Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

Diane Ravitch Savages “Reformers” and “Disruptors” in her New Book

January 18, 2020 Leave a comment

Forbes writer and public education resistance fighter Peter Greene’s paean to Diane Ravitch provides a good overview of her clear-headed thinking and the muddled thinking of what she calls this disruption movement. And what is that movement?

The disruption movement has given us charter schools, high stakes testing, and the de-professionalization of teaching. It has used the real problems of inequity and underserved communities to justify false solutions.

In his review of her forthcoming book Mr. Greene contrasts the “reformers” embrace of Taylor’s standardization with Deming’s Total Quality Management and laments the victory of Taylor in this war of ideas. Like Diane Ravitch, Peter Greene seems to think the tide is turning. I hope they are right….

Fast, Cheap and Relatively Easy Way to Find Talented Employees

January 13, 2020 Leave a comment

This recent Quartz article offers a fast, cheap, and relatively easy way to find talented workers: teach immigrants English. As the article notes, many of those seeking entry to our country or already here but living in the shadows already possess the skills sought by employers.. but they lack the ability to speak English. By teaching these skilled immigrants how to speak fluent English employers can fill open jobs without displacing US workers and, in the case of states like Vermont and New Hampshire, attract new residents.

Homelessness Caused By Liberals??? What???

January 11, 2020 Leave a comment

I don’t know which part of this Fox News report is crazier: Betsy DeVos’ notion that offering options will help homeless children or the Fox Friends’ notion that liberal policies contribute to homelessness.

Puerto Rico’s Template for Regulating Athletics Makes Sense… Having Fun is Ultimate Goal

January 11, 2020 Leave a comment

This past weekend I attended a family gathering where I learned that one of my wife’s extremely talented great nephews had decided to quit soccer completely, turning his back on a sport he played since he was a young child. Why? His mom said he wasn’t experiencing any joy in playing.

Yesterday I read a story in the New York Times by Tom Farrey, a journalist, director of the Aspen Institute’s Sports & Society Program, and author of “Game On: The All-American Race to Make Champions of Our Children.” In the article he reported on how Puerto Rico is reining in youth sports… and how the parents are in despair. The reason for the government initiating a limit on participation in sports?

The catalyst was the death of Roberto Quiles Jr., 15, who collapsed during a five-day Junior Olympic basketball tournament sponsored by Jeep. His father, Roberto, said that the cause of the heart failure had not been determined, but that his son had been “exhausted” from year-round play and that medical attention was slow to arrive on site.His death elevated island-wide concerns about pressures placed on children and families by a youth sports system that had been transformed — industrialized — over the past decade or so.

As in the United States, the emphasis on travel teams had taken over. There were expensive basketball and volleyball tournaments at the Puerto Rico Convention Center for hundreds of teams from all over the island, at ever-earlier ages. Teenagers were playing eight games a week between their club and school teams. Children were kept at practice past 10 p.m. on school nights. Family dinners were sacrificed. There were overuse injuries and occasional fights in the stands. Abuse from parents was directed toward referees — or their own children.

In short, the joy of sport had been taken away from children and replaced by the grim fear of failure. Instead of encouraging their children to play among themselves in self-regulated games on playgrounds Puerto Rican parents were pushing their children to compete for slots on travel teams who played in stadiums full of angry adults screaming at referees and children whose every mistake was magnified.

So who would complain about restrictions limiting the number of games per week and the intrusion on family life?

Some private schools have objected. So has the Olympic committee, whose annual funding from the department has been slashed in recent years amid the island’s economic troubles and worries about its ability to train athletes who win medals. “Our federations have autonomy, and that’s not to be negotiated,” said Sara Rosario, the Olympic committee’s president. Basketball has also taken that position…

The argument in favor of sustaining these soul crushing athletic leagues is that some excellent athletes might not have a chance for the Olympics or athletic scholarships. But Mr. Farrey offers a different and healthier perspective:

But the most effective sports systems in the world don’t produce athletic talent as much as prevent it from being ruined before it ripens. It is less about spending money and more about spending time getting the youth model right, committing to build the base and being patient with children as they grow into their bodies and true interests. In Puerto Rico, it’s just government taking the lead and dragging the sports organizations along.

The phrase that jumped out at me in this paragraph was this:

…being patient with children as they grow into their bodies and true interests.

Patience with children is clearly NOT a virtue in our culture, and our lack of patience is reflected in the way we measure learning in children, the way we compel them to compete with each other at ever earlier ages, and the way we emphasize unyielding standards based on the assumption that all children mature at the same age. If we organized schools and structured learning based on the premise that we needed to be patient with children as they grow into their bodies and true interests we would not force them to compete with children in the same age cohort, expect them to learn at the same rate, or track them into courses and schools when they are long adolescents. In our country,  instead of being patient with children as they grow into their bodies and true interests we seem to be committed to sorting and selecting them based on standardized test scores at ever younger ages, rating the effectiveness of their schooling on their earnings as adults, and training them to accept their position in a “race to the top” based on how quickly they mature intellectually and score high on tests administered to the competition in their age cohort.


Boring But Important Article Describes Pension Conundrum That Can ONLY Be Fixed by Raising Taxes… OR Abandoning Shareholder Primacy

January 10, 2020 Leave a comment

A recent Forbes article by Elizabeth Bauer describes a conundrum faced by politicians in Illinois regarding underfunded pensions in that state… a conundrum that several states and our nation face… a conundrum that corporations faced decades ago… a conundrum that our nation faces… and a conundrum that virtually everyone in our country faces.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: in order to fund retirement it is necessary to set aside enough money each year to ensure that one can stop working and have sufficient cash flow to pay one’s bills.

Decades ago the government created social security to ensure that every individual would have enough funds set aside to avoid falling into poverty when they reached an age when it was impossible for them to continue working. The individual worker and his employer were expected to send the government sufficient funds on an annual basis to ensure sufficient funds would be available. In the 60s that amount was increased and reserved for medical costs.

While the amount set aside assured the avoidance of poverty, it did not assure the ability for individuals to continue paying their bills or affording the level of income they had when they worked. To supplement social security, employers n the private sector offered pensions and the government followed suit. In the private sector, employers facing union demands for higher wages and/or enhanced benefits that required immediate out-of-pocket costs often offered increased the promised pensions ensuring workers that their earnings upon retirement would match the earnings in their final years of work. This enabled the employers to avoid eating into their profits and keep the costs of their products low. Again, the public sector followed suit, enabling them to avoid increasing taxes and maintaining the same number of workers.

In theory, the both the private sector employers and public sector employers should have set aside money each year to ensure that once the employees retired there would be enough money to pay the pensions. In reality, neither the private sector employers OR the public sector employers did so and the “pension crisis” was born.

In the private sector, the “crisis” was addressed by outsourcing and off-shoring of jobs, “right-sizing” by selling off portions of the business, the introduction of technology, and— in the worst case— bankruptcies. In each of these cases, especially the latter, pensions were diminished or eliminated altogether. By diminishing or eliminating promised pensions the private sector was able to maintain its profit levels and/or keep its prices low. In short, the problem was solved by short-changing the employees, especially those who performed tasks that required the least amount of education, tasks that could be done more efficiently by robots or computers who didn’t need to take sick days or vacations.

In the public sector, the crisis is now coming to the forefront and, as Ms. Bauer’s analysis intimates, it cannot be solved using the same strategies employed by the private sector. The people who plow roads, teach children in school, provide public social and health services cannot be replaced by robots or computers. Facing the aging of this population, public employers have three choices: they can raise taxes to provide the promised pensions to their loyal employees and set aside the funds needed to sustain these pensions in the future; they can push the decision down to the lowest level possible; or they can privatize these services.

It is not difficult to see which of these decisions is easier to make if you are a politician at the State or federal level: you pass the costs down to local government. And at the local level, privatization looks VERY attractive, especially when voters who have had their jobs and pensions cut or eliminated are asked to dig into their pockets to “keep promises” to public employees who are still gainfully employed or retired with defined benefit pensions.

And we are now witnessing the ultimate results of the privatization movement in our supposedly “healthy economy” where 44% of our “employed” workers are in low quality jobs. Here’s a description of the kinds of jobs that too many workers find themselves in:

The low-quality jobs offer an average of 24.6 hours of work per week at $14.65 an hour, which is $360 per week. These roles are also the 13.5 million retail jobs offering 30.3 hours a week at $16.73 an hour, which is $506 in weekly pay. About 83% of all private sector jobs—105 million workers—are in nonsupervisory jobs. More than half of those positions—58 million—pay less than the average weekly U.S. wage of $793. A good deal of these jobs don’t afford proper  healthcare or benefits. Unfortunately, for many Americans, these are the best jobs they could get.

To help you avoid reaching for a calculator, $360 per week works out to $18,720 per year if you work every week; $506 in weekly pay is $26,312 per year; and a weekly wage of $793 works out to $41,236. And, since many of these jobs do not provide healthcare or benefits those costs come out of the pockets of the employees. But since the health of our economy is measured by the quantity jobs as opposed to the quality of jobs everyone believes things are fine. But the children living in these low income households and the schools serving those children know better. The numbers on the spreadsheets in Washington look robust; the dinner plates, apparel and housing not so much. And the so-called “pension crisis” is pushing more and more people into the at-will workforce that makes day-to-day life difficult.



International Education Deficits Dwarf Those in US

January 8, 2020 Leave a comment

As this article indicates, the education deficits in our country are not nearly as bad as those in other less developed and poorer nations. BUT instead of closing the gap in our country there appears to be an unsettling resemblance between the description of the way schools function in poor nations and the way we seem to be headed in ours. Unless we can become more equitable in terms of opportunities to learn we will become a Third World education system,

The Bottom Line from Forbes’ Ten Trends from the 2010s: The Rich are Getting Richer

January 2, 2020 Comments off

As the 2010 decade came to an end, several articles appeared summarizing trends in everything from movies, to fashion to politics. An article in Forbes by Carter Cordriet offered Ten trends in higher education which can be summarized by one phrase: the rich are getting richer. The ten trends are outlined below:

1) The Varsity Blues admissions scandal cast a pall on elite admissions

2) Struggling private colleges are closing

3) Student debt has doubled

4) For-profit colleges have closed, contracted or merged

5) The number of high school graduates has plateaued and is predicted to fall

6) International student enrollment at U.S. colleges has leveled off

7) Private colleges are increasing discounts

8) Elite colleges are becoming increasingly elite

9) Endowments are up at the richest schools

10) Rich people have pledged bigger donations

An examination of this list illustrate an unsettling trend over the past decade that is unlikely to change unless some kind of policy changes occur at the federal level. A vicious circle is in place whereby the wealthiest individuals will be controlling the elite schools through their donations and access to those schools will be increasingly limited to a vanishingly small pool of students who can afford to attend those schools. Worse, students who are saddled with debt, especially those students who attended the for profit colleges that closed, will have little to show for the money they spent and little chance to accumulate the wealth they would need to provide their children with access to an elite college. The “varsity blues” scandal notwithstanding, children raised in affluence will continue to be the beneficiaries of the largess of the billionaires who underwrite the elite schools while children raised in poverty will face increasing tuitions at state funded colleges.

The rags-to-riches American Dream is predicated on a level playing field. The last decade tilted the playing field toward the top 1%. If the American Dream hopes to survive in the 2020s a tile toward the 99% is needed.