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All articles with the "Education" tag.

Published: Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Wed, 21 Mar 2018 19:35:44 -0400


A Heretical Plan for Cutting Spending on Education

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 07:00:00 -0400

Government at all levels fuels an educational arms race through lavish and indiscriminate funding. Given all we know and suspect about the low social returns on investments in schooling, what practical changes should concerned citizens favor? Sharply reduce government support not only for higher education, but for high school as well. The increasingly popular "Too many kids are going to college" slogan suggests that social returns are merely low for the weakest post-secondary students. In fact, social returns to education are low virtually across the board. The good news is that basic economics provides a simple remedy for wasteful investments: Reduce them. If the car industry earns a low return, automakers should respond by building fewer cars, starting with the biggest money losers. As the supply of new vehicles falls, prices will rise…until automobiles are once again worth producing. Concerned citizens should view schooling with the same investor's eye. If it has a low return, we need less of it. The supply of highly educated workers will fall, but this is a feature, not a bug. As supply falls, market rewards for education will rise…until schooling is once again worth encouraging. In light of the very poor current social returns on education, however, these rewards would truly have to soar first. In the U.S., spending on public elementary, secondary, and tertiary schools now amounts to almost $1 trillion a year. Private education also relies on subsidized student loans and other government support. This gives society a nearly foolproof remedy for educational waste: Cut budgets for public education and subsidies for private education. Give schools less taxpayer money. The central question isn't "How?" but "Where do we start?" Cut high school a lot, college more, and master's programs the most. Governments overinvest in education across the board, but they do not overinvest evenly. As a rule, the "higher" the education, the greater the waste—and the deeper the desirable cuts. The master's degree is a disaster, earning negative returns as far as the eye can see. (Even Excellent Students don't recoup the costs to society of getting an M.A.) Bachelor's degrees aren't quite as awful: Investing in strong students may yield low but positive returns. High school is the least bad. Making generous assumptions, its social return is reliably mediocre—and for low-ability young men, possibly stellar. Cautious citizens might want to base education policy on very generous assumptions. Why reform the system when there's an outside chance it's not making us worse off? But we should hew to stricter standards. Instead of stacking the deck in favor of the educational status quo, let's base policy on reasonable estimates of the human capital/signaling split. If just two-thirds of the return on education comes from signaling, the individual often profits, but society does not. Heretical as it is, serious cuts—even to high school—are the wise response. Do not send average or apathetic high school students to college. Vast swaths of college students earn ruinous social returns. Luckily, their identity is predictable before they set foot on campus. Aptitude matters: Average high school students generally become weak college students. And motivation matters: Apathetic high school students generally become disengaged college students. While neither of these generalizations is infallible, sensible investors insist on good bets, not "bets that sometimes don't fail." Note that low aptitude and low motivation tend to go together, as well, because human beings find failure disheartening. Why do I say "Don't send average or apathetic high school students to college" rather than "Send fewer average and apathetic high school students to college"? Because the social returns for such students aren't merely low; they're ruinous. To bring their returns up to tolerable levels requires a massive increase in the college premium, and a comparably massive reduction in college attendance. So massive, in fact, that average and apathetic high school stud[...]

Going to College Is Selfish

Sun, 11 Mar 2018 06:00:00 -0400

If you've always been a strong student, spending your time and money on education pays well. The evidence is overwhelming. Even after scrupulously correcting for ability bias—the brains, discipline, and other advantages you'd possess with or without school—formal education provides a big career boost. At an individual level, investing in your own education often compares favorably to not just corporate bonds, but long-run stock market returns. Since individuals' investment in their own education is personally rewarding, you might infer that government investment in society's education would be socially rewarding. But this is a classic "fallacy of composition." If one person stands up at a concert, he sees better; it does not follow that if everyone stands up at a concert, everyone sees better. The same goes for education. Yes, schooling is selfishly lucrative—at least for strong students. On a societal level, however, it is shockingly wasteful for students weak and strong. Federal, state, and local government spends far too much money educating Americans. The conventional case for government subsidies assumes that all of education's career gains come from building what economists call "human capital." A worker gets more education; his productivity and income go up. A nation gets more education; its productivity and income go up. If human capital is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, education is a path to individual and national prosperity: Education makes the pie bigger, so every worker can enjoy a bigger slice. Unfortunately, human capital is far from the whole story. Most of the personal benefits of education arise not from improving on-the-job productivity, but from convincing employers that your on-the-job productivity is already good. Economists call this "signaling." The truth is mixed, of course: Education as it actually exists blends crucial training in literacy and numeracy, which yields real skills, with thousands of hours of hoop-jumping to impress future employers. Selfishly speaking, this hoop-jumping pays. But socially speaking, it's a waste. Only one worker can look like the Best Worker in the Country, and only a quarter of workers can look like the Best 25 Percent. When education isn't making the pie bigger, bigger slices for some necessarily mean smaller slices for others. As signaling's share of the value of education rises, education becomes an incinerator that burns society's money, time, and brains in a futile attempt to make everyone look better than average. Solid Selfish Benefits, Modest Selfish Costs At first glance, education's selfish financial benefits look enormous. High school grads outearn dropouts by 30 percent, and college grads outearn high school grads by 73 percent. But the true benefits are smaller than they look: High-ability people spend extra years in school, and the labor market independently rewards ability as well as education. As a result, some of what we call the "rewards of education" are disguised "rewards of ability." My best estimate is that just over half of the apparent premium is genuine. Of course, that's just over half of a big number. But merely enrolling in school is no guarantee you'll capture it. About 25 percent of high school students fail to finish in four years; about 60 percent of full-time college students fail to finish in four years; and about half of advanced degree students never finish at all. This is a vital caveat, because most of education's payoff comes from graduation—the so-called "sheepskin effect." If you spend three years in high school but then drop out, the labor market treats you only modestly better than someone who never started high school; if you spend three years in college and then drop out, the labor market treats you only slightly better than someone who never started college. Of course, the stronger your academic ability, the more likely you are to cross the finish line and win the prize. What about education's costs? Despite common complaints about high tuition, it's the fore[...]

Gun Control and Militarized Schools Have Long Gone Hand in Hand

Mon, 26 Feb 2018 14:09:00 -0500

(image) In the wake of the Parkland massacre, the most vocal Democrats have called for stricter gun controls. The most vocal Republicans have called for making schools more like fortresses: hiring more armed cops, installing more metal detectors, intensifying surveillance of students. On Friday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott split the difference—he called for gun controls and for tightly secured schools.

Scott wasn't exactly blazing new ground here. One force lighting the fire for bringing armed cops and intrusive surveillance into American education, after all, was the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. Gun control and militarized schooling have long gone hand in hand. To treat them as opposed approaches, you have to ignore the last quarter-century of zero tolerance policy.

Do they have to go hand in hand? Not per se. Schools can certainly try to be either gun-free or gun-friendly without erecting a TSA-style police state. There have been plenty of schools that have rules against firearms but haven't hired a gun-toting enforcer. And there have been plenty of schools where pretty much any adult who wants can have a gun on the premises. (In all the recent discussion of arming teachers, few have bothered to point out that more than a dozen states already allow instructors to bring guns to school.)

But when politicians produce public policy for an entire state—or an entire country—a host of forces tend to draw gun restrictions together with armed enforcement of gun restrictions. More broadly, it isn't unusual for firearm controls to be packaged with other law-and-order measures, both inside and outside America's schools.

That's the dynamic at play in Gov. Scott's office right now. And if the Democrats run the table in November, take both houses of Congress, and decide to push for stricter gun laws than Florida's Republican governor is willing to endorse, the same dynamic will probably be at work in any Schumer-Trump compromise we see. It's not like Chuck Schumer is a civil libertarian, after all. And Trump's positions on gun control are opportunistic and have long been prone to changing. He's already backing a bump stock ban, "comprehensive background checks" (whatever he might mean by that), and raising the age at which a civilian can buy a semi-automatic rifle. Don't be surprised if someday he goes further.

A High School Student Faces Expulsion for Noticing the Square Root Symbol Looks Like a Gun

Fri, 23 Feb 2018 12:10:00 -0500

A Louisiana high school student was banned from school and had his home searched by deputies entirely because he made a joke out loud in a math class that the square root symbol looks like a gun. That's it, folks. A kid at Oberlin High School in Oberlin, Louisiana, observed that if you kind of squinted, the square root symbol looks like a weapon. Then the social media rumor mill went to work and eventually this whole silly thing morphed into allegations that he was going to shoot up the school. Allen Parish Sheriff Doug Hebert has acknowledged in an interview with KATC that the student "did not commit a crime. He did not commit anything remotely criminal, nothing to remotely suggest any intent to do actual harm." That should have been where the entire embarrassing incident ended, with a sheepish observation that the current climate of fear caused an overreaction that was understandable but still nevertheless an overreaction. And of course, the teen deserves an apology for being subjected to such an overwhelming response that assumes the worst of him with absolutely no evidence at all. But that's not what is happening. Instead, KATC reports that the kid faces an expulsion hearing. Furthermore, not a single authority figure in their reporting, nor KATC's reporter, wants to even acknowledge that this was an overreaction. In fact, the school district is putting into place policies that are going to guarantee future overreactions. Imagine not realizing (or not caring) how this system is going to result in manipulation and abuse: Any student accused of talking about guns or school shootings will be investigated by three entities: the school board, the sheriff's department, and the district attorney's office. If an incident like this occurs again, [Superintendent Michael] Doucet explained the protocol. "The first thing we're going to do is remove that student from the premises with proper authority. Then, we're going to have a home visit done by detectives of the sheriff's department, and if no charges are filed, we're going to conduct a threat assessment on the student," Doucet said. Gee, I hope those kids in Allen Parish don't have any enemies. At the end of the piece, Doucet admits what's really happening here. It's administrative ass-covering. If something bad happened because they didn't treat this incident seriously, he says, then parents would get angry with him. It's reminiscent of how the Transportation Security Administration will freak out at any jokes about bombs or guns, yet has a terrible record for assessing risk at airports. Any suggestion that schools should adopt airport-like security absurd and self-defeating. Security theater isn't just bad because it treats everybody like criminals or threats. It's also bad because when you spread resources thin attempting to investigate inconsequential things, sometimes you miss the big things. The young man accused of the school shooting in Florida did more than just make a quip. He had a lengthy, documented history of troubling behavior. Chasing down every single kid muttering the word "gun" is a terrible response designed for school administrators to declare that they're "doing something," even if what they're doing is screwing over their own students, censoring speech, and not actually making schools safer in any way. Watch KATC's report below: src="" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" width="560" height="340" frameborder="0">[...]

Success Academy Charter Schools Are a Big Success

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:15:00 -0500

Kids who attend New York City's Success Academy charter schools do remarkably well. "We are No. 1 in student achievement in the state," says founder Eva Moskowitz, "outperforming all the wealthy suburbs." They do. Although they teach mostly poor kids, 95 percent pass the state math test, and 84 percent pass the English test. Pass rates at government run schools are 38 and 41 percent. How does Success Academy do it? For one thing, she keeps kids in class longer. Middle schoolers stay until 4:30 p.m. Is that too much stress for kids, I ask? "China and India are not worrying about the length of the school day," she replied. "We have to toughen up." From what I saw, "toughening up" doesn't make kids hate school. Many told me they "look forward" to going to Success Academy in the morning. One called school "rockin' awesome!" "Kids like succeeding," explains Moskowitz. Despite this success, or because of it, the education establishment hates Moskowitz. When she tries to open new schools, activists protest. New York City's Mayor Bill de Blasio complained, "It's time for Eva Moskowitz to stop having the run of the place!" "Why do they hate you?" I asked. "What we prove is that there's nothing wrong with the children," she replied. "There is something wrong with a system, a monopolistic system that is not allowing kids to succeed." Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) got his political start as a socialist, has praised Cuba and Venezuela, and isn't fond of competition. To protect New York City's taxi industry, he tried to block Uber and Lyft. He doesn't understand that competition helps more people than it hurts. Some specific criticisms of charters like Success Academy: Criticism No. 1. They are "a scam," says "Young Turks" TV commentator Nomiki Konst, "better funded—by these hedge funders—and they're performing worse than underfunded schools." But Konst is wrong. Charters like Success Academy do more with less. New York City's regular public schools get $20,000 per pupil. "I only get $14,500," says Moskowitz. Criticism No. 2. They get better results because they just accept better students. They skim the cream off the top. "Simply not true," replied Moskowitz. "We admit by random lottery." That's also true. But one educator who watched my YouTube video on Success Academy emailed me with Criticism No. 3: "Only certain parents enter lotteries. You don't have the homeless kids, foster kids, kids whose parents are in jail." Fair point. I asked Moskowitz about that. "Most of our kids are from very poor families," she replied. "Yet they significantly outperform kids from suburbs ... where the average household income is eight or nine times what our families earn." And even some homeless kids flourish at her schools, she says. "About 1 in 10 of our scholars are homeless, yet 97 percent of them passed the state math exams and 84 percent passed reading." Criticism No. 4: Charters kick out problem kids or "counsel them out." They demand so many meetings with parents that parents eventually withdraw their kids. But "our retention rate's higher than the city schools'!" answered Moskowitz. She's right. Only 10 percent of kids leave her schools, while 13 percent leave regular schools before completion. Criticism No. 5: Some charters turn out to be worse than government-run schools. That's true. But the beauty of choice (a market) is that the good schools grow while inferior ones close. For years, bad government schools never closed. In her new book, "The Education of Eva Moskowitz," she explains that she's a Democrat who didn't always believe in school choice. "I was blinded, I think, by a belief that big government was a good thing." Now she knows better. Many families also now know charters may be better. Parents line up for lotteries where government rations out the small number of admissions. Kids who don't get picked sometimes cry. It's cruel and unnecessary for government to limit choice this way, but many politicians have an investmen[...]

West Africa's Libertarian Moment

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 06:00:00 -0500

In December 2017, after 10 years of delays, Senegalese president Macky Sall finally unveiled the brand-new Dakar airport before a crowd of supporters waving posters of his face. With a cost of roughly $600 million, and a footprint five times the size of the previous airport, nothing about the project was small—including its ambitions. The presidents of Gabon, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau joined Sall for the launch, underlining the dream: Blaise Diagne International Airport, they hope, will become a regional transport hub that jump-starts local economies and symbolizes the bright West African future. As it turns out, the airport inauguration did symbolize West Africa's shifting climate. Just not in the way any of the politicians planned. A new airport needs a new airline, so the Senegalese government launched one of those, too. Air Senegal, the new state-owned national carrier, replaces its predecessor, Senegal Airlines (shut down in 2016), which itself replaced Air Senegal International (shut down in 2009). Everyone hoped that Air Senegal could succeed where those before it failed. Aviation Minister Maimouna Ndoye Seck insisted a national airline was "a necessity." Government officials wanted the airline to claim the honor of operating the new airport's first commercial flight. But it was not to be. Air Senegal couldn't get all of the necessary flight licenses together in time for the launch, so its inaugural flight was symbolic only. Instead, the honor of the new airport's first commercial flight went to Transair, a privately owned local carrier. As the government airline watched from the ground, burdened by gravity and the weight of unfinished paperwork, the private airline took off. Enter Africapitalism For decades, West Africa was inhospitable soil for the seeds of libertarianism. Léopold Senghor, the first president of Senegal, famously argued that socialism is an inherent fit for the region, saying: "Africa's social background of tribal community life not only makes socialism natural to Africa, but excludes the validity of the theory of class struggle." Along with Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Modibo Keita of Mali, Senghor designed a model of West African governance in which social development would be guided by a large public sector. Driven by this vision (and considerable financial support from the USSR), state participation in regional economies was taken to extremes: in Ghana, for example, Nkrumah nationalized all foreign companies, imposed price controls, collectivized agriculture, and established state-run industries in everything from cocoa processing to pharmaceuticals to metallurgy. But George Ayittey, a Ghanaian economist who has argued that "Africa is poor because she is not free," says private business and free enterprise have deep—albeit misunderstood—cultural roots on the continent. Visit any market and it's plain to see: West Africa is an energetic hive of entrepreneurship. "One can be communalistic or socialistic without being a socialist," Ayittey writes in Defeating Dictators: Fighting Tyranny in Africa and Around the World. "In peasant societies, the means of production are owned by the clan, [which] acts as a corporate body or unit. However, the clan is not the same as the tribal government; it is a private entity and, therefore, the means of production are privately owned." He describes West Africa's history of socialist experiments as a rejection of colonialism: After all, Lenin said imperialist colonialism is the highest stage of capitalism, so it makes sense that the Lenin-reading survivors of imperialism would reject its alleged economic roots. But that rejection (and the pillaging legacy of colonialism) has resulted in a paradox: At the turn of the 21st century, Africa was the richest continent in the world in terms of natural resources, but the poorest in terms of socio-economic development and inclusive growth. But after decades of heavy-handed gov[...]

This Sociology Professor Insists Australia Isn't a Country and Failed a Student For Saying Otherwise

Fri, 09 Feb 2018 12:43:00 -0500

(image) A 27-year-old stay-at-home mom taking an online sociology class was shocked to get a failing grade on her final project. She was even more shocked at why she failed: Her professor was convinced that Australia is not a country.

The project required the student, Ashley Arnold, to compare a social norm in America with one in a different country, according to BuzzFeed. Arnold chose Australia. Her instructor, an unidentified professor at Southern New Hampshire University, denied that this was a valid selection.

"Australia is a continent; it is not a country," the professor wrote in an email to Arnold. "That error made it nearly impossible for you to accurately complete your week 2 research outline correctly."

As most people who completed the fifth grade are no doubt aware, Australia is both a continent and a country. It says so on Australia's official website. If you Google "Australia is a..." the search engine's most popular autofill terms are "continent" and "country." (The third most popular, unfortunately, is "hoax.")

Arnold wrote back to her professor, sharing some of this evidence. Finally, she filed a complaint with the university. After initially doubling down, the professor eventually conceded the error. But then she warned the student, "Please make sure the date, the facts, and the information you provide in your report is about Australia the country and not Australia the continent." This remark does not inspire great confidence that she understands her mistake.

Arnold is only mildly better informed about Australia than her professor, according to BuzzFeed:

When asked why she thought her professor might have been confused, Arnold said her older age might have been a factor.

"When did Australia become a country? Maybe she thinks it's still part of England," she said.

After being told by BuzzFeed News that happened some 117 years ago, Arnold said, "Oh, she's not that old, so there's no excuse."

In a tweet sent this morning, Southern New Hampshire University apologized to both Ashley and the sovereign nation of Australia. The professor has been fired:

What's most notable about this incident isn't the professor's ignorance. It's that it took several rounds of emails and a formal complaint to force the professor to do the easiest thing in the world: Google it.

Blame Binge Drinking for Tulane University's 2-in-5 Female Sexual Assault Rate

Mon, 05 Feb 2018 08:40:00 -0500

Tulane University has a serious rape problem, if a recent survey can be believed: Nearly 2 in 5 female students reported being sexually assaulted. If that number is indeed real, the most likely culprit would be the university's binge-drinking problem. Keep in mind that the infamous 1-in-5 statistic, which supposes that between a quarter and a fifth of female university students will become victims of sexual assault, is controversial; critics point out that the pollsters who arrived at this number often ask broad questions and count as victims people who never described themselves in such terms. Such high rates of sexual violence strike many people as self-evidently ludicrous. But Tulane, a private university in New Orleans, appears to have an even more staggeringly high sexual assault rate. I've parsed the data and found no obvious flaws—sexual assault was defined fairly unambiguously as "unwanted sexual contact," "rape," or "attempted rape." Unwanted sexual contact was further defined as "fondling, kissing, or rubbing up against a person's private areas of their body (lips, breast/chest, crotch, or butt), or removing clothing without the person's consent by incapacitation or force." Without consent was further defined as "taking advantage of me when I was too drunk or out of it to stop what was happening." What's more, the survey is extremely comprehensive: 47 percent of the school's students participated in it. According to the survey, 41 percent of undergraduate female students experienced sexual assault while at Tulane. That includes off-campus violence, and it includes violence committed during breaks and holidays. Still, it's an incredibly high number. For undergraduate men, the sexual assault rate was 18 percent. Sexual assault rates were significantly higher for LGBTQ men, 44 percent of whom experienced violence, compared with just 13 percent of straight men. Students of color were less likely to be victims than white students. In all cases, the perpetrators were overwhelmingly male students; the violence was just as likely to have occurred on campus as off. What can explain these bafflingly high rates of sexual violence? The statistics relating to alcohol abuse on campus start to suggest an answer. "Seventy-four percent (74%) of women and 87% of men who experienced any form of sexual assault reported they were incapacitated by alcohol at the time of the incident," according to the survey. Perpetrators were also more likely than not to be drinking alcohol, respondents said. How many students were drinking, and how often? Quite a lot: 43 percent of undergraduate men and 39 percent of undergraduate women reported drinking alcohol three or more times each week. That's a whole lot of 18- to 20-year-olds drinking regularly. Their consumption levels were also telling. For women, the most common number of drinks to have in one sitting was between three and six. A third of the men were consuming between seven and 11 drinks. To my mind, these numbers indicate a significant drinking problem: Many students, both male and female, are regularly and illicitly consuming copious quantities of alcohol. A few things are worth bearing in mind. First, a 120-pound woman who consumes more than three drinks in two hours is typically going to be very drunk. The same goes for a 180-pound man who consumes five drinks. Second, most of these students are under the age of 21, and thus are not allowed to drink at all. They can't drink at bars, and they are less likely to consume alcohol in the presence of authority figures. They may not know their limits very well. They might not have much experience taking care of themselves, or other people, while under the influence. Third, people who frequently drink to excess are taking risks, even of a non-sexual kind. Very drunk people impose obligations on others to take care of them. As Emily Yoffe said in t[...]

New Mexico Considers Forcing High-School Students into State-Approved Post-Graduation Plans

Sat, 03 Feb 2018 12:00:00 -0500

At least two New Mexico lawmakers don't want students to be able to collect a high school diploma unless they have a state-approved post-graduation plan. To be clear, the students can't simply tell their school counselors what their plans are. The bill—HB23, introduced by Nate Gentry, a Republican, and Daniel Ivey-Soto, a Democrat—gives teens a small menu of approved choices. To get their diplomas, students have to commit to one of the following: Attending college (either four-year or two-year) Participating in a trade or vocational program Getting an internship or apprenticeship Military service Note the gigantic, important option missing: getting a job. The original draft of the legislation did include that among the choices, but it's been crossed out in the current version. Chicago recently implemented a similar program, but that one included a job offer among the government-approved futures. In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal, Gentry made it clear that the purpose of this bill is try to get more students to go to college. "This is a politically easy thing to move the needle," he said. Let's just set aside for a moment (just a moment) that high school seniors are not the property of the State of New Mexico, and it's morally repugnant for them to withhold a diploma just because someone won't comply with a list of government-approved futures. There are other problems here too. New Mexico already has the second-worst high school graduation rate in the country, at 71 percent. Certainly another barrier to graduation is not going to help. And no, the proposal doesn't provide a way to cover costs for low-income students essentially being forced to apply to college in order to earn their high school diploma. Nor do the legislation's sponsors seem to care whether students are able to succeed in college or even have access to the apprenticeships the bill mentions. A legislative analysis warns that the plan requires students to apply to college, but does not address college-readiness or completion. It is imperative to ensure students are prepared for success as 39.1 percent of New Mexico high school graduates (graduated in FY16) enrolled in remedial coursework as first time freshman at New Mexico public postsecondary institutions.... HB23 does not address the quality or availability of internships and apprenticeships available to high school graduates. Apprenticeships are most often part of Career Technical Education (CTE) programs, and may only be available to select students who took CTE dual credit coursework that articulated into a certificate or degree. More than a third of New Mexico high school students arrive at college unprepared and unable to actually take college-level classes. Perhaps the state's schools would be better off focusing on teaching students what they need to know to survive in college. Let the families figure out the best way forward. One rationale the bill's sponsors offer for their plan is an estimate that by 2020, two thirds of all jobs will require some sort of postsecondary education. That's a strange explanation for a couple of reasons. First of all, if students are able to get a job with just a high school diploma, this proposal will not let them. Essentially, it's telling students that they aren't allowed to pursue those jobs that don't require postsecondary education. Second, let's not forget one big reason we've seen a dramatic increase in postsecondary education requirements in order to hold a job: occupational licensing. The same government that wants to force students into postsecondary education is also creating legal barriers to keep people from getting jobs unless they get that additional training. The consequences are bad for the economy and for the poor. Just this week, there was an absolutely crazy fight in Arizona where cosmetologists are trying to def[...]

Is Spending $1 Trillion on Education a Waste of Money? Bryan Caplan Says Yes.

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 20:00:00 -0500

"It's absolutely true that school makes people show up, sit down, shut up and that these are useful skills for people to have in adulthood," says Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, a blogger at EconLog, and the author of the new book The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. "So the real question is if all we're trying to do is prepare people for a job, why not prepare them with a job?"

Caplan argues that schools are not only overpriced, but that traditional education fails to prepare students with job skills that reflect the needs of the labor market. Even worse, he says, most school is boring for students.

I sat down with Caplan to discuss his book and what, if any, value he sees in traditional K-12 and undergraduate education.

For a video version of our conversation and a full transcript, go here.

For an audio podcast version, go to iTunes and subscribe to the Reason Podcast, or click below to listen via Soundcloud.

We release three episodes a week, including one that is a rousing roundtable with Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, Matt Welch, and me discussing the news of the day. For a full archive, go here.

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Are Microschools the Next Big Thing?

Sat, 27 Jan 2018 06:00:00 -0500

Portfolio School looks and sounds like a Silicon Valley tech firm's rec room—except that almost everyone is under the age of 10. The building's walls double as whiteboards, with nearly every inch covered in colorful, hand-drawn diagrams of constellations and planetary orbits. Along one side, kid-sized scissors and glue sticks are piled neatly next to a 3D printer and laser cutter. During my visit, a boy with an explosion of brown hair skidded up to me. "We're making movies!" he announced. Around the room, other students were reading, completing lessons on educational software, working on tinker toys. Without the unconscious kid-adult barriers that traditional schools often create, the chatty boy felt free to talk my ear off about how he and a group of his classmates had created characters for a science fiction film about a trip to Mars. He seemed particularly interested in the editing process, where they would get to add Martian backgrounds and other special effects. Portfolio School is part of a growing movement of "micro-schools." Coined by British education blogger Cushla Barry in 2010, the term refers to educational institutions that emphasize interdisciplinary project-based learning, building social skills such as communication and critical thinking, and tailoring instruction to the needs of each individual student. The schools tend to focus on teamwork, and they're small by design—with student bodies ranging anywhere from half a dozen to roughly 150 students. The size limitations, informed by anthropologist Robin Dunbar's now famous research on the maximum number of relationships most human beings can comfortably maintain, help the employees stay better connected with their students' individual needs. Portfolio, located in Manhattan's upscale TriBeCa neighborhood, is one of the most elite (and expensive) microschools, focusing on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. The movement, which grew from scrappy homeschool roots, has been taken up by nerds who want to hack primary education. Like all startups, the microschool model will rise or fall on its ability to meet customer needs at the right price. Success is far from assured. But could tech-savvy tiny schools be the future? 'Factories in Which Raw Products Are To Be Shaped' Ken Robinson is the star of the most popular TED Talk ever. More than 50 million people have clicked to hear an education consultant with a British knighthood ponder the question "Do schools kill creativity?" (Spoiler: Yep.) "We have built our education system on a model of fast food," Robinson explains in a follow-up TED Talk delivered in 2010. But there are at least two ways to ensure a good meal when you're cooking for a crowd: "One is fast food, where everything is standardized. The other [is] catered to local circumstances. We have sold ourselves into a fast-food model of education, and it's impoverishing our spirit and our energies as much as fast food is depleting our physical bodies." The roots of America's education system were transplanted from the German kingdom of Prussia, where eighteenth century monarchs such as Frederick the Great established schools with the goal of molding a disciplined citizenry of dutiful soldiers and civil servants. During the next century, state-run schools played a crucial role in manufacturing a homogenized German identity. In 1807, nationalist philosopher Johann Fichte argued that forging this identity meant that "schools must fashion the person…in such a way that he simply cannot will otherwise than what you wish him to will." American education pioneer Horace Mann visited Prussia in 1843. Convinced that what he found could benefit the United States, Mann reformed Massachusetts' school system along Prussian lines, and the model ultimately spread cross-count[...]

"Micro-Schools" Might Be the Next Big Education Thing: Podcast

Fri, 26 Jan 2018 10:30:00 -0500

One-room schoolhouses are making a comeback in the "micro-schooling" movement. While a typical public high school might cram 2,000 students into a single grade, micro-schools cap out at 150 (and often far fewer) students for all grades. That allows students to mix across ages and interests while building skill-based knowledge and proficiency. Teachers function more as guides than instructors and learning is intensely personalized, individualized, and task-oriented. Think of micro-schools as "Montessori meets Silicon Valley." Reason's Nick Gillespie spoke with Tyler Koteskey, an education analyst at Reason Foundation, who has a story on the micro-schooling movement in the March issue of Reason (subscribe here). They discuss the personalized approach of micro-schooling, the militaristic, Prussian origins of American factory-model education, and the costs and benefits of different modes of learning. Subscribe, rate, and review the Reason Podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below: src="" width="100%" height="300" frameborder="0"> Don't miss a single Reason podcast! (Archive here.) Subscribe at iTunes. Follow us at SoundCloud. Subscribe at YouTube. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Reason is a proud media partner of National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education. Go here to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice—charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. For a constantly updated list of stories about school choice, go to Reason's archive page. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: This is the Reason podcast, and I'm your host Nick Gillespie. Thanks for listening. Please subscribe to us at iTunes, and rate, and review us while you're there. Today we are talking with Tyler Koteskey. He's an education analyst, and researcher for Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes the Reason podcast as well as Reason magazine., and basically everything else with the Reason brand. This is also National School Choice Week, which is an annual event that celebrates the depth, and breadth, and just variety of school choice around the country. Reason is a national media partner with School Choice Week. The people who celebrate this are literally 10's of thousands of events happening all over the country. If you go to you can find a list of events in your state, and probably even in your own town. There is well over 20,000 events happening during the course of school choice week. Tyler, thanks so much for talking with me today. Tyler Koteskey: Pleasure to be here Nick. Gillespie: You have in the current issue. The new issue of Reason magazine, a story that is called micro-schools. Are micro-schools the next big thing? The promise, and peril of tiny, private schools. Let's talk about that during School Choice Week especially. What are micro-schools, and why should we be excited about them? Koteskey: So I think the best way to describe micro-schools is probably just thinking about them as kind of a revived one-room schoolhouse stuck into the 21st century. There's not really a hard, and fast definition, but some of the features that you usually see are that it's a small size. You have anywhere from maybe even just half a dozen kids to under 150 is the upper limit a lot of people use. The kids tend to learn ami[...]

Donald Trump Supports School Choice. Here's Why You Should Too.

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 13:30:00 -0500

Earlier this week, President Donald Trump did something good: For the second year in a row, he issued a proclamation supporting National School Choice Week, an annual event that promotes interest in and discussion of ways to bring more options to K-12 students and their parents. The full proclamation is after the jump, but here's a snippet: Communities that provide academic options — traditional public, public charter, private, magnet, parochial, virtual, and homeschooling — empower parents and guardians to select the best educational fit for their children. School choice helps alleviate common hindrances to success and creates the space necessary for students' aspirations to flourish. Families that participate in school choice programs are not the only ones who benefit from expanded educational options. Children in traditional public schools benefit as well. In fact, 29 of the top 31 empirical studies on the topic find that freedom of school choice improves the performance of nearby public schools. I disagree with Donald Trump on many, probably most, issues. But he's absolutely correct in insisting that parents should have more choices on where to send their kids to school, curricula to choose from, and how to individualize learning. America is a post-industrial country and we no longer put up with standardized food, clothing, lifestyles, or housing. Why should something as fundamental as education—"Life in the United States starts with a 13-year mandatory minimum K-12," quips's CEO Balaji Srinivasan—be as ossified and stratified as it is? Across the United States, per-pupil spending averages over $13,000, which is up from about $6,000 in 1970 (in constant dollars). I'd wager there is no other area in our lives where costs have skyrocketed by more than double while the underlying good or service has not radically improved or been completely superseded by something else. Yet the most basic measure of outcome, scores on standardized tests for graduating seniors on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has not improved: So we're spending tons more money per student and yet getting the same basic result. There are, of course, many ways to dispute this. Kids today are more disadvantaged (not true), schools are expected to do so much more (not really true, or, same thing, schools choose to prioritize all sorts of stuff over learning), teachers are underpaid compared to the past, so the current crop is simultaneously less good and unmotivated (not true, not true). Beyond anything related to test scores, which are at best a bad proxy for knowledge and achievement, we might ask whether that $13,000 per K-12 student could be spent in ways that make learning more interesting for kids. The answer here is: Of course it can be. There's a reason why school choice—whether in terms of charters, vouchers, Educational Savings Accounts (ESAs), scholarship programs, and more—is growing and it's not because traditional residential-assignment schools are popular. As University of Arkansas researcher Jay P. Greene has put it, the move toward broadly defined school choice has "reached escape velocity" because parents and students are demanding the same sort of flexibility, personalization, engagement, and attention from education that we take for granted in all other parts of our lives. Here is Trump's full proclamation: All American children deserve the opportunity to achieve their dreams through hard work and personal integrity. Our Nation's education policies must support them on their journeys, recognizing the diverse career goals and academic needs of students in communities across our country. During National School Choice Week, we honor those dedicated educators, administrators,[...]

The Case Against Education: Economist Bryan Caplan Says Government Spending of $1 Trillion a Year on Schooling Is a Waste

Mon, 22 Jan 2018 15:45:00 -0500

"It's absolutely true that school makes people show up, sit down, shut up and that these are useful skills for people to have in adulthood, " says Bryan Caplan, a professor of economics at George Mason University, who blogs at EconLog, and is the author of the new book The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. "So the real question is if all we're trying to do is prepare people for a job, why not prepare them with a job?" Caplan argues that schools are not only overpriced, but that traditional education fails to prepare students with job skills that reflect the needs of the labor market. Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Caplan to make the case that the government needs to spend so much on education if it isn't relevant to our success in getting a job and earning higher wages. Reason is a proud media partner of National School Choice Week, an annual event promoting the ability of parents and students to have greater options in K-12 education. Go here [] to get more information about events and data about how increasing school choice--charters, vouchers, educational savings accounts, and more—is one of the best ways to improve education for all Americans. For a constantly updated list of stories on education, go to Reason's archive page on "school choice". Interview by Nick Gillespie. Edited by Alexis Garcia. Camera by Meredith Bragg and Mark McDaniel. AM Trans by Podington Bear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Mimas by Sounds Like An Earful is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license ( Source: Artist: Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our podcast at iTunes. This is a rush transcript. Check all quotes against the audio for accuracy. Nick Gillespie: I'm Nick Gillespie for Reason and today we are talking with the author of what is almost certainly going to be the most controversial book of the year. Bryan Caplan is an economics professor at George Mason University, and his new book is The Case Against Education. Bryan, thanks for talking with Reason. Bryan Caplan: Thanks for such an exciting introduction. Gillespie: Well, let's get right to it. Early on you say flatly, you write flatly, 'This book argues that our education system is a big waste of time and money.' And now you're not simply saying that our schools are overpriced and uneven in quality, you are actually making the case that much of our traditional education system, especially higher ed, is literally a waste of time, right? Caplan: Absolutely. Gillespie: What do you mean by that? Caplan: What I mean is that people are going there to get a higher income, but they're actually not getting much in the way of job skills, which raises a big puzzle for an economist. How can they be getting a higher income if they're not getting much in the way of job skills? And my answer comes down to something called the signaling model of education that says that a lot of the reason why education pays isn't that you learn useful skills, but that you distinguish yourself. That you're getting stamped or labeled. You're getting a sticker on your forehead, Grade A worker. Gillespie: So it's kind of like you come out as a piece of steak. You're USDA prime, but you haven't been cooked yet. Well, you haven't ... Caplan: Precisely. And the the[...]

The Case for School Choice Is Overwhelming From Every POV Except One

Sun, 21 Jan 2018 21:00:00 -0500

Today marks the start of National School Choice Week (NSCW), an annual event designed to promote awareness of and interest in K-12 educational policies that give parents and students more ways to personalize and individualize their primary and secondary learning experiences. Reason is a proud media partner of NSCW, which has helped to organize over 30,000 events around the country this week. NSCW is agnostic on the form that choice takes—could be charter schools, voucher programs, private-school scholarships, homeschooling, education savings accounts (ESAs), you name it. All that matters is that it put the needs of students front and center. Go here to find out information about events and activities happening in your area. Throughout the week, Reason will be publishing articles, commentaries, videos, and podcasts on education policy. Tomorrow, for instance, we'll release an interview with George Mason University economist Bryan Caplan, whose forthcoming book on school policy literally makes the case against education (seriously: His book is called The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money). On Tuesday, Reason's policy analyst Lisa Snell will host a panel discussion in Los Angeles with Matthew Ladner of the Charles Koch Institute and Jason Bedrick of EdChoice tacking the "most persistent arguments against school choice and why they're wrong." That event will be livestreamed via Hit and Run and Reason's Facebook page at 6:00 P.M. Pacific Time. John Stossel will be interviewing Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy is leading the way in charter-school success in New York City. Later in the week, we'll release a video expose of New York City's practice of paying millions of dollars in tuition to send kids with learning issues to private schools; we'll also publish a fascinating magazine story about the "microschool" movement. Consider it Shark Week, but for education policy. For past School Choice Week coverage, go here. For the latest education policy work from analysts at Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, go here. The title of this post makes the claim that the case for giving students and parents more options for K-12 education is overwhelming. Here's some evidence about choice programs that get students into private schools from A Win-Win Solution: The Empirical Evidence on School Choice, by Greg Forster (Fourth Edition, 2016): Eighteen empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the gold standard of social science. Of those, 14 find choice improves student outcomes: six find all students benefit and eight find some benefit and some are not visibly affected. Two studies find no visible effect, and two studies find Louisiana's voucher program—where most of the eligible private schools were scared away from the program by an expectation of hostile future action from regulators—had a negative effect. Thirty-three empirical studies (including all methods) have examined school choice's effect on students' academic outcomes in public schools. Of those, 31 find choice improved public schools. One finds no visible effect. One finds a negative effect. Twenty-eight empirical studies have examined school choice's fiscal impact on taxpayers and public schools. Of these, 25 find school choice programs save money. Three find the programs they study are revenue neutral. No empirical study has found a negative fiscal impact. Ten empirical studies have examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of those, nine find school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools, and one find[...]