June 6, 2008

How to improve education?

For several weeks, I've been noodling away on an article on how to improve mass K-12 education in America, as an upbeat response to Charles Murray's important article "Educational Romanticism." So far, though, I haven't come up with a very long list.

So, I'd like your suggestions in the comments. Or email me.

In the meantime, here is one of the Presidential candidates' speeches on What to Do About Education. I haven't looked into what the other candidates said, but I doubt if it particularly matters which candidate this is (other than Ron Paul). I've included in italics the comments of a friend who has spent his career analyzing education statistics. He's heard it all before.

Full text of Obama's education speech

Sen. Barack Obama's speech, "What's Possible for Our Children," was delivered at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts in Thornton on Wednesday:

It's an honor to be here at Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts. Just three years ago, only half of the high school seniors who walked the halls of this building were accepted to college. But today, thanks to the hard work of caring parents, innovative educators and some very committed students, all 44 seniors of this year's class have been accepted to more than 70 colleges and universities across the country. [This is quite a change. Any difference in demographics?]

I'm here to congratulate you on this achievement, but also to hold up this school and these students as an example of what's possible in education if we're willing to break free from the tired thinking and political stalemate that's dominated Washington for decades, if we're willing to try new ideas and new reforms based not on ideology but on what works to give our children the best possible chance in life. [No substance.]

At this defining moment in our history, they've never needed that chance more. In a world where good jobs can be located anywhere there's an Internet connection-- where a child in Denver is competing with children in Beijing and Bangalore -- the most valuable skill you can sell is your knowledge. [It's actually your intelligence, which can be raised only marginally by current technologies.] Education is the currency of the Information Age, no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success but a prerequisite. [Again, it's intelligence.] There simply aren't as many jobs today that can support a family where only a high school degree is required. [This was already predicted by The B*ll C*rv*, but for intelligence not degrees. What it takes to support a family is mostly a subjective judgment.] And if you don't have that degree, there are even fewer jobs available that can keep you out of poverty.

In this kind of economy, countries who out-educate us today will out-compete us tomorrow. Already, China is graduating eight times as many engineers as we are. [It has a much bigger population, too. Also, it's easier to get an engineering degree in China than here.] By 12th grade, our children score lower on math and science tests than most other kids in the world. [This is false. Generally, U.S. kids are in the middle among the advanced nations.] And we now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation in the world. [This is a good thing, since high school is mostly a waste of time, particularly for those of less than average intelligence.] In fact, if the more than 16,000 Colorado students who dropped out of high school last year had only finished, the economy in this state would have seen an additional $4.1 billion in wages over these students' lifetimes. [Aristotle exploded the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy in the fifth century B.C. The figures for this statement are just for raw income. Differences in intelligence and effort are not considered.]

There is still much progress to be made here in Thornton, but the work you've done shows us that we do not accept this future for America.

We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about six million students who are reading below their grade level. [Ignores how grade level "standards" are set. If kids read better, the "standards" would get adjusted upward. There are always going to be those who fail to meet them.]

We don't have to accept an America where only 20 percent of our students are prepared to take college-level classes in English, math and science. Where barely one in 10 low-income students will ever graduate from college. [Sure, we could dumb down college requirements.]

We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about the fact that half of all teenagers are unable to understand basic fractions. [What was it a hundred years ago?] Where nearly nine in 10 African-American and Latino eighth-graders are not proficient in math. We don't have to accept an America where elementary school kids are only getting an average of 25 minutes of science each day when we know that over 80 percent of the fastest-growing jobs require a knowledge base in math and science. [This last statement has no basis in any facts I've ever seen. I have asked lots of people to recite the quadratic formula, which they all got in the ninth grade. Hardly anyone can.]

This kind of America is morally unacceptable for our children. It's economically untenable for our future. And it's not who we are as a nation. [Bromides.]

We are the nation that has always understood that our future is inextricably linked to the education of our children -- all [text missing. This was true before government education. "In no part of the habitable globe is learning and true useful knowledge so universally disseminated as in our native country. Who hath seen a native adult who cannot write? Who knows a native of the age of puberty that cannot read the bible." --John Gardiner, 1785 (exhibit in the National Museum of American History).] We are the country that has always believed in Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth or birth." [He actually did say this. But he was honest enough to ask for a constitutional amendment to fund education: http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/winter96/jefferson.html]

That's who we are. And that's why I believe it's time to lead a new era of mutual responsibility in education, one where we all come together for the sake of our children's success. An era where each of us does our part to make that success a reality: parents and teachers, leaders in Washington and citizens all across America. [The part of most of us is to pay.]

This starts with fixing the broken promises of No Child Left Behind. Now, I believe that the goals of this law were the right ones. Making a promise to educate every child with an excellent teacher is right. [Where's the free lunch?] Closing the achievement gap that exists in too many cities and rural areas is right. [This is impossible, on current technology, unless you want to level the field by inflicting brain damage on the smarter.] More accountability is right. Higher standards are right.

But I'll tell you what's wrong with No Child Left Behind. Forcing our teachers, our principals and our schools to accomplish all of this without the resources they need is wrong. Promising high-quality teachers in every classroom and then leaving the support and the pay for those teachers behind is wrong. [I'm not sure these things were exactly promised. But who is to pay for them?] Labeling a school and its students as failures one day and then throwing your hands up and walking away from them the next is wrong. [Is nothing incurable?]

We must fix the failures of No Child Left Behind. We must provide the funding we were promised [This guy is a United States Senator. He knows fully well that acts of Congress specify the maximum amount of money that can be spent. What is actually funded by Congress is done in MONSTER appropriation bills, that fund several different Departments at once. He is a liar.], give our states the resources they need [The objectives are impossible.] and finally meet our commitment to special education. [Does "America's future" depend on the mentally challenged, which is what most "special education" students are?] We also need to realize that we can meet high standards without forcing teachers and students to spend most of the year preparing for a single, high-stakes test. Recently, 87 percent of Colorado teachers said that testing was crowding out subjects like music and art. [This is indeed unfortunate, but the "music" that was being taught in school before NCLB was not classical but rather garbage.] But we need to look no further than MESA to see that accountability does not need to come at the expense of a well-rounded education. It can help complete it -- and it should.

As president, I will work with our nation's governors and educators to create and use assessments that can improve achievement all across America by including the kinds of research, scientific investigation and problem-solving that our children will need to compete in a 21st century knowledge economy. [How are assessments, as such, going to improve learning?] The tests our children take should support learning not just accounting. [If this means that educrats design tests badly, okay. But who is going to design better tests?] If we really want our children to become the great inventors and problem-solvers of tomorrow, our schools shouldn't stifle innovation, they should let it thrive. That's what MESA is doing by using visual arts, drama and music to help students master traditional subjects like English, science and math, and that's what we should be doing in schools all across America. [This sounds interesting.]

But fixing the problems of No Child Left Behind is not an education policy on its own. It's just a starting point.

A truly historic commitment to education -- a real commitment -- will require new resources [MORE!] and new reforms. It will require a willingness to move beyond the stale debates that have paralyzed Washington for decades: Democrat versus Republican; vouchers versus the status quo; more money versus more accountability. It will require leaders in Washington who are willing to learn a lesson from students and teachers in Thornton or Denver about what actually works. That's the kind of president I intend to be, and that's the kind of education plan I've proposed in this campaign.

It begins with the understanding that from the moment our children step into a classroom, the single most important factor in determining their achievement is not the color of their skin or where they come from. It's not who their parents are or how much money they have.

It's who their teacher is. [Coleman exploded this in 1965.] It's the person who stays past the last bell and spends their own money on books and supplies. It's the men and women here at MESA who go beyond the call of duty because you believe that's what makes the extra difference. And it does. [Evidence, please? Remember that only "accounting" is used to test the students.]

And if we know how much teaching matters, then it's time we treated teaching like the profession it is. I don't want to just talk about how great teachers are. I want to be a president who rewards them for their greatness.

That starts with recruiting a new generation of teachers and principals to replace the generation that's retiring and those who are leaving. Right here in Colorado, more than 6,000 teachers won't be returning to the schools where they taught last year. [Yeah, lot's of folks retire. Is there something unusual here? Maybe terrible administrators that make teaching difficult. After all, private schools pay less than government schools, since the teachers are freer.] That's why as president, I'll create a new Service Scholarship program to recruit top talent into the profession and begin by placing these new teachers in overcrowded districts and struggling rural towns, or hard-to-staff subjects like math and science in schools all across the nation. [MMMORE!!!] And I will make this pledge as president to all who sign up: If you commit your life to teaching, America will commit to paying for your college education. [MMMMORE!!!! The chief executive does not have the power to do this, not yet.]

To prepare our teachers, I will create more Teacher Residency Programs to train 30,000 high-quality teachers a year. [MMMMMORE!!!!!] We know these programs work [We do?], and they especially help attract talented individuals who decide to become teachers midway through their careers. Right here in MESA, you have excellent teachers like Ike Ogbuike, who became a math teacher after working as an auto-engineer at Ford and completing a one-year, teacher-residency program.

To support our teachers, we will expand mentoring programs that pair experienced, successful teachers with new recruits -- one of the most effective ways to retain teachers. [MMMMMMORE!!!!!!] We'll also make sure that teachers work in conditions which help them and our children succeed. [MMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!] For example, here at MESA, teachers have scheduled common planning time each week and an extra hour every Tuesday and Thursday for mentoring and tutoring students that need additional help.

And when our teachers do succeed in making a real difference in our children's lives, I believe it's time we rewarded them for it. [MMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!] I realize that the teachers in Denver are in the middle of tough negotiations right now, but what they've already proven is that it's possible to find new ways to increase teacher pay that are developed with teachers, not imposed on them.

My plan would provide resources to try these innovative programs in school districts all across America. [MMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!] Under my Career Ladder Initiative, these districts will be able to design programs that reward accomplished educators who serve as mentors to new teachers with the salary increase they deserve. [MMMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!!] They can reward those who teach in underserved areas or teachers who take on added responsibilities, like you do right here at MESA. [MMMMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!!!] And if teachers acquire additional knowledge and skills to serve students better -- if they consistently excel in the classroom -- that work can be valued and rewarded as well. [MMMMMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!]

And when our children do succeed, when we have a graduating class like this one where every single student has been accepted to college, we need to make sure that every single student can afford to go. As president, I will offer a $4,000 tax credit that will cover two-thirds of the tuition at an average public college and make community college completely free. [MMMMMMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!] And in return, I will ask students to serve their country, whether it's by teaching or volunteering or joining the Peace Corps. [This is a mistake. The best way to help your fellow man, in a free society and generally, is to become rich, and I am not referring to what the government takes and wastes.] We'll also simplify the maze of paperwork required to apply for financial aid and make it as easy as checking off a box on your tax returns because you shouldn't need a Ph.D. to apply for a student loan. [This is too bad. The *old* aid forms ammounted to something of an IQ test, so that resources were not wasted on those who can't actually benefit from college.]

Finally, as so many of you know, there are too many children in America right now who are slipping away from us as we speak, who will not be accepted to college and won't even graduate high school. [How many should be slipping away?] They are overwhelmingly black, and Latino, and poor. [Is there a reason for that?] And when they look around and see that no one has lifted a finger to fix their school since the 19th century, when they are pushed out the door at the sound of the last bell -- some into a virtual war zone -- is it any wonder they don't think their education is important? [Is it buildings now that matter, not teachers?] Is it any wonder that they are dropping out in rates we've never seen before? [Is this true?]

I know these children. I know their sense of hopelessness. I began my career over two decades ago as a community organizer on the streets of Chicago's South Side. And I worked with parents and teachers and local leaders to fight for their future. We set up after-school programs, and we even protested outside government offices so that we could get those who had dropped out into alternative schools. And in time, we changed futures.
[Any controlled studies?]

And so while I know hopelessness, I also know hope. I know that if we bring early education programs to these communities, if we stop waiting until high-school to address the drop-out rate and start in earlier grades -- as my Success in the Middle Act will do -- if we bring in new, qualified teachers, if we expand college outreach programs like GEAR UP and TRIO and fight to expand summer learning opportunities for minority and disadvantaged students -- like I've done in the Senate -- or if we double funding for after-school programs to serve a million more children, as I've proposed to do as president, if we do all this, we can make a difference in the lives of our children and the life of this country. [MMMMMMMMMMMMMMORE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] know we can. I've seen it happen. And so have you.

Yes, it takes new resources, but we also know that there is no program and no policy that can substitute for a parent who is involved in their child's education from day one. [Do you find a problem with parents who are so irresponsible that they bring children into the world that they can't or won't support at the level you think they should?] There is no substitute for a parent who will make sure their children are in school on time and help them with their homework after dinner and attend those parent-teacher conferences, like so many parents here at MESA do. [You told us earlier that teachers, and maybe buildings, were the most important factor.] And I have no doubt that we will still be talking about these problems in the next century if we do not have parents who are willing to turn off the TV once in awhile and put away the video games and read to their child. Responsibility for our children's education has to start at home. We have to set high standards for them and spend time with them and love them. We have to hold ourselves accountable. [What new Federal crimes will there be?]

This is the commitment we must make to our children. This is the chance they must have. And I will never forget that the only reason I'm standing here today is because I was given that same chance. And so was my wife.

Our parents weren't wealthy by any means. My mother raised my sister and me on her own, and she even had to use food stamps at one point. Michelle's father was a worker at a water-filtration plant on the South Side of Chicago and provided for his family on a single salary. And yet, with the help of scholarships and student loans and a little luck, Michelle and I both had the chance to receive a world-class education. And my sister ended up becoming a teacher herself.

That is the promise of education in America, that no matter what we look like or where we come from or who our parents are, each of us should have the opportunity to fulfill our God-given potential. Each of us should have the chance to achieve the American dream. Here at MESA, you've shown America just how that's possible. I congratulate you, and I wish you continued success, and I look forward to working with you and learning from you in the months and years ahead. Thank you.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


John Craig said...

There's actually a very simple solution: institute a draconian system of eugenics.

John Craig said...

(PS -- I'm not holding my breath.)

FrankTalk said...

Four things:

1. Competition. Let schools compete.

2. Take Dept. of Ed money and give it to parents who need it to send their kid to a better school.

3. Shorten school career from 12 to 11 years.

4. Direct smart bookish kids to college and smart or not so smart unbookish kids to trade school.

Anonymous said...

Separating the sexes is one that you must have come up with already as well as using more computers to fast-track the gifted.

I've often thought about reintroducing corporal punishment given my practical experience while teaching, but I've reached no hard conclusion on the subject (maybe because of political correctness).

Anonymous said...

The article relies on the same "World is Flat" thinking. The world is not only un-flat, but it is also really big. That second fact becomes more apparent when oil goes over 100 dollars a barrel.

Did anyone catch the article about big financial managers relocating to China this year? Most people do not have that luxury.

Education should give training to help young people find the best fit in their community. For brainiacs, that includes training in useful ways of applying thought to solve problems. For physical kids, ways to use the hands. For most of us, a little bit of both types of skills.

zink said...

Blacks are obsessed with education. Of course they'll never admit it, but they think education is the vehicle with which they can catch up with whitey and perhaps overtake him. In southern Africa the "liberation" movements there were waxing about education. However after they took over, in ALL cases the actual levels of education dropped far below what they were under colonial rule or Apartheid.

The reason for this is that education is a cultural phenomenon. White kids grow up with 1200+ years cultural emphasis on education starting in the old monasteries of Europe. If a culture has not acquired education by its own will and effort, no amount of government interference can rectify the problem.

And in spite of all the hype about blacks these days, the actual interest in the pursuit of knowledge and serious science amongst blacks in Africa is non-existent. Where there is significant interaction with western institutions, such as South Africa, it all revolves around getting degrees in soft sciences (sociology, political science, psychology, languages) or medicine in order to show whitey they can also do it. But this motive will not suffice for a nation really interested in learning. It took western Europe a long time, and was deeply instilled in it over centuries, to get to the point where the natural ambition for white kids is to either get a trade or do serious studies. And Europeans did it for themselves. They did not accuse someone else of suppressing them and not investing enough in their education.

Unfortunately the modern US-type consumerism has diluted this trend, but basically it's a trait of western civilization that learning is considered a good thing in itself. No government program needs to tell Europeans to get an education.

Obama cannot solve this cultural weakness of blacks with whitey's money. They need to acquire it by themselves. It really does not take much money either. So instead of preaching to whitey about how he is responsible for yet another black cultural failing, he should talk to his brothas about their attitudes. After all, Obama owes his education to the largesse of whitey.

Thras said...

Is education broken? I doubt it. But it's not optimal either.

I'd "fix" education be separating instruction from evaluation. Take the power of degree-granting from the schools, and give it to testing bodies.

Schools would be forced to compete against real standards, employers would get meaningful information about prospective hires, and students would need to waste far less time with silliness.

It would also destroy the current K-12 and university systems, but I wouldn't shed too many tears.

Linda Seebach said...

If the negotiations in Denver are tough, it's only because the union president is a cretin.

But it's sorta beside the point, because Obama was in Thornton, not Denver, and in a charter school besides.

Robert said...

Music classes were mentioned several times in this speech. All I remember from my grade school music class was singing along to songs like Camptown Racetrack and Jerimiah was a Bullfrog. We never learned about different styles of music Classical, Folk etc.. I took a distance learning music class for a semester at a junior college that was required for my degree. I learned more about music in the 4 months or so in that class than I did in all 8 years of grade school music class. Also, in most schools way too much emphasis is placed on gym class and sports. If all of the money tied up in high school sports programs and the facilities, gym teachers, coaches etc. were put into buying books and computers we would save a lot of money and school could become a place of learning instead of the popularity contests that most schools really are today.

Born Again Democrat said...

A small step, I know, but here is one of the planks in the Born Again Democrat platform:

Web cameras in all public school class rooms and an end to automatic tenure for public school teachers.

Disorder in the class room and incompetent teaching are the real culprits undermining the quality of public education in America. Without class room discipline and competent teachers it is impossible for students to learn. At present there is no easy way for teachers to prove student misbehavior when it occurs, and no way for parents or the public to document incompetent teaching where it exists. The needs of our students must come first, before any supposed right to privacy for misbehaving children, let alone the prerogatives of the teachers' unions. Parents and the public have a right to see what is going on in public school class rooms. Only then can other problems be identified, and appropriate remedies be put into place.

BD said...

Well done, Steve. I would enjoy reading your annotated versions of all of BO's speeches.

What struck me about this one was the complete absence of any mention of a role for the states in setting and implementing education policy. BO evidently considers education to be a purely federal function, similar to national defense or the postal service. Evidently, what's needed is for the American taxpayer to infuse massive new spending to support higher teacher pay, college tuition subsidies, and a range of untested programs all based on the notion that we can and must achieve equality in outcomes and not merely equality in opportunity.

David said...

John Craig's solution is best but could not occur except in a radically changed political context. A stopgap alternative might be to test IQ rigorously and then put the left half of the Bell Curve in vocational schools. France used to have the bac (does it still have it?), a test to see who goes to the higher schools and who does not. The general idea of such testing is right, anyway. (Btw, this is OT, but does anyone ever notice how France does demonstrate some areas of sanity, some of which will probably go away under Sark? The bac...nuclear power...keeping US military adventures at arm's length...This sanity doesn't compensate for the insanity of PC immigration - which would only be increased, not decreased, by bombing the countries of the migrants.)

A massive decrease in subsidies to failure would help education, too. We pump trillions into "problem people" of all races or stripes, then we wonder why we have so many darn problems.

If the govt. is going to shake down the wealthy, then at least why not spend the loot on the talented instead of on the worthless?

Anonymous said...

I would eliminate truancy laws and state constitutions' guarantees of education beyond maybe eighth grade. For those of us whose predecessors migrated here from various armpits of Europe between 1880 and 1924, being a high school drop out didn't portend a lifetime of criminal activity or sloth.

Here in Calif., I would like to see more tax money stay local for education (ie, let the do-gooders in West LA pay off the UTLA), but I don't think I'd upset the Prop 13applecart to do it.

Irvine, CA

Anonymous said...

How to improve education?

I think the CK folks are offering our best shot at improving education...



The elementary grades are much more important than is apparently credited by philanthropies like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has recently been giving many millions to high school reform—with negligible results per dollar. For many years, the philanthropic and policy worlds have placed a lot of emphasis on the two ends of precollegiate education—high school and preschool. They are right about preschool—but not about high school. The general knowledge and vocabulary required for effective learning at the high school level are the fruits of a long process. The way to reform high school is to prepare students effectively in the elementary years to thrive there.

Decades later, elementary schools continue to follow the advice of the anti-curriculum experts, and work to achieve higher-order skills like “critical thinking” and “problem-solving.” Yet, according to international studies, these turn out to be the very skills that our students lack compared with students in Asian and European countries that have placed less emphasis on formal skills and more emphasis on coherent year-to-year subject matter.

Higher-order skills are important, but they are not gained best by endlessly focusing on them. Anybody who is reading this probably possesses the skills advocated by A Nation at Risk. They can read the words with comprehension, and think about them critically. Somehow we have gained these higher-order skills without being taught them directly. Few of us learned critical thinking by taking lessons in critical thinking.

With a slow, tenacious, and effective buildup of knowledge and vocabulary in elementary school, high school will almost take care of itself.


The Core Knowledge Reading program consists of two strands of instruction. The Skills Strand teaches the mechanics of reading using a synthetic phonics approach. The Listening and Learning Strand aims to build background knowledge, vocabulary, and cultural literacy through teacher-presented read-alouds and discussions.

Patrick said...

Here are some of my ideas:

1) Each local school should go through a comprehensive evaluation by the school board. It would include - value added testing, parent satisfaction surveys, student surveys, randomized visits, drug and crime rates, etc. The board would head hunt the best principals available and pay them very well. The principal would be given full power to hire or fire teachers, or to give bonuses.

2) Obama's calls for money make me sick. The best charter schools spend 70% of their budget on instruction. Public schools spend about 30% ( I've actually carefully read their budgets). Just rearranging how money spent would be more the enough to create every reformers dream reform.

2) Vouchers would also be a good idea. They should be for the full amount and not means tested.

3) We should get rid of 7th & 8th grades, the two most useless years ever. Instead, kids would graduate at 16.

4) Kids should have the option of taking years off, but still get the money to apply to a community college or job training program later on. It's ridiculous that the state pays $100,000 to socially promote someone through grade 12. Then when they are 20, and they realize they don't actually want to work at McD's all their life, there is not a dime available to go to trade school.

5) We need to legally separate credentials from schooling. The same institution that educates you should not be responsible for the credential that gives you access to jobs. This gives the institution no incentive to actually teach you.
It also allows the colleges to increase tuition to extortionary levels, because they are the legal gatekeepers to desired professions.

6) If public schooling does not work ( as all studies seem to indicate), then property taxes are a massive wealth transfer from low income people to middle class teachers who have managed to get masters degrees.

7) It's completely unremarked how much credentialism has raised the cost of being poor. Healthcare, property taxes, housing construction, etc., are not inherently expensive. They are expensive because legal guilds and cartels (AMA, drug companies, contractor unions) have artificially constricted supply and raised the prices. The jobs become much harder for a low income person to find, and it makes everything they spend money on far more expensive. Almost every high paying profession has legal credential requirements that artificially constrict supply - lawyer, doctor, teacher, civil servant, government contractors, nurse, architect, most engineers, military officer. This represents a massive wealth transfer from the middle class to the IQ class, that can obtain these credentials.

8) We should bring back apprenticeship for all professions. Anyone smart enough to be an engineer should not wait for college to start studying it. If a student studied engineering the last two years of high school, and then went straight to an apprenticeship, that would work fine, and save a lot of money.

9) In the 1800's the architects who designed famous buildings, such as the New York Public Library, were high school drop outs. The apprenticeship system was not broken and should never have been destroyed. It provided far better education at far less cost. Now my friend has to go through 7 years of university to become an architect. Yet the professors are such head in the cloud academics, the students do all their actual learning on the job!

10) Progressives claim that we need to spend more on education so that we get more high tech workers like engineers. Yet ask any working engineer, and they will usually report public schools as being Lord of the Flies day care centers. They actually learned what they know in spite of school, certainly not because of it.

11) If we're going to subsidize colleges, we should only subsidize people going for engineering and science degrees. It's the only degree that seems to have some correlation with what people do for work, and that will actually raise national income. I suspect other degrees actually ruin people's productivity by teaching them that intellectualism is a more worthy thing to aspire to than building a business.

12) I don't know how anyone who has been to university in the past 20 years, and seen the debauchery on campus, could actually buy the arguments that the future of our country requires raising attendance and spending more money. State college is 6 years of subsidized partying and video games. The university system is probably doing more to destroy our economy than anything else.

rob said...

Is there any evidence that teacher quality makes much difference?

From "No Excuses", stolen from APH's comment at halfsigma:

"Do black students actually learn more from black teachers? Very few studies of educational achievement have examined the link to the racial identity of teachers, but until very recently, the limited research available yielded a simple conclusions: The race of teachers is irrelevant. For example, Ehrenberg, Goldhaber, and Brewer used the National Education Longitudinal Study sample of eight-graders who were testedin 1988, and then again two years later, and found that a teacher's race or gender did "not play an important role" in how much students learned over that span of time. "

As white teachers are on average smarter than black teachers, that study provides reasonable evidence that smarter and harder working teachers don't matter, at least in high school.

Dutch Boy said...

Conceptually, the solution is simple. Copy the European system of educational tracking (which educates children according to their intellectual capabilities and "tracks" them toward the university or vocational training). Secondly, bring back the jobs which have been offshored to places like China (i.e., stop the labor arbitrage system). This would ensure that those we educate are employable. Thirdly, stop the immigration avalanche. QED.

Anonymous said...

Stop forcing kids to read Shakespeare. I'd rather they read Thomas Sowell's syndicated columns and discuss.

Lucius Vorenus said...

Steve Sailer: So, I'd like your suggestions in the comments.

When a situation is hopeless, your first and most important duty is to realize that the situation is hopeless.

Once you realize that the situation is hopeless, then you can begin planning your exit strategy so as to be able to ensure the survival of yourself and your loved ones.

When you are dealing with armies of children whose average IQs are in the low 80s [or even the high 70s], and if an IQ of about 90 is needed to gain any benefit at all from formal schooling, and if an IQ of 100 to 105 is necessary just to be a truck driver, and if half [and rising] of all the children in this country come from groups with average IQs in the low 80s [or even the high 70s], then the situation is necessarily hopeless.

[Obviously technology could play a role here - within a few decades, it should have proven to be pretty easy to alter gametes or fertilized eggs to achieve artificial enhancements to intelligence, but I doubt that there will ever be anything we can do to alter intelligence post-partum, and besides, suicidal nihilism has taken such a terrible toll on the demographics of the civilized world since 1960 that I doubt we have two decades of first-rate scientific innovation remaining in the species. For ye have the poor always with you...]

The United States is doomed - it cannot persist in its current state much beyond the year 2020.

Once you realize that the situation is hopeless, then you can get on with reconciling yourself to that tragedy, after which you can pull yourself up by the bootstraps and put on your thinking cap and start tackling the problem of how we are going to create a viable successor nation [or nations] to the USA - nations within which we might have some chance of seeing our bloodlines and our way of life persist.

josh said...

EVERY child learn to the best of his ability? I assume he means every child except white males! We cant go taking that learn to the best of your ability stuff TOO seriously,can we??

SKT said...

I thought it was only people in Ohio who were stupid. Every 4 years, Democratic politicians come through saying that they're going to repeal NAFTA, bring back all the manufacturing jobs, turn the clock back to 1920... Around half the state turns out enthusiastically to vote for them every time, although nothing ever changes. And nobody ever seems to remember that these same exact promises were made exactly 4 years ago.

Seems like nationally things aren't much different. The same politicians go around whining about how the schools aren't funded, children are being cheated out of a future, black kids are getting left behind, etc. How can people fall for this clown Obama, who doesn't have an original idea in his head?

Anonymous said...

How to improve education?

I'd simply abolish high school or go to a more German model of education. Revive respect for engineering and skilled manual trades.
Just to use an example.....when I was in 8th grade I had to pass a test on the US Constitution. As a high school senior, I had to pass another test on the US Constitution. It seems to me if you're not college bound than high school is pretty redundant. You just read stories you couldn't care less about in English class or you go over stuff that was learned (or should've been learned) in junior high or earlier.
I think we should have a two track educational system after grade 8. If a kid has the IQ and inclination towards college, put 'em in a prep school (high school). If the kid isn't college material, let 'em go to work or teach the kid a trade. Teach him to build or repair something. I think high school as it is now in the US is pretty redundant.
I saw some stats on TV one time. American grade schoolers score near the top of the world. It's high school where America goes to hell.

-Vanilla Thunder

Anonymous said...

Right here in MESA, you have excellent teachers like Ike Ogbuike, who became a math teacher after working as an auto-engineer at Ford and completing a one-year, teacher-residency program.

Actually, Ike was probably laid off, and teaching was about all he could get.

William said...

Just three years ago, only half of the high school seniors who walked the halls of this building were accepted to college...[but now] all 44 seniors of this year's class have been accepted to more than 70 colleges and universities across the country. [This is quite a change. Any difference in demographics?]

Changes in policy, probably. Also, a tougher curriculum probably caused more kids to change schools or drop out after their junior year.

By 12th grade, our children score lower on math and science tests than most other kids in the world. And we now have one of the highest high school dropout rates of any industrialized nation in the world.

Can't be because we have a higher percentage of blacks and Hispanics than any nation in the industrialized world, can it?

Also, what does it say that the man who could be our next president believes the worst things about America?

We don't have to accept an America where we do nothing about six million students who are reading below their grade level.

Spare me. The remedial kids in my schools got hundreds of hours of extra attention and student-teacher ratios to kill for.

Where barely one in 10 low-income students will ever graduate from college.

10% of students from low income families graduate from college? That's actually pretty damn good, considering the overall rate is only about 27%.

Who hath seen a native adult who cannot write? Who knows a native of the age of puberty that cannot read the bible." --John Gardiner, 1785

I don't think he considered slaves to be native adults.

Thomas Jefferson's declaration that "talent and virtue, needed in a free society, should be educated regardless of wealth or birth."

Thomas Jefferson said some pretty nasty things about blacks, too. I don't think he ever thought we'd be giving them the vote, let alone the political influence they currently have.

give our states the resources they need

DC spends nearly 50% more per pupil than the national average - and more than twice what Utah spends. If money is the answer, explain that.

and finally meet our commitment to special education.

I will never never never never ever understand this. Why is it when politicians (and even philanthropists) proclaim our need to increase college graduates in this country they go to the very worst schools and worst students to do it? Roughly 27% of Americans graduate from college. If you want to increase the rate to 40%, do you go to the very bottom of the pack? NO!!!! You go to the rest of the top 40% who didn't finish college - and precious few of those kids are in inner city schools.

Right here in Colorado, more than 6,000 teachers won't be returning to the schools where they taught last year.

LOTS of teachers are women who teach for a few years after graduating, take a few years off to have kids, then later resume teaching. That quote gives you absolutely no information.

hard-to-staff subjects like math and science in schools all across the nation.

Actually a point there - math and science teachers don't collect nearly the premium that their degrees would earn them in the private sector.

Right here in MESA, you have excellent teachers like Ike Ogbuike,

Notice he gos right to the African dude. Why not Joan Smith or Cindy O'Reilly?

who became a math teacher after working as an auto-engineer at Ford

If he had a really promising career at Ford do you think he would've left?

William said...

For several weeks, I've been noodling away on an article on how to improve mass K-12 education in America...So, I'd like your suggestions in the comments

1) Revive the reputation of rote memorization. So much of acquiring new knowledge requires simply knowing things.

2) Purge self-esteem from the curriculum.

3) Send the illegals packing. You're fighting a losing battle if you're constantly dumbing down your population.

4) Make it easier to get rid of the deadbeats. They drain teachers of their energy and distract the class.

5) Increase hours behind the desk. Most students in industrialized nations spend far more hours in school than ours do.

But don't do it by lengthening the traditonal school year. Instead add (required & graded) 3-4 week programs in some specific area the student is interested in - math, science, history, auto mechanics, whatever. Staff them not just with traditional teachers but with retirees or professionals on short vacations from their real-world jobs. (This would have the benefit of giving professionals with no teacher training or unsure about a teaching career some real world experience that they can escape quickly if they find they don't like it.)

William said...

You know, when people quote speeches by Lincoln or Washington or some of the early presidents they do so with a sort of reverence. When you look at all the speeches given by modern presidents, however, there's no ignoring the sheer amount of bullshit they utter.

Sort of Kidding said...

Guns for teachers! More order = More learning.

James K said...

Steve, why don't you talk about white differences in intelligence? Nordic vs. Slavic vs. Mediterranean vs. Ashkenazi, etc?

Anonymous said...

I still know the quadratic formula because we were taught to sing it to the tune of "Pop Goes the Weasel."

David Duff said...

Sorry, feeling rather idle today so here is an extract from my blog which will inform you that America is not alone in this respect;

"WARNING! Reading this post may damage your health
I requested a Health & Safety inspector to come and visit this blog and two turned up. Well, apparently they go round in pairs in case one hurts himself. Anyway, knowing what a litigious lot you are who come round here regularly to soak up the wit and wisdom of Duff & Nonsense, I thought it best to seek advice because the following post could cause you serious harm if you suffer from blood pressure problems.

Apparently, a Professor John White who specialises in, er, the philosophy of education (no, I don't know what that is, either) and who is affiliated (no, nor do I know what that means) to London's Institute of Education (and no, I don't know who they are or what they do - now, for goodness sake, stop asking questions or I'll give you a hundred lines!) ... where was I? Oh yes, this cove wants to stop schools teaching traditional subjects like English, maths, history, geography and such like "because they were invented by the middle classes and are 'mere stepping stones to wealth'". Instead, according to Professor Cocklecarrot, sorry, Professor White, they should "learn skills such as energy-saving and civic responsibility through projects and themes". According to him, "ministers are moving in the right direction" and given that the deeply sinister Minister for Children is Ed Balls, I suppose he's right.

Anyway, if you have children, either emigrate or shoot them!"

The original story is here:


Anonymous said...

The human brain's up take of information and what we learn

If human brains take up information at a fixed pace is it not possible that the useless information that we learn in school in order to make the grade squeezes out some other learning that might be more valuable in our lives? Rather than trying to teach children more maybe we should try to teach them more useful things.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I can't imagine you frothing at the mouth at an education speech of just about any other modern democrat. We already know Obama is a liberal - big deal, what makes this speech so interesting? It would've been the same had it been delivered by Clinton, Kennedy, or Reid.

McCain's education policy initiatives would be more interesting to look at since, while he is a liberal republican, he might not quite be a Bushite on education. And obviously he's more likely to win in November anyhow.

AllanF said...

1) Tracking.

2) Single-sex classrooms in grades 6-10.

3) Vocational training. Including work-force apprenticeships in both office/clerical and manufacturing.

4) Harder, but ultimately still important is allow IQ testing and remove the other incentives for employers to overly rely on credentialism instead as a proxy.

As they say, there's nothing new under the sun. It is basically all the things that worked wonderfully and saw us through the golden age of the industrial revolution, but were scrapped as "unfair" by the education theorists over the 60's.

Anonymous said...

Education serves many purposes. It is not true that high school drop-outs are better off because they are likely stupid anyway and should just get on with their working lives. Education serves to civilize and socialize people of all backgrounds by the very act of exposing students to knowledge (whether will-received or not) and by forcing them to delay gratification. The institutions through which education is mediated provide students with an experience that will ground them in a community and a forum that will allow them to interact with their peers. And there's no doubt that more could be done for all students: the average teacher is, after all, mediocre at best.

Anonymous said...

As a former high school teacher who has been dismayed by the declining academic standards in the public schools, I have thought a lot about this. The attempt to obtain equal outcomes for students with very unequal abilities by dumbing down the curriculum has gone just as far as it can be pushed. The one hopeful sign that I have seen is the growth of publicly funded "Academies" which can be thought of as magnet schools for the academicly gifted. Many school districts already have such schools and there seems to be no organized opposition to them. Acceptance should be based on an entrance exam, but there is no harm in allowing a certain amount of Affirmative Action to come into the process since most teachers teach to the level of the average student in their classes. A voucher system could accomplish the same thing but at the cost of destroying the public schools. If the public schools lost the top 30% of their students, those that remained would be ungovernable and the public schools would quickly turn into "blackboard Jungles" where no teacher would remain without combat pay. To prevent that from happening, I would suggest a cutoff point on an entrance exam that is equivalent to an IQ of about 130. Being that intelligent is socially unacceptable anyway, so these students would hardly be missed from the regular public schools which could then concentrate on their primary mission which is to provide an eighth-grade education to all students in twelve years.

Anonymous said...

Let's say there's a technology that makes you smarter by 10 IQ points if you are white and by 5 IQ points if you are black.

If you are a black parent are you in favor of this new technology? How about if you are a politician?

The black parent might think, "this new thing would make my kid better but he will be even further behind whitey".

Computer technology almost works that way now. Bright kids benefit more. Computers were supposed to bring about egalitarianism but it hasn't worked out that way.

Forty years ago there was a governmental reform movement called Program Evaluation whereby government program objectives would be cast as research hypotheses and program results would be analyzed statisically. The idea was that programs that didn't work would simply be dropped.

The first big program to be evaluated was Head Start - an education program. The hypothesis was simple enough - black kids don't seem to do well in school so we should give them more schooling earlier.

The study was made and the results were clear - Head Start didn't work. All the benefit to the black kids faded as they got older until there was no improvement at high school age.

The methodology of the Head Start evaluation was incontrovertable yet Head Start's funding was never in danger. The public it seems wants Head Start to work and they are not very interested in facts that show that it doesn't work.

In education democracy backed up by demogogary trumps scientific evidence every time.

Parent voters want their kid to be above average compared to his/her classmates. They are much less interested in absolute educational attainments. This means that they are vulnerable to certain proposals and certain theories. They like to believe that their kid who is as dumb a board is only so because there has been some inequitable resource allocation somewhere.

You can't argue with this notion because to do so would be to force the parent to consider that their kid's stupidity might have something to do with the kid's parents. Voters will pay a lot of taxes to avoid facing that. They will be even more favorable towards an education superstition if its someone else's money being spent.

I'm not real optomistic. Technical improvements in education tend to widen student performance gaps. Whereas the public has a strong preferance for reforms that don't work.

Ian Lewis said...

1. Tuition Tax Credits - If the parents think they can do a better job with the $10,000 they are spending in "School" taxes (i.e. Poperty taxes, Sales taxes and State Income taxes) then, so be it. To put it another way, image if we had government-run grocery stores. It would resemble Soviet food markets.

2. Without the Tuition Tax Credits, let the parents choose the teachers. You will soon see certain teachers that are simply NOT in demand...they can be let go (oh, yeah, let the public see the Unions for exactly what they are)

3. Let the parents choose the courses. Maybe some parent would rather their child learn about basic finances and debt instead of Hamlet. That should be there choice.

4. (Addendum to point 3) Give the parents and students some real choices with courses that will teach real-worl marketable skills. Not just carpenty and plumbing. But, nursing, real computer programming (i.e. that you actually teach them something that would entice a company to hire them), machinery, etc.

5. Focus less on grades and more on parental satisfaction. This is what most private schools do anyway. I understand that they grade the children, but if the parents are not satisfied, they go elsewhere. Same holds true for Grocery Stores and Supermarkets. We don't measure how much Vitamin A some market has, not even Whole Foods. We simply judge by customer satisfaction.

6. More open enrollment - Let parents choose from a list of schools and then it can be either first-come-first-serve or done by lottery. Soon, we will know which schools to replace.

7. Give principals "real" influence over what happens at their schools so that they can be judged. Let them have real influence over hiring/firing, curriculim, hours, etc. This is what is done in Edmonton right now, and things have been very positive. If they werent, the principals would be fired.

8. Boot the bad students right out. EXPEL! EXPEL! EXPEL! Get rid of the basic idea behind truency. This is not daycare. If some kid does not want to be there, then let him go. Give the parents their money back and they can send him to some private school for screw-ups.

Anonymous said...

"forum that will allow them to interact with their peers"

Translation: Forum that will allow them to find out where the kegger will be Saturday night, who's got the pot for sale and which girls are easy

Interacting with peers is exactly what's wrong with high school. Bring back apprenticeships so a teenager spends most of his day in the company of an adult who can teach him something useful.

death, taxes and failing schools said...

"Copy the European system of educational tracking (which educates children according to their intellectual capabilities and "tracks" them toward the university or vocational training). "

We had this twenty years ago. And twenty years before that, when my mother graduated, most high school students were ready to enter the workforce immediately upon graduation. Unfortunately, Education popularizers made the mistake of ignoring IQ when suggesting that all students be required to have 4 years of math, including calculus at the end; 2 years (or is 4?) of foreign language; also, they placed an emphasis on harder sciences such as physics and chemistry. This desperate attempt to keep up with the supposedly brainier Chinese & Russians combined with the Ameri-marxist view that more successful students were accomplishing more because they had rich, educated parents and went to better funded schools led to the current catastrophe. Ironically, I think the illegals and their children would be very amenable to tracking that allowed earlier entrance into the workforce if it weren't for the influence of activists and ideologues.

The first stage in improving education would have to be a public relations campaign making it acceptable for everyone to be valuable in their own unique way. It's as if the ambitions of the middle class for their children to be professionals have metastasized into a pathological need for every racial/ethnic group to have a similar ratio of lawyers, doctors, engineers, etc, ditto for the belief that each child should attend a four year college. This link between success and a handful of careers that may or may not be of great value to society must be broken. Until it is, there can be no rational discussion because people have yet to challenge the erroneous assumption that only a few high status, well recognized career paths matter.

I don't think it's lost on many isteve readers that so much money is wasted each decade trying to make every student into the perfect specimen of white, middleclass, college-bound, future professional when many of these same at risk students could easily attain careers as plumbers, secretaries, or mechanics that would provide them with a good income though not a lot of status. As I've said before, it's the American variation on Marxist egalitarianism (or equalitarianism as Svigor said somewhere else) that's the culprit. The actual communist dictatorships don't make this same error in judgment. With them, at least in the past, you must treat the janitor as well as the engineer but not make the janitor into the engineer.

David said...

anon. said:

The institutions through which education is mediated provide students with an experience that will ground them in a community and a forum that will allow them to interact with their peers.

Ditto daycare and prison. For this purpose, "the institutions through which education is mediated" are redundant.

ian said

parents[...]parents[...]parents choose[...]parents

ian, I like your suggestions. But you know of course that the school districts in which parents a. - exist and b. - are as interested in their children's education as they would have to be for your suggestions to work, are much closer to getting their problems solved already. Other districts are lucky to have anything like an active PTA. Maybe you could rephrase your suggestions? - starting with "first, have caring and concerned parents interested in education and willing to express themselves about it in an organized fashion over time." :)

Tony said...

Homeschooling is probably a good option for a significant number of parents (say, 10%) who can enforce a disciplined and structured home environment with high standards.

mka said...

Off the top of my head:

1. Abolish teachers' unions.

2. Institute rigorous competency testing for teachers.

3. Fire incompetent teachers.

4. Give substantial merit pay to the most successful teachers.

5. Institute and adhere to a rigorous academic curriculum.

6. Give rigorous comprehensive exit exams to all students. If you don't pass, you don't get your high-school diploma.

7. To prevent "underperforming" schools (i.e., ghetto schools) from losing any good teachers they might still have, take a page from the military and offer substantial "hazardous duty pay" to any teacher brave enough to try to teach in these godawful places...but expect results.

8. Fire principals and administrators of schools that continually "underperform". Don't reassign them elsewhere with a new job title and a nice fat salary. FIRE THEM. No pensions, no perks for gross incompetence.

Of course, nothing even remotely resembling these reforms will ever happen. We're doomed to continue our slide into second-rate, former-superpower status.

Anonymous said...

France used to have the bac (does it still have it?), a test to see who goes to the higher schools and who does not.

Early mandatory tracking of students would never go over in the US, even absent the racial disparities in performance. We're simply too egalitarian for that. European countries, OTOH, have strong and ancient aristocratic traditions. I suppose partial tracking may work - making kids who fail the test take at list a few Voc Ed courses.

Stop forcing kids to read Shakespeare. I'd rather they read Thomas Sowell's syndicated columns and discuss.

I don't know about that - Shakespeare is too brilliant to leave him out of the curriculum; but I do think English classes should focus more on communication rather than almost exclusively on literature. Communication is about organizing and expressing thoughts, feelings, ideas, and events - whether it's through a book, a play, a speech, a letter, an email, or even a conversation.

The Declaration of Independence and the Gettysburg Address are perfect examples of communication, but I don't recall ever studying them in English class as examples of such. They were always taught in history as pieces of history.

Patrick said...

Oh, and one more idea:

Abolition the education system entirely. Auction off every school stop funding. Then, the government should do the one thing it's supposed to do: enforce contracts.

Instead of paying for schools through taxes, students would pay with equity stakes in their life. This would perfectly align interests between the school and the student. Also, it's very progressive. Students who end up not making as much money, pay less for school. Those who strike it rich, subsidize everyone else. This is a much better way of funding education than loans, which are very regressive.

testing99 said...

The situation is neither hopeless nor unfixable. It does however require a back-to-basics approach in communities/parents and schools.

Historically Black Colleges (Morehous, Grambling, etc.) did a fine job of educating young Black men and women during segregation. They imposed discipline and rote memorization of the basics and produced doctors, lawyers, etc. who were competent professionals.

This was when the Black Community was not anti-intellectual and dysfunctional in single-motherhood homes.

To fix the schools, demand what we had in the pre-WWII years:

1. Rote memorization of things like the multiplication tables, Periodic table, etc.

2. Push the basics, arithmetic, reading, writing coherent sentences, algebra. Which requires ...

3. Order and discipline. Which in turn requires a two-parent community where kids don't run wild but are expected to sit down, shut up and behave. You can't fix a lifetime of indiscipline by single mothers of rambunctious boys with a few hours a day of teachers.

4. Get rid of the Teacher's unions, but more importantly reform the Ed Codes from 20 feet of stacked regulations to a few simple bits of easily understandable regs.

5. Kill the Ed Code Industry that depends on being intermediaries for the complex regulations and regulators and the schools. Like grant writers, consultants, etc.

But the most important is culture of the community. Education flows from that.

We used to educated Black AND White kids well, we need to go back to that.

William said...

Then, the government should do the one thing it's supposed to do: enforce contracts.

You mean contracts AND property rights, right?

Why is it that libertarians think that the only thing the government should do is protect property rights? Why allow that regulation and no other?

Is it maybe because all the libertarian organs are funded by billionaires?

I think if Ted Turner wants to keep intruders off his million acre ranch and Fred Smith wants to keep people from commandeering his planes they should have to buy their own damn private armies.

Anonymous said...


Institute standardized tests based on the Authentic Assessment philosophy. Publish the results grouped by IQ so parents will know which schools do the best job and not just which have the smartest students.

Freedom of choice

Let parents choose which school they want to send their kids to. Vouchers and busing could help expand their options.


Grand schools complete autonomy. The principal and/or school board will be responsible for all decisions over hiring, curriculum, teaching methods etc.


Schools should receive government funding based on their students' average scores on standardized tests relative to their IQ.

(For example suppose school A's students have a mean IQ of 90 and school B's students have a mean IQ of 100. If both schools' students perform equally well on standardized tests, then school A should receive more funding.)

KlaosOldanburg said...

that's easy:

1. disband the teacher's union, and forbid teachers from organizing in groups larger than say the county level. if the orange county teachers want to collectively lobby the government, fine. california, no way.

2. fire all teachers with a degree in education. replace them with people who can pass a test which displays mastery over the subject they'll be teaching. for elementary school, recruit parents who have successfully home-schooled their children.

Anonymous said...

Early mandatory tracking of students would never go over in the US, even absent the racial disparities in performance

Blacks would rather have their kids fail at being a lawyer than succeed at being an auto mechanic or brickmason.

Polistra said...

Patrick said most of it.

Stop the universal part around 7th grade, then apprenticeship, apprenticeship, apprenticeship.

I saw clearly in my own years teaching at DeVry that even unintelligent or inattentive students could master math, writing, and general thinking skills when those skills came "accidentally" as part of a plainly job-related experience.
Those students won't master any subject when it's presented in isolation as a bunch of words to memorize for the test.

Our current assumption that all education must aim toward a Harvard law degree is the worst possible offense against black students.

But there's one big thing we need to do outside the educational system: we need to bring back industry so that young men who aren't qualified for Harvard can realistically look forward to being the sole provider for a family.

mka said...

I'd like to second KlaosOldanburg's point no. 2.

Abolish teachers' colleges and degrees in education. These "colleges" and "degrees" are worthless. No, that's too kind: They're WORSE than worthless. Make prospective teachers take degrees in REAL academic subjects like mathematics, English, history, biology, chemistry, etc.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

Sad fact: the main way to improve education is to improve the students. Therefore, restrict immigration to smart people. Do what is necessary to control the borders.

Get rid of the obstacles to using IQ tests for anyone who wants to use them.

Local control of the schools. Actually let parents have a meaningful stake in running the schools, and more of them will pay attention. This implies small school districts. Of course, it won't work for everyone everywhere, but we want to improve things, not futilely try for perfection.

Meaningful skills testing. It doesn't have to be high stakes and used to punish the students or the school. It just needs to accurately show what the kids know. Those students who need more work in an important subject should then be able to get it.

I also don't see why such testing has to be so expensive. For a reasonable fee, one can take a CLEP test on a computer in a few hours and get one's score immediately after finishing. Most colleges and universities will then give credit for good scores. Why can't public schools use something similar to test their students?

Focus the early school years, say K-3, on phonics-based reading instruction, memorizing the arithmetic tables, and the rest of the so-called "three Rs." These ages are also the last chance most people have to acquire a second language naturally. I don't see where science or social studies classes are of much use at such young ages. Extra work on basic skills would be more useful.

Tracking should be done in the later school years, certainly after eighth grade.

Given modern communications, smart kids should be able to opt out of school entirely, if they want. Most won't want to do so, but being self-taught, with perhaps the occasional meeting with a mentor, is not that difficult nowadays.

Less smart kids should be given the opportunity to learn useful trade skills. A genuine academic high-school education is simply beyond a significant percentage of the population.

An apprenticeship after eighth grade should be seen as an honorable choice. We might need to come up with the equivalent of a graduation ceremony for those who successfully pursue one.

There needs to be recognized alternate ways to demonstrate ability, and we must have enough reform that business and higher education aren't punished for using them.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

PS: See this article.

toadal said...

California engineers I work with in Silicon Valley often refer to West Virginia or Tennessee residents with mild contempt. But how 'knowledge challenged' are Appalachian mountain people? How backward are people from Kentucky, for example?

Are California kids, on average, better scholars than hillbilly kids? The evidence from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) our national representative measure of student achievement indicates it's the rednecks from Kentucky who learn significantly more.

States NAEP 2005 Science Scores

8th Grade: 136
4th Grade: 137
8th Grade: 153
4th Grade: 158

"But", you might say, "49% of California school children are Hispanic with many Mestizo and Amerindian non-English speakers". Yes, that's true, so let's compare kids taught a subject that language has little to do with, a subject that is a form of language itself, Mathematics.

States NAEP 2005 8th Grade Mathematics Scores

California 8th Grade: 269
Kentucky 8th Grade: 274

BTW, in learning, California kids are second to nearly everyone. The state is tied for 49th in national science scores, even those ‘Sons-of-the-South’ in Alabama score higher. Once you inspect the links provided you’ll find California 8th and 4th graders are more math ignorant than Kentucky 8th and 4th graders. This fact is rather puzzling since California has millions of more Asians than Kentucky.

What kind of return does a Kentucky taxpayer get for his education tax dollar compared to a California taxpayer?

State and local elementary and secondary spending per capita for 2004

State ..Rank ..Spending Per Capita

California ..9th ..$1645
Kentucky ..50th ..$1101

California spends 49% more per capita on education than Kentucky. Senator Obama may have gotten his education outcomes idea backward. An increase in education spending has an inverse affect on education quality.

William said...


Whenever you do get around to doing your big piece on real education reform, do the nation a favor and publish it pseudonymously - because everyone knows that the article will be completely ignored if it comes out with the name "Steve Sailer" on it.

I recommend using the name "Malcolm Gladwell" - it's a great pseudonym I thought of just last night. I give it to you to use, free of charge.

Lucius Vorenus said...

death, taxes and failing schools: This desperate attempt to keep up with the supposedly brainier Chinese & Russians combined with the Ameri-marxist view that more successful students were accomplishing more because they had rich, educated parents and went to better funded schools led to the current catastrophe.

No - dysgenic fertility led to this catastrophe.

And suicidal nihilism amongst the world's smartest people led to dysgenic fertility.

testing99: The situation is neither hopeless nor unfixable.

No, that is false: The situation is both unfixable and hopeless.

And it is of paramount importance - it is a fundamental moral duty - to stop playing pretend and to stop fantasizing and to finally face reality for what it is and to admit that the situation is hopeless.

Only after we summon the strength of character to admit the hopelessness which emanates from the inertia at the heart of our state of affairs can we then begin to pick up the pieces, salvage what is salvageable, form an exit strategy, and make the plans for ensuring our survival and the survival of our loved ones.

Without an exit strategy, our loved ones will be doomed, and we, in our arrogance, will have been responsible for their annihilation.

Patrick: Abolition the education system entirely.

Yes - this is the kind of thing we need to be thinking about in the successor nations which will arise to replace what had been the United States - we need to be thinking about how the Founding Fathers went wrong, and what we can do to improve upon their blueprints in our new nation.


Once again, I have to say that it is just shocking for me to read what is written on this thread, by people who ought to know better - frankly who do know better - but who are doggedly determined to cling to fantasies rather than to follow their knowledge [and "beliefs"] through to a logical conclusion.

Again: A child needs an IQ of about 90 to have any hope of being able to profit from a curriculum of the three R's [Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmetic], and even then, at an IQ of 90, when the child grows up, he won't be able to maintain gainful employment as much more than a janitor - the child would need a substantially higher IQ [up around 100 to 110] just to grow up to be something like a carpenter [and not a particularly good carpenter at that]. With an IQ of 90, the child would be lucky to grow up to be an adult who could find consistent employment as a carpenter's helper, and, even then, his mere presence on any jobsite, with an IQ that low, would be a constant source of endangerment for many different peoples' lives [both his fellow workers at the time, and also any future inhabitants of the structure he helped assemble - a structure which, by his very presence, would be in substantially greater risk of collapse than would have been the case if his work had been performed by a smarter person].

But our situation is substantially more disastrous even than that - half of all children in the USA now live under a bell curve whose mean is no higher than 85, which is 5 points below the threshold for any meaningful introduction to the three R's, and there is a lot of evidence that their mean IQs could be substantially lower even than that [e.g. Lynn and Vanhanen estimate an average IQ of 79 for the people of Guatemala].

There is simply no hope for these people - trade schools aren't going to do them any good because they are TOO STUPID to master the trades.

These poor people are economic, financial, and intellectual dead weight, and each of their families is sucking $19,588 per year out of our treasury.

Circa 2020, the simultaneous costs of supporting these low IQ races and of providing the retirement benefits which were promised to the suicidally nihilistic Caucasian Baby Boomers [who failed to reproduce at replacement-level rates] will cause what had been the USA to implode upon itself and disappear, just like a dying star collapses to a singularity and forms a black hole.

Our duty now is to begin to formulate the plans for the successor nations which will arise to replace what had been the USA, and to make sure that there is a realistic scenario in which our loved ones can survive and prosper in at least one of those nations - that they are not sucked into the maelstrom, swallowed up, and never seen or heard from again for the remainder of the course of human history.

beowulf said...

Most of the things I'd suggest have already been mentioned. Core Curriculum, Direct Instruction, single sex schools, Computer-Aided Instruction and most importantly, testing for competency versus matriculating for credentials.

I'd also mention, there's already a standardized test that assesses mastery of the high school curriculum, the GED exam. Let high school study on their own (computers are nice but, as the Kumon worksheet system demonstrates, not necessary for self-learning).

When they can pass the GED, whether its in their freshman year or their senior year, they're done with the HS curriculum. They can spend the remainder of their 4 HS year learning a trade or taking online college classes.

Xenephon Hendrix's point about CLEP exams is well taken. There are at least three accredited college (two of which are state schools) that let you test out of all your classes for a college degree. http://www.123collegedegree.com/bsintro.html

pawn said...

"Our duty now is to begin to formulate the plans for the successor nations which will arise to replace what had been the USA, and to make sure that there is a realistic scenario in which our loved ones can survive and prosper in at least one of those nations - that they are not sucked into the maelstrom, swallowed up, and never seen or heard from again for the remainder of the course of human history."

From personal experience, I can attest that some of us will be sacrificed to the new order (whether this is to be as a common enemy to help the diverse population bond or merely as a scapegoat being assigned blame for the failures of the state I have yet to decide). But even talking about escaping the emerging totalitarian State can get you on the radar, LV. Be careful.

Truth said...

Steve, why don't you talk about white differences in intelligence? Nordic vs. Slavic vs. Mediterranean vs. Ashkenazi, etc?


Get your own question damnit, that one's mine!

Cal said...

1) Create competency standards, with "Basic" being 8th grade competency. Above "basic" is competency levels (call them what you will) at 10th grade (what we would consider high school level today), college ready (equivalent of SATs at 550), college level (equivalent of 600s, and then at individual subject matters).

2) Record competency levels in a national database that is for legal citizens only.

3) Work with major service employers to require 8th grade competency for job entry, 10th grade for management, and so on.

4) Require state university systems to have minimum competency levels as determined by tests. Using California as an example: CSUs would require SAT equivalents of 500, or AP test scores of 2 or 3). UC would require SAT equivalents of 550-600 with additional competency in subjects (Math, History, whatever).

The idea would be to

a) limit college enrollment,

b) create incentives for all students to reach basic competency levels,

c) give native low-skilled workers a big boost up over illegals with the database,

d) create a competency indicator for employers who don't really need college graduates but can't tell a literate high school graduate from an illiterate one. So bank tellers and secretaries, for example, could go back to being good high school level jobs.

Jeff Williams said...

Here is a completely different for school reform:

Assume that the problem of nonperformance by the schools is one of perverse or nonexistent incentives. If that is the case, then the solution must be to adopt proper incentivization.

What everybody wants from the school system is clear. People want the kids, when they leave school, to get good jobs. Under a proper incentive plan, then, it should be obvious that schools should be rewarded when the kids get good jobs.

Implementation would be simple. Add a few lines to the California state income tax form. Which high school did you go to? Did you graduate? What year? What college did you go to? Etc. Put the school data together with the income data. Now you’ve got income data for each high school and college.

Set up the first year as a base year for handicapping purposes. Incentives could be paid out in the following year. School districts showing income increases for school leavers would get a reward.

Obviously you can make the reward formula as simple or complex as you want. You might give a break to regions hard-hit by local factory closings, for example. But incentives based on school leavers’ incomes is the direct approach to getting the results that people want, and it could eliminate a lot of testing, training for testing, and other academic busy-work and expensive nonsense.

tommy said...

Our parents weren't wealthy by any means. My mother raised my sister and me on her own, and she even had to use food stamps at one point. Michelle's father was a worker at a water-filtration plant on the South Side of Chicago and provided for his family on a single salary. And yet, with the help of scholarships and student loans and a little luck, Michelle and I both had the chance to receive a world-class education. And my sister ended up becoming a teacher herself.

Well, in Michelle's case, a little luck and a lot of affirmative action.

Kelly said...

For public goods like education, the rule of three says Universal, Affordable, Effective: Choose any Two.

Obama's plan basically reads, Universal is sacrosanct, we need more Effective, so Affordable has to go out the window. No specifics as yet, because the taxpayers would blanch, but that's the drift.

Most of your commenters suggest some form of modifying Universal. Like Social Security and the military, that's probably a more promising way to go. The question is who decides who leaves, and what happens to the Left Behinds.

Happy Talk said...

The only comment of the 62 I read that made sense was Lucius Vorenus'. We are not trying to educate the Brady Bunch anymore. The educrats have shuffled the chairs around countless times with dubious results. This has tended to mask the real problem of demographic replacement.

Lawful Neutral said...

The essential problem of education is the conflict of interest: the same people who teach you are the people who testify to the outside world that you're competent. Obviously, you'll get nowhere failing your own customers, so you fail as few as possible. The solution? Ironclad separation of teaching and credentialing.

Colleges aren't stupid enough to take high schools' word for their students' skills - they require pretty serious third-party testing. Why should we have to take the colleges' word for it? More third party qualifications at all levels, that's the prescription. It'll never happen in a million years.

Ron said...

Give students the option of tutorial-based education instead of classroom-based. It's much more effective and wouldn't cost any more. Three hours of tutoring a week beats a full week of sitting in class all to pieces. A room full of apathatic teenagers is about the worst learning environment imaginable.