Happy Birthday Milton!

July 31, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Milton Friedman would have been 103 today.  As a treat, here is a 1979 interview on the Donahue program:

So am I the only wierdo who misses both Milton and Moynihan?

Next up for disruption: ESPN

July 30, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

For the last view decades ESPN has bestrode sports and cable television like a colossus. With the advent of DVR technology, live sporting events stood out as something that people still watch live (along with those lucrative commercials) whereas most other things people tape and skip over the ads. ESPN throwing giant bales of money at college sports in order to secure such live programming has been the background music of the college football missle crisis as conferences jockeyed for position and market share and network dollars.

Now the entire business model has come under question. The problem is that while the people who aren’t cutting the cable cord may be doing it because of sports (guilty as charged here) lots of other people have decided to cut the cord. Those people used to pay for ESPN even if they didn’t watch it. ESPN charges cable companies hefty fees to include their channels on basic cable. With the advent of streaming services, an increasing number of people have decided not to pay for any channels at all. Meanwhile, ESPN is on the hook for some very large long-term contracts and the Disney mother-ship has begun to force cost cutting on the former jewel of their broadcasting crown.


Anyway all of this is just a prelude to an interesting quote from an AEI blog post on this subject:

“Destruction will come slowly. Academics have noted that disruptive cycles take place over periods of 15-30 years. Even if those cycles are faster than ever with the ever-falling costs of distributing information, educating the public about new ideas, and producing innovative products, it will still be a number of years before we see meaningful change. In the short term, it might appear that everything is stable in Hollywood. The key is to remember that no industry is invulnerable to disruption. Barriers to entry be damned. Innovation always finds a way to drive cost down and bring people into the market. Some industries are harder to penetrate than others, but change is inevitable. Even in television, ‘winter is coming.’”

You aren’t going to do anything about poverty until you do something about education

July 30, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The above line (from then NYC Chancellor Joel Klein) in the headline came to mind when I saw these cool charts on the New Orleans Recovery School District from Neerav Kingsland. RSD turns 10 this year and the results thus far look very impressive.

So the percentage of kids eligible for a FRL not only went up, it is sky-high at 92%. Meanwhile test scores climbed. How in the world did New Orleans accomplish these goals without hiring armies of new unionized social workers, dentists and valets are various other things that could be neither afforded nor sustained? Oh that’s right they leveraged (then) empty buildings to attract teams of educators to run charter schools and gave parents a much wider array of choices regarding the sort of school their child would attend.

Yeshiva: The Ultimate Free-Market Educational Experience

July 27, 2015

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(Guest Post by Jason Bedrick)

Cleaning out old emails today, I stumbled across this 2013 article from Prof. Noah Feldman of Harvard Law School describing the eminent Lakewood yeshiva in New Jersey, where about 6,700 undergraduate and graduate students spend their days studying Jewish texts, particularly the Talmud. What education reformers should find fascinating are their innovative mode of instruction and faculty selection/retention policies, the combination of which Feldman calls “a strikingly disruptive model of higher education”:

Every term, each student must sign up for a chabura (essentially, a semester-long seminar group) presided over by a fellow student who functions as the faculty member. A free-market system governs the organization of the seminars. There’s only one way to become a seminar head: to be nominated by your peers who sign up to join. If you don’t have enough sign-ups, you lose your faculty position. If you’re good, students will keep signing up each term and you keep your post.

Tenure doesn’t exist, except for a handful of senior faculty. The seminars can range in size from as few as 15 students to as many as 200. The members meet for lectures by the seminar head and guided discussions several times week. The rest of the time, they engage in analysis, debate and discussion with assigned partners. Senior faculty are available for guidance and help as needed. Subject matter, too, varies, with some seminar groups focusing on specific sections of the Talmud and others pursuing a wider range of topics addressed by Jewish legal tradition.

In essence, the students are running the institution. Traditional Jewish education is usually thought of as intensely hierarchical, and in some ways it is — respect for rabbis and teachers runs deep. But when it comes to the intellectual heart of the yeshiva, the core activity of Talmud study, the Lakewood model is astonishingly egalitarian and democratic.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a liberal arts college try this?

Toddler Technocracy

July 27, 2015


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA’s Perspective carries my article on why the endless expansion of government’s role in childrearing, at the expense of the family, is something we ought to be concerned about:

Rounding up toddlers into the nurseries of the all-providing, all-benevolent state is certainly good for public employee unions, but is it good for the state and its children? Fully 76 percent of Oklahoma’s four-year-olds are in government pre-K. The average U.S. state has only 23 percent….

The whole idea of pre-K, like the idea of Kindergarten before it, is (as the Germanic name suggests) a product of the technocratic European social welfare state….Believing he could use his superior scientific understanding to improve the early development of children, Friedrich Froebel created the world’s first Kindergarten in 1837. He theorized that children would develop better if given more opportunity to socialize with peers rather than with their families and others. American admirers of the European technocratic experiment were quick to follow suit; in 1856, the first U.S. Kindergarten was founded less than an hour’s drive from where I live in Wisconsin.

I argue that the technocratic view of the world that makes endless expansion of pre-K seem like a step forward is dangerous – dangerous not only to social equality but to the moral foundations of the social order. Not that pre-K by itself will destroy these things, but it is a symptom of a deeper problem.

As always, I welcome your thoughts!

This is my apprentice, Darth de Blasio. He will deal with your transportation freedom problem

July 24, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Sound familiar? Go Uber go!

The Truth is Out There Hidden Behind Multiple Delusions

July 23, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Mix in a few out of context quotes, make a few things up, and sprinkle in a healthy dose of confirmation bias and you get this strong with the lefty conspiracy theory side of the Force.

Milton Friedman never made his preference for universal choice a secret, quite the opposite. I don’t know what “talking points” the writer is referencing (a link would be nice unless they are in his coat pocket next to Joe McCarthy’s list of State Department spies) but ALEC has multiple school choice bills with either means-tests or sliding scales to give greater resources to children from low-income families.

A central flaw in the piece is a false assumption that school choice can’t serve kids in the inner city and suburbs at the same time, or that trying to do so cedes equity arguments. It can and it need not- lawmakers can and have structured choice programs to provide (in stark contrast to the public school systems of many states) greater total resources to low-income and otherwise disadvantaged children. I know it would be far more useful to school choice opponents if school choice supporters went around passing laws that offered greater resources to rich kids, but search the dozens of private choice programs from top to bottom and you won’t find such a thing. Dig around in public school finances for a few minutes and you’ll easily find examples of leafy suburbs spending far above statewide averages.

In a state spending an average of $15k per child, I’d be happy to offer free and reduced lunch kids an ESA of $20k. I’d offer the non-FRL kids an ESA of $10k so they could generate the savings for the economically disadvantaged. Feel free to persuade me otherwise, but if you think that offering that $10k ESA to non-poor kids shows that I don’t care about poor kids you’ll have to forgive my initial pained expression as I wonder what color the sky is in your world.






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