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FiredrakeRAGE
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"There is so worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
- Professor de la Paz, From Heinlein's 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.

Agree? Disagree? What should tax dollars be used for, beyond national defense?

--Firedrake

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WarrsawPact
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In principle, I have one problem with that: sometimes men want more than they must be allowed to take. Once again, I refer to YRTSYFEAMN: Your right to swing your first ends at your nose.
I say this because "paying for what he does not want" could be taken in certain circumstances to mean "pay more than he thinks is fair".

Sometimes a man is accountable even for things that he doesn't think he needs to be responsible for. I expect all my fellow-citizens to pay for the enforcement of our rights, one way or another. It doesn't matter whether a man recognizes those rights or not.

The rest is tyranny, even if it's "benevolent" tyranny.

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RickyB
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No public works? No highways? No rural electrification? No education? No disaster relief? Mmkay.
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WarrsawPact
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It's still benevolent tyranny. It just happens to be beneficial.
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RickyB
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Uh huh. It's called government.
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Delirium Tremens
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quote:
What should tax dollars be used for, beyond national defense?
1. Why is national defense more special than, say, eduction?

2. I advise you to take a good look at the notes you use to pay things (really, take a carefull look and read everything that is on it). This money wouldn't be there if there was no federal reserve, no justice to make sure contracts between banks and the federal reserve are enforced and no government to make sure there are laws in the first place (e.g. to define the concepts of 'property' or 'contract', to punish those who try to print false notes,...).

To be short, concepts like 'property', 'paying' and 'stealing' are completely determined by the existence of a government and certain enforcable laws.

[ December 11, 2004, 10:35 AM: Message edited by: Delirium Tremens ]

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David Ricardo
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I am a pragmatist, so I tend to have a very results-driven view about taxes and government.

Generally speaking, there is a certain set of public goods that government should provide because the private sector would not provide it efficiently. For example, national defense if privatized would devolve into warlord armies owned by the likes of Bill Gates.

On the other hand, there are far too many things that government does inefficiently that could be better achieved by the private sector. Unfortunately, the temptation for politicians to sell out to local "pork barrel" interests is so great that waste and fraud in Washington is the modus operandi.

Notice, however, that I am framing most of this discussion in terms of government spending, not in terms of taxation. Taxes are not bad if the government spending they are supporting is efficient. Taxes are bad because they support ridiculous "pork barrel" boondoggles.

By the same token, simply borrowing against our children's future ("borrow and spend" instead of "tax and spend") is just as bad or worse than taxation. It is the epitome of the Social Security pyramid scheme:

By transferring our debts to our children and grandchildren, we can spend as spendthriftly as we want on waste and fraud because they will pick up the tab for us.

Except with Social Security, we simply transfer the income of our children and grandchildren towards our senior citizens. It is the same kind of pyramid scheme.

[ December 11, 2004, 10:38 AM: Message edited by: David Ricardo ]

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ATW
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quote:
Originally posted by FiredrakeRAGE:
What should tax dollars be used for, beyond national defense?


run a tax collection system

regulate commerce between states and with other nations

run a court system and any law enforcement branches needed for it

print money and run the federal end of the banking system

run a patent office

run some sort of emergency disaster relief system though I think this could be run through the military

pay elected officials and their staffs and for their meeting facilities

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LoverOfJoy
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quote:
1. Why is national defense more special than, say, eduction?
The better question is "why is national defense more related to the FEDERAL government than, say, education?"

The same kind of principle should be applied when answering your second point.

Sure, we wouldn't have X, Y, and Z if we didn't pay for it. Maybe we'd like to keep X, Y, and Z, but we'd like X to be paid for through federal dollars, Y to be paid for by state dollars and Z to be paid for by private-sector dollars.

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Everard
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""There is so worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."
- Professor de la Paz, From Heinlein's 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'."

Completely disagree. Warsaw put it well. Of course, I'd bet my bank account that I think that we should be paying to protect more rights then Warsaw thinks we should be protecting.

[ December 11, 2004, 11:35 AM: Message edited by: Everard ]

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LoverOfJoy
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I'm trying to remember a Simpson quote...something about our rights to "Rock-Bottom Prices!" [Big Grin]
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The Drake
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To expand on what Warsaw was saying,

National defense, along with various police forces, have a special status. They are there to protect the rights and freedom of individual citizens. Certain other services may also be argued to fall in similar categories, like firefighters. One house burning doesn't just affect the owner, it also affects my house next door - my right to property and safety.

Now take something like paving the street. Nobody has a "right" to a smooth road. With highways, you can put in a toll, and charge only the users. But what if it's a local street? Let's make it easy and call it a residential street, so no one else in the town has a stake. Each of 10 homeowners might want the improvement, no problem, they all pay for it. Done and done.

But, if there is a split, you've got a problem. You can not pave the road until you get unanimity. But even on this scale, it hardly seems workable. So ok, maybe 7 people want the paving. Some might suggest that only those 7 should split the cost, those who didn't want the road would not have to pay.

But there's a problem with that - free riding. The 3 holdouts are getting something for nothing. Human nature being what it is, even people who favored the road would pose as holdouts to avoid paying for the improvement.

Relating to the original quote -- "There is so worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him."

In my scenario, the cost of the road does get lumped onto people who legitimately didn't want it. But I still think it makes sense to pave streets.

Much of government spending could be made fee-based or optional. Like education and social security - to name big ones. Others, like public health, fall into the "firefighter" category.

Government regulation is another facet beyond tax spending. Automobile regulations are deciding that safer cars are better, raising the price for the buyer and increasing the burden on the poorest people. I could go on and on, but this is a side note from the original question.

So, to sum up, my taxes should be spent to protect my rights. My taxes should be spent to protect my neighbor's rights. My money should be spent on infrastructure that I directly benefit from - provided that a majority of directly affected citizens agree.

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8thNote
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quote:
Why is national defense more special than, say, eduction?
Because national defense protects us while public education is destroying us. Children are being taught what to think, not how to think. I don't want my tax dollars supporting a failing education system that even teaches lies as fact and ignorance of morality.

Really, the government has its hands in too many things. Stuff that I don't think American citizens should be forced to support. Schools, museums, studies, etc. should all be supported by the free will of people.

These extra programs are not required to run the government. Our tax funds should cover what it takes to "run" America.

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Everard
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"Because national defense protects us while public education is destroying us. Children are being taught what to think, not how to think. I don't want my tax dollars supporting a failing education system that even teaches lies as fact and ignorance of morality"

Hrm. Where are we being taught lies? Where are we being taught ignorance of morality? Where are children not being taught how to think?

I think you're letting biases show, because the reality is that our public education system has done amazingly well.

[ December 11, 2004, 03:38 PM: Message edited by: Everard ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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I probably should have enunciated my thoughts in the initial thread-starter.

I have no problem with the government (Federal/State/Local) paying for stuff other than 'National Security'. I was curious as to what everyone else thought we should/should not be paying for. I was curious what was better placed at the state level, and what would be better placed in the private sector.

--Firedrake

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Zyne
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quote:
With highways, you can put in a toll, and charge only the users.
You can also decline to allow a particular user on the road--say, no SUVs on Zyne's road--or close the road altogether.

I fear the cost of "national defense" without public schools making new recruits literate, capable of doing basic math, etc.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Everard - I disagree that our public education system has done well. I went to a good high school (one of the best public high schools a person can go to, in my opinion). The problem with public schooling arises from what it is meant to do. Public schooling should provide the basic material anyone should need to continue their education (either via college, via self-study, etc). The basics include mathematics, science, history, and reading/writing (English).

Public education does this, but it does it poorly. Any public school system teaches basic mathematics. This consisted of learning the basics (addition, subtraction, multiplication), the intermediate material (geometry, trigonometry), and some higher mathematics (pre-calculus, calculus). This takes several years. Assuming a student in the 2nd grade can learn basic mathematics, and a student in 12th grade will have learned some basic calculus, the public school takes 10 years to teach these basic mathematics.

A mathematics course in high school generally meets for 45 minutes - 60 minutes each week day. The sheer amount of time devoted to mathematical education, combined with the paltry gains in understanding, indicates to me that the system is broken, even when it is working 'perfectly'. Even when we speak of a good school that churns out a high rate of graduates with ‘Honors’ courses, more time has been devoted to a subject than should be required. For an adult learning this material, it would be covered in five or six college-semesters worth of study. This equates to 3 hours a week for 3 years.

The disproportionate amount of time devoted to a subject versus subject material learned is an indication that students are not learning as much as they could be, for whatever reason. Part of the lack of learning must come from unwillingness to learn. However, I believe that most students are willing to learn at a young age. Part of the reason might be that all students are forced to learn at one rate. Part of the reason is simply that ‘the truth’ is taught as such. While I do not indulge in conspiracy theories regarding the material taught, I believe that public schooling discourages questioning the reason behind the truths that are taught simply due to lack of manpower to answer unnecessary questions.

What could a solution be? After all, we desperately need to keep our communities literate, mathematically and scientifically sound, with good reasoning skills. One solution is an overhaul of the educational system. However, this has never worked in the past. Another solution might be standardizing testing, but allowing the actual schools to be privately funded. Like a private voucher system, money could be given – from the state – to individuals, for schooling. The problems are obvious – what would stop this money from being spent on something else?

Several people could combine a portion of their cash for a year to hire a tutor. While skilled teachers are hard to find, when learning (for example) trigonometry, a college student could be hired cheaply. When learning the basics (at a young age), a teacher would need to be employed, chiefly to provide more structure. I am unsure of the obstacles that could come up, and the corrective mechanism that could be used, however our current system is anything but ‘great’.

--Firedrake

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Everard
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Firedrake-
The underlying assumption for saying our public schools are not good, in your analysis, seems to be the slow rate of progress.

I disagree that the rate of progress is slow (though there are times when it is), given that, from ages 6-18, a student learns the fundamentals not only of mathematics, but literature, writing, speaking, biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, american history, world history, state history, logical thought, geography, art, music, and often a variety of other subjects.

There aren't very many nations that do a better job of preparing every child within that nation, for advanced learning in all of those fields.

The analogy with college paced learning is faulty. Imagine taking a college level course in the civil war... without having been exposed to ANY history. Beyond that, you wouldn't have knowledge of how to write a paper, how to think critically, how to analyze data, often how to read or write at all.

Public schooling takes children with virtually no academic skills, and turns most american students into at least reasonably competent students with a reasonable understanding of perhaps 2-3 dozen different subjects.

Obviously, what I say isn't going to change your mind. But I'd consider looking into what skill sets we expect our students to have learned, and then compare that to other systems of education. While some of them do better, for individual students, I can't think of any that have prepared a greater cross section of children to a higher degree of competance in as wide an array of sets of knowledge and thought processes.

http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/current.html

This is a link to the massachusetts frameworks. I would recommend perusing them... they're maybe slightly more comprehensive then some states, and significantly more so then many states, but I think you're looking at education from a student perspective, which often vastly underestimates the sheer volume of information that has to be absorbed.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Everard -

You're probably correct. I probably do underestimate our curriculum. However, I still believe that public education as it stands is inefficient. One simple option to increase productivity in our schools might be to hire college students as tutors. College students typically make very little, and can offer a significant amount of knowledge per dollar. A class with 20 students and 1 teacher is bound to be less productive than a class with 20 students and 2 teachers. The problem would be twofold. First, these potential tutors would have to be screened for knowledge and temperament. Secondly, the rules and regulations in place would probably disallow this solution.

--Firedrake

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Jesse
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Actually, the solution is being used. Americorps is offering competitive tutoring positions to college students, they work in elementary and secondary schools 15-20 hours a week, are paid seven dollars an hour, and upon completing a semester recieve a 1,300$ scholarship (in addition to their hourly wage).

My wife is doing it.

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Everard
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" However, I still believe that public education as it stands is inefficient."

Yes, public education needs some help. I think there are a variety of ways that this can be done, and your suggestion is certainly one of them. I worked with a physics class, before coming back to school, for a full year. That class did about 2% better then the other two classes the teacher had at the same level. That was unpaid volunteer work, but there aren't enough volunteers to go around.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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What about Social Security? Is that a concern for government?

I mean it is (basically) forcing a worker to save money in a form that discourages the rapid growth of that money. Is it really nessisary to force people to save? I put aside the 'government doubles whatever I save' - that is a question of amount of savings, not form of savings.

It would seem to me that it is the responsibility of the individual to save whatever retirement money is required.

Welfare and low-income cases, of course, are different. If you do not make anything, you're unlikely to be able to save anything. While I am suspicious of government handouts, they do have a limited place in society.

--Firedrake

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RickyB
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Well, the problem is that if not forced to save, many people will become a burden on society in their old age. So in order to avoid that...
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FiredrakeRAGE
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How would they be a burden? If they have the oppurtunity, and refuse to save, they're negligent. Cause and effect - refuse to save, have no money.

I would add that you assume that the vast majority of the population is unable to make this calculation on their own.

How do you think it worked before the SSA?

--Firedrake

[ December 11, 2004, 07:44 PM: Message edited by: FiredrakeRAGE ]

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TomDavidson
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"If they have the oppurtunity, and refuse to save, they're negligent....How do you think it worked before the SSA?"

It actually didn't work, for most definitions of the word "work." Because it's one thing to sit on the sidelines and say "Poor Granny; she was so negligent" -- and quite another to go, "Oh, Granny's dead? Shame about that."

Because that WAS how it worked. Unless the elderly threw themselves on the mercy of the state (which wasn't often all that merciful) or their own families (which often weren't that merciful, either), those who were "negligent" or unfortunate simply died. Social Security was a much-heralded response to this problem, precisely because the private sector had failed to step up to the plate.

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Paladine
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Ev-

quote:
"I think you're letting biases show, because the reality is that our public education system has done amazingly well ." Emphasis added
Amazingly well? Compared to what exactly? The argument over education is a complicated one, but to suggest that public education is performing "amazingly well" is just inane.

Whether or not it's performing reasonably is open to dispute, but it requires an amazing bias of your own to compare our educational system to that of other modernized, industrialized nations and conclude that we're doing "amazingly well".

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Tom -

You're right. The State should not be merciless in providing for those who did not create their own savings. In fact, we should probably, to ensure equality, have a flat rate retirement. Everyone should retire with $60,000/yr. Those with more savings should be forced to give their savings up to provide for the common good. Those with less will be provided for.

You have to be kidding. The State should be as merciless as possible when giving money to people. TANSTAAFL.

--Firedrake

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Everard
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Paladine-
Other industrialized nations aren't educating their entire populations. We are. European nations, for example, for the most part track out lower performing students during what, here, is middle school or early high school. Their BEST students do better then a cross section of all our students.

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Everard -

We are not educating our entire population. In some areas, public education performs poorly, and the number of dropouts are large. In other areas, 90+% of students graduate and go on to at least some college.

While I'll admit that our public education system does something, to say that it does 'well' - even comparing to the whole of the population of other european countries is ludicrous.

--Firedrake

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Everard
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"We are not educating our entire population."

We're certainly trying, which is more then can be said for most of europe. Where our schools are failing, in terms of who is not receiving an education, just about every country in the world is facing the same problems. Low income, single parents, on the whole, do not produce students who do well in school, no matter which country you're in. The difference is, in the US, these students get a high school education if they don't drop out. In europe, they don't... so they aren't even measured, which skews the measurements in favor of those schools, when comparing to the US.

The fact is that, if you compare a cross section of our students vs the same cross section of students in any other industrialized nation, we're well above average (though its still hard to draw meaningful comparisons based on the data). If you compare our best students against the best students from other countries, we're again aove average (with the same caveat). The cries about how our public schools are failing are mostly made up by people who want to do one of two things. From the right, its people who want to end public funding of schools, or provide funding to religious schools in the form of vouchers. From the left, its to provide more funding for public schools, often in areas that aren't needed.

Our public schools aren't perfect, but the reports of them being terrible always fail to take into account key information. They're NOT terrible, in fact, they're among the best in the world. The problems, however, are that certain school SYSTEMS are terrible, and other school systems have a terrible crop of students. The former is a very low percentage of all school systems (outside of kansas. Kansas is a black hole for education). The later is a much larger percentage then we're comfortable with. Schooling has as much to do with parents as it does with schools, and there is a significant percentage of school districts with parents who think that learning only happens in schools, or who have no time for their children, or who simply don't have the funds to get their children the extra resources that could bump them up a few notches.

That category of school systems with students who enter school unprepared to learn, and never have the parental suppor they need, is why it appears our school system is inadequate to the task.

The reality is, that while we could significantly improve schooling with certain changes, our school system is extremely good.


Sources:
Myths about test score comparisons
Rotberg, Iris C. Science. Washington: Dec 1, 1995. Vol. 270, Iss. 5241

Good News is No News but Myths are Marvelous: The World Against the Schools
Bracey, Gerald W.. Radical Teacher. Cambridge: Dec 31, 1998.

The 11th Bracey Report on the condition of public education
Gerald W Bracey. Phi Delta Kappan. Bloomington: Oct 2001. Vol. 83, Iss. 2

nternational comparisons of student achievement: A false guide for reform
Berliner, David C. National Forum. Fall 1993. Vol. 73, Iss. 4

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Everard -

Yes, that was (essentially) the feeling I was trying to get across in my (12/11/2004,9:46P) previous post. I experienced the European school system for my early middle-school career. It isn't half bad [Smile]

I still get the feeling you're not seeing my point in terms of 'public education' though. Where you are comparing us to the rest of the world and finding that we're doing pretty damn well, I am trying to compare the current system to human potential - and find that we come out poorly. A person should not need 5 hours per week for 5 weeks to learn how to use a parenthesis - regardless of experience. Likewise, a higher level class - say trigonometry - should not require 90 student-hours of schooling.

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The Drake
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" A person should not need 5 hours per week for 5 weeks to learn how to use a parenthesis - regardless of experience. Likewise, a higher level class - say trigonometry - should not require 90 student-hours of schooling. "

I have to echo some of this sentiment. I spent three weeks at the start of my A-track Physics class in high-school (back when they had ability tracking) going over basic ALGEBRA to perform unit cancellation.

My reaction was to bring a newspaper to class, and read it ostentatiously. I was lucky enough to have a teacher who didn't just send me to the principal's office. We worked out a deal, where I did self-study in his supply closet. He took the extra time to grade work in chapters that he hadn't prepared for the class.

We owe a lot to our teachers, every one of us, even the teachers who set a negative example for us to avoid.

There are diminishing returns when attempting to elevate the bottom percentile of kids, and maybe we should leave some children behind. Of course that doesn't fit in with the PC "every kid is special and deserves the same opportunities" party line.

You can lead a kid to textbooks, but you can't make them think.

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towellman
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@ Jesse,
"Actually, the solution is being used. Americorps is offering competitive tutoring positions to college students, they work in elementary and secondary schools 15-20 hours a week, are paid seven dollars an hour, and upon completing a semester recieve a 1,300$ scholarship (in addition to their hourly wage)."

That's really cool, any more info about that program or links?

@ Everard,
Thanks for clarifying that bit about how Europeans and other countries (I know China does it BIG time and sometimes it's off to the farm) shunting their low performers off to tech schools skews their upper grade results. I do think that there is something to that system, though. I believe that many of the people who don't do well in the broad based American MS/HS education system could excel in a more hands on, focused setting. The problems with foreign systems is that the students don't make the choise, their scores do, and I don't think that they can switch back once they're on the tech training route. I certainly think it's something to consider when comparing performance as well as a way to improve our current system.

What if students interested in tech school training could start addending a community college after 10 and 1/2 grades provided they meet basic standards?

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Snowden
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quote:
What if students interested in tech school training could start attending a community college after 10 and 1/2 grades provided they meet basic standards?
I think that public education should be essentially useless. [Smile] It's for the sake of itself and our judgment. The problem I have with tech school is that I'm not eager to cut off education proper for the sake of training folk for a job that we could easily be shipping off to India in the next generation.

[ December 12, 2004, 01:51 AM: Message edited by: Snowden ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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Snowden -

Like being a Paramedic? [Smile]

--Firedrake

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Snowden
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In my experience, the difference between good and bad paramedics is not a matter of know-how, it's judgement. I think it's the same in quite a few fields. When I said that education should be useless, this is kind of what I meant.

[ December 12, 2004, 03:35 AM: Message edited by: Snowden ]

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Delirium Tremens
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quote:
Other industrialized nations aren't educating their entire populations. We are. European nations, for example, for the most part track out lower performing students during what, here, is middle school or early high school.
Everard, I think you're being a bit too negative about European tech schools. As it turns out, average performance tech school graduates have often better paid jobs than low-performing graduates of "general education". Who is going to fix that broken water-pipe or that short-circuit in a European house? - It will be one of those guys. Moreover, I already encountered more than one tech school graduate entering university and obtaining an engineering degree in electricity or construction.

And yes, history, literature, languages and sciences are educated as well - though in a lesser degree. The main difference with general education is that choices are made earlier on and that more hands-on training is done. It is true that once you enter tech school, it becomes difficult to switch, but that does not mean it becomes impossible or that you can't climb the ladder.

I do agree with you however, that it makes it very difficult to make comparisons with US schools.

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Everard
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"Where you are comparing us to the rest of the world and finding that we're doing pretty damn well, I am trying to compare the current system to human potential - and find that we come out poorly. A person should not need 5 hours per week for 5 weeks to learn how to use a parenthesis - regardless of experience. Likewise, a higher level class - say trigonometry - should not require 90 student-hours of schooling."

I'll agree with this. My earlier point was that I don't think there really is very much wasted time, and I think that, when you realize students learning trig are simultaneously learning British Literature, Chemistry, Spanish, American History, Nutrition, and probably involved on a sports team, or a school play, and possibly playing an instrument in the high school band... it DOES take 90 schooling hours to teach trig to a relevant standard.

Of course, the real answer to your question is tracking. Shouldn't we seperate out those students who need 45 hours to learn trig, from those who need 90 hours, so that the students who need 45 hours can go on to alegebra 2 with the second half of the time scheduled for trig?

Unfortunately, what we find is that tracking accelerates the already acclerated, while slowing down the previously slow, while the average student stays average. Untracked programs move everyone towards the mean. So the question becomes, do we leave some students behind, or deny some students their full potential?

Its a tricky question to answer.

Delerium-
You're right. I didn't mean to be disparaging to European education. I think that Europe's approach is a good one. Different then what I would prefer, but it is a good approach. It takes tracking to something of an extreme, and I have no problems with tracking programs.

My point, mostly, was that it makes comparisons difficult.

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WarrsawPact
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I say, leave students behind who won't take the incentives. You have to want to learn to succeed. Period. If you want to take the slwo route, you'll make that obvious.

However, we shuold specialize learning a bit more to the things peopel ARE interested in. I say, if you can do basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals), your interests in math should be goal-based from then on.

If you really want to learn about computers, we teach you all about them in a methodical fashion. You want to leanr about robotics? By streamlining your curriculum, we can get you there so that you can make your first robot REAL early. I've seen kids do amazing things when they can get right down to what they're interested in. Their interest drives them, they don't get lazy and stop turning in busywork. You make it clear that X and Y are what they MUST know to make the robot work, and they will perform. They WANT to perform.
And it would be so great if we were *really* teaching kids the skills they need to work in the new world, ever more technical and ever more information based.

I say, English and a conglomeration of social sciences centered around history and political science are the only subjects you should be forced to stay in for you entire school career. You have to be able to express complex thoughts and write a sentence. Being able to write an English sentence is quickly becoming the world's most valuable job skill. And you should be able to participate in the political process competently, at the very least. That means you need a bit of historical context and an understanding of what effect your political actions are having.

Unfortunately, it is difficult for soem and impossible for others to really leanr another language starting in middle school ro high school as most of our students are doing, and some would argue knowing a fireign language is a great skill. However, I just don't see the point in diluting the curriculum unless the parents request it. The world is learning English for a good reason. People in Europe use English as the common language for talking with extranationals for a reason. Medical journals, technical manuals, books, internet locales, all English-dominated (though a good deal of internet content is increasingly Chinese, it's not nearly so economically dominant). Air traffic control, worldwide, done in English. And I could go on.

Included in mandatory curriculum could be health (but not P.E.). Citizens mustn't have an excuse for not knowing how to take care of themselves, and we can't have people ignorant of where babies come from. This stuff is elementary and shouldn't take forever to teach.

From this point on, we should encourage dabblnig in different subjects to see what the kids are genuinely interested in, and be as flexible as possible should the kid decide maybe architecture isn't what excites him after all. Once they choose a path, though, they should be able to advance as quickly as their minds will take them. It's easy to get these kids to do something useful in the afterschool hours, so you can assign them some pretty heavy stuff. Soem of the best assignments I've ever gotten I got from teachers who saw my interest in soemthing was stoked and asked if I wanted to do a little extracurricular extra-credit assignment. One time this resulted in what my honors ethics teacher called a "mind-blowing" session on determinism and free will where I taught the class and had some of the most stimulating conversation of the semester.

There is a huge downside to my plan, but it also has an upside: it's highly personnel-intensive. It means having teachers who give a damn and who engage students constantly, and are growth-oriented.
The upside to this is that there are countless professionals out there who would love nothing more than to teach a large body of students who actually cared to be there. A kid wants to learn about robotics? Great! Tell him what classes he needs to take and get him connected with the specific resources needed before he can engage someone who's actually IN robotics. Then his projects can be to build simple robots and as time goes on increase the complexity of their operations, learn more expert programming and materials information, and make them do something useful?

Think this process would cost too much money? Consider what an 18-year-old kid with a ready-made background can make starting in such a highly specialized field. Otherwise the kid might spend another four to six years doing some service job to pay his way through classes not even tangentially connected to his future role in society.
Imagine if the kid was already connected with people working in the field of his choice when he graduated high school, already reading journals in his field, and already knew about the business end of his future job.
Kids can learn a lot more early on than they can in their twenties. They can absorb a lot of knowledge when they care about it. You can't force 98% of kids to care about every subject they take, so you're wasting a large body of their time between classes and busywork homework.

Think it would be too hard for a kid to switch roles suddenly? I've gone from being interested in paleontology to astronomy to architecture to engineering to history to political science to economics over the years, and I've retaiend information from each of those fields yet been able to engross myself on those subjects largely without help from my school. Imagine if I'd had school support on each of thos,e telling me about details of each of those subjects and encouraging me to learn about the things that made those subjects tick, focusing me.

Instead I got a lot of information that I know for a fact I will never use in my future profession(s).

Why not get kids started early in these professions, and if they choose to change career paths so mcu hthat they're in a totally different field, we support them going back to school to focus entirely on their new subject of choice? We'd be wasting a lot less of their time in their early potentially productive years wasted flipping burgers and bagging groceries (as I still do).

Why waste their time on field trips and mandatory classes based around subjects they loathe? They're not going to *learn* nearly as much as they would if their field trip was based around their own subject of choice.

It would be easy to see if a kid wasn't cut out for a particular subject: he'd get bored, his performace would drop, and perhaps he'd start acting interested in something else. The school's job would be to recognize this and make adjustments: are the classes not relevant in the child's mind? Has the student's interest changed to other subjects? If so, let's stop wasting the kid's (and the instructor's) time and effort.

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Everard
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"I say, leave students behind who won't take the incentives. You have to want to learn to succeed. Period. If you want to take the slwo route, you'll make that obvious"

Unfortunately, this is a step to an institutionalized class system.

I also disagree completely with the underlying assumption of the post that education should be about economic productivity.

Edit: Sorry for teh short reply. Its bed time.

[ December 12, 2004, 11:34 PM: Message edited by: Everard ]

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