiness may suffer concurrently.

Finland (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland), comes from a different angle in terms of political leanings, but shares the same idea of collectivism.

Social security

In the late 1980s, Finland had one of the world's most extensive welfare systems, one that guaranteed decent living conditions for all Finns. Since then social security has been cut back, but still the system is one of the most comprehensive in the world.[citation needed] Created almost entirely during the first three decades after World War II, the social security system was an outgrowth of the traditional Nordic belief that the state was not inherently hostile to the well-being of its citizens, but could intervene benevolently on their behalf. According to some social historians, the basis of this belief was a relatively benign history that had allowed the gradual emergence of a free and independent peasantry in the Nordic countries and had curtailed the dominance of the nobility and the subsequent formation of a powerful right wing. Finland's history has been harsher than the histories of the other Nordic countries, but not harsh enough to bar the country from following their path of social development.[48]



Education and science


Most pre-tertiary education is arranged at municipal level. Even though many or most schools were started as private schools, today only around 3% students are enrolled in private schools (mostly Helsinki-based schools such as SYK), many times less than in Sweden and most other developed countries.[68] Pre-school education is rare compared to other EU countries. Formal education is usually started at the age of 7. The primary school takes normally 6 years, the lower secondary school 3 years, and most schools are managed by municipal officials.

The flexible curriculum is set by the Ministry of Education and the Education Board. Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums (upper secondary schools). Trade schools prepare for professions. Academically oriented gymnasiums have higher entrance requirements and specifically prepare for Abitur and tertiary education. Graduation from either formally qualifies for tertiary education.

In tertiary education, two mostly separate and non-interoperating sectors are found: the profession-oriented polytechnics and the research-oriented universities. Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. Helsinki University is ranked 108 in the Top University Ranking of 2009.[69] The World Economic Forum ranks Finland's tertiary education #2 in the world.[70] Around 33% of residents have a tertiary degree, similar to Nordics and more than in most other OECD countries except Canada (44%), United States (38%) and Japan(37%).[71] The proportion of foreign students is 3% of all tertiary enrolments, one of the lowest in OECD, while in advanced programs it is 7.3%, still below OECD average 16.5%.[72]

More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields. Finnish researchers are leading contributors to such fields as forest improvement, new materials, the environment, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications.[73]

I think their educational system is not only effective but also very pragmatic. The early branching (at age 16) seems to be an excellent way of directing students to the areas that will prepare them for their career paths without wasting time and resources. Apparently they are also big on adult education which would allows switching paths later if there's a change of heart.

Wonderment
07-02-2011, 07:34 PM
I've never been to Japan, I know virtually nothing about it. But its educational methods are presumably inextricably linked to the kind of society that it is, just as those in the US are.

I also hate to resort to anecdotal evidence or cultural stereotypes, but as someone who has taught hundreds of Asian students, I can tell you that Korean, Chinese and Japanese culture seems to instill in children a dramatically different educational philosophy than what's typically seen among other groups in the USA.

I would love to be proven wrong on this, and I think the whole Tiger Mom thing is blown out of proportion, but there's something going in Asian cultures that produces different educational outcomes.

sugarkang
07-02-2011, 08:12 PM
One thought is that there is no measure of literacy in your chart, of reading comprehension.

Sorry, OECD numbers are pretty widely available with a little googling, so I didn't bother. Also, because I'm not really concerned about which country is doing better. Rather, I'm concerned about which country is getting the best bang for the buck, particularly because the U.S. is so broke. Here are the 2009 OECD numbers. (http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/54/12/46643496.pdf)

The other question is, why and how are the Japanese managing to spend so little on education? Do teachers in public schools there have high prestige that is not linked to salaries that must be relatively low by world standards, for example? If that's true, is that something that could ever be duplicated in the US? I would not think so. In order to make any sense of your implicit question, we need to have a basic understanding of how the Japanese system functions financially, and I don't have this.
That's my question; that's also my answer.


I am guessing that administrative costs are much lower in Japan than in the US, partly because there is a national curriculum and system. The US system of decentralization means that many potential economies of scale are lost, and administrative costs are higher than they need to be, I would think, a fact that one never hears uttered by "conservatives," obsessed as they are by tailoring education to every insane local whim and to the avoidance of anything that smacks of control at the national level.

Before comparing the U.S. with Japan, I wonder if people are willing to entertain comparisons between Finland and Japan. Both largely homogeneous, high population densities, large cultural capital, high per capita incomes. So, unless anyone wants to make an outright racist argument, the question really is about best bang for the buck. If anyone wants to say that Finland is the best, then I won't argue. But we have a fiscal crisis. I want to know what we can do with budget constraints.

My honest question is this: Given our fiscal crisis and how much money the U.S. already spends on education, should we place more emphasis on best education (Finland) or bang for the buck (Japan) or something else entirely?

Ocean
07-02-2011, 08:43 PM
Before comparing the U.S. with Japan, I wonder if people are willing to entertain comparisons between Finland and Japan. Both largely homogeneous, high population densities, large cultural capital, high per capita incomes. So, unless anyone wants to make an outright racist argument, the question really is about best bang for the buck. If anyone wants to say that Finland is the best, then I won't argue. But we have a fiscal crisis. I want to know what we can do with budget constraints.



Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region.[2] It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union.

Finland is number 202 in population density (40/sq mi). Japan is number 38 (873/sq mi).

sugarkang
07-02-2011, 08:49 PM
Finland is number 202 in population density (40/sq mi). Japan is number 38 (873/sq mi).

My mistake. Should we not compare them?

EDIT: I'm participating in this thread because I'm hoping it won't be overly political. In other words, I'm really asking these questions.

Ocean
07-02-2011, 09:09 PM
My mistake. Should we not compare them?

EDIT: I'm participating in this thread because I'm hoping it won't be overly political. In other words, I'm really asking these questions.

Oh, don't make too much out of my brief comment. It was the nerd in me correcting for accuracy.

stephanie
07-02-2011, 09:16 PM
Before comparing the U.S. with Japan, I wonder if people are willing to entertain comparisons between Finland and Japan. Both largely homogeneous, high population densities, large cultural capital, high per capita incomes. So, unless anyone wants to make an outright racist argument, the question really is about best bang for the buck. If anyone wants to say that Finland is the best, then I won't argue. But we have a fiscal crisis. I want to know what we can do with budget constraints.

My honest question is this: Given our fiscal crisis and how much money the U.S. already spends on education, should we place more emphasis on best education (Finland) or bang for the buck (Japan) or something else entirely?

I don't see why we need to pick one. Lots of countries, including Finland and Japan, are doing comparatively well. It makes sense to me (as it does with health care, but we don't have to go there) to explore how those countries spend the money they spent, how their education systems work, and why they get the results they do.

In part, this is necessary to determine whether there are trade offs we aren't willing to make or aspects of the systems which cannot be replicated here, but it's also necessary so we can talk about what seems to work and what doesn't in a variety of different countries.

Part of why the US system is expensive probably has to do with us duplicating efforts at mulitple levels, as opposed to having a simpler, centralized system like Japan. This could be because a centralized system wouldn't work for the US (I don't agree with that personally). But in any case politically we all know it's not possible -- ideas about reform must be sold to a certain extent on a localized basis here, and running our education in a localized way is going to add costs, costs that we have decided we want to spend, so as to feel that we have local control.

Another reason why the US education system might be more expensive is that we are trying to do things with our education system that other countries do in other ways -- provide a basic safety net, nutrition, day care, so on. We could see how much this is part of it. Related to this is that we may be dealing with social dysfunctions more in the schools, including family breakdown and crime.

Similarly, we might be unwilling to make hard choices about tracking and so on. I'm skeptical about this -- it seems to me that our failure is in getting to the basic point that everyone would have to before tracking occurs, not that innner city schools are wasting too much time trying to teach everyone calculus. But it's certainly true that our schools aren't successfully preparing kids for skilled careers that won't involve college, so comparing how other schools do this would be great.

I could go on and on here, but I think the basic point, that understanding both Finland and Japan, as well as a whole host of other schools that seem to be performing better, makes sense. Then we can figure out what might work for us.

What frustrates me is when people make arguments like "other countries do better on less, so what we need to do is spend less." We might well be able to figure out how to spend less, but I don't agree that's the first concern. Similarly, the performance of other countries does not suggest to me that the problem with our schools is too much national involvement, but maybe I', wrong. Again, we'd need some real detailed comparisons and explanations of what works elsewhere to be able to support such an argument.

sugarkang
07-02-2011, 09:38 PM
Oh, don't make too much out of my brief comment. It was the nerd in me correcting for accuracy.

No worries. I'm really trying to crowdsource BHTV as I've got no idea and I'm pretty sure we all care about education.
I've found more relevant numbers. (http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/soc_glance-2011-en/05/05/g5_ss5-01.html?contentType=&itemId=/content/chapter/soc_glance-2011-15-en&containerItemId=/content/serial/19991290&accessItemIds=/content/book/soc_glance-2011-en&mimeType=text/html)

http://img823.imageshack.us/img823/5453/capturebbj.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/823/capturebbj.png/)

Here, Japan looks much less impressive when lumping in public and private spending. Finland looks a lot better, but that just brings new questions about Korea? My first thought was purchasing power parity, but it looks like they have taken that into account. I'd love to see a non-American bloggingheads guest talking about this so that we can eliminate some of the usual political biases.

rfrobison
07-02-2011, 09:47 PM
I wanted to compare some numbers this morning. The internet never seems to put the information in a way that I'd like to see it, so I made my own chart.

I'm sure most of us know that Finland is the bees knees. I'm not so interested in Finland particularly since that discussion has been had. Socialism, well trained teachers, okay. I think what hasn't been discussed is cost-effectiveness. Japan destroys all others in this regard.

Thoughts?

http://img837.imageshack.us/img837/2701/captureayo.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/837/captureayo.png/)

CIA World Factbook
Wikipedia GDP per capita

A couple of quick points. I may have more to say later, if people are interested.

I should preface my remarks by saying I'm not an expert on the subject. I have impressions, rather than hard data. I taught English conversation in Japan for six years, mostly adults, and had no experience in public schools.

First, some of the stereotypes are true, I think. It's easier to teach kids who basically share the same cultural background, maybe, than to teach kids thrown together from all over the world, I suppose.

Ledocs is right, too, I think. Having a national curriculum is useful insofar as it allows teachers to focus on whatever is deemed pedagogically important. The tradeoff is, there's a lot less room for experimentation and innovation than you see in a decentralized system like that of the U.S.

Teachers do get a lot more respect here, or at least that's kind of how it feels to me. You'd never hear a saying like, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach," in Japan.

One thing that struck me teaching little kids here is that the smartest ones are respected by their peers. They're not eggheads. They're not curve-busters or brown-nosers. They're cool. That's a huge difference.

Parents, particularly mothers, are very involved in their kids' education, usually. And it's OK and in fact the norm for a lot of college-bound students to attend supplementary classes after school.

I get the impression that American educators focus a ton of resources on "hardware" -- buildings, computers, etc. Most Americans would be shocked at how spartan Japanese schools are by comparison. Many are old and tatty looking, and the kids have to clean their own classrooms at the end of the day. Imagine the hue and cry if little Mary or Johnny came home and said: "I swept the halls this afternoon." There'd be lawsuits over child labor and God knows what else.

In the U.S.'s defense, I'd say it does a lot better job handling kids at either end of the curve, so to speak. If you're a special needs kid, or a genius, chances are you're going to get the attention (or the chance to exercise your unique gifts) in ways that many similarly situated Japanese kids don't. They tend to fall through the cracks here. (DISCLAIMER: Again, that's merely an impression. I could be way off base.)

It is interesting to note that the U.S. has far more Nobel prize winners -- admittedly many of them foreign-born -- per capita than Japan. And many of Japan's Nobel laureates got their awards for research done in the U.S. This says a lot about the rigid hierarchy of the Japanese education system. Japan loses a lot of young brainpower. Many gifted scholars aren't willing to wait until age 60 to move from bottle-washing, so to speak, to actual science.

Another point that often gets overlooked is that the U.S. believes in second chances. How many people in the U.S. do lousy in high school, only to find their passion in college and go on to brilliant careers? It's very different in Japan, where one's fate is sealed at age 17 or 18 by how one does on the university entrance exam. Kids who fail can try again, and many do for a year or maybe two. But it pretty much comes down to how you do on that one test.

To sum up, I'd say Japan probably does a better job of teaching kids the basics. If you're of average to above average intelligence, all other things being equal, you might learn more for less money in Japan. The environment is simply better. No guns, very few drugs, teen pregnancies very rare.

But if you're in any way "different" you're probably better off in a "good" U.S. public school.

sugarkang
07-02-2011, 09:51 PM
Imagine the hue and cry if little Mary or Johnny came home and said: "I swept the halls this afternoon." There'd be lawsuits over child labor and God knows what else.


LOL.

RFR, I posted a new chart. Is this correct? That is, Japan spends more on private education? Is this extra-curricular stuff to help them prepare for the college entrance exam or is it that most kids go to private school?

rfrobison
07-02-2011, 10:01 PM
LOL.

RFR, I posted a new chart. Is this correct? That is, Japan spends more on private education? Is this extra-curricular stuff to help them prepare for the college entrance exam or is it that most kids go to private school?

There are private junior highs and high schools here, of course. But they're not always the best ones. It really depends on the city, I guess. Japanese spend much, much more on extracurricular education, I think. Most kids who want to go to college go to "cram" schools. Some I talked to said the teachers in those schools were, in fact, better than their regular classroom teachers.

operative
07-03-2011, 08:50 AM
A couple of quick points. I may have more to say later, if people are interested.

I should preface my remarks by saying I'm not an expert on the subject. I have impressions, rather than hard data. I taught English conversation in Japan for six years, mostly adults, and had no experience in public schools.

First, some of the stereotypes are true, I think. It's easier to teach kids who basically share the same cultural background, maybe, than to teach kids thrown together from all over the world, I suppose.

Ledocs is right, too, I think. Having a national curriculum is useful insofar as it allows teachers to focus on whatever is deemed pedagogically important. The tradeoff is, there's a lot less room for experimentation and innovation than you see in a decentralized system like that of the U.S.

Teachers do get a lot more respect here, or at least that's kind of how it feels to me. You'd never hear a saying like, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach," in Japan.

One thing that struck me teaching little kids here is that the smartest ones are respected by their peers. They're not eggheads. They're not curve-busters or brown-nosers. They're cool. That's a huge difference.

Parents, particularly mothers, are very involved in their kids' education, usually. And it's OK and in fact the norm for a lot of college-bound students to attend supplementary classes after school.

I get the impression that American educators focus a ton of resources on "hardware" -- buildings, computers, etc. Most Americans would be shocked at how spartan Japanese schools are by comparison. Many are old and tatty looking, and the kids have to clean their own classrooms at the end of the day. Imagine the hue and cry if little Mary or Johnny came home and said: "I swept the halls this afternoon." There'd be lawsuits over child labor and God knows what else.

In the U.S.'s defense, I'd say it does a lot better job handling kids at either end of the curve, so to speak. If you're a special needs kid, or a genius, chances are you're going to get the attention (or the chance to exercise your unique gifts) in ways that many similarly situated Japanese kids don't. They tend to fall through the cracks here. (DISCLAIMER: Again, that's merely an impression. I could be way off base.)


I think the part I bolded is key. In America we have a silly belief, peddled by the corrupt teachers unions, that we need tons of money to educate children--that's why funding per students has risen so dramatically over the past 35 or so years. Meanwhile, performance has stayed flat.

Online learning is a perfect analog, and Sal Khan explained it well. Originally, when people started developing computer-based learning, platform was everything--you had to develop a flashy design, have lots of graphics, a fun layout, etc. Well, then he came in and just scribbled on a simulated blackboard while speaking. And he's had far more success than any of the others.

In education, content is key. It doesn't take a ton of money. We could cut education funding in half so long as we had good directions and sent the teachers unions to the special hell.


It is interesting to note that the U.S. has far more Nobel prize winners -- admittedly many of them foreign-born -- per capita than Japan. And many of Japan's Nobel laureates got their awards for research done in the U.S. This says a lot about the rigid hierarchy of the Japanese education system. Japan loses a lot of young brainpower. Many gifted scholars aren't willing to wait until age 60 to move from bottle-washing, so to speak, to actual science.

It also shows the power of a multicultural society. As someone put it, the Chinese government can draw on the strength of 1.4 billion people--not bad. The US government can draw on the strength of 7 billion people, at least as long as the anti-immigrant Malthusians don't gain power. If we had a more open immigration system, we'd be even better off.



Another point that often gets overlooked is that the U.S. believes in second chances. How many people in the U.S. do lousy in high school, only to find their passion in college and go on to brilliant careers? It's very different in Japan, where one's fate is sealed at age 17 or 18 by how one does on the university entrance exam. Kids who fail can try again, and many do for a year or maybe two. But it pretty much comes down to how you do on that one test.

In some sense, we have that with the SAT though I don't think it's nearly as strict as Japan's system (or SK's, or China's). I was a mediocre high school student until my senior year (I was bored most of the time), but my SAT score demonstrated that I had the competency to handle college (despite taking it on around 3 hours sleep). Thankfully I didn't have to rely on only my GRE for grad school admittance--my undergrad grades were considerably better than my primary and secondary school grades.


To sum up, I'd say Japan probably does a better job of teaching kids the basics. If you're of average to above average intelligence, all other things being equal, you might learn more for less money in Japan. The environment is simply better. No guns, very few drugs, teen pregnancies very rare.

But if you're in any way "different" you're probably better off in a "good" U.S. public school.

I think we'd be much stronger in that department if we allowed greater specialization (this is what school choice can achieve). It makes no sense for all schools to spend tons of money on sports programs, particularly one that causes brain damage in those who play it.

So, I say let a few schools develop high level sports programs for students who wish to concentrate on sports. Let the others spend their money elsewhere. Some schools can concentrate on the liberal arts, others on engineering, and others on trade occupations.

Then universities could finally separate their semi-pro major sports teams from the university proper.

rfrobison
07-03-2011, 09:05 AM
I think we'd be much stronger in that department if we allowed greater specialization (this is what school choice can achieve). It makes no sense for all schools to spend tons of money on sports programs, particularly one that causes brain damage in those who play it.

So, I say let a few schools develop high level sports programs for students who wish to concentrate on sports. Let the others spend their money elsewhere. Some schools can concentrate on the liberal arts, others on engineering, and others on trade occupations.

Then universities could finally separate their semi-pro major sports teams from the university proper.

I agree with this part wholeheartedly. Good luck getting any broad support for breaking the monopoly on public school education -- for all but the very rich, that is. (You listening, Dems?)

And good luck getting schools to de-emphasize sports. I still remember the quip that the president of my university gave at my commencement address my freshman year: "I am here, as president, to provide three things: tenure for the professors, sports for the alumni, and sex for the students."

ledocs
07-03-2011, 10:05 AM
In America we have a silly belief, peddled by the corrupt teachers unions, that we need tons of money to educate children--that's why funding per students has risen so dramatically over the past 35 or so years. Meanwhile, performance has stayed flat.

I thought you wanted to keep this apolitical. First you have to show that most of the increase in US spending per pupil is due to teachers' unions, not to laws about special needs children, English as a second language, changing textbooks and curriculum all the time, reducing class size (presumably partly due to union desires/demands, partly not), and so on. If you're so goddam interested in the question, why don't you find out how teachers' salaries and benefits in Japan compare to US salaries and benefits?

I just think it's really reprehensible to say, on the one hand, that you want to do a dispassionate comparative sociological analysis, and then to write a sentence like that. Finland, by the way, has nearly 100% unionized teachers, according to Diane Ravitch. So now you have to compare their union to US unions.

"You people are all the same," and it really, really sucks.

rfrobison
07-03-2011, 10:16 AM
I thought you wanted to keep this apolitical. First you have to show that most of the increase in US spending per pupil is due to teachers' unions, not to laws about special needs children, English as a second language, changing textbooks and curriculum all the time, reducing class size (presumably partly due to union desires/demands, partly not), and so on. If you're so goddam interested in the question, why don't you find out how teachers' salaries and benefits in Japan compare to US salaries and benefits?

I just think it's really reprehensible to say, on the one hand, that you want to do a dispassionate comparative sociological analysis, and then to write a sentence like that. "You people are all the same," and it really, really sucks.

Ah, that was Sugarkang. Operative never wants to keep things apolitical! ;)

stephanie
07-03-2011, 11:07 AM
I agree with this part wholeheartedly. Good luck getting any broad support for breaking the monopoly on public school education -- for all but the very rich, that is. (You listening, Dems?)

This doesn't map to my experience of reality. Seems like a variety of priced private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools (with specialities) are all available, and that that is supported by many Dems. But in any case I agree with sugarkang that politicizing this is contrary to the dispassionate examination of the question "how do we make the schools better."

Beyond this, I don't understand what is being proposed, let alone see the merits of, specialization among high schools where we'd have some do "liberal arts" and others do "sports." Nor any merit to the idea that the problem with the bad schools is too much spent on extracurriculars.

I think there's a place for specialization, as I said -- various charter and magnet schools specialize, but this is more for enrichment/better schools. I'm also in favor of better occupational training for non-college-bound students. But when the problem with our bad schools, where huge percentages don't graduate and very few go to college, is an inability to teach up to basic literacy and math skills, and where they tend not to have playgrounds, I hardly think the problem is that we are spending too much time trying to teach them calculus.

graz
07-03-2011, 11:32 AM
... In America we have a silly belief, peddled by the corrupt teachers unions ...
I was a mediocre high school student until my senior year (I was bored most of the time), but my SAT score demonstrated that I had the competency to handle college (despite taking it on around 3 hours sleep). Thankfully I didn't have to rely on only my GRE for grad school admittance--my undergrad grades were considerably better than my primary and secondary school grades.That's a heartwarming personal anecdote. For some reason it was even better than the first thirty times you've shared it recently. (Leaving out overcoming childhood fattiness by dint of personal conviction was a welcome omission, at least). But so what? Why assume that your story is typical or even likely for other students?
Online learning is a perfect analog, and Sal Khan explained it well. Originally, when people started developing computer-based learning, platform was everything--you had to develop a flashy design, have lots of graphics, a fun layout, etc. Well, then he came in and just scribbled on a simulated blackboard while speaking. And he's had far more success than any of the others.
Okay, we know you're on the Koch payroll, what about Sal Khan? Are you bucking for a kickback or already in his employ?

rfrobison
07-03-2011, 11:52 AM
This doesn't map to my experience of reality. Seems like a variety of priced private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools (with specialities) are all available, and that that is supported by many Dems. But in any case I agree with sugarkang that politicizing this is contrary to the dispassionate examination of the question "how do we make the schools better."

Beyond this, I don't understand what is being proposed, let alone see the merits of, specialization among high schools where we'd have some do "liberal arts" and others do "sports." Nor any merit to the idea that the problem with the bad schools is too much spent on extracurriculars.

I think there's a place for specialization, as I said -- various charter and magnet schools specialize, but this is more for enrichment/better schools. I'm also in favor of better occupational training for non-college-bound students. But when the problem with our bad schools, where huge percentages don't graduate and very few go to college, is an inability to teach up to basic literacy and math skills, and where they tend not to have playgrounds, I hardly think the problem is that we are spending too much time trying to teach them calculus.

Fair enough. I really was interested only in commenting on my impressions of Japanese education.

On the U.S. education system, I make no particular claims to expertise. I do think that in many cases teacher unions work against any change that might threaten their economic interests. This is a problem, in my view, and one that few Democrats are interested in grappling with seriously, given how dependent they are on support from teachers unions.

No doubt the causes of U.S. under-performance relative to other countries in primary and secondary education are complex. It isn't simply a matter of teacher union obstreperousness (pace Operative) on the one hand, or Republican stinginess on the other.

You're surely right that just because other countries spend less on education and get better results, we Americans could or should do the same. But there seems at least prima face evidence that there isn't a one-to-one relationship between monetary input and educational achievement.

I'll try to keep my partisan instincts in check. I'd like to hear what you and others have to say. Educating American kids as best we can ought to be something we can all agree on as Americans.

stephanie
07-03-2011, 12:08 PM
You're surely right that just because other countries spend less on education and get better results, we Americans could or should do the same. But there seems at least prima face evidence that there isn't a one-to-one relationship between monetary input and educational achievement.

I don't think anyone is saying there is. My point has been that we should look at comparisons like this not to say "clearly the answer is we need to spend less," but to actually look at the underlying reasons that other societies do better. I'm in favor of learning from those results.

sugarkang
07-03-2011, 12:23 PM
I'll try to keep my partisan instincts in check. I'd like to hear what you and others have to say. Educating American kids as best we can ought to be something we can all agree on as Americans.

Yeah, I think we all want to continue to spend a lot of money on education. But the question of want is not relevant in the face of the realities of budget shortfalls. Ideally, we could ratchet up education spending when our nation becomes fiscally solvent. Another thing we agree on is cost effectiveness, I'm sure. I have no problem with adopting a Finnish model if somehow we can test it out, duplicate results and then scale it. Or if it's charter schools, or the Khan Academy, that's fine, too.

The thing I'd most like to know is what attributes Finland, Japan and other high performers have in common with each other that the United States lacks. That's in terms of variables that are extant (culture places high value on nerds) and non-extant (no violent crimes, drug culture, etc). We're just not going to get the full truth from Randi Weingarten or the CATO Institute.

ledocs
07-03-2011, 01:43 PM
No, my mistake. That was operative I quoted, but I thought it was sugarkang. So I owe sugarkang an apology.

operative
07-03-2011, 03:20 PM
First you have to show that most of the increase in US spending per pupil is due to teachers' unions, not to laws about special needs children, English as a second language, changing textbooks and curriculum all the time, reducing class size (presumably partly due to union desires/demands, partly not), and so on.


It is unions that sell the lie that children need to be in small classes in order to learn. It is also, at least partially, unions that sell the notion that we need ESL classes--I don't think we do. And before you accuse me of being one of those silly "make English the NATIONAL language" people, I'll also note that I think that children should begin learning a second language (and then, in time, a third language) at a very young age--probably kindergarten. ESL disincentivizes rapid acquisition of the language and is, quite honestly, unnecessary--Hispanic kids aren't stupid. They can come in and get up to speed.

Teachers unions and the textbook lobby combine to push stupid, standardized curricula that includes buying certain dramatically overpriced textbooks from the big two manufacturers. It is a prime example of waste.

So, you have actually just listed several specific examples of teachers unions lobbying payoffs, which inflate the cost of education.


If you're so goddam interested in the question, why don't you find out how teachers' salaries and benefits in Japan compare to US salaries and benefits?

Well that's easy enough:
http://www.worldsalaries.org/teacher.shtml

Takeaway: pay teachers less, get better results.


I just think it's really reprehensible to say, on the one hand, that you want to do a dispassionate comparative sociological analysis, and then to write a sentence like that


Any dispassionate analysis will inevitably conclude with the realization that teachers unions are a cancer.

operative
07-03-2011, 03:25 PM
This doesn't map to my experience of reality. Seems like a variety of priced private schools, charter schools, and magnet schools (with specialities) are all available, and that that is supported by many Dems.

They're not widely available--that's why they have lotteries to get into them. There are far fewer than the demand for them, and Democrats work to ensure this will continue. For an example of this, rent the documentary The Lottery.

Fenty supported those ideas and look where it got him. The Dem party establishment and the teachers unions ganged up to kill his career. Cory Booker supports it, so it's only a matter of time before they come for him.

It was the Democratic congress that killed the DC Voucher program, with Obama's cooperation, and the GOP congress that moved to restore it.


Beyond this, I don't understand what is being proposed, let alone see the merits of, specialization among high schools where we'd have some do "liberal arts" and others do "sports." Nor any merit to the idea that the problem with the bad schools is too much spent on extracurriculars.

I think there's a place for specialization, as I said -- various charter and magnet schools specialize, but this is more for enrichment/better schools. I'm also in favor of better occupational training for non-college-bound students. But when the problem with our bad schools, where huge percentages don't graduate and very few go to college, is an inability to teach up to basic literacy and math skills, and where they tend not to have playgrounds, I hardly think the problem is that we are spending too much time trying to teach them calculus.

Part of the reason that is is that schools try to do everything for everybody. The poorer the area, the poorer the results, because the harder it is. When you try to do everything for everybody and force everyone into a one size fits all, top-down system, the result will inevitably be failure. Which is what teachers unions are at the most indifferent to, and quite possibly supportive of.

sugarkang
07-03-2011, 03:50 PM
No, my mistake. That was operative I quoted, but I thought it was sugarkang. So I owe sugarkang an apology.

No ill feelings on my end. Though, in the interest of civility, I ask that you give operative an open minded hearing. Libertarians work on different fundamental premises, so things may not actually be as they appear. But if afterward you still think he's an asshole, then tear him a new one! ;)

sugarkang
07-03-2011, 04:09 PM
Okay, we know you're on the Koch payroll, what about Sal Khan? Are you bucking for a kickback or already in his employ?

graz, this is just the standard troll, right? Because the comment where you took me out of context for being on the Koch brothers' payroll, you know that was a joke, right?

So, do people agree that a straight Finland vs. US or Japan vs. US is not as helpful as say a comparison between all of the top countries to each other: Finland, Japan, Australia, Korea. Maybe we can see what they all have in common and see what we aren't doing in comparison. How's that sound?

I think we can all agree that being ranked behind France is an absolute travesty! ;)

graz
07-03-2011, 04:20 PM
graz, this is just the standard troll, right? Because the comment where you took me out of context for being on the Koch brothers' payroll, you know that was a joke, right?

The joke part is that you do their bidding and don't even get paid ;)

But of course, you have an out:
Libertarians work on different fundamental premises

miceelf
07-03-2011, 05:12 PM
One thought is that there is no measure of literacy in your chart, of reading comprehension.

So the obvious thing to say that it is easier to educate people in a homogenous society, such as Finland or Japan, than it is in the US.




Not a criticism, necessarily, but Canada looks pretty good in the charts presented, is explicitly multi-culti, as well as officially bilingual, so definitely not homogenous, by most standards I think. I mainly just wanted to plug Canada.

:-)

But seriously, if we're having a "can we get there from here?" argument, Canada seems more plausible than either Japan or Finland.

operative
07-03-2011, 05:31 PM
Not a criticism, necessarily, but Canada looks pretty good in the charts presented, is explicitly multi-culti, as well as officially bilingual, so definitely not homogenous, by most standards I think. I mainly just wanted to plug Canada.

:-)

But seriously, if we're having a "can we get there from here?" argument, Canada seems more plausible than either Japan or Finland.

I say instead of trying to follow someone else's lead we should take the lead and do something new. That's what Khan's vision offers.

Ocean
07-03-2011, 05:58 PM
Not a criticism, necessarily, but Canada looks pretty good in the charts presented, is explicitly multi-culti, as well as officially bilingual, so definitely not homogenous, by most standards I think. I mainly just wanted to plug Canada.

:-)

But seriously, if we're having a "can we get there from here?" argument, Canada seems more plausible than either Japan or Finland.

Yes, that's the answer! Socialized medicine!

sugarkang
07-03-2011, 06:44 PM
But seriously, if we're having a "can we get there from here?" argument, Canada seems more plausible than either Japan or Finland.

That's not the question that I want answered, though, I think most people tend to focus on it. I care about cost-effectiveness for now. I've already mentioned it above, but the problem with just doing a Canada vs. USA or any country vs. USA comparison is that it's very difficult to separate causation and correlation. Confirmation bias will be used by any political group to their advantage. Instead, I wonder if we can get as close to the unknowable truth as possible.

So, this is why I propose a comparison between all of the top countries (Canada included) to see what they're all doing. There are just too many confounding variables doing a one to one comparison. So, the question is, "what's the best way to find the relevant data for good education while removing as much bias as practically possible?" Or maybe someone has an objection to this question.

ledocs
07-03-2011, 09:14 PM
Takeaway: pay teachers less, get better results....

Any dispassionate analysis will inevitably conclude with the realization that teachers unions are a cancer.

You imply that better results are a result of lower teacher pay, that the better results are not achieved in spite of lower pay. So all we have to do is cut teacher pay in order to get better results?

As for the second part of what you say, I think Diane Ravitch's recent book is sufficient rebuttal. She points out that some of the best-performing states in the US, like Massachusetts, are highly unionized. Finland is highly unionized. I get the feeling that your main interest is in busting unions, not in getting better educational results.

Perhaps US industry would perform substantially better if we could just reduce executive pay by 40-50%.

But if the argument were that US industry might do no worse if executive pay were vastly reduced, that would make some sense. And Yglesias was implying a similar argument in his recent dv about education: charter schools do no worse than public schools, and they are less expensive. So my general feeling is that the obsession with cost-cutting in education would be better served by this kind of argument: we could get equally good results (and the results are not terribly good) and spend less money doing so. That is very credible. What is far less credible is that we can spend a lot less money and get better results. I realize that this appears to be the case in other countries, that's what started this thread, but I strongly suspect that the conditions which allow other countries to get better results with less expenditure are many, complex, and not replicable in the US.

However, stephanie is right to point out that the question is very analogous in medical care, where I do think the US probably could spend less money per capita and get better results, on average. So why should education be different? Because the body differs from the mind.

miceelf
07-03-2011, 11:46 PM
That's not the question that I want answered, though, I think most people tend to focus on it. I care about cost-effectiveness for now. I've already mentioned it above, but the problem with just doing a Canada vs. USA or any country vs. USA comparison is that it's very difficult to separate causation and correlation. Confirmation bias will be used by any political group to their advantage. Instead, I wonder if we can get as close to the unknowable truth as possible.

I agree, by and large, I was mainly focused on the usual statements as to why Japan or Finland can't work as a model for the US (homogeneity). Canada is also probably about as culturally similar to the US as it gets, at least in many ways.

stephanie
07-04-2011, 10:08 AM
They're not widely available--that's why they have lotteries to get into them.

They are not unavailable, which is the claim I was referring to. "Dems" don't want them to be unavailable. This partisan strawman is not useful.

How available they are depends on where you are (they are available for any motivated parent where I am, but it requires some hoops, like I said). Now, obviously the best magnet schools (and most expensive private schools) never will be available for everyone -- that's by design.

My point, however, is that lots of Dems are in favor of school reform, especially when we are talking grass roots. Lots of places where there are strong school reform movements, basically everyone is a Dem and it's an intra-party fight -- or just grass roots, like I said. The reason for the difficulty politically has as much to do with suspicion about the motives of the high profile reform proposals as teachers unions. I'm am in favor of fighting the teachers unions on this, but some of the things they argue has weight and gets support because it's obvious that a lot of the support for the more dramatic reform efforts tend to come from those who are mainly motivated by the desire that parochial school be paid for if public school is*, or a basic attack on the desirability of public school at all, or a more general attack on unions.

Therefore, I see your own rhetoric as more detrimental to a real acceptance of reform, if that were your main goal. But as Rob said, you are never non partisan.

In any case, I think grass roots efforts, local efforts, and ultimately a variety of different avenues don't hurt. We should be trying different things on a small scale.

As for vouchers, I'm generally pro voucher (as discussed in the other thread), but I think it's nonsense to claim that vouchers are an important part of school reform, either from a "this will fix things" standpoint or what serious reformers are into. They are more of a sop to certain Republican constituencies. Therefore, weighing support for reform by willingness to support vouchers is wrong. I suspect that if we could address the issues in a broader context, though, some of the innate suspicion of many re vouchers could be gotten past. Once again, the partisan language used hardly helps.

Part of the reason that is is that schools try to do everything for everybody.

I said something similar to this upthread about why our costs might be higher, but the idea that doing everything means that the worst schools are trying to teach AP classes is simply false. It means that the schools are providing basic social services or compensating for the lack thereof or just societal dysfunction.

stephanie
07-04-2011, 10:09 AM
So, do people agree that a straight Finland vs. US or Japan vs. US is not as helpful as say a comparison between all of the top countries to each other: Finland, Japan, Australia, Korea. Maybe we can see what they all have in common and see what we aren't doing in comparison. How's that sound?

An excellent way to start, IMO.

stephanie
07-04-2011, 10:12 AM
Yes, that's the answer! Socialized medicine!

Heh.

More seriously, I think the same process that seems sensible here -- comparing what other societies do and how they end up getting good results with a lot less spent makes sense with health care too. But, sigh, you know that's never going to go over with some.

operative
07-04-2011, 11:23 AM
They are not unavailable, which is the claim I was referring to. "Dems" don't want them to be unavailable. This partisan strawman is not useful.

It certainly seemed that the Democratic controlled Congress and Barack Obama didn't want vouchers, at least in DC, did it not?



My point, however, is that lots of Dems are in favor of school reform, especially when we are talking grass roots. Lots of places where there are strong school reform movements, basically everyone is a Dem and it's an intra-party fight -- or just grass roots, like I said. The reason for the difficulty politically has as much to do with suspicion about the motives of the high profile reform proposals as teachers unions. I'm am in favor of fighting the teachers unions on this, but some of the things they argue has weight and gets support because it's obvious that a lot of the support for the more dramatic reform efforts tend to come from those who are mainly motivated by the desire that parochial school be paid for if public school is*, or a basic attack on the desirability of public school at all, or a more general attack on unions.


Sure, there are Democrats who are in favor of school reform. Their voice is just drowned out--kind of like how pro-reform, anti-pork voices among Republicans have traditionally been drowned out when push came to shove and the special interests had their way. Right now, it sure seems that the money and the hierarchy is steadfastly in the anti-reform camp. And I don't know if that's going to change. The Teachers Unions are one of the most powerful single lobbying groups in the country. They took down Fenty, and they will take down others who dare to oppose them. That's why I don't think reform will come through Democrats, and will not come unless we end public sector unions altogether.



Therefore, I see your own rhetoric as more detrimental to a real acceptance of reform, if that were your main goal. But as Rob said, you are never non partisan.

I wouldn't call myself partisan--I'm not interested in merely advancing the cause of the GOP. I'd say that I'm never non-ideological in the sense that my positions are informed by my ideology, but that's not conditional on the behavior of my chosen party.


I said something similar to this upthread about why our costs might be higher, but the idea that doing everything means that the worst schools are trying to teach AP classes is simply false. It means that the schools are providing basic social services or compensating for the lack thereof or just societal dysfunction.

Yes, but why are they unable to do so? Part of it is the rigidity of the regulation set by Teachers Unions' contractual negotiations. Part of it is state and federal level regulation. Some of it is the natural inefficiency that will arise in any system when there isn't real competition.


Ledocs:

You imply that better results are a result of lower teacher pay, that the better results are not achieved in spite of lower pay. So all we have to do is cut teacher pay in order to get better results?

That was more of a facetious point on my part, in response to the tired TU trope that teachers don't get paid enough. I actually would say that poor and mediocre teachers are paid too much, and good teachers aren't paid enough. Bu that's what happens when the system is rigged to promote mediocrity.


I strongly suspect that the conditions which allow other countries to get better results with less expenditure are many, complex, and not replicable in the US.

Cultures are definitely different, and that does matter. We can't realistically expect to turn lazy, anti-intellectual American school children into eager Korean and Japanese students overnight. Laziness, anti-intellectualism, and self-entitlement are fairly widespread in America. Conservatism is sometimes associated with anti-intellectualism, and certain branches of Christianity certainly are conducive to anti-intellectualism. The laziness and self-entitlement has a few causes. Among them are the way parenting shifted, as those who grew up in the Great Generation, reacting to the difficulties of their early lives, spoiled their children, who in turn spoiled their children; also, the welfare state, the progressive income tax, etc.

I don't want the government to be in the business of trying to change culture. But if we move to flat tax, privatize social security and move toward privatized medicare accounts, eliminate welfare, eliminate public housing, etc. then there will be some pretty positive results. For one thing, the reproduction rate of people with anti-intellectual cultures will drop. Also, if we open up our immigration system, we will receive more high-skilled immigrants with pro-education cultures.

ledocs
07-04-2011, 10:15 PM
Operative:

I don't want the government to be in the business of trying to change culture. But if we move to flat tax, privatize social security and move toward privatized medicare accounts, eliminate welfare, eliminate public housing, etc. then there will be some pretty positive results. For one thing, the reproduction rate of people with anti-intellectual cultures will drop.

Yes, and we'll be back in Dickensian England. "Please, sir, can I have some more?" Sounds great. I have not read enough of you to know whether the above quotation is for real or not, so I am reluctant to say too much. I will say that if it's not tongue-in-cheek, it's frightening, and sickening, mainly because I hate to think of you, or your persona, becoming a spokesperson for intellectual culture. Do you really think you're up to it? What's the most intellectual thing you've ever done, just out of curiosity?

Ocean
07-04-2011, 10:20 PM
Operative:



Yes, and we'll be back in Dickensian England. "Please, sir, can I have some more?" Sounds great. I have not read enough of you to know whether the above quotation is for real or not, so I am reluctant to say too much. I will say that if it's not tongue-in-cheek, it's frightening, and sickening, mainly because I hate to think of you, or your persona, becoming a spokesperson for intellectual culture. Do you really think you're up to it? What's the most intellectual thing you've ever done, just out of curiosity?

As far as I can tell, his comment wasn't tongue-in-cheek. And indeed, it is sickening. This is the new right, conceit and all.

operative
07-04-2011, 10:34 PM
Operative:



Yes, and we'll be back in Dickensian England. "Please, sir, can I have some more?" Sounds great. I have not read enough of you to know whether the above quotation is for real or not, so I am reluctant to say too much. I will say that if it's not tongue-in-cheek, it's frightening, and sickening, mainly because I hate to think of you, or your persona, becoming a spokesperson for intellectual culture. Do you really think you're up to it? What's the most intellectual thing you've ever done, just out of curiosity?

I value privacy so I prefer not to say. I do wish that you would stick to talking about ideas instead of fulminating moralism.


As far as I can tell, his comment wasn't tongue-in-cheek. And indeed, it is sickening. This is the new right, conceit and all.

This from BH's resident Chavez apologist.

AemJeff
07-04-2011, 10:38 PM
I value privacy so I prefer not to say. I do wish that you would stick to talking about ideas instead of fulminating moralism.

I'd say that answers, or at least suggests a qualitative limit to any possible answer to your question, ledocs!

ledocs
07-04-2011, 10:53 PM
I think you have to include Canada, because it is probably the country closest in culture to the US that is not the US, or perhaps the country most influenced by American culture that is not the US, and also Great Britain, for similar reasons. It's fine to look at low-expenditure countries, but you should also look at high-expenditure countries to see what they have in common.

But also, you have to get beyond just citing statistics or descriptive summaries of educational institutions. You will need to understand the various societies and know something about their histories in order to understand their educational institutions. You will need to understand something about wealth, power, and prestige in all the societies and how the educational institutions reflect these factors and help to create them. In short, you are going to have to do a lot of research. You should read a lot of books by the smartest people you can find. This won't be easy, because I don't think the field of education attracts very smart people, generally speaking. To the contrary, my impression is that people who hold doctorates in education are among the dumbest of all highly educated people, at least in the US. And sociologists probably are not too far behind them. Maybe there are some great books out there. You should try to find them and tell us about them.

I want to tell a brief anecdote. Between 25 and 30 years ago, I think, I went to hear Laura Tyson give a public lecture to a general audience in a big hotel in San Francisco. I don't remember what the title of the talk was. I asked her in the Q&A what effect she thought the US educational system was having on the economy, did she think that the US economy could continue to perform well with the educational system it had, something like that, and she gave a sort of dismissive answer, "I'm an economist, not an education expert, but clearly, education is important to the performance of a modern economy," something like that. Just recently, I read a quote from Ms. Tyson, and she is now on the education bandwagon.

Your best bet might be to start with histories (but beginning no earlier than the 19th century, unless you're a masochist) of the educational systems in all the countries you are interested in, if you can find such things.

sugarkang
07-04-2011, 11:00 PM
Yes, and we'll be back in Dickensian England. "Please, sir, can I have some more?" Sounds great.
I understand why you'd think that a drastically reduced state would plunge us back into Oliver Twist days, but I think that's far overstated. But regardless of what I think, can we acknowledge that there are alternative political systems that might be offered precisely because the outcomes might result in more justice and less suffering, even if it looks ridiculous on its face? That is, can you accept an alternative political system offered precisely because it provides better human outcomes and not automatically point to it as evil?

Because even if we disagree on policy, surely it's not some radical notion that minimum wages hurt the poor (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/have-you-no-respect-for-the-law-of-demand/), is it?

operative
07-05-2011, 12:23 AM
I'd say that answers, or at least suggests a qualitative limit to any possible answer to your question, ledocs!

Says a poster whose sole ability seems to be unoriginal personal swipes.

Don Zeko
07-05-2011, 01:01 AM
Says a poster whose sole ability seems to be unoriginal personal swipes.

Ummmm....Do I have to say it, or does highlighting what you just said suffice?

Don Zeko
07-05-2011, 01:02 AM
I understand why you'd think that a drastically reduced state would plunge us back into Oliver Twist days, but I think that's far overstated. But regardless of what I think, can we acknowledge that there are alternative political systems that might be offered precisely because the outcomes might result in more justice and less suffering, even if it looks ridiculous on its face? That is, can you accept an alternative political system offered precisely because it provides better human outcomes and not automatically point to it as evil?

Because even if we disagree on policy, surely it's not some radical notion that minimum wages hurt the poor (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/have-you-no-respect-for-the-law-of-demand/), is it?

There's a giant, yawning gap between arguing that moving incrementally in a libertarian direction might help us and arguing that an Objectivist society wouldn't, well, suck.

sugarkang
07-05-2011, 02:51 AM
There's a giant, yawning gap between arguing that moving incrementally in a libertarian direction might help us and arguing that an Objectivist society wouldn't, well, suck.

So, it's the degree to which operative asserts his arguments that is problematic? Too libertarian is the charge? What do Objectivists believe?

ledocs
07-05-2011, 09:08 AM
I understand why you'd think that a drastically reduced state would plunge us back into Oliver Twist days, but I think that's far overstated. But regardless of what I think, can we acknowledge that there are alternative political systems that might be offered precisely because the outcomes might result in more justice and less suffering, even if it looks ridiculous on its face? That is, can you accept an alternative political system offered precisely because it provides better human outcomes and not automatically point to it as evil?

Because even if we disagree on policy, surely it's not some radical notion that minimum wages hurt the poor (http://www.cato-at-liberty.org/have-you-no-respect-for-the-law-of-demand/), is it?

If the alternative political system offered looks ridiculous on its face, then I don't in fact think that that system is likely to result in more justice and less suffering than the system we have. Since we have it, and there is no revolutionary fervor in the streets, it does not look ridiculous on its face. Repealing the entirety of the welfare state does seem ridiculous on its face. I understand operative's implicit argument that the riff-raff who are relying upon, or garnering government support will be weeded out or become a smaller proportion of the population if the state shrinks radically and stops intervening in the economy. But I just don't think that this kind of gradual and silent eugenics is likely to work, I don't think that requiring everyone to provide for his own old age, whether medically or economically, is at all politically feasible under contemporary conditions. On the other hand, I do think that it will be difficult to find a politically acceptable compromise that recognizes the new economic realities of lots of very old and frail people, many of whom have not been particularly high earners and many of whom may well have been imprudent and improvident.

I think the effects of a minimum wage continue to be hotly contested. What strikes me, and I have put this into a song lyric in "Blues for MF," which can be heard by going to my blog, is that population is the most important determinant of wages for unskilled work. It's true that if wages can be close to zero and if there is an excess supply of labor, more labor will be employed in the absence of a minimum wage than in its presence. But that's not the same thing as saying that every minimum wage hurts the poor. It hurts those poor people in the labor market who can't get hired at the minimum wage, it helps those who would earn less than the minimum wage if the labor market were completely unregulated but who do get hired at the minimum wage. So, in my view, everything depends upon the level of the minimum wage and the amount of surplus unskilled labor. Yes, it's true that new industries would develop if it were legal to employ people at wages that cannot sustain them at a level that Americans would find acceptable, a level similar to the living standards observed in the shantytown barrios of Sao Paolo or Rio, let's say.

stephanie
07-05-2011, 09:08 AM
I wouldn't call myself partisan--I'm not interested in merely advancing the cause of the GOP. I'd say that I'm never non-ideological in the sense that my positions are informed by my ideology, but that's not conditional on the behavior of my chosen party.

I don't totally buy the first bit, but more significantly, I agree with the second -- I think you typically do make ideologically-based arguments, and I disagree quite strongly with your ideology, including the faith-based assertions that it will achieve the results you claim to desire. And, yes, I know you won't agree with me here, but it does make conversation relatively useless, since you have decided that -- whatever works in other countries -- the correct approach in the US must and can only be privatizing the schools. Whereas I see no reason to believe that is a good idea and, more significantly, it's not going to happen. So I'd rather talk about the kinds of reforms that might happen and that I'm willing to work toward.

operative
07-05-2011, 09:17 AM
I don't totally buy the first bit, but more significantly, I agree with the second -- I think you typically do make ideologically-based arguments, and I disagree quite strongly with your ideology, including the faith-based assertions that it will achieve the results you claim to desire. And, yes, I know you won't agree with me here, but it does make conversation relatively useless, since you have decided that -- whatever works in other countries -- the correct approach in the US must and can only be privatizing the schools. Whereas I see no reason to believe that is a good idea and, more significantly, it's not going to happen. So I'd rather talk about the kinds of reforms that might happen and that I'm willing to work toward.

Oh I'm willing to compromise on other, lesser legislation--a hybrid public/private system, for example. But that doesn't change that I think that a fully privatized system would be the most efficient.

stephanie
07-05-2011, 09:29 AM
Fair enough. I really was interested only in commenting on my impressions of Japanese education.

I don't think you should limit your contribution to this, but I found it quite interesting and would love to hear anything more about it that you think is worth adding.

On the U.S. education system, I make no particular claims to expertise. I do think that in many cases teacher unions work against any change that might threaten their economic interests. This is a problem, in my view, and one that few Democrats are interested in grappling with seriously, given how dependent they are on support from teachers unions.

I guess it's worth making my perhaps overly-nanny-ish point again. In this conversation you are talking to a variety of real people, including Dems and liberals. It probably makes sense to ask us if we would agree to a reform you think is sensible or, if not, why not. That furthers discussion more than assuming that I or Jeff or ledocs or whoever disagrees with a proposal before it is made or that we disagree with you due to partisan or bad-faith reasons.

For example, the topic that had come up with school choice. I'm generally in favor of school choice in a lot of contexts. Yet there are definitely proposals relating to school choice that I'd oppose. Rather than assuming that I (as a Dem) simply bow down to the unions or am opposed to all choice or even want to outlaw all but expensive private schools, as the comment assumed, it's worth asking whether others think diversity in schools is a good thing.

Also, to the extent there's disagreement, it's worth exploring what that agreement really is. There seems to be a common strawman that the problem with schools is that "liberals" insist that everyone learn the same thing, and given that the failing schools aren't managing to teach people basic skills that I think we all can agree people need to know to hold any job and be citizens in a representative democracy, I hardly think the problem is that upper middle class liberals think all inner city schools should be identical to New Trier or Lane Tech.

My frustration here is that I suspect there's a lot we can agree on, and that you might even be willing to give on some of the things we can't, if we could get away from the silliness and assumptions of bad faith.

And I'll note that I haven't assumed that you or 'kang or even operative have different motives than I do -- improving the education of children in the US. With operative, he's open about how that fits into a general ideology where he wants to get rid of public schools, so I know this conversation is useless with him, but otherwise I see no reason why comparing what happens in other countries and discussing what is wrong in the US and what might work requires a partisan divide. It might end up with one, but it would be nice to disagree on something more substantive (for example, how much extra are we willing to pay for certain things or what responsibilities should we put on the schools).

As for the unions, I totally agree with you that the unions stand in the way of certain reforms. Just like the AMA stands in the way of certain reforms that would be good for health care, IMO, and other trade organizations/industry groups tend to do the same. That's to be expected -- they are somewhat reactionary and focused on a narrow aspect of the issue. But I don't have a problem fighting the unions. I simply reject the idea that unions disagree with me about school reform on some issues, so must be gotten rid of, despite their real function being (IMO) a totally valid one, to represent teachers in compensation discussions.

And I really don't know anyone (besides operative and some partisan Republican operatives) who try and make the issue with our schools as simplistic as your dichotomy. Absolutely no one thinks the problem would be easily solved if we just paid more, IMO.

operative
07-05-2011, 09:37 AM
And I really don't know anyone (besides operative and some partisan Republican operatives) who try and make the issue with our schools as simplistic as your dichotomy. Absolutely no one thinks the problem would be easily solved if we just paid more, IMO.

If I am on the same page as you in regards to the "problem", then I wouldn't include myself in that category either. Major reform is a significant step but the best results won't be achieved until there is a cultural values shift.

ledocs
07-05-2011, 10:59 AM
"The problem" is that the intellectual level of the average high school or college graduate in the US is not very high by international standards, i.e. when compared with an international peer group. The solution, if there is one, will require very broad changes in all kinds of things.

I was not opposed initially to charter schools. I don't like them as a stalking horse for union busting. I hear from informed sources that Randi Weingarten has made important concessions involving her union, concessions that would be important to the "reform movement," but I don't know what the concessions are.

One of my first contacts with operative, by the way, was his citation of an article by Terry Moe about unions and educational policy that he misrepresented and probably never read. The general context was around the following intemperate little post of mine:


http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=182156&postcount=49 (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=182156&postcount=49)

After a subsequent little interchange we had about Israel, I stopped reading operative. I've been hitting "View Post" a lot over the past few days. I have sugarkang filtered too, because he said he was going to filter me and I said, "Fine, no big loss to me." This was after he had written something unintelligible, and it happened to be the first time I had seen a post of his, I think.

I actually favor trying to inculcate a spirit of increased self-reliance in under-achieving kids, especially in what the French call "les quartiers defavorises," difficult neighborhoods. I'm OK with Bill Cosby and all of that, maybe not as an exclusive diet, but I don't have a problem with McWhorter or Cosby generally on that score.

I have to applaud you, stephanie, for your intelligent moderation and even-handed temperament. You're a model of Aristotelian virtue (no irony intended).

operative
07-05-2011, 12:25 PM
"The problem" is that the intellectual level of the average high school or college graduate in the US is not very high by international standards, i.e. when compared with an international peer group. The solution, if there is one, will require very broad changes in all kinds of things.

I was not opposed initially to charter schools. I don't like them as a stalking horse for union busting. I hear from informed sources that Randi Weingarten has made important concessions involving her union, concessions that would be important to the "reform movement," but I don't know what the concessions are.

One of my first contacts with operative, by the way, was his citation of an article by Terry Moe about unions and educational policy that he misrepresented and probably never read. The general context was around the following intemperate little post of mine:


http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=182156&postcount=49 (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=182156&postcount=49)

After a subsequent little interchange we had about Israel, I stopped reading operative. I've been hitting "View Post" a lot over the past few days. I have sugarkang filtered too, because he said he was going to filter me and I said, "Fine, no big loss to me." This was after he had written something unintelligible, and it happened to be the first time I had seen a post of his, I think.

I actually favor trying to inculcate a spirit of increased self-reliance in under-achieving kids, especially in what the French call "les quartiers defavorises," difficult neighborhoods. I'm OK with Bill Cosby and all of that, maybe not as an exclusive diet, but I don't have a problem with McWhorter or Cosby generally on that score.

I have to applaud you, stephanie, for your intelligent moderation and even-handed temperament. You're a model of Aristotelian virtue (no irony intended).

I find your obsession with documenting past interactions to be a little bizarre. Maybe you should relax some and concentrate on ideas.

I do however share your praise of Stephanie for being willing to actually engage on the level of ideas, which unfortunately many on here are not.

sugarkang
07-05-2011, 03:45 PM
After a subsequent little interchange we had about Israel, I stopped reading operative. I've been hitting "View Post" a lot over the past few days. I have sugarkang filtered too, because he said he was going to filter me and I said, "Fine, no big loss to me." This was after he had written something unintelligible, and it happened to be the first time I had seen a post of his, I think.


I said I was going to filter you? When was this? This is now the second time you've placed blame on me for something I haven't done in recent days.

I haven't filtered a single person on this site except Voldemort. The only reason I made an exception for him was due to the sheer number of posts he would make; he made reading other people's posts difficult just as a practical matter. I suppose even in my utopian libertaria, I don't attempt to simply eliminate the people with whom I disagree just on the basis of their opinions. Though, I don't hold you to my own personal moral standard. And you won't see this message anyway because I'm on your ignore list.

Then there's the general sentiment that basically 2.5 libertarians are just taking over BHTV. One of whom has spoken openly about supporting Obama and even Obamacare. I'm not sure when intolerance was just acceptable because the other side produces "noise." After all, none of them are real human beings.

stephanie
07-05-2011, 06:52 PM
Thanks!

popcorn_karate
07-14-2011, 01:41 PM
But if we move to flat tax, privatize social security and move toward privatized medicare accounts, eliminate welfare, eliminate public housing, etc. then there will be some pretty positive results. For one thing, the reproduction rate of people with anti-intellectual cultures will drop.

and you view the black and hispanic portions of the culture as the most anti-intellectual, true?