Cash for Education Clunkers

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Explaining why American grade-school students can’t master simple fractions, one math professor confessed: “Part of the reason the kids don’t know it is because the teachers aren’t transmitting that.” Instead, they’ve ditched “drill and kill” — otherwise known as the basics — for costly educational fads ranging from “Mayan Math” to “Everyday Math” that substitute art, self-esteem and multiculturalism for the fundamentals of computation.

— Among the supposedly cutting-edge programs funded by Obama’s federal stimulus program is the $49 million technology initiative for the Detroit Public Schools. The urban school system is overrun by corruption, violence and incompetence. The teachers union sabotaged classroom instruction and denied schoolchildren an education through an apparent illegal work stoppage. Yet, Washington went ahead and forked over a whopping $530 million in federal porkulus funds to reward yet more Detroit government school failure and bail out the reckless-spending boobs who mismanaged the DPS budget and engineered a fiscal crisis. The $49 million technology program distributed some 40,000 new (foreign-made) ASUS netbook computers, plus thousands of printers, scanners and desktop computers to teachers and kids from early childhood through 12th grade.

One teacher was caught late last year trying to pawn his shiny new booty. No doubt, he has company. Nationwide, in both urban and rural school districts, large and small, these technology infusions have turned out to be gesture-driven boondoggles and political payoffs that squander precious educational resources — with little, if any, measurable academic benefits. Mark Lawson, school board president of one of New York state’s first districts to put technology directly in students’ hands, told The New York Times in 2007: “After seven years, there was literally no evidence it had any impact on student achievement — none. The teachers were telling us when there’s a one-to-one relationship between the student and the laptop, the box gets in the way. It’s a distraction to the educational process.”

That about sums up federal intervention in public schooling: It’s a taxpayer-subsidized distraction to the local educational process that throttles true competition, rewards failure and mistakes blind government largesse for achievement.

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  • USMCSniper

    According to Dr Walter Williams; Teachers who are preaching instead of teaching might go a long way toward explaining why in civics, math, reading, writing and geography, nearly a quarter of all students leave high school with academic skills that are "Below Basic," the category the National Assessment of Educational Progress uses for students unable to display even partial mastery of knowledge and skills fundamental for proficient work at their grade level. In science, 47 percent leave high school with skills Below Basic, and in American history, it's 57 percent. How do we fix this? Admit that public education at all levels based on dismal results and outrageous costs ($10,000 average per student in elementary and high schools and at $30,000+ at the college level) so by any objective criteria itis a collossal failure. The only way to make any major improvement in the educational system is through privatization to the point at which a substantial fraction – meaning the majority of all educational services are rendered to individuals by private enterprises. Nothing else will destroy or even greatly weaken the power of the current dismal educational establishment —and force them to improve

    • Jim C.

      I would amend your solution simply to say that all schools should charge some sort of tuition.

      If you want a private education for your child you have always been free to choose to do so. Personally I think investing in public education is at least as important as defense and infrastructure.

      • sflbib

        You are arguing education vs no education when that is not the issue at all. The issue is whether to continue throwing an increasing amount of money down a rat hole or fix it. While basics suffer, there always seems to be plenty of money to indoctrinate students into Leftist mumbo-jumbo, as documented here: http://www.amren.com/mtnews/archives/2011/01/hump

        • scum

          Uh, OK, where do I start? First, is there no 'Rightist' mumbo jumbo? Second, your link is actually a JARED TAYLOR article. Taylor is the head of the New Century Foundation and American Renaissance, both of which are what one might call 'politically correct white supremacy' organizations. Hardly a model for the 'unbiased' education you so crave. Even Horowitz, cut from a similar cloth, has critiqued Taylor for being extreme (although David lost the debate). Finally, Derrida is a PHILOSOPHER, and Lacan a PSYCHIATRIST. Neither is an historian. I could go on, but why bother??

          • sflbib

            Re: “First, is there no 'Rightist' mumbo jumbo? Second, your link is actually a JARED TAYLOR article. Taylor is the head of the New Century Foundation and American Renaissance, both of which are what one might call 'politically correct white supremacy' organizations. Hardly a model for the 'unbiased' education you so crave. Even Horowitz, cut from a similar cloth, has critiqued Taylor for being extreme (although David lost the debate). Finally, Derrida is a PHILOSOPHER, and Lacan a PSYCHIATRIST. Neither is an historian.”

            Can you give an example of what you consider 'Rightist' mumbo-jumbo? And even if you could, I think this is the tu quoque fallacy; how would the existence of 'Rightist' mumbo-jumbo make Leftist mumbo-jumbo less illogical?

            Ah, the inevitable ad hominem. Even if Taylor is a racist, so what? How does that affect his objectivity in his criticism of the current teaching of history? He is essentially saying that public education has been dumbed down. In this he is hardly unique, as the public education system has been controlled by Leftist radical egalitarianism for decades, as test scores and this quote illustrate: "‘All students should be treated equally,’ Latino parents said in a letter to the board and district administrators. ‘WE BELIEVE THAT THE SCHOOL SHOULD NOT CREATE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN STUDENTS WHO KNOW MORE AND STUDENTS WHO KNOW LESS.’" [Emphasis added] http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/education/2005

            From Taylor’s article

            Re: “Prof. Derrida, one of the original high priests, has even said that clear writing is the sign of a reactionary.”

            This is nothing more than snobbery, á là, “Great people are often misunderstood. If I am misunderstood, then I’m great.” With a not insubstantial stretch of the imagination, Derrida might be thought of as a philosopher, but his ideas have caught on in the education system, and THAT’S what Taylor is criticizing, NOT claiming he’s a historian. Consider the Leftist mumbo-jumbo claim that “facts are fundamentally unknowable.” If this is true, then that “facts are fundamentally unknowable” is itself unknowable. This is tantamount to saying that ultimately we cannot know anything. So why do we pay teachers to teach if nothing is knowable? Fire them all and burn down the school buildings, and you will immediately see an improvement in education, for students who know nothing are smarter than those who have been filled with lies and misrepresentations.

            Re: “FACTS, TO THE EXTENT THAT THEY ARE EVEN KNOWABLE, ARE OF NO INTEREST UNLESS THEY FIT THE THEORY.” [Emphasis added]

            Here is where Taylor makes the rubber meet the road. To the Leftist, ideology isn’t rejected when it conflicts with truth; truth is rejected when it conflicts with ideology. That’s why we have the idea that truth doesn’t exist. Let me adapt a lesson that Bishop Fulton Sheen once used on his TV program. If I asked a logical person, “Where are your sox?”, he would turn to reality for his answer and say, “They are in my dresser drawer.” But ask a Leftist, and his reply would be, “Wherever the Party says they are.”

            Then we have one of the ultimate absurdities of Leftist mumbo-jumbo:

            “no culture, knowledge, or point of view is absolute. No one may criticize anyone else’s myths, histories, or ‘ways of knowing’. What is true depends on who is saying what to whom.”

            So let me state that what you say might be true for you, but it is not true for me.

            I fail to see the racism in Taylor’s article. It is particularly ironic that you accuse Taylor of racism when it is THE LEFT that has introduced its obsession with race as a factor in everything wrong:

            “Perhaps the purest expression of relativism – held, apparently, by only a hardy few – is to claim that science itself is just another white man’s prejudice…”

            How can you get any more racist than that? You are a typical Leftist who can find racism under a rock, except when it is against white European males. And that’s my truth.

            P.S. You didn’t even address my statement that you are arguing education vs no education when that is not the issue at all.

  • Jim C.

    I would love to see the math textbook that does not teach math but self-esteem. Conservatives make this stuff up.

    My kids understand math because it is ultimately MY job as a parent to make sure they do. There is no kid in America whose parent/s are involved who is failing the basics at school. The teacher's job is to teach and help; it is the PARENT'S job to make sure the kid is learning. If schools are failing, the single biggest reason is because the parents have failed.

    • Wideband

      and so the reason to throw more money to the school systems is…?

      • Jim C.

        …administrators need to pad out their retirement packages?

        If we are debating the effectiveness of teachers, I'm in the teachers corner all the way. They're like cops and nurses–they see everybody, they have to deal with everybody, and they get little credit whenever they go above and beyond, which they do frequently.

        However if we are debating cost effectiveness…I'm all ears. I would be open to abolishing, or severely shrinking, the Dept. of Ed. if that's what it takes.

        • Wideband

          I'm pretty sure that cost effectiveness is what the article was all about, along with Obamas apparent belief that "investing" more money in education is all it will take to fix what is wrong. He sure didn't talk about spending smarter, or reducing the beurocracy.

    • Concerned American

      Jim:
      You're essentially homeschooling your children, then. Why even send them to government schools if you, as the parent, have taken on the responsibility "to make sure the kid is learning." That's what you pay teachers, through your taxes, to do.

      According to my professor in "Methods of Teaching Secondary Students": "If the students don't learn, the teacher has to own it." You have let your local educational system and your child's teachers off the hook and made yourself responsible for your child's education.

      As you indicated "The teacher's job is to teach and help," but that is only part of the equation. The teacher is also supposed to evaluate how well the student is learning and take corrective action if a student is having difficulty. Part of that corrective action might include parental involvement.

      Certainly parental involvement in the education of their children is extremely important, but if the parents are essentially responsible for their child's learning, the school system (administrators and teachers) has failed the student.

      • Jim C.

        Your professor is right, but just as an effective teacher will evaluate and correct the student, the parent must in effect do the same, with an eye toward the school. What I said was "ultimately" I am responsible for my kid's education, and that includes determining whether or not my child is performing to the best of his abilities, and whether he is progressing, and whether the school is providing an appropriate environment. A big part of the problem with government schools is that they are taken for granted (which doesn't happen when you pay tuition).

        • scum

          Parents have to be involved. Every study points to the absolutely critical role of the family in helping children learn. The most recent study, NOT SURPRISINGLY, tells us: the more books in a house, and the more the parents read, the larger the child's lexicon at an early age. To cast every stone at every teacher is completely bogus. I know teachers who work their ass off, inspire 20 kids everyday, put up with b>>llsh>>t, and get paid $35,000 for doing it. Why isn't Malkin going after 'conservative' unions: POLICE/FIRE. Many low-level police make well over 6 figures after overtime.

  • USMCSniper

    When every call for fundamental change in American education is rebutted not by arguments about student achievement but by arguments focusing on race, class, social mixing, and other social concerns, it is difficult to imagine real progress. When teachers spend much of their day filling out forms, teaching quasi-academic subjects mandated from above, and boosting student self-esteem (as contrasted with self-respect, which is earned rather than worked up), learning is difficult if not impossible.”

  • USMCSniper

    Here is where your investment in public education goes. In 2007, the Wayne Township School Board and then-Superintendent Terry Thompson agreed to a renegotiated contract that provided a generous retirement package for whenever Thompson decided to step down. But it wasn't until this month that board members realized just how lucrative that deal was, to the tune of more than $1 million. Thompson, 64, who retired in December after 15 years with the district, already has received more than $800,000 of his retirement deal, which included a year's base pay at more than $225,000, as well as contract provisions that kicked in hundreds of thousands more. But that's not all. The contract also created the position of superintendent emeritus — a position that has been paying Thompson $1,352 a day since his retirement to advise his successor, among other duties. That amount, over the 150 days laid out in the contract, would pay him more than $200,000 — bringing the total to more than $1 million. And he gets his TIAA teachers retirement monthly.

    • scum

      Here, for the first time ever I think, I agree mostly with the Snipe. Many high level administrators are overpaid. I agree with that. But blame isn't on 'one party' or 'liberals', but rather the lack of oversight on the part of the board or taxpayers. For instance, why didn't the board bother to find out about Thompson's package? That is shockingly incompetent. But in any event, it shows the 'class' structure of the system, where many teachers are underpaid, while the Terry Thompson's rake it in.

  • Jim

    Every election speeches are made by WTFers about improving education and every year according to the next speech maker claims education has never been worse. And the all want to spend more money.

  • sflbib

    All we need do is to intitutionalize the

    "Politically Correct SAT"

    Choose the best answer:

    1. History:

    O.J. Simpson was best known for:

    a. Basketball
    b. Football
    c. Commercials
    d. Law

    2. Math:

    How many black-eyed peas does you mother traditionally cook on New Year's Day?

    a. 1,365,000
    b. 365
    c. 1,000
    d. 0 (None)

    3. Biology:

    What are chit'lins?

    a. Insects
    b.Pork intestines
    c.Fried chicken
    d. None of the above

    4.Geometry: Choose the one that doesn't belong:

    a. Football
    b. Book
    c. Baseball
    d. Basketball

    5. Botany:

    Do you like collard greens?

    a. Yes
    b. No
    c. Not sure

    d. Nolo contendere

    6. Logic:
    Grits are best with (A) butter; (B) salt; (C) sugar:

    a. A*B
    b. A + B
    c. A*B + C
    d. A + B + C

    7. Language:

    The term "wuff tickets" refers to

    a. Tickets to Wolf Trapp
    b. A rumble
    c. Traffic fine
    d. None of the above

    8. Law:

    What is the maximum punishment for grand theft auto (first offense, no prior record)?

    a. 1 year in jail
    b. Probation
    c. 5 years in prison
    d. None

    9. Geography:

    On the city map provided, indicate the location of your local shooting gallery.

    10. Grammar:

    Punctuate the following sentence:

    Fun fun fun fun fun fun leave town.

    11. Civics:

    If Ms. “A” has three illegitimate children and collects $410 per month in welfare, and Ms. “B” has four illegitimate children and collects $560 per month in welfare, what government agency should Ms. “A” contact?

    a. Unemployment office
    b. Legal Aid
    d. Planned Parenthood
    d. EEO

    12. Humanities:

    What is the threshold of pain for Soul Rock?

    a. 30 dB
    b. 56 dB
    c. 28 dB
    d. There is none.

    13. Physics:

    If a basketball is dropped from a height of 10 ft. and it bounces back to a height of 7 ft., what is its coefficient of restitution?

    14. Chemistry:

    The best high is obtained from

    a. Grass
    b. Horse
    c. Coke
    d. Uppers

    15. Home economics:

    Give your recipe for fried chicken.

    • scum

      OK, I'm not sure how sflbib was allowed to publish such a long piece of absolute garbage, but in any event it seems telling that no one has yet called him out. Why do I have to be the first to point out that this prick is wearing blackface?

      • sflbib

        "Why do I have to be the first to point out that this prick is wearing blackface?"

        I dunno. Maybe because you don't appreciate satire?

  • Lady_dr

    ABOLISH the Department of Education and turn all government involvement, at all levels, over to the states – this is the Constitutional answer to the problem.

    In a few years time some states will emerge with great ideas which can be copied by others who chose a less successful plan. AND/OR people will leave the states with bad educational systems in droves to go those with good ones. AND/OR people will be demanding that their state follow one of the better models.

    A benefit of all this will be that billions will be saved by more direct funding of education (thereby creating massive unemployment among middle-class "education experts in Washington – but who cares). Parents, teachers, etc. will have more imput and I will not be paying taxes to support teaching small children more about sex than they are willing, able, or interested in understanding. Because believe me I am not going to live in a state which has that on the education menu.

  • ebonystone

    It's also important to get the federal courts out of the business of running the schools. Here's the Cato Institute's Cato Policy Analysis #298, by Paul Ciotti

    Executive Summary

    For decades critics of the public schools have been saying, "You can't solve educational problems by throwing money at them." The education establishment and its supporters have replied, "No one's ever tried." In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it. [cont'd]

  • ebonystone

    Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers' salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country. The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration. The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can't be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement. [cont'd]

  • ebonystone

    The Kansas City Story

    In 1985 a federal district judge took partial control over the troubled Kansas City, Missouri, School District (KCMSD) on the grounds that it was an unconstitutionally segregated district with dilapidated facilities and students who performed poorly. In an effort to bring the district into compliance with his liberal interpretation of federal law, the judge ordered the state and district to spend nearly $2 billion over the next 12 years to build new schools, integrate classrooms, and bring student test scores up to national norms.

    It didn't work. When the judge, in March 1997, finally agreed to let the state stop making desegregation payments to the district after 1999, there was little to show for all the money spent. Although the students enjoyed perhaps the best school facilities in the country, the percentage of black students in the largely black district had continued to increase, black students' achievement hadn't improved at all, and the black-white achievement gap was unchanged. [cont'd]

  • ebonystone

    The situation in Kansas City was both a major embarrassment and an ideological setback for supporters of increased funding for public schools. From the beginning, the designers of the district's desegregation and education plan openly touted it as a controlled experiment that, once and for all, would test two radically different philosophies of education. For decades critics of public schools had been saying, "You can't solve educational problems by throwing money at them." Educators and advocates of public schools, on the other hand, had always responded by saying, "No one's ever tried."

    In Kansas City they did try. A sympathetic federal judge invited district educators literally to "dream"–forget about cost, let their imaginations soar, put together a list of everything they might possibly need to increase the achievement of inner-city blacks–and he, using the extraordinarily broad powers granted judges in school desegregation cases, would find a way to pay for it. [cont'd]

  • ebonystone

    By the time the judge took himself off the case in the spring of 1997, it was clear to nearly everyone, including the judge, that the experiment hadn't worked. Even so, some advocates of increased spending on public schools were still arguing that Kansas City's only problem was that it never got enough money or had enough time. But money was never the issue in Kansas City. The KCMSD got more money per pupil than any of 280 other major school districts in the country, and it got it for more than a decade. The real issues went way beyond mere funding. Unfortunately, given the current structure of public education in America, they were a lot more intractable, too.

    It's worth reading the whole Cato article.

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