Impulse Control

This past week has been a really, really bad one for Governor Dayton and anyone who thinks he’s ready for prime time as a governor.

First, it the promise (since delivered) of a veto of the K-12 E-12 bill over a few hundred million in spending that a bipartisan majority in the Legislature had already turned down (in support of a program that nobody but Education Minnesota really wants).

And now?   He’s accusing Republicans of “hating teachers”.

Which certainly perked up my ears, what with having a father, two grandparents and a little sister who’ve been teachers.

Oh, yeah – Sondra Erickson, also a teacher, was not amused:

 Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, who chairs the House Education Policy Committee said Dayton should apologize for the remark.

In a statement, Erickson said:

“As a public school teacher with nearly four decades in public school classrooms, I am disappointed with Governor Dayton’s disrespectful remarks. Minnesotans expect their public officials to respectfully debate the issues facing our state without resorting to personal attacks. Republicans and Democrats passed a bipartisan budget that underscored our commitment to students and teachers including significant investments in proven early learning programs. Teachers deserve nothing but great respect because of their dedication to prepare our children with knowledge and skills for the future. Closing the achievement gap requires only the highest regard for those who teach and lead our children. I respectfully request that the governor apologize for his remarks.”

Of course, he’s not going to do it.  I fact, look for them to double down.

Because that’s page 1 of the Democrat messaging handbook.  Question how veterans benefits are paid for?  ”Why do Republicans hate veterans?”.

Dispute global warming?  ”Why do Republicans hate science?”.

Don’t like abortion, and think identity feminism has done a lot of damage?  ”It’s a war on women!”.

Push back against a pork-barrel program that will at best do nothing useful for the vast majority of kids, but will plump up Education Minnesota’s and the DFL’s coffers?  ”Republicans hate teachers!”.

And the thing is, 40-odd percent of Minnesota voters are stupid enough to buy it.

Why would he apologize?

Governor Dayton’s Priorities

Governor Flint-Smith Dayton is threatening to veto the budget deal over the lower level of funding promised for pre-kindergarten.

I’m not sure that our legislature – much less our governor – is smart enough to fight the battle based on something like “what’s best for children”…

…but in case any legislators are focused on that, psychology and even teachers are starting to think that jamming down academics with young children is at best of no value, and at worst counterproductive in the long run:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201505/early-academic-training-produces-long-term-harm (I’ve added emphasis):

A number of well-controlled studies have compared the effects of academically oriented early education classrooms with those of play-based classrooms (some of which are reviewed here, in an article by Nancy Carlsson-Paige, Geralyn McLaughlin,and Joan Almon).[1] The results are quite consistent from study to study: Early academic training somewhat increases children’s immediate scores on the specific tests that the training is aimed at (no surprise), but these initial gains wash out within 1 to 3 years and, at least in some studies, are eventually reversed. Perhaps more tragic than the lack of long-term academic advantage of early academic instruction is evidence that such instruction can produce long-term harm, especially in the realms of social and emotional development.

When you start regimenting kids bright and early, is it a surprise they grow up less able to think for themselves?

For example, in the 1970s, the German government sponsored a large-scale comparison in which the graduates of 50 play-based kindergartens were compared, over time, with the graduates of 50 academic direct-instruction-based kindergartens.[2] Despite the initial academic gains of direct instruction, by grade four the children from the direct-instruction kindergartens performed significantly worse than those from the play-based kindergartens on every measure that was used. In particular, they were less advanced in reading and mathematics and less well adjusted socially and emotionally. At the time of the study, Germany was gradually making a switch from traditional play-based kindergartens to academic ones. At least partly as a result of the study, Germany reversed that trend; they went back to play-based kindergartens. Apparently, German educational authorities, at least at that time, unlike American authorities today, actually paid attention to educational research and used it to inform educational practice.

Of course, universal “free” Pre-K isn’t about educating children, much less making them grow up to be better, happier, smarter people.

It’s about providing more jobs for Governor Flint-Smith’s Dayton’s biggest contributors, and thereby more dues for the DFL.

Universal pre-K may be the best possible advertisement for home schooling.

Warehouse: Schools And Stories

I forget who I heard referring to the inner city as “government’s warehouse for poor people”. There are those who get hurt and bothered when I use that term, as if I’m characterizing the people.

I’m not.  I’m characterizing the government.

And for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of dealing with government in a failed one-party state, this article explains why I use the simile, and don’t apologize for it, ever.

Read the story.  And then remember that while the tax money that was supposed to help alleviate these kids problems has been slashed, the Saint Paul School District’s administration has been getting huge pay raises.   Especially African-American parents:  this is your DFL in action, with your kids.  This is the wages of your allegiance the DFL. Let’s talk.

I’m not going to pullquote the article – because I’d like you all to read it.  It may be the most depressing thing I’ve read lately.

Wheat And Chaff

The Saint Paul Public Schools need to close a $20,000,000 budget shortfall.

This is on a budget in an exceptionally highly-taxed city, that is already well over half a billlion dollars.

What’s the plan (emphasis added)?

Chief Executive Officer Michelle Walker said the district looked to cut administrators and supervisors rather than those who work in the schools, but “there are going to be impacts on both sides.”

The deficit represents 3.8 percent of the school district’s $533 million general fund budget. It’s largely a product of negotiated increases in salary and benefits, as well as inflationary increases for things like utilities and equipment.

First:  as we’ve seen with the recent layoffs in Minneapolis, it’s interesting that the districts are so loaded up on useless administrative mouths to feed in the first place.

Second:  The “Equipment” line item is an interesting one:

Louise Seeba, who opposed the district’s 1:1 iPad initiative, which will cost roughly $8 million a year, suggested next year’s cuts are a consequence of frivolous spending.

“I guess the voters, our parents, have to say, ‘You know what, thanks for that iPad, but now I don’t have special ed services to the level that I expect.’ I think if the schools are upset, they might have a reason,” she said.

Others downplayed iPads as a factor in the present budget picture because a referendum dedicated that money to technology.

In other words, “the iPads are being paid for by a special levy extracted from taxpayers due to an obscure vote in a low-turnout election dominated by teachers union spending; nothing to see here”.

File under “life in a one party city”.

Silva Lining

Notwithstanding the fact that the Saint Paul Public Schools under Superintendant Valeria Silva have been stagnant at best, the district gave her a pretty dang spectacular pay hike in renewing her contract for four years.

She’s paid back her constituents by applying for a job in Palm Beach:

On Monday night, the St. Paul school district issued a statement in reaction to Silva’s Florida job application.

According to the statement made on behalf of the school board by chairwoman Mary Doran:

“It is not surprising that Superintendent Silva would be in demand by school districts across the country.

“She is a nationally recognized education leader. Saint Paul schools are notably successful. We have been a model for other districts in many ways. That attracts attention and recruiters.

“The board negotiated a new contract with Superintendent Silva with the expectation that she would be with us for three more years. She has devoted her entire academic career to Saint Paul’s children. Not many cities can say that about their superintendent.

It actually is more than just mercenarism; the Saint Paul Teachers Federation is unhappy with Silva and the School Board, and is essentially going to buy the upcoming school board elections, which’ll make life difficult to impossible for Silva, and open the door to a new superintendent, in this case a toady almost literally hand-picked by the union to carry out its wishes more closely than even the current board.

One thing that won’t change?  The new Superintendent will be a product of the “Celebrity Superintendent” system, and will cost a metric buttload of money.

Priorities In Action

The Minneapolis public school district expects to realize a savings of about $11 million when it completes his layoff of about 100 administrative staff from its headquarters building.

The district’s line is the savings are going to go back to the classroom – including potentially allowing the middle and high schools to add an extra hour onto their curricula.

Those of us who live in the conservative, real world know what this actually means – but i’ll break it down for the rest of the audience:

Now that they’re forced to cut administrators, they can focus more money on education. 

See the priorities?

Minneapolis has been systematically shorting students, their classrooms, and the curricula to keep their administrative payrolls fat and happy. Now that declining enrollments have the district in trouble, the piper needs to be paid.

This has to be at least as much the case in St. Paul, where the district headquarters building, in the Stalinesque fortress at 360 Colborne St., is more stuffed with deadwood than Lake of the Woods after the big windstorm.

The Empire Strikes Back

The educational establishment is calling in its markers with the mainstream media, and beating the drums against charter schools in particular, and school choice in general.

Of course, it’s the same set of out of context factoids they trot out every 2-3 years.

Finances:  Some charter schools have a hard time making a financial go of it.  Of course they do; they can’t run to the taxpayer and crank up the local education mill levy (“for the children!”) whenever they spend their way into a hole, the way the district schools can.

Grades:  Some charter schools, especially schools in urban areas catering to black, Latino, Asian, immigrant and Native American kids. lag the public districts in terms of achievement.  We’ve been through this; back in 2009, after Nick Coleman joined into a previous round of catcalling charters, I ran through the stats.  Some charters – including many urban charters full of minority and immigrant kids – spanked the public districts.  Others lagged.

Paternalism:  The great unstated fact that none of charters’ opponents ever addresses; 80% of urban charter kids are minorities and immigrants.  Every black, Latino, Asian, Native or Somali kid that leaves the public school system is leaving the the reservation that the DFL is counting on to train its future voter base.

But charters in the city – especially the ones catering to older kids – have two handicaps, as I showed in 2009:

  • Burnout:  They take a disproportionate number of kids who’ve been terribly failed by the district schools, and have had their love of learning – something pretty much every child is born with – beaten out of them pretty decisively.  It takes a good charter some time to help a kid back to the point where he or she gives a crap again.  With some, it never works.  With others, it does – but rarely overnight.
  • Cooked Testing Books:  After age 16, the big district schools can shunt their less-enthusiastic students, or the ones with difficulties (criminal records, kids of their own, and on and on) off into the “Alternative Learning Centers”, or ALCs.  There, they’re off the books; their test scores aren’t held against the district.  Charters have no such option; every kid’s score counts.

If someone in the educational-industrial complex ever wanted to get the fact about charter schools versus public schools, they could do two things:

  1. Cut The Umbilical Cord:  Let public schools exist on their per-student allotments and whatever money they could raise themselves.  I know.  It’ll never happen.  If it did, over half of public schools would shut down in a year.
  2. Longitudinal Testing:  Every single current comparison of public and charter school achievement relies on straight-up comparisons on how students are doing right now.  They are the average score of every student in the charter school, versus the average of every kid in the public school that hasn’t been shunted into a diversion program.  But if they did a longitudinal study comparing how individual students did over time – specifically, comparing how students who left public schools with low achievement fared over the rest of their educational career, versus control groups of similar kids who stayed in the public systems – that would be more accurate (and, given the graduation rates for Twin Cities public schools, more damning.

But we’ve been through all this before.

The real question today is, what’s behind this latest round of out-of-context piss-balloon-throwing from the educational-industrial complex?  Why are they attacking charter schools this time?    Why is Big Education’s propaganda machine going to work to slag the hundred labors of love that make up the Minnesota charter school sector?

Why?  Oh, why?

Oh, right.   Minorities getting all uppity.   And as they leave the public districts, that’s a lot of jobs, and funding, for the political class that are harder to justify.

It must be stopped.

And that’s why the left’s useful idiots are attacking charters this year.   And next year.

Rewarding Failure

After four years of abject failure, the St. Paul public school district renewed superintendent Valeria Silva’s contract earlier this week.

And it’s a nice one, indeed:

IMG_3339.JPG

Photo courtesy Bob Murphy

8% over four years – which, with compounding, is over 10%.

People who are actually accomplishing anything aren’t getting raises like that.

Lousy graduation rates. Unchanged achievement gap.

Money well spent.

Background Noise

Opponents of urban charter schools – inevitably white, upper-middle-class, MPR-listening, Subaru-driving people with degrees from Macalester – have developed a habit of sniffing that urban charters are “a return to segregation”, because many charters, especially in the city, are aimed at ethnic groups.

What these lilywhite guardians of “diversity”-for-its-own-sake miss is that these charters – the Twin Cities have schools aimed at black, H’mong, latino and Native American kids, and used to have one serving Muslim students – may be “segregated”, but it’s entirely voluntary; the decision of the parents and families involved.

And why would they do that?

Because they’re racists?

Perhaps.  More likely, I suspect, it’s cultural (the Native American and H’mong schools), and linguistic (the Latino schools).

And I suspect that for more than a few parents, it’s more like this:  while they like the idea of “diversity” – exposing their children to different people, cultures, races and the like – they also know they’ve got one shot with their kids.  America’s racial problems aren’t going to be fixed in 12 years.  If they’re fixed in thirteen years, that’s great – but too late for your first-grader.

And in the meantime, lurking in the background at the worst “diverse” schools, are scenes like this (and save your breath, Volvo-driving ninnies; this sort of tension is endemic at urban schools; my kids went there for years, and while it rarely got that bad, it hovered over the school experience in ways ugly and comical for their entire time in school).  And while I suspect that, like me, a lot of parents would love for their kids to participate in America’s ethnic “conversation”, they also figure that there’s plenty of time for that when they’re adults, and they’d like to spend that first 12 years focusing on them getting an education without all the pointless, mindless tension.

Antiquated And Myopic

50 years ago, United States declared a “War on Poverty”.

For much of the last 30 years, the State of Minnesota has been actively pursuing a top-down housing policy, aggressively trying to jiggle the “mix” of housing found in communities that grew up organically over the course of a century and a half.

And for almost 20 years, the cities have been extremely aggressively squeezing out private market “low income housing”, while “investing” heavily in public low income housing.

In schools in the Twin Cities crummier neighborhoods have been terrible for nobody knows how long.

What do all of these things have in common, besides being functions of the cultural left?

The attempt to use politics to solve social problems.

So it’s perhaps ironic that Myron Orfield, the patron Saint of the dismal, discredited political “art” of “urban planning”, comes perilously close to blaming the right thing – politics – for once in one of his studies.

He’s it cited in the MinnPost::

Specifically, Orfield and his co-authors from the institute — Will Stancil, Thomas Luce and Eric Myott — blame policies and practices that redirected affordable housing programs from mostly white suburbs back to segregated neighborhoods in Minneapolis, St. Paul and first-tier suburbs such as Brooklyn Center and Richfield.

“You can build affordable housing in poor neighborhoods,” he said during an interview this week, “you just shouldn’t build all of it [there].”

Absolutely not. Why, you “should” build low income housing in West Bloomington, and Southwest Edina, and North Oaks, and Kenwood!

Except since the policy is entirely driven by politics, the people with political clout decide how the policy will be implemented. And the people in those DFL-addled areas have decided that poverty is just too hard on their property values.

In the meantime – driven by the same sorts of policies that the likes of Orfield have been peddling to cities for close to a generation – Minneapolis and St. Paul have been making it virtually impossible to be a successful private market landlord in either city. Meaning “affordable housing” is almost exclusively provided by the government – at two or three times its market value.

The DFL takes the likes of Myron Orfield very seriously (except, of course, for putting “affordable housing” next door to their leadership’s homes). The next paragraph explains why I don’t:

The study also repeats an argument Orfield has put forward before: that charter schools re-create school segregation by creating institutions that are too often mostly black or, increasingly, mostly white. “I don’t think the public schools in segregated neighborhoods have been doing very well for a long time,” he said in an interview this week. “I think they’re bad schools. I don’t defend them at all. But the sad thing is, the charters are worse.”

The difference – and it takes someone as highly educated as Myron Orfield to miss it – is this: charter schools are voluntary. They are a free market (well, free-market-ish) response to the rot and decay in our school systems. Unlike the wretched inner-city public schools, nobody forces anybody to go to them. They succeed or fail on their own merits – unlike, again, public schools.

Perhaps poor parents know something that highly educated experts like Orfield don’t; that forcing kids to be proxies for their adults “discussion on race” may make academics like Orfield feel good, but it does nothing for their children’s futures.

Winging It

There’s an old Hungarian saying; “the best way to become wealthy is to appear is if you already are”.

It’s true – and it applies far beyond wealth.  One good way to get promoted is to dress, and perhaps act, like your boss.  Acting as if one is happy in a relationship can make you…happy with the relationship.

Amid all of the squawking and clucking about college educations and credentials – how little we got for all of Barack Obama’s education, how much Scott Walker has accomplished without a formal piece of paper – one of the most important lessons for people to learn, especially younger people just starting out, is how to take what you do know and turn it into something useful.  And sometimes, it’s more a matter of taking what you think you know and you’re sure you can do.

I’ve told a few of those stories; how I wasn’t actually formally qualified for either of my post-radio careers, technical writing and user experience; I’d had no formal training in either.  I just found opportunities, did what it took to get hired, and then worked like a sled dog to deliver the goods.

I love a good Horatio Alger career story; I’m drawn to them.

And NPR gave us a great one over the weekend – the story of Adrián García Márquez, who’s been a spanish-language sportscaster for, well, pretty much every spanish-language sports broadcasting operation the past decade and change; he’s pretty much turned into the Jack Buck of spanish sportscasting.

And he had a start for the record books; he started out as a strugglingl minor leaguer – until he and his girlfriend got pregnant:

So he got a part-time job with the promotions department of San Diego radio station Jammin’ Z 90. A few months in, he started DJing overnight.

“In my heart, I didn’t want to be a hip-hop disc jockey,” he says. “I mean, I loved it. But I wanted to go to sports.”

But a radio station was a radio station, and working there was better than nothing.

Actually, these days it’s frequently not.  But this was still the nineties, and Spanish radio still makes decent money, so let’s rejoin the story:

Then, he remembers, a colleague told him, “I have a buddy of mine who told me that he has a buddy that knows this guy” who wanted to broadcast a handful of San Diego Flash games in Spanish on TV. (At the time, the Flash were an A-League soccer team — basically a minor league team, Garcia says.)

There was a problem, though. To get a sportscasting job, he says, you have to have a demo tape of yourself actually calling a game — a college game, a high school game, any game.

“How do I get a demo, on the fly, out of nowhere, having zero experience? Make one. Fake one, basically.”

I did the same thing, back in 1986, to cajole my boss at KSTP into letting me have a talk show.  It worked – although not as well as it did for Márquez.

But Garcia didn’t have one.

“So how do I get a demo, on the fly, out of nowhere, having zero experience? Make one. Fake one, basically.”

He looked around the house to see what he could use.

“I did have a Sega. I did have [the video game] FIFA Soccer, 1995 edition,” he remembers. “So I pop that into the console, I recorded the beautiful crowd chants that they had. Because technology was advancing, so it sounded like a real soccer game. So I figured, I’ll grab that crowd noise, and put it on the tape.”

He put the soccer chanting in the background, called the video of a recorded soccer game, turned it into a tape…

…and the rest is history.  More or less.  Read the whole story.

And pass it on to a kid.  Because ones own ingenuity is as important as ones credentials, unless you’re trying to be a cardiac surgeon or an engineer.  And college (and education in general) these days seems to do a fine job of squeezing that out of kids.

Paper

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Liberals exclaim that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s lack of a college degree proves he lacks knowledge.

I knew a guy who was frighteningly well educated. He could tell you why it rained, when it was going to rain, what made it rain . . . he just didn’t have enough sense to come in Out of the rain.

Knowledge is not wisdom.

Knowledge is learned in college; wisdom is won in the world.

I wish our current President had more worldly wisdom and not so much college knowledge.

I sincerely hope our next President does.

Joe Doakes

Anyone still talking about where they went to college more than five years after they graduated, unless there in an academic field, probably has nothing to be proud of in their post-college life.

Anyone who barbers about where someone went to college, unless that person is operating on the child or building their bridge, is probably an idiot.

The News Isn’t Nearly Bad Enough

Saint Paul Public Schools Superintendent Valeria Silva is giving her state of the district address later this morning, down at the SPPS’ Stalinesque fortress headquarters at 360 Colborne Street.

As the PiPress notes, most of Silva’s goals remain unmet.  It looks pretty bad, but for one little bit of silver lining – or so the PiPress (or perhaps the SPPS’ press release) would have you believe:

By 2014, she said, her overhaul of the school district would lift student proficiency on math and reading tests to 75 percent; four-year graduation rates would climb to 75 percent; and by signing up a greater share of the city’s students, enrollment would jump by 3,500 to 5,000 students.

Four years later, only the graduation goal has come close to fruition — up 8 points to 73.3 percent in 2013. Meanwhile, enrollment is up just 64 students, and math and reading scores have fallen further behind Minneapolis and the rest of Minnesota.

And that’s not all:

  • 42% of St. Paul  3-8 graders hit the state’s math targets in last year’s standardized tests – down a point in the past year.   The figure statewide jumped from 58 to 63 percent; even benighted Minneapolis’ scores, somehow, leapt from 37 percent to 45 percent.
  • Reading proficiency for same sample was 38% in Saint Paul last year – versus 42 percent in Minneapolis and 59 percent in the parts of the state that vote GOP.

But notwithstanding the fact that Saint Paul’s students are performing worse and worse on every other test, at least the graduation rate – up from 65 to 73%.  So that’s good news, and a vindication for Silva – right?

Well, no. As we discussed last year, graduation rates throughout Minnesota jumped last year.  They did it immediately after the DFL-dominated legislature removed graduation testing requirements.  If a student puts in 12-ish years without formally dropping out, trying to stab a teacher or saying anything Republican, they’re pretty much going to get a diploma and a handshake.  And while I can not prove that the correlation leads to a causation, the complete lack of evidence that anything else is improving in the SPPS seems to be evidence in the affirmative.

But notwithstanding the fact that she did nothing that couldn’t be attributed to “political pennies from heaven”, she’s in line to get a raise, to over $200K, plus the kind of perks that’d make a corporate CEO blush.

So I’ll tell you what, SPPS; if you want, I’ll take a run at it.  Pay me the relative bargain rate of $160K.  I’ll make a bunch of promises that I (likely) can’t possibly keep.  At the end of the contract, you’ll have gotten precisely the same results – for a 20% discount!

Nuclear Power In Newcastle

The last place to look for fearless, open, free-wheeling speech for its own sake is any university town.

See Northfield, Minnesota – home of a couple of tony private colleges – where publican Norman Butler of the pub “Contented Cow” has been doing something I wish a bar in the Twin Cities would do; hosting a series of discussions and debates over the winter.

Then things got sticky:

But when word got out that Butler invited conspiracy theorist Jim Fetzer to do a series of talks on historical events on which he holds controversial opinions, some customers revolted.

They say that Fetzer is an anti-Semite because he also denies aspects of the Holocaust. Several residents sent notes to Butler saying they would stop frequenting his pub unless he canceled the talks.

We’ve run into the whackdoodle Fetzer (and, in the comment section, his fan club) on this blog before.  He hasn’t changed:

[Fetzer's] “truths” include Fetzer’s belief that the Sandy Hook school shootings never really happened, that the 9/11 attacks were a “reality fraud” by the government conspiring with Israel and that the plane crash that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone was a possible assassination.

Fetzer’s posting of critics’ e-mails apparently caused one of his readers to send a threatening e-mail to one professor.

By Monday, Fetzer had agreed to change the events from speeches to debates, inviting people with expertise to rebut him. On his website, Fetzer said the community response “has shattered any lingering illusions I may have had about Northfield as an enlightened and intellectual environment.”.

If Fetzer believes any university town is a place for intellectual inquiry, it’s no wonder he denies the Holocaust and thinks 9/11 was an inside job.  He’ll buy anything.  

Kudos to Mr. Butler, anyway:

As of Tuesday, Butler was not backing down on the forums.

“I almost folded this morning,” he said. “I was down on my knees almost. But I got a second wind.”

Asked if he expected the backlash, the England native channeled British comedy troupe Monty Python: “Well, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.”

And that was that – until the professors got into the rhubarb:

One of those who oppose Fetzer’s appearance is Gordon Marino, professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College.

He called the appearance “unbelievable.”

“Is this some free speech thing?” Marino wrote to Butler. “If so, why not some pro-slavery person as well?”

OK.  So why not?

I mean, it’d be a short, sharp debate, probably ending badly for the proponent – but why the hell not?

Isn’t free speech about meeting bad speech with more, better speech?

Goodness knows college kids can’t debate even easy subjects like the existence of slavery or the Holocaust these days without resorting to the left’s “debate” playbook, strawmen and ad-hominem.  Having some of them see how it’s done might be a better learning experience than they’d ever get at Saint Olaf or Carlton.

So In Other Words…

…our semi-retired President is going to propose paying for “free” communithy college for everyone…

…by taxing peoples’ savings to put their own kids through college?

Two points, here.

Face Value:  If we take the  President at his (ostensible) word, that means the nation’s community college system will inherit the worst of both worlds; the government control that’s made the public school system such a sclerotic disaster, and the financial firehose that’s led to the “higher education bubble”.  And let’s not even concern ourselves just now with the deepening ideological conformity that this would impose on the higher ed system?

What could possibly go wrong?

Shelf Life:  But fear not.  As with everything else in Obama’s presidency, it’s not about educating young people.  It’s about trying to demigogue the education issue, to give the Democrat Party a chanting point in the next election.   Republicans who vote against taxing people who saved for education to benefit those who didn’t is an ideal demogogueing point.

And that’s really all there is to Obama’s “free community college” proposal.

Meet The Old Boss, Same As The New Boss, Same As The Last Boss…

Minneapolis School superintendant Bernardeia Johnson resigned her office yesterday

Johnson was also recently thrust into a dicey position by incendiary news stories and a legislative probe into a questionable $405,000 no-bid contract awarded to Community Standards Initiative (CSI), a politically connected group run by community activists Al Flowers and Clarence Hightower. For months, groups in the African-American community exerted enormous pressure on Johnson to take a side and say whether two Minneapolis DFLers — state Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden — strong-armed her into going forward with the CSI contract. Some of the pressure came in the form of a viral social media campaign using the hashtag #JimCrowJr.

An affidavit submitted to lawmakers in her name suggested she strove to protect the district from an untenable situation. A state Senate committee hearing into the matter proved to be more partisan theater than a quest for facts that might have supplied some much-needed context.

By all accounts I’ve read and heard, she was a perfectly capable school administrator. 

Of course, by all accounts, all of the superintendents have been capable administrators, as far as we know – and yet Minneapolis’ school district is a mess (outside some of the elite challenge programs), and the mess has largely resisted any number of bureaucratic initiatives to change the situation.

And Johnson had her share of those:

Perhaps the most symbolic of the problems that dogged her tenure was the teaching corps’ failure to consistently and enthusiastically dive into a program central to her vision, Focused Instruction. Johnson struggled to articulate the merits of the approach, and it’s believed that half or more of the district’s teachers simply ignored the initiative.

Focused Instruction is a form of data-driven teaching that is, on one level, something that works in some districts and, on another, is one of those buzzwords that translates into “one size fits all approach to teaching tens of thousands of individual kids”.  There’s more to it than that, of course – it’s not the dumbest teaching fad to hit the market.

But just as politics is the worst possible way to allocate resources or solve problems, it’s also the worst possible way to education individual children.  School districts are fundamentally political institutions, not educational ones.  Any solution they proffer will first and foremost be, necessarily, a political one, designed to be the most attractive common denominator for the student body as an aggregate (and their teachers, administrators, district stakeholders, etc etc etc).  Nowhere in that aggregation is the idea that kids are unique individuals who aren’t interchangeable cogs on an intellectual assembly line. 

So the next Minneapolis superintendent may be, like Bernardeia Johnson, a good person, a well-respected administrator, and a capable bureaucrat.  Or they might be a complete schnook.  And it probably won’t matter much, because in the end they’re all selling one-size-fits-all education that is designed to serve everyone, and therefore serves nobody.

If I Were The Dean At Harvard Law School

To:  Students of Harvard Law School
From: Mitch Berg, Angry Dean
Re:  Test Schedules

Dear Most Annoying Students in the World,

Starting at 8AM Monday morning, please line up in the front hall of the administration building in alphabetical order.  You will all be issued refund checks.  Because clearly we at HarvLaw have failed you as an institution.

The evidence – you all know that term, right? – is right here:

Those Harvard students have produced an open letter, in which they demand that their examinations be delayed. “Like many across the country,” its authors claim, students “are traumatized” and “visibly distressed” — to the extent that there is now a “palpable anguish looming over campus.”

I hope I’m long dead before I have people from big law firms writing me, chocking back their outrage at his institution for turning out such a vacuous pack of hamsters and calling them not only “lawyers”, but “Harvard Law School Grads”.

The “national crisis” that has been provoked by the cases of Garner and Brown, they argue, has left them with no choice but to “stand for justice rather than sit and prepare for exams.” And, like their brethren at Columbia, they contend that their “being asked to prepare for and take our exams in this moment” amounts to their “being asked to perform incredible acts of disassociation” — requests, which taken together, have led them “to question our place in this school community and the legal community at large.”

I can’t wait to see you vacuous children of boundless class privilege try that on a client in the real world; claim the violence inherent in the system makes it impossible for you to come into the office and work on your cases.  But at least you won’t “question your place in the legal community at large”, because by that point you’ll be transferring to the “fast food community”.

Justifiably so.

The bottom line? That students must be given “the opportunity to reschedule their exams in good faith and at their own discretion.”

And in good faith, I, your dean, will allow you and your faith and discretion to move your exams to any time another law school will let you, provided you get admitted.

Pick up your checks.  You haven’t failed. I have.

That is all.

Citizenship

I get to catch Rush Limbaugh maybe once a month, usually for about five or ten minutes as I’m going to some noon-time appointment or another. 

Yesterday, I tuned in to the sound of Limbaugh citing a story from the Jamestown Sun, the daily newspaper in my hometown, about a North Dakota legislative proposal to require high school kids to pass the same test new immigrants must pass to become Americans

 

The bill is part of the national Civics Education Initiative, an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute. Foss, a former South Dakota governor and Marine Corps pilot who received the Congressional Medal of Honor, started the nonprofit to enlist veterans to teach young people about the value of their freedoms. He died in 2003.

The effort counts among its supporters former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein and actor Joe Mantegna.

A similar legislative effort was announced in September in South Dakota with support from former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, former Citibank president Ron Williamson and former Sioux Falls mayor Dave Munson, among others.

[NoDak governor Jack] Dalrymple said the goal nationally is to have all 50 states adopt the civics test requirement by Sept. 17, 2017, the 230th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution.

The state’s education commissioner notes that students can retake the test as many times as they need to get to 60% – which, I think, is the right idea; the point is that they learn the stuff. 

So – how would you do if you took the test?

Dear Superintendant Silva

To:  Valeria Silva, Superintendant, Saint Paul Public Schools
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  How You Can Superintendantsplain Things To Your Black Students

Superintendant Silva,

In the immediate aftermath of the Ferguson Grand Jury release, you tweeted:

No indictment for officer Wilson!  Very sad day in America.  How do I explain this to my black students? 

I’m here to help.  You can start by explaining to them…:

  1. The reasons Saint Paul – despite spending more money per student than almost every district in the state – continues to have among the worst black student achievement gaps in the country.  Worse even than other urban toilets like Detroit or Philadelphia. 
  2. You can explain why it is you support the current school board, which – being elected city-wide rather than by ward, is thus under the complete control of the DFL vote machine, and thus represents the wishes and whims of the city’s Crocus Hill DFL elite; lots of gnashing of teeth about multiculturalism and the morality of Junior ROTC, and absolutely nothing about pulling “your black students” up.  You could explain why you aren’t actively working to return the school board to a ward-based system. 
  3. You can explain to them, maybe, that while there are bad cops, there is also nothing in the world more stupid and unpredictable than an 18 year old boy, and that even if a cop is bad (and I’m not saying Office Wilson was), provoking them is a really really bad plan. 
  4. Explain that rioting is a good way to get a good chunk of society to swing from “middling to sympathetic” to “loading up with birdshot and walking their sidewalks with their neighbors”. 
  5. Perhaps you should explain the reasons that Saint Paul shouldn’t follow New Orleans’ lead, shut down the public school system, and go all charter? Because the African-American community in NOLA – much bigger than in Saint Paull, btw – is doing much better since they did exactly that. Three reasons will do.

Let me know if you need more help.  Being a public bureaucrat, I’m sure you rarely have to deal with the actual public.

Liberal Math

A kid spends ten years in public school.  Then, less than a year as a home-school kid.  Then enrolls in a public university. 

And then kills his mother and 26 other people.   Four years after ending a year of home schooling.

Obviously it’s Home Schooling’s fault!

Under a new law proposed this week by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission, every homeschooling parent with a child who has been labeled with a behavioral or emotional problem would be forced to submit to a host of strict, burdensome regulations.

The scheme put forth in the commission’s draft recommendations on mental health would require homeschooling parents to submit individual education plans regularly to a local education bureaucrat.

School officials could then decree whether parents may continue to educate their own children, reports the Connecticut Post. Administrators could pull the plug on any parents’ homeschooling by declaring that the child failed to make “adequate progress.”

Bear in mind that Lanza was well on his way to loopdie-land when he was in the public school system.  What good did any of them do? 

Members of the Democratic Governor’s Sandy Hook commission have conceded that the additional burdens they have recommended for homeschooling families may be controversial.

Dear Connecticut; the entire United States would be better off if the Blue States seceded – and if you want to get the ball rolling, that’d solve  problems for everyone.

Liberal Tolerance In Action

The headline is sarcastic, of course. Saint Thomas University, a Twin Cities catholic school, has never tolerated conservative opinion or action.  Under their previous president, Father “Hanoi Dennis” Dease, they disinvited conservative speakers, harassed conservative newspapers, and – in 2000, when a Cuban national team baseball player in town to play an exhibition against Saint Thomas defected at the airport, Dease forbade any Saint  Thomas students from harboring him.

Dease is gone – he apparently retired last year – but his legacy lives on.  A Saint Thomas school mascot – some sort of rodent, I think – “wiped his rear” with Republican literature on campus:

Angie Hasek, Chairman of the Minnesota College Republicans, posted a brief description of the event on Facebook.

“Tommie Mascot just wiped his rear with some GOP lit. I wouldn’t have expected someone at UST to stoop to that level.”

“Tolerance at its finest,” Hasek said.

According to the university’s website, the Tommie Mascot Team consists of up to six undergraduate students with the goal of “foster[ing] school spirit in a positive and professional manner.”