Category Archives: Education

Education Policy – Efficiency

Can colleges be both efficient and serve as the incubator for future discoveries and future leaders?

… public colleges, which serve two-thirds of all four-year college students, are also increasingly expensive and inaccessible, he said. Tuitions there have increased at the same rate as that of the private institutions—about 3 percent above inflation—and promise to increase even more as declining revenue forces states to lessen their support.

Given those pressures, Mr. Ehrenberg said, “it is questionable whether we will be able to increase the fraction of our population that receives college degrees and to reduce the inequality of college-completion rates.”  Chronicle Feb 16, 2009

How does one measure effiency in college programs?

Is the “business model” the correct one to evaluate the success/failure of higher education policy?

College ought not to be merely a place where someone learns “skills” and racks up credentials, but rather an environment and an experience in which students learn, in addition to history and literature and mathematics, also how to begin to navigate the adult civilized world in an adult, civilized, and responsible manner. Their naïve assumptions about life and nature should be tempered by the rigors of discourse, debate, and discussion. Higher education should be training for life as it is — not as it is imagined by the child’s mind.

When colleges adhere to the “business model” they create dangerous expectations for their students and do no service to the larger community.

How do you evaluate a program whose goal is to “train for life as it is?”  Can you make an evaluation in a short time frame when the goals of a program are “life long”?

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Filed under Education, Evaluation, Policy

Education Policy – Effective Spending

Downey’s editorial cites research in NC showing that the most effective expenditure of public funds in relation to achievement is that spent in the classroom.

In their High School Resource Allocation Study, Henry and Charles Thompson of East Carolina University found that money spent in the regular classroom produced far greater achievement than money spent on after-school programs, summer school or Saturday classes.

In fact, spending on supplemental programs outside the classroom —- including guidance counseling and psychological services —- was linked to lower student test scores

Can you construct an evaluation model that would systematically record classrrom expenditures school-by-school (which would then aggregate to district, system, state) to validate this finding?

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Filed under Education, Policy, policy tools

Evaluating Education Policy

Susan Lacettie Meyers makes some conclusive evaualations of the current education system.  And, she notably states:

After two decades of following public education as a journalist then a legislative policy advisor, I have witnessed no return on escalating taxpayer investment in public education. We’ve dropped from 41st to 49th in graduation rates since the Quality Basic Education Act was drafted in the mid 1980s, according to a new study by The Center for an Educated Georgia. We’re still at the bottom, 47th in SAT scores.

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Evolution of an Institution

Stanley Fish’s column finds a rather terse description of the public expectations of higher education:

In this latter model , the mode of delivery – a disc, a computer screen, a video hook-up – doesn’t matter so long as delivery occurs. Insofar as there are real-life faculty in the picture, their credentials and publications (if they have any) are beside the point, for they are just “delivery people.”

So, if college faculty are to be reduced to the identical functional role that k12 teachers now find themselves, who will determine the curricula that they will teach?  And, who will lead the discoveries of knowledge and technologies yet to come?  The first question will undoubtedly be answered by corporations who define the skillsets their workforce requires.  As to the second, corporations have largely abandoned the costs of basic research as a long term expense that makes no sense in a world that values assets on a short term basis.

The power of the written and spoken word has been reflected in education since the time of the Greek empire.  Curiously, another article in todays NYT discusses the differences in approach to literature in language found in comparison of President Bush and President-elect Obama.  To the point, the author states the impact of Obama’s literature upon the development of Obama’s political skills:

But his appreciation of the magic of language and his ardent love of reading have not only endowed him with a rare ability to communicate his ideas to millions of Americans while contextualizing complex ideas about race and religion, they have also shaped his sense of who he is and his apprehension of the world.

So, should education devolve into a means of training workers for tasks that require little appreciation for communication skills?  If not, how should these skills be taught to be appreciated?  Rhetoric and composition in a for-profit school are taught with different intended outcomes than similar courses in public and private non-profit colleges.

From the essay on Obama’s love of books:

The incandescent power of Lincoln’s language, its resonance and rhythmic cadences, as well as his ability to shift gears between the magisterial and the down-to-earth, has been a model for Mr. Obama — who has said he frequently rereads Lincoln for inspiration — and so, too, have been the uses to which Lincoln put his superior language skills: to goad Americans to complete the unfinished work of the founders, and to galvanize a nation reeling from hard times with a new vision of reconciliation and hope.

What do we lose if we adopt the for-profit approach to short term goals?

We may lose those who find inspiration in history, literature and art whom we, today, find attractive as leaders.   Think about this — do you want to decide whom to elect based upon rhetoric and vision or based upon a stack of 30 powerpoint slides?

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College is not a democracy

The Chronicle has a column by Naomi Schaeffer Riley, a conservative writer whose credits include the WSJ and National Review, advising students that colleges do have rules.  Whether you are from the right or left — your freedoms end where the campus rules begin.   More to the point:

But by now, students, or at least their parents, should know better. Students on the right should realize that politically correct speech has been a campus requirement for a long time, regardless of whether administrations are willing to acknowledge it. And that many secular universities are unwelcoming, if not
downright hostile, toward strongly religious and politically conservative students. Meanwhile, the aspiring student activists on the left might do themselves a favor by finally noticing that universities are corporations
run by grown-ups, who have to think about budgets and alumni giving and public relations.

So students should follow the advice of consumer advocates and relationship counselors when it comes to picking a college. Read about the product before you (or your parents) hand over money for it. And don’t enter a relationship thinking you’re going to change it.

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Filed under Education, Politics

A question of (micro) management?

The Georgia Constitution has this to say about who governs the University System:

(b) The board of regents shall have the exclusive authority to create new public colleges, junior colleges, and universities in the State of Georgia, subject to approval by majority vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Such vote shall not be required to change the status of a college, institution or university existing on the effective date of this Constitution. The government, control, and management of the University System of Georgia and all of the institutions in said system shall be vested in the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. (Article VIII , Section IV(b))

Now, Look at the bills offered thus far regarding admissions, management of students, etc:

So, how does all this legislation fit within a conservative philosophy of government?

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Intellectual Diversity

A bill has just been introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives that revives discussion from 4 years ago, led by Mr. Horowitz, alleging that Georgia’s public colleges were led by communists and liberals and thus our students were being forced to learn things that they did not agree with.

Oh, Mr. Horowitz also testified to the Georgia Senate in 2003 stating that K12 administrators were even worse — calling them “Stalinists.” I guess he would know, being a Berkley educated communist himself.

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Filed under Education, legislation, Politics

Level 60 tauren shaman in World of Warcraft

My friend Kevin Howarth at Narcissistic Graffiti has a conversation going regarding a Wired article on gaming and its influences on the skills of the workplace of today (and tomorrow).  Kevin's thesis, a heresy in the formal education sphere, is one that needs exploring as we move into a competitive, global space:

Consider this article from Wired. A year ago, I'd call myself a heretic for saying this, but there may be elements to the World of Warcraft or Second Life that can later be applied to the real world. I sincerely think all people are different in their learning, yet if they learn and later contribute, then is any of their knowledge acquisition to be faulted?

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Filed under Education, Games, Uncategorized

Creativity + Knowledge = Global Success

That is the formula found in Friedman’s column today.

My guess is that we’re at the start of a global convergence in education: China and India will try to inspire more creativity in their students. America will get more rigorous in math and science. And this convergence will be a great spur to global growth and innovation. It’s a win-win. But some will win more than others — and it will be those who get this balance right the fastest, in the most schools.

The last line … that is where the prize is… 

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Information, Access and Self Responsibility

With all the talk about the need for individuals to take responsibility for their own health care, this story about a drug used to treat Parkinson’s Disease highlights the fundamental “weakness” in the argument.  You must “know” in order to act responsibly.  Read this quote:

Kodam dismissed the existing warnings as too little too late: “The warning label is a joke,” he said. “To bury five to six words on Page 17 when the effects are so catastrophic is ridiculous. You need a clear descriptive warning label and notification to doctors to ask patients about this potential effect.”

So, how will you know that you have the information necessary to make the decision?  Who is teaching you how to analyze, synthesize, and rationalize?

To make matters more complex, some information (also known as concepts or ideas) is protected be patent.  For example, today in an essay published in the New York Times, Michael Crichton tells us the following can’t be used without royalties being paid to the owner of the patent:

Elevated homocysteine is linked to B-12 deficiency, so doctors should test homocysteine levels to see whether the patient needs vitamins.

He drives his point home with this conclusion:

Oh, and by the way: I own the patent for “essay or letter criticizing a previous publication.” So anyone who criticizes what I have said here had better pay a royalty first, or I’ll see you in court.

Of course, you may defend youself in court with the “prior art” defense, and certainly may cite examples of Ben Franklin’s essays as part of your defense (providing of course, you recognize any and all rights to publications cited as reference for such essays).  But, that costs money, takes time and certainly creates a barrier to access to information that, in my unpatented opinion, should not exist.

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