Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Utah Educational Savings Plan

I don't know what to do on this one.

The The Utah Educational Savings Plan encourages people to save for college. I agree with this message wholeheartedly. The program is administered by a political group (The Utah Board of Regents) as such it gives special 529 tax savings. Basically, you don't have to pay capital gains tax on profits from the investment if you use the investment for education.

It looks like the money will actually be invested with the multi billion dollar Vanguard Group investment funds. The UESP web site brags that they have already transferred over $2 billion in savings from smaller independent banks or independently owned stock to the massive Vanguard Investment group.

I love the message that people should save for college. The site tears my heart apart, however, because it is using special tax breaks to transfer savings from the financial instruments of the family's choice to one of these mixed government/private sector investment schemes.

It is like so many of the bastardized plans that come out of the government. I love the intention but see the implementation as something that does great harm.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Finding the Best School

I think there is some misunderstanding of which school is best for which student. Way back in the day, I met a person researching the issue and he explained that things were the reverse of what people typically think. The top students do best in public schools, Middlesome students do best in private schools. Special needs students tend to do better in public schools as well.

The reason for this has to do with the source of the income. Public schools are publically funded, which means that the teachers get to choose where to allocate their time and attention. Teachers tend to take to the extremes. Those teachers who love their subject will choose favorites from the bright motivated students in the class interested in the subject.

Those teachers motivated by charitable desires divert attention toward the special needs students. In many schools, average Joe student sits there and languishes. Students who are a bit rowdy are diagnosed with ADHD, given some pills to pop so that they will languish without disturbing the teacher.

The funding for private school comes from the parent's pocket. With parents as the customer, it is much more difficult to divert resources from student A to student B. The customer is much more attentive to any favoratism.

If your kid is super motivated and skilled at taking advantage of the resources offered, then they should go to public schools. The public schools have the deep pocket of the taxpayet to provide better quality resources. As I understand, more doctors and lawyers come from public schools.

If your kid has a hard time being motivated, they are better served by the private school that is trying to deliver a given product.

Special needs kids generally do better in public schools. Again, it is the matter that the public school is able to divert resources from the middle to administer the needs of the ends. Private schools are not in a position to divert resources from other kids to handle the special needs kids.

They do okay when the extra cost of handling special needs kids is figured in the price.

In a public school, the money comes from the government and it up to the students and teachers in a political process to decide how it gets spent. It is not uncommon to see $8k being allocated per student with some kids getting a $20k education and those in the middle getting short changed with a $3k education.

The private school, might get $5k per student, but it is not able to divert those resources either up or down. The middle students get short changed some, but not to the extent that would happen in a public school.

The student that is best served by the public school is your typical unmotivated teen from a middle or lower income family. Well educated parents who know how to use the system are better off sending their kids to the public school, then switching to private only if they have problems with the school.

The contrast of this article was written in broad strokes. Private schools tend to follow a business plan where they write a business model and design the education as product. A private school designed for special needs kids will rock. One just trying to give an education will have a hard time with the special needs kids. A private school dedicated to teaching the next generation of doctors will produce doctors. However, your run of the mill private school simply won't have the resources of a big public school.

In my ideal education system, I would want students to be able to get the resources that best suit their needs. That means a diverse education system with schools of different payment structures and interests. If a student isn't finding what they need at their current school, they should be able to move on.

The public schools, like other leftwing controlled institutions, have the nasty habit of playing the ends against the middle.

My ideal system is one where the schools design the product, and the students seek out the product that will help them develop and achieve positive goals.

Added 10/30/2007: Chicago University Report says Catholic Schools work in inner cities.

New Photos

Bridge on the MoveI took another round of photos of the 4500 South Bridge Construction. It was really cool. About a thousand people showed up to watch a bridge put into place. They used massive hydraulic moving equipment to move the old bridge out of the way and the new bridge in place.

Construction CrowdCrowds lined Wasatch Boulevard, I215, the Churchill Junior High field and Olympus Hills Park.

Liberty Park PondI get a large number of hits on the Liberty Park gallery; so I took a few new pictures of that park. Last week, I took some pictures of the Trax Construction at the Gateway Plaza.

Granite Education CenterI also decided to do a walk around the new Granite School District Offices. As you can see, the Utah Public school system is really hurting for money. The district bosses have to work in substandard conditions. There are some who make under $100,000 a year!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Mormon Schools

Natalie R. Collins reports that, at her daughter's junior high, the active Mormons play a game where they dress special on a given day. The result of the game is that is easy to vet out which kids are Mormon and which are not.

I lead in with this simply to note that, in Utah, things are different.

As my college professors would put it: the Mormons have hegemony in this state.

Traveling around the state, you will find an LDS Seminary adjacent to just about every public school. Utah law allows generous off campus privileges so that students can attend classes in the seminary. When I was in school, Utah graduation requirements were a bit easier than most states to free up time so the kids could go to seminary.

The Utah school paradox is that, although Utah has a strongly religious population, Utah also has the highest percentage of students that go to public schools.

The reason for this is obvious. In Utah, the public school system is essentially the Mormon parochial school system. Looking through the list of private schools, you just don't find a category of Mormon schools.

It is my observation that the LDS world view is very much driven by community. When you move into an area, you are expected to go to the ward for the area, and that your children will go to the public school in the area. I get the feeling that most Mormons really aren't keen on uppity people who go to private schools.

As the LDS have hegemony in the public schools, a sizeable portion of the private school population is non-Mormon families trying to get their children into a more secular environment.

At this point in time, the primary beneficiary of the voucher law will be non-Mormon kids from lower income levels who feel alienated being in a Mormon dominated public school, but can't afford a way out.

A few critics of the voucher proposal seem to be positioning the voucher issue as an effort of rightwing Mormons to pull their students from the public school system. I really don't see this. The Mormons I know are all very content with their kids going to the neighborhood church and the neighborhood public school. The seminary is positioned to counter any anti-Mormon bias of the secular school.

Here, I should note that I am a cynical b-tard who thinks the LDS Church writes all Utah legislation then sends it to the legislature for a rubber stamp. However, as the vouchers are not advantageous to LDS Church (they will still continue to use and dominate the public schools) I don't buy this argument.

I've toyed with the idea that the LDS Church wants to get into the private school business, and that the voucher issue is a way to get the Utah taxpayer's to fund the creation of a new Mormon owned school system. If this were the case, then I think we would be seeing Mormon schools popping up throughout the state. I don't see this happening.

In my lifetime, the LDS Church has divested itself of many of its businesses including its chain of department stores, its hospitals and some of its financial institutions.

The best I can come to a nefarious motivation on the voucher law is that the Utah Republican majority wants Utah to be a leader on national conservative issues. Passing the vouchers increases the states credentials as a center of conservative thought. The motivation is that the Mormons want to ease up on their local hegemony so that they can play a braoder role in the world of ideas. This motivation would make Dr. Evil yawn.

When I was in the U of U's education department, I was taught to see everything as great hegemonic battles. The idea is that, for society to progress, all socio-economic actions must be placed in the context of a class struggle. We can find such struggle in Mormon history. In early Mormon history, it appears the LDS Church was set on finding an area that they could dominate, politically, socially and culturally.

In the last half century, though, the LDS Church seems much more interested in its role as an international organization, and less on the desire to dominate the local scene.

If anything, I think the LDS Church wants to promote Utah as a meeting place of religions. This last half century has seen the construction of Mosques, Hindu Temples and Synagogues and that there is an authentic desire to have a diversity of schools and diversity of religious thought in the valley. Some of these efforts have received direct support from the LDS Church.

As for the motivation of the political leadership in the state, I think they are driven primarily by economic concerns. The fact that Utah has the highest percentage of its work force coming from the same cookie cutter public schools means that we lack the diversity of thought of other economic hubs. The lack of private schools makes it hard to attract businesses to the state.

Regardless, I can find no reason to characterize the voucher proposal as some sort of "Mormon-thing" as the LDS Church is not a primary benefactor of the proposal. Non-Mormons are more likely to use the vouchers than Mormons. The idea really seems to be propelled by the belief that diversity in schools will lead to better education for all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Competition in Schools

If you are opposed to vouchers; one of the best ways to sway the popular vote to your side is simply to inject the word "competition" into the conversation as many times as possible. This is the technique used in the Voucher Debate on Comcast on Demand.

I couldn't find a link to the program. I watched it at a house that had Comcast On Demand, but didn't have a note pad handy. I suspect it was the 9/27/2007 Hinckley Forum Debate between Carol Spackman and Richard Eyre. I could be wrong.

Praising competition as the foundation of the free market makes one seem open minded and balanced, while making the free market seemed closed minded, harsh and distant. As I argued in my last post this is nothing more than a chimera.

Education is primarily a nurturing activity. It is not a competitive activity. Most people have bad memories of grade competition. They want a system of education where their children learn, and not one where they claw at each other in some sort of graded arena for the teacher's attention.

If ten kids entered a math class based entirely on competition. You are likely to end up with two pretentious twits who are okay at math but whose egos are tied around the subject in a distorted way. The other eight would spend their lives thinking that they were "stupid at math."

Parents do not want this for their kids. They want their children in nurturing environments where the students learn.

Carol Spackman clearly won the debate because she spouted the word competition until the single word rang above all other arguments. She even pulled a theatrical stunt where she babbled about competition until her eyes rolled back. I am sure that this technique polled well.

If you are for vouchers, you have to emphasize that freedom, not competition, is the foundation of the free market. The reason that private education is able to do more with less is that, when a family has the freedom to choose their school, they are in a position to create a deeper more cooperative relation with the school. When there is freedom of choice, people are able to create more substantive forms of cooperation than one where the child's education is left to the dictates of a bureaucracy.

Competition and cooperation are complementary elements of life. What parents and students want are schools that cooperate with the family in achieving a quality education for the child. The voucher system does this by creating an structure where schools compete for students. These schools compete by showing who can be the most cooperative with the parent and child.

Carol Spackman spoke proudly of all the competitions that students have to endure in public schools. The competitions, however, are between the students. The NEA would not abide by competitions between the teachers.

The public schools structure is one that nurtures the teachers, but throws the students in a competitive environment where they most compete for the school's resources or diminish.

The private school system is one where the schools compete for students. It means the competition takes place among the schools. This competition is one where mediocre schools fail. That is, schools which aren't able to create an environment where their students excel fall to the wayside. As the free market is able to absorbed failed teachers in other occupations, this is more acceptable to the public school system which forces the failure onto the students.

Teaching Companies

My favorite subject is teaching companies.

The voucher and charter systems create competition among schools. The teaching company structure would go one level deeper and create direct competition between classrooms. There would be a competition among companies about who could teach subject XXX best.

I bring up teaching companies as they show an interesting dynamic about how things could work in a fully open education structure. A teaching company cooperates with the school to provide quality courses to the students. They cooperate with the students in the learning process. There would be a competition between the teaching companies on how well they cooperate with the students and school. A teaching company that is not able to adapt its course to a given school is likely to lose that contract. A teaching company that is not able cooperate with the students in the learning process is apt to raise the ire of students, and put the teaching contract in question.

Lets say you have a successful teaching company in a school that is failing, the structure would allow the successful of the school to quickly migrate to a new market when the school goes under.

Cooperation and competition are complementary ideas. An open education market would creates a structure where the competition exists among the providers, and it creates a structure that is most nurturing for the students. The closed system of the public schools creates a structure that is nurturing for the teachers, but leaves the students in a base competition for the school's resources. A few students excel in this environment. Most languish. We can judge the high fail rate of the public schools by the large number of people who come out of the schools with a less than adequate education and languish in dysfunctional lives.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Competitively Cooperative

The modern mind has a strange compulsion for making side issues foundational. Early in this blog I discussed how unity is not foundational. Most people who are calling for unity usually have an enemy in mind that they wish to unite people against. The people calling for unity are actually trying to create an even greater division.

The hegemony argument is another example of people making a side issue foundational. Hegemony has value as a descriptor. But when you make achieving hegemony the primary concern of a system, you change the nature of the system.

Another example of the modern tendency to make side issues foundational is the over emphasis of the role of competition in the free market.

Freedom is the foundation of the free market. The ideal of the free market is that the individual has the ability to invest their time and resources as they see fit.

You can prove that competition is not foundational simply by looking at the way people behave when they have freedom. When people are free, they end up engaging in a mix of both cooperative and competitive activities.

Looking through the table of contents of The Wealth of Nations we see that Adam Smith spends most of his time talking about issues such as the division of labor, rents, the division of stock. All of these issues deal with mechanisms of cooperation in the free market.

Cooperation and competition are complementary forces. The terms serve as valuable descriptors, but people err when they say competition is the foundation of the free market.

The Market as Organized Cooperation

When you get down to the brass tacks, you will find that all financial transactions are cooperative in nature. When you hire on with an employer, you are not engaged in competition with the employer. You are actually making a contract to cooperate with the employer. When you buy food from the local market, you are engaged in a well orchestrated cooperative effort to bring food from the fields to your family.

In most cases, the primary factor in choosing a service is how well the service provider cooperates with you. Service providers compete by their willingness to cooperate.

The Opposite of What You Expect

When you create a system that overemphasizes one side of a complementary force, you often end up with the opposite effect than you intended. The street preacher agitating for unity against his foe causes greater division despite his illusion that he is a unifier. Peace activists who make unjust compromises in a short cut to peace might accidentally lay the foundations for a worse war. A warmonger might accidentally lay the foundation for peace when people listening to his agitations realize that they must address an issue or go to war. As we live in a fluid universe, it is not uncommon for actions to have the opposite effect than intended.

My observation is that systems that overemphasize competition tend to create less competition. When you overemphasize competition in the market, people develop the illusion that they must be big to compete. Look at the current marketplace. You will often see profitable businesses merging simply because their owners feel that they must be big to compete. I've seen many people fail to go into businesses simply because they felt that they weren't big enough or emotionally equipped to compete. When businesses merge, or people fail to enter the market, there is less competition.

Even worse, when people are driven by competition they are apt to undertake anti-market activities to undermine competitors. When you look at the dynamics small towns, you will often find a small number of leading merchants monopolizing main street.

Conversely, emphasizing cooperation has a strange habit of creating more competition.

Most successful small businesses are formed by people who wish to cooperate to achieve a specific end. Let's say a manufacturer needs a new and improved widget to go in their device. When the designers' thoughts are dominated by ideas of competition, they are likely to try and develop the widget internally. A designer who sees the market as inherently cooperative is more open to seeing the widget developed in cooperation with a third party.

The stock exchange is a good example of cooperation. In a stock exchange, people cooperate in forming a market to trade goods. The people in this market are keenly interested in having a diversity of stock to trade. Investors will actively seek out the creation of business so they have something to trade.

Affiliate marketing is an example of cooperation the internet. Affiliate marketing is a system where web sites form cooperative relations with merchants to sell products. Affiliate marketing has drawn a large number of small web sites and small merchants into the online market. Many of these companies would not have existed if not for the cooperative nature of affiliate marketing.

Crass Commercial Intrusion: My attempt at affiliate marketing makes about $200.00 a year. I understand that people who know what they are doing can make a living from the market. My problem is that I am more interested in things from a conceptual level than from an implementation level.

Sadly, people who are driven by competition feel that they must dominate the market and engage in activities specifically designed to undermine the affiliate market. I would not be surprised if affiliate marketing completely vanished in the next couple of years as the major players lock all of the small players out of the system.

Internalizing the Division of Labor

Adam Smith's observation is that the division of labor seems to happen naturally. People want to concentrate on one aspect of the market. A farmer might concentrate on the quality of his crop. The delivery driver would concentrate on the efficiency of his delivery operation. These people would form an informal cooperative network. This division of labor happens naturally.

When you overemphasize competition and de-emphasize cooperation, you end up creating these megacorporations that try to internalize the entire division of labor related to the production of a specific good. If our economic theorists and socio-economic structures were to emphasized cooperation, I think we would start seeing a break up of the mega-corporations as business leaders struggled to create nimbler business structures that were better suited for cooperating dynamic, multidimensional market.

Political Systems

You will notice that I used the word "might" and not "must" in the above sections. Cooperation and competition are simply complementary terms. A politician who takes steps to increase competition may or may not increase competition. Since there is a monopoly in education, it is likely that the Utah Voucher proposal would increase competition. Other subsidy programs designed to spur competition (e.g. farm subsidies) appear to simply give an economic edge to those farmers with the inside connections or the legal expertise to get the subsidies. These insiders use their competitive edge to drive the other farmers out of business, reducing competition.

Neither competition nor cooperation is foundational to the free market. Freedom is the foundation. Since neither cooperation or competition are foundational, politicians and economic theorist are ill advised to create policies that treat the issues as foundational.

Politicians who are interested in seeing the free market succeed should pay attention to how their policies affect the freedom of the people and not on peripheral issues. The disappearance of competition or cooperation in a market might be an indicator of an imbalanced market. Direct political efforts to spur competition are likely to created unintended consequences.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Argument Fails in Both Directions

In the build up to the Patreus Report, terrorists in Iraq killed a large number of people in hopes of influencing the reaction to the report. I argued that the left would make a mistake if they cited the spike in casualties in their arguments for ending the war.

For that matter, I noticed that most Democrats recognized the trap and avoided citing the atrocities despite the fact the spike supported their case. I applaud those who showed sense and restraint.

When you push radical theory to its natural conclusion, killing people is nothing more than a statement in a propaganda war.

Predictably, there's been a slight drop off in casualty statistics after the report. I've heard several conservative pundits trying to say that this drop off in casualties is proof that the surge is working. This is also a mistake. If one ignores the spike, the baseline of unrest is still high.

The casualty spike occurred to influence the Patreus report. Using the down end of the spike to argue the surge worked is as much a fallacy as it was to argue the up end of the spike prived the surge worked.

All the spike tells us is that terrorists have bought into the world view that sees killing large numbers of people as a political statement in a class struggle.

It is this world view that is the enemy.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hegemony in Education

Who can forget the inspiring figure of the Progressive, man-of-the-people, Hugo Chavez standing before the United Nations waving a copy of Noam Chomsky's latest diatribe to an adoring international audience? That diatribe was titled "Hegemony or Survival."

Unfortunately, to discuss the current state of education, it is necessary to bring out the six dollar word "hegemony." It is a word and concept that I find distasteful. I do not believe that hegemony is a foundational issue. The word serves a useful purpose as a descriptor. Sadly, when people build ideologies that demand they must gain hegemony to survive, then things start getting ugly.

Hegemony sits among a whole class of terms that, when used in moderation as descriptors, serve a useful purpose. When pushed to extremes the ideas swirling around the term turn nihilistic and ugly.

The reason that hegemony is important in a debate about education is that it appears that the far left has gained hegemony in the public school system with the hope that they could use that hegemony to gain political power. When you have a group that intentionally uses the education system to gain political power, you end up creating forces that undermine education.

A prime example of the detrimental effects of new think in education was the decision to rip logic out of the curriculum some 50 years ago. Another example was the decision to replace math with new math.

These decisions have had a detrimental effect on our ability to engage in affirmative discourse. Just look at the large number of logical fallacies, ad hominem attacks and low quality discourse going on in the blogosphere. Much of the friction we see was created by our education system.

While the problems started with the left. The low quality of education in the public school has affected both left and right.

It would be impossible to correct the problems in the public education system simply by changing the hegemony that controls the monopoly. I think we are at a point where the best solution is to create a competitive framework for the schools that would allow for the development of different curriculums. The natural tendency will be for parents to choose those schools that provide the best education.

Unfortunately, to make my argument, I fear I will have to employ the overwrought word "hegemony."

An Icky Topic that Noam Chomsky Loves

The term "hegemony" has been around since antiquity. It refers to a group that has dominance at a given time.

A common pattern is that one group will gain dominance. The people allied with the hegemonic power would prosper. Those not allied with the hegemony would be disenfranchised and fall into survival mode. Often the ideologies survive by moving to the fringes of society. The hegemonic power would generally grow arrogant and corrupt. The disenfranchised powers would eventually unite then overthrow the hegemonic force and create a new world order with a new hegemony.

You can write compelling histories with the word hegemony. For example, France and England were hegemonic powers in the eighteenth century. The American colonies rebelled against England. To do so, the colonies formed an alliance with the King of France against the English hegemony. This alliance turned sour for France. In their war against Britain, they had inadvertently allied themselves with revolutionary forces that would bring down their royalty.

The US founders were apparently aware of the dangers of the European hegemonies. They originally wanted a loose confederation of states. Fearing that the hegemonic powers of Europe would cause dissension between the independent states, the Founders decided to create a new Federation of States with an executive strong enough to stand up to the hegemonic powers of Europe.

The founders created a very interesting structure with a strong executive that could defend against foreign hegemonies. The government had a loose internal structure that allowed for the evolution of a free market and included democratically elected legislatures. This model created the first stable republic since antiquity.

I will refer to the political, socio-economic and intellectual structures created by the US Founders as Classical Liberalism.

Classical liberalism is based on classical notions of truth. There is a belief that there is a truth out there, but that humans always fall short of knowing that truth. We latch onto ideas that we see as virtues. Classical thinkers learned that each virtue pushed to its extreme becomes a vice. In classical literature the term "tragedy" specifically refers to cases where something bad happens as the result of a virtue.

The classical liberal ideal was to concentrate on giving people a broad, balanced education. Although such education does not get us to pure truth, it gets us closer.

The classical liberal was interested in pursuing this vague notion of truth with the thought that you should give the students the best quality of education to help them get closer to understanding truth. In my opinion, classical liberal educators make the best teachers as they are interested primarily in the quality of the education and are not so much interested in converting the political opinions of the student. In his work Radical Son, David Horowitz spoke in admiration of his classical liberal professors who, although they disagreed with his politics, actively worked to help him pursue his objectives of becoming a leftwing agitator.

The great American education system was built by classical liberals with a maniacal faith that, if you build the university, truth would come. Unfortunately, a new generation of scholars appeared on the scene, and this new breed of scholars was very much interested in hegemony and the effects of education on the body politic. So, I have to write about the history of this problem.

The Foundations of The Modern Age

A good place to begin the story of the modern age is with the eighteenth century German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant took to studying pure reason. In his studies he rediscovered the thing known since antiquity. He rediscovered that, if you push any idea to its extreme, it becomes paradoxical. Kant discovered that you can't derive perfect knowledge from a detailed study of one's naval.

The fact that Kant let loose with a cloud of empty grey fluff doesn't matter. He is adored as the greatest philosopher of all time.

Kant rediscovered that certain issues like the infinite or the nature of free will or even the nature of space will always involve paradox.

In the 19th century, a German philosopher named Hegel mastered the art of paradox and had all sorts of schemes for proving that freedom is slavery and slavery is freedom. Hegel used his skills to create a compelling Philosophy of History that presented history as a world stage. The hegemonic powers were actors on this world stage.

Intellectuals loved the Hegelian structure as it allowed them to talk about different ideas battling for supremacy in the world. Intellectuals of the 19th and 20th century were fond of slapping the suffix "ism" on words associated with ideas. Each of these isms pushed the basic idea to its paradoxical extreme. Scholars could babble about these paradoxical ideologies battling for hegemony.

Karl Marx pushed this type of thinking to a new level of absurd with a thing called the Material Dialectics. Marx claimed his dialectical materialism to be a science. Since it is a science, it must be true. While Hegel was prone to talk about nations battling for supremacy on the world stage, Marx gave the world a fantastical history with peoples of the world locked in class struggles.

Marx claimed that he could scientifically predict the future. In Marx's future, the corrupt merchant class (which he called bourgeoisie) would gain hegemonic power through monopolistic commerce. The disenfranchised workers (the proletariat) would form an alliance with the intelligentsia in a worldwide revolution. The revolution would so complete that a new world order--a workers paradise-- would sprout from the killing fields. There would be paradise on earth, and no religion too.

Educators are naturally drawn to an ideology where the intelligentsia forms alliances with disenfranchised groups and rises to power. Such ideologies makes the educator altruistic and the primary actor on the world stage at the same time.

The fanciful thinking about hegemonic powers struggling on the world stage led to an extremely violent century. During the twentieth century, Hegelian/Marxist thought had gained hegemony in the world. For a period, most of this planet had fallen under the sway of various forms of Marxism or Fascism (a Hegelian style reaction to Marxism). Sadly for mankind, the action on Hegel's world stage proved quite bloody.

Ironically, the classical liberal system of the US (that initially only sought survival) created a system that led to widespread domestic prosperity. As it happened the classical liberal United States was pulled into both world wars. The prosperity of the classical liberal system was decisive in both wars.

The United States that had created a strong centralized presidency to survive against the intrigues of the hegemons of Europe had itself become a hegemonic power.

This was really problematic for intellectuals who had given their faith the various isms of the modern world. While the Hegelian/Marxist view had hegemony in the middle of the century, when the Berlin Wall was torn down, people ran West and not East. The intelligentsia was stunned at the turn of events. The system that they were united against did more for the poor people than their fanciful totalitarian dreams.

Unfortunately, another sad twist occurred during the century. While the classical liberal United States was gaining hegemony in the world, the leftwing had retreated into the American education for survival. So while the classical liberal system created by the US founders triumphed, it won't be able to survive as the left has control of education.

So, we finally get back to talking about hegemony in the school.

Back to School

The American primary and university school systems were built by classical liberal educators who saw quality education as the path to a prosperous future.

Unfortunately, scholars in the US were as enchanted with new think as were the scholars of Europe. Folks like John Dewey made bizarre American versions of the Hegelian new think. Dewey was clever and saw that Americans really did not like the ideologies abroad; so he created a version of Hegelian that transformed the distaste for ideology into an ideology. This paradoxical non-ideology ideology was called "pragmatism." In this non-ideology ideology, you gain hegemony by railing against ideals. You then do whatever is most expedient to gain power.

The classical liberals fell for it. The weak spot of classical liberalism is that its adherents really are open to new ideas. New think provided a compelling new array of new ideas and seemingly possible paths for these new ideas to improve society. Unfortunately the paradoxical nature of the extreme ideologies of new think had a way of classical liberal system of moderated ideas.

In the middle of the last century we saw the word "liberalism" transform from something that saw the freedom of the individual as a good thing to won that held the Hegelian paradox that freedom is slavery and slavery freedom.

Drafting off the notion that any idea pushed to extremes leads to paradox, the modern liberal gradually pushed classical liberal ideas to the side.

The first thing to go, of course, was the study of logic. Kant, after all, had discovered what every logician knew. Pushing any ideal to an extreme produces paradox. Therefore logic is corrupt.

A person who falls into the hegemonic world view will reject the idea that truth or even logic exists. Everything is simply propaganda in the struggles of powers. Logic, after all, was nothing more than a tool used by the corrupt bourgeoisie to suppress the proletariat who were prone to do illogical things with their cash.

The first step was to remove logic from the curriculum. There then was an effort to replace math with new math. In my opinion, this all was to the detriment of education. Driving the classical liberal from the schools has created a world where math scores drop each year and we get more and more complaints from groups like Students for Academic Freedom that say modern professors are more interested in indocrinating students into an ideology than in teaching a subject.

So, while the classical liberal United States was gaining hegemony, we saw the bizarre situation where modern thought and its preoccupation with hegemony had taken root in the American schools. The classical liberal United States can't survive all that long in a world where no one learns classical liberal values. I suspect that the loss of our classical liberal education system will prove extremely damaging if not fatal for America.

(NOTE, George Bush received a modern education from left leaning schools. The result was that he could not figure out that invading Iraq was a bad idea.)

Personal Experience

Most of the talk I've heard about gaining hegemony in the school has come from leftist thinkers. On occasion, you will find reactionary thinkers like Horowitz on the issue. Reacting to a conversation of others is different from making an issue foundational.

During my fiasco in the education department at the U, I found myself engaged in numerous conversations about how the left needed to regroup in education and needed to radicalize the classroom. Professors actually taught us propaganda techniques as we read a slew of unbalanced literature from Chomsky, Friere and others. I was taught that the goal of an activist educator was to raise social consciousness and recruit student activists, etc.,

The department had a single focus on political issues, and was not providing me much information on the subject I really wanted to learn: How does one teach math to kids!!!

The people who I think would have been good at teaching math to kids were driven away from the public school systems by a system that was more interested in the political outcome of the education than in the quality of education.

Hegemony as a Descriptor

This post is too long, and you will notice that it really doesn't have a conclusion.

I thought I would re-emphasize that I see nothing wrong with the use of hegemony as a descriptor. For example, it is valid to say that the Ptolemaic view of astronomy had hegemony in the Renaissance and Copernican view of skies took hold after the Copernican revolution.

Problems occur when people start making "hegemony or survival" a fundamental part of their world view. When one holds the need to dominate or survive in their world view, they start doing destructive things to the people around them.

Chomsky claims that the neocons chose to invade Iraq because they wanted to expand American hegemony, and that they used propagandist techniques to mislead the American public. I had direct experience with leftist professors using negative techniques to gain hegemony in education.

Simply noting that the left has hegemony in school is not in and of itself bad. If they are using the school system to indoctrinate students or if they are misusing their position in teaching schools to weed out people based on politics, then they are doing something detrimental to the students.

I really don't have an answer on how to handle a political hegemony in the public school monopoly. The fact that we have a monopoly in education is a bit problematic. Having a monopoly means that political groups will want to gain power by controlling the monopoly.

Simply replacing public with private schools may not be the answer as private schools often have their own agendas that they hope to advance over education.

The long term solution would be to create a much more open market system for education where no one group has total control over the education of a single student. The voucher idea where students have a financial resource that follows them as they move between schools might work to help students broaden their education. The teaching company idea that creates some separation of the administration of the school from the teaching of the class might also break monopolistic forces.

Regardless, I do not think hegemonic thinking will ever result in improved education. If one group has too much power in the education system, we should point it out, but I do not think we can improve education by efforts like NCLB that simply added more politics to schooling. After all, educations should be about impowering the individual student with the knowledge they need to thrive.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Housing Prices

I thought I would take a quick second to disagree with the following quote from the Newshour:

HENRY PAULSON, U.S. Treasury Secretary: The longer housing prices remain stagnant or fall, the greater the penalty to our future economic growth.

In recent years, housing prices have grown way out of sync with the economy at large and with workers' wages. A fall in housing prices is not bad news as it means that people after the correction won't have to struggle as hard to get into a house.

We don't need a bailout. Let banks with bad lending practices fail, and housing prices drop.

One thing I really dislike about our little politicized economic system is that it makes irrational decisions. As the housing prices were peaking in these last few years, there appears to have been a push to get low income folks into the market before they were financially ready for home ownership. There also seems to have been a push to encourage people into speculative real estate development (flip this house). It might be my imagination, but crashes are often preceded by hyped up efforts to bring unsophisticated buyers into the market.

The next big story on the Newshour was about a spike of in the price of oil caused by the increased tension between the US and Turkey (Thank you Tom Lantos). The Newshour reports that the price of heating oil is expected to surge this winter.

It seems to me that the primary reason for the surge the price of heating oil is that we have too friggin' many houses!!!! All of these massive half-filled houses cost a grundle to heat. Waste. Waste. Waste. Waste. I know of too many situation where a single person lives in a big house. It is ludicrous.

This game where we heat more house than we need contributes to global warming. It does so big time. It probably is worse than the problems with cars that are too big for the single passenger inside.

We would be better off if more people lived in our current stock of houses. We would consume less heating oil and release fewer greenhouse gasses into the cosmos.

Since our housing market is overbuilt, and since heating costs are rising and since we've gone several decades with housing costs increasing faster than wages, then I think a correction in the cost of housing prices and a slow down in this most environmentally damaging industry should be welcome.

The idea that we should bail out subprime lenders to keep housing prices artificially high is wrong headed.

BTW, I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I suspect a big reason for the fall in housing prices is that we are chasing our immigrants away. That probably has a bigger effect on prices than the subprime loans.

On a final note, I hope people spend a bit of time this Fall working on ways to decrease their heating bill. If your house is too big, then don't bother heating every room. If you plan to heat the entire house, why not throw some cash into insulation or new double paned windows so that your heating bill will be just a little less in the cold winter months to come. (Salt Lake Home Links).

With the promise of increase heating costs, now is a good time to invest in conservation.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Trivium

I support the Utah voucher initiative because I think it will lead to a Renaissance in teaching techniques and new curriculums which will expand learning opportunities for all students.

One interesting development is that many of the new private schools are working to revive the Trivium in primary education. The trivium was the basis of Western education from ancient to modern times. The trivium was the core of the classical liberal education.

The US founders received a classical education. Subsequent generations started falling under the sway of education theories based on Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, and Marx. The trivium had its last hoorahs in the days of John Dewey who brought forth a Hegelian style ideology called Pragmatism.

IMHO, all of the manifestations of this Hegelian style ideology lead to totalitarianism. This will happen even when the people pretend they don't have an ideology. A good example is the present voucher debate where school teachers, who all proclaim adherence to the gods of diversity, are horrified by the prospect of real diversity that would result if there was an open market in education.

The Trivium is something that bloggers might find of interest.

The primary focus of the trivium is the development and communication of ideas. Please note, the trivium is abstract. You might want to read The Trivium by Sister Mariam Joseph.

The three legs of the trivium are grammar, logic and rhetoric. Yes, the classical world held rhetoric in high esteem.

Grammar is simply the study of the way language works. The western world has incredible rich, beautiful, multidimensional languages. The trivium taught the beauty of language. Poetry was held in esteem. The new think of modern education reduces language to its bare utility.

Logic (also known as analytics) is the study of ideas and how ideas fit together.

From my perspective as a mathematician, the decision of the modern education establishment to rip logic out of the curriculum stands among the crimes against humanity of the modern age. The dictators at the head of the education establishment have stolen our ability to engage in high quality reason.

Instead of learning how to reason, the modern education simply teaches us how to snipe each others. We engage in this process in the most vulgar ways.

The final leg of the trivium is rhetoric. With rhetoric, you learn how to communicate your ideas. Conversely, when you learn how to communicate your ideas, you become better at listening to others.

In the classical western world, the great speakers of the day would engage in organized events called disputations. These disputations, apparently, were big events where people were interested in both the quality of the discourse along with the content.

Today, of course, everyone vies for making the meanest and most provocative statement possible. The greater the provocateur, the more inbound links!!!!

The modern world holds that rhetoric is empty. Unfortunately, by de-emphasizing quality rhetoric in education, we have degenerated into a society where everything is propaganda.

In the classical ideal, rhetoric had the noble purpose of bringing out truth. In the modern relativistic world we are simply in a struggle for power and our words are seen simply as propaganda in pursuit of hegemony for our group.

Since we no longer value quality in rhetoric, we've developed new speaking techniques based on cunning and manipulation. We judge the effectiveness on our speaking entirely on the results achieved. If going negative with ad hominem attacks moves the polls, then politicians go for it. If projecting one's intentions on one's oppoents works, then our politicians dive into the propaganda technique. When all else fails, buy the vote with more public spending.

When you look at the rhetorical devices used by today's politicians you will find that they are routinely diverting attention away from the issues. We vote for Republicans who promise to reduce government. Since the promises are empty, they prove to be the opposite of the propagandist image. The Democrats have the population confused to the point where we think healthcare flows out of the fingers of politicians, when, in reality, healthcare is the process of individuals working with each other.

If Americans had learned the trivium, we would not put up with the low quality clowns that have turned our once proud legislative bodies into circuses.

The devaluing of rhetoric is extremely dangerous in a Democratic Republican such as the United States. In this system we are dependent on high quality rhetoric from our politicians so that we can make informed votes.

By ripping logic out of the curriculum of our schools, our left dominated education system has reduced both the ability of our leaders to engage in quality discourse and the ability of the public to appreciate quality discourse. We are left with sound bytes and shrill political maneuvering.

The Trivium v. The Three Rs

The trivium is the foundation of the liberal arts. It is actually much more abstract than the hardheaded three Rs that Conservatives like. The three Rs are Readin', wRitin', and 'Rithmetic.

The Trivium is about the development and communication of ideas. It is about free thinking. The trivium does not produce drones content to toil away in the mills. It actually does a better job of giving students the skills needed to engage in critical thinking than our modern classes in critical thinking. The modern classes in critical thinking are a joke. They teach people to criticize their opponents. It does not show how to formulate and communicate ideas.

I used to be a devout skeptic, until the day I accidentally applied my skepticism to skepticism itself.

An Enviable History

The trivium has an enviable history. It provided the foundations for science, most of mathematics, the American form of government, and the free market.

The modern dialectical method of thinking (new think) has produced a steady string of tyrannies, genocides and atrocities. New think has produced Communism, Fascism, Nazism, capitalism (I distinguish capitalism from the free market). There is strong indication that radical Islam is very much a product of the new think model. Both the Democratic and Republican Parties are now products of the modern new think.

The only thing that new think can claim as a success is the modern public school. This education system, however, is not a producer. It is rich because our society became rich because or forefathers gave us the free market and science.

Public school teachers cling religiously to their new think. Personally, I think the schools would be better if they taught real knowledge in place of new thinking.

The Trivium is Incomplete

Of course, there are big problems with the Trivium. The trivium itself is notably incomplete and there will always be disputes about how the method should be implemented. All you are really doing with the trivium in primary school is creating a high esteem for ideas.

The trivium really starts with the assumption that there is a truth, and that if we engage in high quality discourse we get closer to that truth. This idea is ridiculed by Steven Colbert and The American Dialect Society as "truthiness." The trivium holds that there is a truth, and that we can approach it with quality discourse. Of course, when you look at your discourse, analytical models and rhetorical statements, you always find yourself falling short of what you want to achieve.

A common theme in classical education is that the great thinkers always felt that their education fell short. One of the primary reasons that the left was able yank logic out of the classroom was that the trivium gives people the feeling that their education fell short.

Now, I actually think that this feeling that you are falling short of the truth is a good thing. It becomes a driving force.

What modern education does is it gives people paradoxes and short cuts that create an illusion of completeness. When faced with a moral dilemma or ethical question, the practicianer of new think will throw his dilemma against the paradoxes he learned to admire in primary school and feel smuggly content then do whatever he feels.

I would rather have leaders who are plagued with the vague unease that you feel with logic that one with the absolute uncertainty that one feels when schooled in new think. I would rather have a media that esteemed quality rhetoric than one content on tricking people with sound bytes while ridiculing any serious attempt to engage in dialog as truthiness.

I would rather live in a world with a diversity of schools, than one with an education monopoly that holds the paradox that you embrace diversity by forcing everyone to be the same.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Congratulations to Al Gore

Bringing forth peace is one of the single most difficult problems faced by mankind. The annual awarding of the Peace Prize is a welcome event as it generates discussion on creating peace. As always, it is wonderful to see an American name added to the list of Peace Prize recipients as the United States as Americans have a long history of actively engaging in the march for peace.

I openly congratulate Al Gore for winning the prize. Al Gore and Jimmy Carter are both notable for the hard work, long hours and determination in the struggle for peace.

There are no short cuts to peace.

I was extremely saddened when George W. Bush chose to invade Iraq at a time when we were finally starting to have a successful diplomatic effort in Iraq. This short cut to peace has proven a very long and difficult road.

At times I feel that the partisan nature of the two party system has created a situation where America is not as effective at bringing peace as we should have been. I wish Bush had been dovish enough to stop the march to war with Iraq when we were having diplomatic success. I feel that, with just a little bit more spine, the Clinto/Gore administration could have lessened the damages of the Rwanda and Somalia fiascos.

I do not envy the members of the Peace Prize committee. The challenge is to separate the short cuts to peace from those with a long hard committment to peace. I feel saddened at the apparent partisan nature of this year's peace prize. The fact that the strongest nation on the planet has an uber partisan political system has created a situation where we thrash from one method of short cut takers to another. This instability has the potential of making the US a catalyst for war ... which is the opposite of what the people of this nation want.

The Propaganda Front

The Democratic Congress did a great job yesterday showing how they would solve the problems in the Middle East. The method is simple: You schmooze up to and praise all enemies of the United States and condemn our allies. The example of condemning allies is the resolution to condemn Turkey for a genocide that took place a century ago under a radically different government.

There is nothing special about the US Congress that makes it the authoritative source for international moral definitions. Any act where one political body in one country tosses a label at another is, by definition, a political act.

The world needs to recognize the Armenian genocide as genocide, but the arena of politics is not the right forum. History is the proper forum for debating actions of a century ago. Political bodies should restrict their use of such labels specifically to efforts to stop mass murder. Ironically, in the same news program where Progressive Democrate Tom Lantos beamed about his resolution to condemn Modern Turkey for a genocide committed by their ancestors, the progressive democrat Jimmy Carter carefully split hairs to forgive the Sudanese of the genocide in their little corner of the world.

The genocide in Sudan is sadly like the genocide in Rwanda in that the UN and Western powers sat idly by waffling on definitions and completed failed in efforts to save lives.

The tossing about of labels by political bodies always will be seen within a political context. It is the ultimate in absurdity to think that the progressives really are in tune with some universal truth that the mass murders in Turkey are genocide while the mass murders in Sudan are not.

The roots of modern progressivism is relativism. A relativist rejects the existence of universal definitions. From the vantage point of moral relativism that is intrinsic in leftist thought, then this decision to condemn Modern Turkey for crimes against humanity committed by the Ottoman Turks is a blatant effort to harm the alliance between the US and modern Turkey.

As Congress was not meant to be the institution to define terms, it should stick to resolutions that positively affect the world.

Contrary to what Tom Lantos may think, the current government in Turkey has very little influence on the Ottoman Turks of a 100 years ago. This is not because the current leaders in Turkey are bad people. It is because time is linear.

There is some legitimacy to Carter's hesitancy to officially use the word genocide in diplomatic efforts in Sudan. Alienating a group can lead to atrocities, just as failures to notice the atrocity can lead to atrocity.

We must be careful in dishing out labels. In most cases, the assigning of political labels have unintended negative effects.

One label that is in the news is "Islamo-fascism." I can see some merit to the use of this term. Fascism was an ideology that emerged in the Western Christian world. The western roots of the name clearly implies that the problem is not Islam, but with the radicalization of Islam.

I think that moderate Islamic intellectuals might gain traction if they started emphasizing that Radical Islam is partially a product of the western influences.

Like the National Socialist Party in Germany, the National Socialism in Italy (fascism) was a refinement of communism. In my reading of post colonial history in the Middle East, I find that the communist family of thought has played a dominant role in Islamic intellectual theories. Many of the early thinkers of radical Islam studied revolutionary techniques in the West. Satre and Camus were big players in Algeria hoping to transform the Islamic world into a Communist style state. The Nazis were very active in Iran, to the point that the Iranian army still does the goose step. Saddam Hussein was an avid follower of Stalin. His secret service was trained by the East Germans.

If the Islamic world understood that the disease that currently affects their culture is similar to the one that affected the West in the 20th century, then we might be able to find ways to move beyond the hatred.

I see merit in this term "Islamo-fascism" as it adequately states that the problem is not with Islam, but with a bastardization of Islam. The west suffered under a similar bastardization of ideology.

Of course, I can also see why the left has a problem with the term. This term openly says that radical Islam shares the same intellectual roots as the modern progressives. The modern left uses the same propaganda techniques to support the public school monopoly in education and for arguing for universal health care that the Islamo-fascists use in arguing for Islamic domination of the West.

I suspect that this label "Islamo-fascism" will fail because the left has a stake in seeing it fail. The left is doing a great job is trying to get the term associated with xenophobia. The left made big inroads on this effort by pushing out fake flyers which portrayed the term as hate speech.

The left has hegemony in education, so I suspect that this upcoming Islamofascism Awareness Week will backfire on the right. The term sounds far too much like a jingo for my taste. I will stick with using "Radical Islam."

Regardless, Tom Lantos and Nancy Pelosi can be commended by fellow progressives for driving a wedge between the US and one of our few remaining allies.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Education of an Alienated Wannabe

The alienated wannabe is one of the few local bloggers in favor the voucher proposal. The reason for his position is that public schools teach evolution as fact instead of theory.

There are two ways to interpret his post. Most people seem to read into his post that he is a right wing nut job who favors creationism creationism to science. I take the guy at his word. It seems to me that the real gist of his argument is simply that the public school system does not teach logic.

Science is dependent on logic. When you remove logic from the curriculum, science becomes a religion. It is possible that the Alienated Wannabe is more interested in protecting his faith than in the well being of kids.

I am more fond of science than religion. I think that modern efforts to transform science into a religion does more harm to science than the existence of a bunch of silly religions.

It is clear that the Alienated Wannabe feels that something was missing from his education. My guess is that he has never encountered a logic text. Without logic, we are unable to explain our ideas.

Like many, my first encounter with logic came in the form of a graduate level class.

The Classical Curriculum taught informal logic in primary school.

If the curriculum included logic, then this silly debate between the creationists and evolutionists would be muted as people would realize that both ideas are theories. Evolution appears to be a better explanation to the make up of this planet. Logic does not pit evolution in opposition to Christianity. After all, evolution is a process of creation.

Now, it is possible that the alienated wannabe is upset simply because his group does not have the hegemony in public education, and that he would be happy if his group had power. If this is the case, then it is true, the alienated wannabe is really not in favor of an open education market. There is a large number of people who only see value in freedom when they are not in power.

When you have a monopoly system in education, you will always find that there is one group or another cout out of the picture. If the lunatic right removed evolution theory from the class room, a different group of alienated people would be wanting to pull their students from the school.

The fundamental argument here is that both the left and right are full of ideas that they want to dictate to others. The right would as abusive with hegemony in the public education as the left currently is. The current monopolistic structure of education has the culture war take place in shrill screaming matches behind closed doors in teaching schools or in the legislature. The market allows for issues to work their way through in open public discourse and with parents finding the school that best suits their needs.

BTW, if you look at the curriculum of most private schools, they teach evolution and actually do a better a more thorough job of teaching the subject than public schools which still handle this important theory as a hot button political issue. When you have an open market of ideas, the best ideas tend to come forward.

Someday explorers might find a large black obelisk that spontaneously generates animals of different species. Were we to find such a device I would change my opinions about evolution in a heart beat, because the creationist argument would have more merit. Were our first interstellar voyage to bounce off a large black curtain encircling the solar system, I would abandon my believe in the large universe theory and readopt the helio centric view. In the market place of ideas, people tend toward the strongest ideas. There is also a long history of brilliant scientists who thought they got it right, but got it wrong.

It is precisely because people will veer toward the best explanation that an open market, open minded system of education would produce produce better results than a top heavy, monopolistic, bureaucratic system.

Mount Aire

Mount Aire TrailI took Coco on a quick walk up Mount Aire in Mill Creek Canyon. The trail had recently been dusted with snow and was a bit muddy but not impassable. The trail rises 1800 feet in 1.8 miles. It is a favorite of fitness hikers and trail runners since you can get a good workout in a short trail.

Mill Creek CanyonThe trail offers some sweet views of Mount Raymond and Goblers Knob. The picture to the left is of Goblers Nob. As we had a strong storm a few days back, a good portion of the fall folliage has been blown away, but there was enough to provide a few interesting Fall Leave style shots.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A Calculus Teaching Company

The reason I was seeking an education degree was because I had developed methods that would allow school to teach Calculus at a much earlier age. Bringing this method to fruition became a primary goal of my education career. I had hoped to turn it into a real career.

In my opinion, calculus should be taught immediately after or at in concurrence with algebra. Everything becomes easier when one knows calculus. Calculus is the basis of physics. Physics is the basis of chemistry and chemistry the basis of biology. In finance, you can't understand interest rates without calculus. Statistics leans heavily on calculus. Trigonometry is easier to understand once you know calculus. Calculus is primary and it should be taught earlier.

If we had a good method for teaching Calculus to your average high school student, then we would dramatically improve the quality of our math and science education and would dramatically improve the quality of life.

On a side note, my mother was interested in the history of logic. Logic was the center of education from the days of Aristotle through to the modern era. In this 2300 years history of teaching logic, there developed a plethora of approaches to the subject. Interestingly, the very first thing the left did when they gained hegemony in education was to rip the logic class out of the school. That is a different story.

… back to calculus ...

There are multiple ways to teach calculus. The traditional Cauchy method is a college level course. Proponents of new math favor a set theoretic approach which presents calculus as a construct of language. This method fits in well with the tradition of Hegel, Marx, Cantor, Russell and Chomsky. I find the approach paradox ridden. Again, I don't think it is suitable for high school. Marvin Kline proposed an Intuitive Approach to Calculus. His method fits in with the thinking of Montessori, however, it really depends on the skill of the teacher.

Not surprisingly, the method I wanted to develop fell squarely in the classical tradition of Aristotle, Descartes, Leibnitz, Newton, Gauss, Reimann, Einstein, etc.. It would work even better if schools taught logic.

I believed that there was merit to my method. Regardless of my personal thoughts, I would never force it on anyone without data to back up the claim. At the time, I figured I would need about $200,000 to develop and do alpha testing of the curriculum. If the data looked good, I would want to role out a controlled beta test. If the average high school student was able to master Calculus with my method, as I contended, then I would want it to compete with all of the other ideas on the market.

There are multiple ways of teaching subjects like logic and calculus. So, the question is: How do you create a mechanism that simultaneously allows for the development of multiple curriculums with the majority of students getting the best methods?

Unfortunately, in our current single payer system of education, there is market mechanism to allow for diversity of ideas.

In Utah, 96% of students go to public schools. The curriculum is set in Universities that have zero interest any method beyond New Math. Ideas, other than new math, don't even have the potential to survive.

With one extraordinarily corrupt group, the UEA, having absolute power over 96% of the education market, there is no longer any place for ideas such as teaching logic to primary students or teaching Calculus to all students in high school to exist. Survival for diverse ideas is not even possible. It is a stagnant system.

It is possible that new math really is the way to go, and that my method really should fail. That is entirely fine with me. Trying ideas and failing is part of life. For every profound scientific discovery, there are at least a thousand ideas thrown on the table that fail. For every blockbuster toy, there is a thousand flops. This method of developing and testing ideas through open inquiry is called science. The marketplace leads to prosperity. Our left dominated public school has destroyed the marketplace for ideas.

The fact that I never even got the opportunity to put any of my ideas on the table because a group of brownshirts in the education department weeded people out for political reasons is inexcusable and greatly devalues the value of our education.

In the past, I had rejected vouchers. I don't think it is as good as tax credits, neither is as good as a world where taxes are low and people have sufficient personal resources to send students to the school of their choice. In looking at the diversity of the charter and private schools that is starting to come to life in the wake of the State's legislature commitment to diversified education, I decided that the vouchers are a good interim step for breaking the monopoly in education.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Science Teaching Company

I don't think the voucher program that we get to vote on in November is the best of all worlds, but it is a start. The voucher system and charter systems only give the students a single choice of which school to attend. In real life, education is a multidimensional affair with choices being made on many different levels.

Having been "weeded out" of the education system, my thoughts started turning to fundamental questions about education.

As I mentioned in the last post, I first thought the idea of teachers owning their own classrooms as a joke. When I started thinking about all of the complexities involved in providing a world class education, it dawned on me that a truly open market would have such structures.

I was interested in math and science education. The two challenges of science education are: Getting cutting edge science equipment into the classroom, and attracting quality scientific talent. Attracting quality scientific talent is actually quite difficult as the skills of a great scientist is diametrically opposed to the skills of a great teacher. A good scientist (such as Dr. Mario Capecchi ) has the ability to methodically focus in on minute questions. Dr. Capecchi just received a Nobel Prize for studying genes within stem cells of mice.

The best teachers, on the other hand, have the ability to jump from topic to topic. In most cases they are more interested in the student than in the subject. In a rare occasion, there are professors who possess the capacity to be a great teacher and a great scientist. It is absurd, however, to expect such rarities to be common.

While on the topic of the Nobel Prize, I thought I would point out that Dr. Capecchi received his prize as part of a group. If you read through academic literature, you will find that the best scientific research these days is done by groups of scientists working in tandem, and not by lone isolated individuals hunkered down in basement labs.

To dramatically improve scientific education in the schools, you would want a structure that allowed scientists from different schools to form close knit alliances that would allow them to make group purchases of scientific equipment and to teach in tandem. This is precisely where the free market excels.

I started doing thought experiments on just how such a scientific teaching company would work.

As people involved in science know, good science is expensive. To bring good science to the school you would want a science teaching company with several million dollars to invest in scientific equipment and a few hundred employees. The personnel of the company would be split into two groups. There would be a group of teachers who focus on the learning of the students and a group of scientists who focus on the subject. The first group would have teaching degrees and concentrate on the learning of the students, the second group would have scientific degrees and industrial experience.

An independent science teaching company would be free to make alliances with business outside the school system. A wise teaching would want to diversify by providing adult education services and might even find it advantageous to subcontract with local science related industries to bring top talent into the classroom for show and tell.

For example, Salt Lake City has a strong biotech sector. Imagine a teaching company contracting with a local biotech firm and bringing in some state of the art research equipment into the classroom. I can guarantee you that if students actually saw first hand what these people are doing, they would toss aside their marginal dreams of becoming rock stars and start pursuing the realizable dreams of being scientists or doctors.

Unfortunately, this idea of a teaching company really can't work in the top heavy, bureaucratic laden public school. The system of charter schools and private schools, however, might make a market where teaching companies could come to life. What the voucher system does is it transforms our view of education from being a service provided by the state to a view that education is a right of the child. Rather than providing a service, the state provides a resource that follows the student.

The private schools and charters schools that are popping up around the state are finding that they do not have the capital resources to provide the services they desire. That voucher system will create a market where third parties can move in with services and curriculums.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

About Me

I am stuck on the "about me" page.

I have this whole pile of work that I want to put up on my website. The problem is that I am really not all that pleased about myself. I have academic research that I've wanted to publish for the last 20 years, but I had never been able to publish because, well, as you see, I have this one little embarrassing incident in my past that I have not been able to figure out how to overcome.

It is just a tiny thing, but is something that I really don't want known.

It is not all that big of a deal.

It is just the tiny little insignificant detail that I flunked out of the University of Utah.

I didn't just flunk out of the U, I actually managed to flunk three of the most asinine classes ever conceived. I flunked classes that football players took during game season since you really didn't have to show up or do the work.

Yep. I did the unthinkable. I flunked out of the Education department!

It is not like there is even the least tiny bit of academic rigor in education. Compare a room of public school teachers with say a room full of computer engineers. The room of public school teachers is like floating in an intellectual vacuum.

It is not that I didn't understand the curriculum. The education curriculum is really a joke. You read Plato, Rousseau, Dewey and Marx and if you are a pro-union Democrat, then they hand you and degree and you can begin feasting at the big tax funded table called public education.

By the time I had started taking education classes, I had already read Kant, Hegel, Marx, Russell, Sartre, Mao, Camus, Freud, Chomsky, Marcuse and many other giants of modern leftist thought.

At the time, I was still proudly progressive. I knew all of the tricks of projection, questioning people's motives, or peppering speech with purr and snarl worlds. I knew all of the paradoxes, and could let go with a hate-filled sneer that would put Keith Olbermann to shame.

I was learning to master the technique. I just made one little tiny gafaw in execution.

The gafaw was really quite funny.

One of the requirements of an education degree is that students must stand up in class and denounce vouchers and private education.

In this exercise, the professors wanted to show us how to use a particularly effective propaganda technique. This technique is to present your partisan view as balanced and open minded. You do this by presenting your side as well reasoned, and by over praising the weakest and most negative aspect of your opponents view. The technique of praising the faults of your opponents can really devastate a person.

If you pull of this technique right, people will see you as balanced and open-minded. If you do it right, your can really destroy the group you hate.

Anyway, we were having the class where the students denounced vouchers and charter schools. I stood up and talked about how having all of the students in a community going to the same school promotes diversity and community. I also talked about how walking to school was healthy exercise and reduced the pollution that was contributing to global cooling (this was way back when mankind was on the brink of extinction from global cooling). My pro-public school argument effectively showed the left as open-minded and only considering the good of humanity.

The next step was to present the right as unbalanced. I began by over-praising the power of competition. I spoke about how privatization would lead to spotless schools with tight, anal-retentive discipline. Private schools would produce singled minded students walking in lock step with the ideology of the school's owners.

I could see that my professor was quite pleased with the presentation. If I sat down at that moment, I would have secured my degree with no further effort.

Proving that I am idiot, I continued and said "if you really want to transform the education system with privatization, you wouldn't privatize the school, you would privatize the classroom. You would let the teachers form companies, develop their curriculum and contract with the school district."

My backhanded praise was to show that the right did not think through its argument. The idea of teachers owning the means of production seemed absurd. The goal is for the state to own the means of production. I gave some quick off the cuff reasons why teachers forming companies and owning the classroom would directly improve the classroom experience.

When I reached the end of the presentation, the professor had gone bug-eyed.

A week after my little in class outburst, I was cornered by three of my professors. They told me that they were "the gatekeepers" of the education system, and they were there to see that I was locked out of the system. For my little gafaw, I didn't just flunk one class; I flunked three classes and was given a promise that I would flunk any education classes at the U or at SLCC. (These were the only schools I could afford at the time).

Flunking three classes for one gafaw was devasting.

At the time, I thought the idea of privatizing the classroom was absurd. On later contemplation, I realized that the method would achieve an effect more profound than any other form of privatization. I can see why professors would fear it.

If you privatized the classroom, then teachers would become entrepreneurs and students would experience the power of the free market first hand. If you privatized the classroom, then whole school system would become a reflection of the economy at large. If students saw their teachers struggling to make payroll, reinvesting profits and handling personnel conflicts, students would directly absorb these skills. If the students saw the teachers as owners and not workers, the students would learn the power of ownership.

Promoting teachers from public servants to entrepreneurs and owners would effectively show students that the path to prosperity is freedom.

Conversely, the secular progressive view of a teacher as a cog in a great machine teaches students to live and think like slaves. An army of "activist teachers" who despise freedom teaches students to see themselves as cogs in a great bureaucratic machine.

I spoke the way I did because I thought privatizing the classroom was absurd. I felt all hurt and dejected at the time. I have never been able to publish any of my works, because most academics think things like flunking out of school matter. I've lived most of my life in abject poverty because many employers hold the same idea.

After the flunking out incident, I really began thinking about what the free market was and how, as absurd as it sounds, that freedom can actually be liberating.

Unfortunately, I've never been able to act on my new thoughts. I lack the credentials to get into the system. To tell you the truth, I really do respect the opinions of others. The very fact that three University professors felt so strongly against me that they were willing to falsify academic to flunk me did affect the opinion of myself.

Anyway, Utah will have a chance to vote for or against the public education system. Some two decades after being flunked out of the U, I find my mind still dominated by the questions that had compelled me to seek a degree in education (I want to write an online Calculus Book).

Am I just bitter because the establishment chose to flunk me, or is my anger at the U based on the fact that the professors at that school give grades based on political grounds rather than academic grounds?

I thought about writing posts in favor of vouchers. The posts can all be nullified simply by pointing out that I was "flunked out;" therefore everything I say is just from bitterness, and not the result of reason.

David Horowitz has written on the Left's War Against Academic Freedom.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Utah First Friday

I crashed the Utah First Fridays business networking meeting this morning. The keynote speaker was a John Bresee cofounder of Backcountry.com.

The title of the presentation was "WOW - Affiliate Marketing Does That?"

The actual presentation was about other online ventures of the company (I get the distinct impression that affiliate marketing is on the decline). I joined the BCS affiliate program back in 2000. In the following years I displayed their ad some 300,000 plus times. I had 1392 clicks, 10 sales and scored a massive $119.28 in commissions. The actually pay rates have been declining steadily. My rough estimates are that, to pay one year minimum wage salary, I figure I would have to pump about 300,000 hits to an online merchant. That is just about the size of the population of Salt Lake City proper. To actually pay a living wage, I would have to pipe through the population of the county through the merchant.

Drivers License DivisionSpeaking about the size of Salt Lake, I had to renew my license this year and took a trip out to the DMV in West Valley City. The DMV is interesting in that just about everyone in this valley has been through the building at one time or another. There are lots of buildings in Salt Lake filled with lots of people. There are very few, however, that have seen such a full cross section of the population. The building was full of the rich, poor, young (16+) and old.

The DMV is getting much more efficient. We used to have to stand in line 5 hours to get a license. If you weren't at the DMV by noon, you were hosed. It was horrible, you would get to the DMV at 2:00PM then watch all of the station closed signs pop up, and have to come back the next day.

This trip was over in 40 minutes. It is a funny set up. I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a number, then sat in a waiting area with my number for 10 minutes. Handing of cash to the teller, reading the line in the eye exam thingy and getting my picture was over in 10 minutes.

BTW, my telling you that I went through the DMV yesterday tells you that I am a Libra. I thought about asking the teller if she sees any differences in the people throughout the year. A person interested in astrology would do well to get a job at the DMV as the set up displays a full cross section of the population near their birthdays. If there really is a discernable difference between the astrology signs (which I doubt) a DMV employee would be in the ideal position to see the differences.

Chief WashakieMy other about town adventure was a walk through Murray City Park. The park was much larger than I had imagined. The park has a entrance gate and statue of Chief Washakie on State Street. So I always just imagined that the park was just a small rectangular slot of land with a few playgrounds. It turns out that the park is massive with three full size soccer fields, several baseball fields, an aquatic center, a massive ice skating arena, an arboretum, an ampitheatre, a half dozen pavilions and playgrounds. Facility-wise, the park dwarfs Liberty Park and Sugarhouse Park.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

For Social Justice

This is important.

Yesterday I received a call from a frantic activist opposed to initiative one. It was a bit difficult to figure out what she was saying, after all she was a product of the Utah public school system and was neither articulate nor well learned.

Anyway, she was adamant that people who are voting against initiative one vote via an absentee ballot. I told her that I would put this important information on a web site.

If the people who are opposed to the measure vote via absentee ballot, then there will be a sizeable difference between the absentee vote and those at the polling place. If just a few thousand people who are against the measure transfer their votes from the general election to absentee ballots, then there will be a very large gap in the the two voting samples.

A really large gap in the samples will help bulster the claim that the voting system is compromised. The political left has invested a great deal of effort and capital into undermining confidence in the integrity of the voting system.

Initiative One is most likely going down. The ideal situation, however, would be one where the initiative wins at the polling booths, but is cut down by the absentee vote. Imagine the unease that would occur if there was an announcement that the vote won, but was overturned on completion of counting the absentee vote.

Since this is an off year election, it should be possible to accomplish this slight of hand with just a few thousand nay voters switching their voting method.

If just a few thousand lefties vote via absentee ballots, it should be possible to generate data sufficent to prove that the right uses underhanded means to manipulate elections.

I am likely to vote for initiative one. So, I will vote at the polls. If you are against the initiative then, for social justice, vote via absentee ballot.