Slam Dunk by Jonah Goldberg

September 28, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jonah Goldberg lets fly today on NRO with an absolute slam dunk:

And yet when you listen to these endless seminars and interviews on NBC and its various platforms, I never seem to hear Matt Lauer or David Gregory ask “Isn’t the education crisis a failure of liberalism?” After all, liberals insist all social problems can be reduced to root causes. Well, they’ve been in charge of the roots for generations and look at the mess they’ve made. Look at it.

Largely because of the Iraq war,  Katrina and Bush’s unpopularity,  a host of liberal intellectuals pronounced conservatism to be dead. The decrepit state of American education is a far more sweeping, profound and lasting indictment of the very heart of liberalism and yet the response from everyone is “Let’s give these guys another try!”

HT Jeff Reed @ FEC

“Voluntary” Standards

June 4, 2010

I am shocked – shocked! – to discover that political manipulation of education is going on in here!

Your NCLB and RTTT grants for supporting national standards, monsieur.

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Over on NRO, Heritage’s Lindsey Burke and Jennifer Marshall warn that the Obama administration is finding even more ways to use federal influence to push “voluntary” national standards on the states.

So much for Checker’s apparently serious assertion that the standards “emerged not from the federal government but from a voluntary coming together of (most) states, and the states’ decision whether or not to adopt them will remain voluntary.” Bwa ha ha!

Get a Job, Hippie!

May 6, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Stephen Spruiell notes that even as the administration is trying to make a college degree a new constitutional right, it is going to war against the institutions that have actually figured out how to extend college education in a sustainable way – for-profit colleges.

Why? Spruiell cites “ideological” hostility to profit in the education industry. But I suspect it’s at least as much a consciously cynical attempt to reshape the higher education sector in a way that will make it more supine – businesses that make a profit answer to the customer, and are thus harder to coopt for political purposes.

Among the policy tricks being deployed or considered for the purpose of destroying for-profit colleges is a new rule that would bar them from federal student aid unless they have a 70 percent graduation rate and a 70 percent rate of placement “in field” after graduation. Elsewhere on NRO, Robert VerBruggen remarks that the nationwide average college grad rate is only 60 percent.

But Spruiell gets the prize for this comment:

Imagine the Department of Education telling Big State U that 70 percent of its “peace studies” grads must be placed “in field” or it will lose federal funding for the program.

Gives a new meaning to the old outburst “Get a job, hippie!”

Only 40% of UFT Voters Are Actual Teachers

April 14, 2010

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Over on NRO, Rick Hess points out that only 40% of the voters in last week’s UFT elections were actual teachers.

Do you think this sort of thing might have something to do with the problem of runaway, unfunded teacher pensions? Looks like at least one union is representing retirees at least as much as teachers.

This also sheds some light on why the unions favor policies that destroy the working environment for public school teachers. Only 40% of their voters are affected by the destruction of the teacher working environment.

And this is after the implementation of a new rule that counts each vote by a retiree as only 0.72 of a vote. If the retirees’ votes hadn’t been diluted, the teachers would only be 34% of the electorate and the retirees 46%.

In case you’re wondering, the other 22% of the UFT vote is composed of what the union calls “functional teachers,” i.e. almost entirely non-teachers (librarians, nurses, counsellors, etc.)

Winters v. Murray Deathmatch on College

October 22, 2009


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today on NRO Marcus Winters throws down the gauntlet before Charles Murray and others who have made the increasingly common argument that too many kids go to college these days. As the economy requires workers to have more and more knowledge for good jobs, more kids should go to college, not fewer, Marcus argues; the research on teacher quality and school choice shows that improvements in K-12 education can increase the number of high school graduates who are genuinely able to handle college work; and the wage premium of a college degree is not going down, but up – because the K-12 system hasn’t kept pace with the increasing demands of technological development, and college does make students more productive workers (contrary to Murray’s claim that it serves mainly as a sorting mechanism).

Over on AEI’s blog, Murray responds, calling Marcus a “romantic,” going over a lot of research that doesn’t really address the point at issue, and then falsely claiming that Marcus presents only anecdotes about “a miracle school in the inner city” but offers no “interpretable data.” Anyone who reads Marcus’s piece will see that Marcus points to the eminently interpretable data of the broad research on teacher quality, school choice, and economic outcomes.

What Is “Merit”?

September 16, 2009

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

As JPGB’s friend Marcus Winters notes on NRO today, the Obama administration has been staying the course on this issue, denying “Race to the Top” funds to states that disallow the use of objective measurement in evaluating teachers. Marcus also rightly links this to the topic of merit pay, which the president repeatedly embraced during the campaign. One of the biggest obstacles to enacting real merit pay is making sure that the measurement of “merit” really measures merit. Too many experiments with “merit pay” have really been experiments in peer evaluation pay, grade inflation pay, and so on. Check out Marcus’s article for more.

Jay: Wake Up and Smell the Incentives

September 14, 2009

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Well, it seems to be op-ed day for friends of JPGB today. Below, Matt appreciates Robert Enlow as a man who has “the whole package” – and delivers it in today’s Indy Star. Meanwhile, over on NRO, Jay has a column on the perverse incentives that artificially drive up special ed diagnoses:

Schools have discovered that they can get extra funding from state and federal ‎governments for small-group instruction to help lagging students catch up if they say that ‎the students are struggling because of a processing problem in their brains. School officials who admit that the students are lagging because of poor previous instruction or a difficult ‎home life, by contrast, are left to pay the costs of small-group instruction entirely out of ‎their own budget.

If you’ve been reading JPGB, that part is all old hat to you by now. If not, this NRO piece is a good (though very brief) introduction to the topic.

The NRO piece does make one point I hadn’t thought of before:

In New Jersey, for example, 18 percent of all students are ‎classified as disabled, but in California the rate is only 10.5 percent. There is no medical ‎reason why students in New Jersey should be 71 percent more likely to be placed into ‎special education than students in California.


Death Panels for College Kids!

August 21, 2009

Monopoly - Pennybags

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Pardon me while I toot my horn that the editors of the Wall Street Journal have picked up on the story that federal student loans illustrate how a “public option” inevitably becomes a single-payer government monopoly. Remember, you read it here first! (Well, OK, not really. You read it on NRO first. But we had it before the Journal!)

And please please please do yourself a favor – read Andy McCarthy’s incisive NRO article today on the probability of, and implications of, an Obama victory on health care. It’s a sobering corrective to the undue optimism many of us (myself included) have begun to feel over the past few weeks.

The spectre of James Madison has been doing yeoman’s work in DC this summer. If you want to know why the Democrats had to neuter the early-year provisions of Cap and Trade and are now struggling so hard over health care, just read Federalist 10. Madison built the walls of the Constitution high and thick to repulse precisely this sort of assault. Thank God for that man!

But it’s all too easy to assume that justice must prevail when the facts and the rights are clear, and McCarthy’s analysis (though I don’t agree with every particular of it) has sobered me up.

People do, in fact, sell their freedom. It happens every day. And not just in far-flung corners of the globe but in your neighborhood, on your block. Why do you think the founders got so animated and hyperbolic about the monstrosity of selling your freedom every time the subject came up? Not because it couldn’t happen here, nor even because it could, but because it did. Repeatedly. To sell your freedom is the fundamental tendency of man’s fallen nature. (Read Federalist 8. Or Federalist 51. Or, for that matter, Federalist 4, 6, 10, 15…)

McCarthy is right: “We could still lose this thing.” And there is nothing to stop the consequences from being as dire as he foresees them being.

Have Fun Storming the Castle!

August 6, 2009

Miracle Max & Gilda

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Checker Finn, just returned from a vacation during which he apparently read something about the Constitutional Convention, writes on NRO today that “we need a revolutionary refounding” in education. Reformers should direct their efforts toward scrapping the existing education system entirely and creating a new one from scratch.

Think it’ll work? It would take a miracle.

“Can we afford not to try?” he asks at the end. Well, in fact, yes.

Checker either does or does not want reformers to divert effort and energy away from goals that are more gradual, more incremental – in other words, more achievable. If he does, he’s urging us to sabatoge efforts that achieve significant tangible results, in order to join him on a fool’s errand with no chance of success. If he doesn’t, he’s wasting our time with a lot of pointless hot air.

Unless, of course, the Fordham Institute has a holocaust cloak.

But if it does, why didn’t he list that among their assets in the first place?

Twin Editorials on Milwaukee Vouchers

June 4, 2009

Weasley Twins

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

This morning the Wall Street Journal and National Review Online both take on the covert effort to destroy Milwaukee vouchers by political subterfuge.

From the Journal:

Because the 20-year-old program polls above 60% with voters, and even higher among minorities, killing it outright would be unpopular. Instead, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle wants to reduce funding and pass “reforms” designed to regulate the program to death. The goal is to discourage private schools from enrolling voucher students and thus force kids to return to unionized public schools.

From NRO:

Last week, the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved a series of auditing, accrediting, and instructional requirements that will force successful voucher schools to shift resources away from classrooms and into administration. Several schools will have to comply with new bilingual-education mandates, even though many immigrant parents choose those schools precisely because they emphasize the rapid acquisition of English instead of native-language maintenance.

Both editorials also mention looming cuts in funding for vouchers, even though the program saves huge taxpayer dollars and the bloated government schools are getting increases in funding. Both editorials cite Robert Costrell’s calculation that the difference between private school efficiency and public school bloat has saved taxpayers $180 million – though only NRO mentions Costrell by name.

And NRO also gets a gold star for this:

Researchers say that the program is beginning to show systemic effects. In other words, it doesn’t merely help its participants. It also gives a lift to non-voucher students because the pressure of competition has forced public schools to improve.

C’mon, Wall Street Journal, get on the ball!

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