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Education



All Reason.com articles with the "Education" tag.



Published: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2018 10:13:47 -0400

 



War on Science?

Wed, 11 Apr 2018 00:01:00 -0400

We've been told conservatives don't believe in science and that there's a "Republican war on science." But John Tierney, who's written about science for The New York Times for 25 years and now writes for the Manhattan Institute's City Journal, told me in my latest online video, "The real war on science is the one from the left." Really? Conservatives are more likely to be creationists—denying evolution. "Right," says Tierney. "But creationism doesn't affect the way science is done." What about President George W. Bush banning government funding of stem cell research? "He didn't stop stem cell research," Tierney reminds me. "The government wouldn't fund it. It turned out that it really didn't matter much." Private funding continued and, so far, has not discovered much. "People talk about this Republican war on science, but if you look around, my question is, where are the casualties? What scientists lost their jobs?" asks Tierney. "I can't find examples where the right wing stopped the progress of science, whereas you can look on the left and you see so many areas that are taboo to research." Some research on genetically modified foods became taboo because of protests from the left. That may have prevented a second Green Revolution to feed Africa. Scientists can't even talk about whether genes affect intelligence without being threatened by the left. Political scientists who continued to investigate the topic are screamed at on college campuses, the way Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, has been. Tierney adds, "The federal government stopped funding IQ research decades ago." Likewise, researching gender differences is dangerous to your career. "You can't talk about sexual differences between men and women, (although) it's OK if they favor women," laughs Tierney. "You can say men are more likely to commit crimes, but you can't suggest that there might be some sexual difference that might predispose men to be more interested in a topic." Google fired engineer James Damore merely for suggesting that sex differences might explain why more men choose to work in tech. "Damore just pointed out very basic scientific research about differences between the sexes," argues Tierney. "The experts in this, as soon as he published that memo, said, yes, he basically got the science right." It's not as if women aren't doing well in life, says Tierney. In universities, "women dominate virtually every extracurricular activity, but all the focus has been: 'Why aren't there more women physicists and mathematicians, and of course in the sports area, too?'" says Tierney. "There's this idea that they're being discriminated against, (but) there have been enormous studies of who gets grants, who gets tenure, who gets interviews for jobs, and women get preference." However, one group does get discriminated against in colleges: conservatives. "In the social sciences, Democrats outnumber Republicans by at least eight to one. In fields like sociology it's 44 to one. Students are more likely to be taught in sociology by a Marxist than by a Republican," says Tierney. "It's gotten worse and worse." Why does this happen at colleges that claim they "treasure diversity"? Because people on the left believe diversity just means race and gender, not thought. And even schools that want some diverse thought reach a sort of political tipping point. "Once an academic department gets a majority of people who are on the left, they start hiring people like themselves, and soon the whole department is that way," says Tierney. "They start to think that their opinions and that their interests are not only the norm, but the truth." That's how we get "scientific" studies that "prove" conservatives are stupid. One such study asked people if they agree with the statement "Earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them." The researcher called a "yes" answer an "irrational denial of science." But anyone who's studied economics knows the statement has repeatedly been proven true. Finally, millions of people die of malaria today partly becau[...]



Student Thinks University of Michigan's Race Requirement Exists 'To Get White People To Be a Little Less Racist'

Tue, 10 Apr 2018 10:00:00 -0400

(image) Some students would like the University of Michigan to revise its race and ethnicity requirement (R&E), which obligates students in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts (LSA) to complete a course that includes these themes.

That's because the requirement has strayed from its true purpose, according to Allie Brown, a junior in the School of Public Policy.

"The purpose of the Race and Ethnicity requirement is to get white people to be a little less racist, for people to be a little bit more knowledgeable about the world they live in," Brown told The Michigan Daily. "That's really what it came about after the activism. Not just, 'Oh, learn about race and ethnicity in general.' That's not really the purpose behind it. A lot of the courses that are counted as R&E today don't require cultural competency, that's the problem. It's just like, 'Oh, we mention race and ethnicity, thus we should be counted as Race and Ethnicity.'"

Brown isn't just a random student; The Daily notes that she recently helped Angela Dillard, an associate dean of LSA, complete a study of the requirement, and is therefore positioned to advise its possible revision or expansion. And the main point of R&E, in Brown's view, is to educate one specific identity group.

I graduated from Michigan's LSA. The college only has a few requirements: a first-year writing course, an upper level writing course, a quantitative reasoning course (the bane of my existence), foreign language competency, and race and ethnicity. The best argument for the race and ethnicity requirement is this: Students should at some point study the history, traditions, or sociology of some identity group with which they aren't particularly familiar, as part of a broad-based liberal arts education. But it sounds like Brown wants race and ethnicity to be less like an educational requirement and more like an activism recruitment experience.

This reminds me of American University's effort to reimagine dorm life as an opportunity to teach "oppression studies" to a captive audience—with recruitment into an ideological movement being the true goal of the students advising such changes.

And yet we wonder why political conservatives have suddenly soured on higher education.




Why the Federal Government Can't Mandate an Ideal School Suspension Rate

Fri, 06 Apr 2018 16:10:00 -0400

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is debating whether to rescind Obama-era instructions to discipline fewer minority students. Would she be right to do so? It's complicated. Thanks to zero tolerance policies, many schools are too quick to suspend, expel, or arrest kids for less-than-perfect behavior. But the previous administration's efforts to combat overzealous punishment were clumsy, and some critics argue that they undermined order in classrooms where harsher disciplinary measures might have been warranted. Advocates for rescinding the guidance made this argument during a closed-to-the-press meeting with the secretary on Wednesday. Among them was Eileen Sofa, whose son was sexually assaulted in school. Sofa's story, reported by The Weekly Standard, is compelling: Schools like San Diego's Lincoln High, which earned its reputation for institutional laxity long before [Obama-era Education Secretary Arne] Duncan's guidance, only found fresh incentive to avoid documenting and responding to student-on-student abuses when the federal rule took effect four years ago. Lincoln had been under investigation already last summer when a teenaged boy with special needs followed a more severely impaired, non-verbal classmate into the restroom and raped him. An aide who found the boys together in a bathroom stall drew up a detailed report—but the school classified the assault as a lesser offense, an "obscene act," which the victim's mother, Eileen Sofa, believed for more than a year was a far milder indignity than what had really been done to her boy. It took a devoted teacher of her son's, Nate Page, to expose the truth. When he learned what had happened, that the rapist was not expelled and the police failed to follow through, "Nate was livid," says Nicole Stewart, a former Lincoln High vice principal who resigned in protest. "He is the entire reason that [Channel 7 reporter] Wendy Fry and Eileen Sofa know, or knew that anything had happened." But past the point of exposing the school district's inaction and publicizing the case, Page found he couldn't ignite the outcry Sofa's son deserved. "He put together teams of people willing to talk about bad practices at Lincoln, specifically talk about the rape case. He had professors, he had doctors, he had lawyers," Stewart recalls. But with a non-verbal victim and an unwilling school administration, justice eluded them. "Nate was so defeated, he committed suicide in September." Other advocates of rescinding the guidance tell dramatic stories of teachers helpless to confront violence in the classroom. Students are hitting teachers and suffering no consequences because schools are afraid the feds will open an investigation, according to The New York Post. The Obama-era policies have been blamed for the mass shooting in Parkland: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) claimed that the guidance "arguably made it easier for schools to not report students to law enforcement than deal with the potential consequences," the implication being that school authorities did not properly deal with Nikolas Cruz because they were operating under federal constraints. The Broward County school board and the sheriff's department—run by the blame-dodging Sheriff Scott Israel—had made an agreement to suspend and arrest fewer students. These examples make the guidance seem incredibly counterproductive. And yet schools probably aren't any more violence-prone than they were before its implementation. "If you take a step back, what you will find is that the overall rate of violence in schools is declining," Stephen Brock, a professor at California State University, tells The Atlantic. The fact that schools are actually very safe is something many conservatives seem to grasp better than many liberals—when the subject is shootings. But when the designated scapegoat is "Obama" rather than "guns," it's the right that suddenly frets about an epidemic of violence in schools and it's the left that's worried the right's solution will threaten individual rights, undermin[...]



March for Our Lives Kids Don't Know Just How Safe Schools Are

Tue, 27 Mar 2018 14:00:00 -0400

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have reenergized the national movement to restrict gun ownership following a mass shooting that claimed 17 lives. Their efforts culminated with the massive March for Our Lives Rally on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

The students from Stoneman Douglas have earned praise for demanding that Congress take decisive action. But they also seem to be stoking irrational fear about gun violence in schools.

You would have come away from the March for Our Lives Rally thinking there's a school shooting epidemic in America. But what happened at Stoneman Douglas was extremely rare. American schools are profoundly safe, and most likely getting safer: According to researchers at Northeastern University, shooting incidents involving students have actually decreased in recent years, and in the 1990s the overall crime rate was much higher than it is today. The rate of homicides from firearms in the U.S. has plummeted. In fact, students are orders of magnitude more likely to die in a car crash on their way to school than they are to be gunned down on school grounds.

Yet the protesters were demanding more security in schools—a lot more—even if it means making armed guards a fixture of the lives of children.

Some kids live in constant fear of being shot in their classrooms. This hysteria is leading to claims that we must relinquish our rights in the name of safety—a familiar story, from the drug war to the war on terror.

Teenagers have every right to fight for a cause they believe in, and the students from Stoneman Douglas are justifiably enraged about an event that claimed the lives of so many friends and classmates. But feelings shouldn't trump facts, and we should never craft policies from a place of fear.

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Bryan Caplan's Case Against Education

Sat, 24 Mar 2018 14:31:00 -0400

In his important new book The Case Against Education, economist Bryan Caplan argues that a high proportion of our massive spending on education is a waste of time and money. Since government spending on education amounts to some $1 trillion per year, this suggests we are gravely misallocating resources that could be better used elsewhere. I. Caplan's Theory of Wasteful Educational Signaling. Caplan doesn't deny the extensive evidence indicating that education increases income. High school graduates earn far more than dropouts, and college graduates far more than high school graduates, for example. Caplan contends that most of this income gain (perhaps as much as 80 percent) is not the result of improved skills (investments in human capital, in economic terminology), but rather "signaling." The big reason why employers prefer college graduates is not any skill those people acquired in college, but rather that getting a diploma is a signal of intelligence, conscientiousness, and conformity - characteristics that are valuable in most jobs. Caplan provides a great deal of data and other evidence supporting his position. One of the more compelling is the "sheepskin effect": income gains from getting a diploma are far larger than those from earlier years of education that do not result in a diploma. If increases in human capital from learning course material were the main reason why education leads to higher higher income, the piece of paper you get at the end would not matter so much. Another notable line of evidence is the extensive data indicating that most students forget a high percentage of what they learn soon after the end of the class in question. Students generally cannot make use of knowledge acquired through education if they don't even remember it. From a signaling point of view, however, passing a course is still a useful indicator of intelligence and conscientiousness, even if the student promptly forgets what she learned, soon after the final exam. Caplan concedes that education in basic "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic" has a big payoff, and that the same is true for some types of vocational and professional education. But he concludes that signaling accounts for the lion's share of income gains from most other education. If "signaling," not human capital, is the main explanation for the correlation between education and income, then much education spending turns out be a wasteful arms race. A high school diploma was an effective signal of worker quality in an era when many people did not have one. When almost everyone has a diploma, it is no longer enough to stand out from the crowd. Effective signalling now requires a college degree. As more and more people become college graduates, you now often have to have a graduate degree to stand out. And so on. Caplan argues that we might all be better off if we cut education expenditures, thereby curtailing the resources devoted to the arms race. Caplan's analysis of the data is far from indisputable. For a good discussion of the issues, see this debate between Caplan and leading education economist Eric Hanushek. But even if you don't put as much stock in signaling theory as Caplan, he does compile a lot of evidence indicating that much education spending is wasteful, and particularly that it has very poor returns for weak students and many of the poor (two groups with a large overlap). Hanushek's own previous work suggests that increased education expenditures usually do little or nothing to improve educational outcomes. This bolsters the case for Caplan's argument that we can radically cut education spending, without losing much of value. II. Does Education Make Us Better Citizens? While much of the commentary on Caplan's book focuses on his analysis of the narrowly "economic" utility of education, he also has a section analyzing claims that education increases political knowledge. Historically, one of the most important defenses of public education spen[...]



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 co[...]



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 a[...]



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="https://www.youtube.com/embed/JKJkd4RgNfM" 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 do[...]



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[...]



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 ar[...]



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[...]



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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