September 28, 2011
Ron Paul makes quite a campaign commercial. It’s interesting to see a candidate for president run on a platform of consistency, honesty, peace, liberty, and sincerity, and not have a single one of his opponents question his credentials on any of it. He faces only two obstacles: A corporate financed media who censors his victories, and a fear that a reduction in federal power would bring back the dark ages.
I urge my readers to help with these two hurdles.
On the issue of electability: If he wins the primary, Republicans will vote for him rather than Obama. Those supporters of Obama who are primarily anti-war will come around as well, since Ron Paul has far more credibility on the issue.
On federal power: Much of the power of the federal government is recent. For example, I see people recoil when they hear he wants to do away with the Department of Education, as if doing so would put us into a situation where all the schools closed and children never learned to read. The Department of Education was created in 1979. If you went to school after that, do you think you got a better education than your parents? Taking the power over education from the teachers and communities and putting into the hands of federal policy makers has taken the substance out of learning and left it cold. Ron Paul seeks to put the power back in the hands of states, communities, and teachers, not to end education.
Be heard. We can’t have the media convincing people that we don’t exist. We need to turn headlines like Poll: Romney leads New Hampshire, Huntsman in third, Perry in fourth into a rallying cry against a system trying to fix the vote for those in power.
September 5, 2011
If you went to college before the turn of the millennium and you are now trying to convince your kids to go to college, it may be worth more careful deliberation. There was a time when college was the path to a wealthy future. Back then it was one of the only ways to get a decent education.
With the advent of the internet, knowledge in many fields is at your fingertips. Unless you want to be a doctor or something similarly carefully regulated, chances are you can learn most of what you need online and at your own pace, and nearly free.
Contrast that with the current college system. Colleges are putting professors on furlough and reducing the amount of education they produce each semester. Meanwhile tuition is going up far faster than the rate of inflation. College loans have increased over 500% since 1999.
Why? What is it in the system that is justifying tuition going up while quality of education is dropping? In this case I believe it is actually a self-defeating government subsidy. Credit is tight right now. If you want a loan for most things, you have to first prove that you don’t need it. This credit crunch has hit every sector but education, in which government loans are still easily available and low interest. Combine this with the lack of work, and people are going back to school and living off loans. The natural result of this is that colleges raise tuition, since the students can afford it.
Looking back a decade, government-sponsored enterprises gave out adjustable rate mortgages to the poor, and once they had them on the hook, raised the rates. What they didn’t take into account is what would happen when they took it too far and people just defaulted and walked away. This time around, they are ensuring that it doesn’t happen again. Federal student loans follow you till you die. Bankruptcy doesn’t help. What will happen when all of this debt comes due? Will people spend the rest of their lives trying to get above water? Will the government forgive the debt on the backs of the taxpayer? Will the next credit bubble use your children as collateral? When will they stop trying to hide the debt and start working to correct it?
What still doesn’t make sense is the furloughs. If tuition is up, and full time attendance is up, and professor salaries aren’t skyrocketing, then why the furloughs? It’s because we are becoming a nation of administrators. Less than a third of your tuition goes into educating you, and the percentage of funds going to college administrative costs is going up at a truly unreasonable rate. I’m not even saying anyone is getting fat here, just that as a society, we are spending far more on administrating producers than we are on actually producing anything.
What we need now is some transparency. Unfortunately, creating the Office of Administrative Overview Regulation or some such won’t help. What we need is simple disclosure. Let the resulting outrage do the rest.
March 3, 2009
There is an old saying that In expanding the field of knowledge we but increase the horizon of ignorance. I would add a corollary to this: In increasing the scope of education, we but expand the ranks of the undereducated.
There was a disturbing study released recently, which in a comparison of eight European and North American countries, showed Britain and the United States as having the lowest social mobility. This means that contrary to all the talk of achieving the American dream, much of your likelihood of success is set at birth. Why the change? As usual it is a fundamental flaw in our assessment of cause and effect.
We only have so many days to walk this earth. Those of us who run the maze set in front of us may on average do better, but is it the maze or the mouse that makes the destiny? It may be the very education system that freezes social mobility. By increasing the scale of the public education system, we increase the resume requirements for employment. It becomes less of an issue of whether we have the drive and the potential, and more of an issue of whether we sacrificed enough years to the system. These are years the poor can scarcely afford when they are born into debt and have to claw their own way to success.
When you hear a Libertarian talking about getting rid of the Department of Education, they aren’t trying to rid the world of public schooling, they are just advocating more local control by the states and districts. This will reduce homogenization of education, but if the net increase is positive, isn’t it worth it? Our education system is fundamentally flawed. It seeks the lowest common denominator in all things. Teachers are forced to follow a set, preapproved plan, rather than teaching their own interests which they are passionate about. It is not the knowledge we need to teach, but the desire to attain it. For example, people speak loftily about the need to teach history so that we will not be doomed to repeat it, yet the history we teach to children too young to understand the nuanced adult concepts like religion, geography, and greed that lead to war, and too young to have reference for time to understand the dates, is a history so dumbed down and manipulated that it is counterproductive. Remove this history from the first ten years of education, and you only need eight. Think of how much additional potential a child can attain with two more of those formative years to focus on what matters. Their desire to understand will lead them to history later in life. Especially in the digital age, the responsibility of education should be to grant literacy and the desire to learn. Once you ignite that spark, you can let people find their own way, and most of them will find a better one. Modern computerized teaching tools use instructions, reading, and video to teach a subject to an individual student. They occasionally interject quizzes, and based on the results, determine which teaching styles are most effective for the student, and which concepts they have grasped and are still lacking. The next lesson will be tailored accordingly.
One of the most important questions for us to ask ourselves is: what are the goals of education? Is it to teach general knowledge? I see that as a path to failure. Pushing knowledge on those without drive is torturous. Is it to give students the skills they need in the field employment that will be most profitable to them and the country? If so, then we are failing. What they really need is literacy, questions, and the tools to find their own answers.
These same problems that plague education also plague most other bureaucratic institutions, employers, and traditions. If you are in a position to do so, give someone their autonomy back, and while you are at it, take back your own. Remember, you are free.
I posted a TED talk the other day that is somewhat relevant on the ethical nature of autonomy.