Posts Tagged ‘education’

Working in Wisconsin.

25. February 2011

Last week I had three tests and a mock trial tournament that I had to attend to, so I was somewhat out of the loop, merely breezing past most headlines in my RSS reader and largely skipping the first section of the Wall Street Journal, opting to go straight for the Money & Investing section. What I did manage to see was about Libya and Egypt for the most part. I had heard a little about what’s happening in Wisconsin from the guys at BoingBoing and while their coverage was rather tilted, it was still informative.

I took some time today to read up on what’s been going on. Wisconsin has no money for its public sector unions and the union members don’t want to lose their awesome benefit packages, which is understandable, as they have negotiated a rather sweet deal for themselves.

The following video was brought to my attention by the folks at Reason and created by the Heritage Foundation.

Now, obviously it’s slightly biased as it is from Heritage, but I think that the union supporters were given a reasonably fair chance to make their points. I noticed a few things in the videos that made me snicker, like the repeated references to Nazi Germany, the “Care about educators like they care for your children” signs and the prevailing “Us vs. The World” mentality exhibited by the union supporters and members.

The simple truth is this: this is both a union-busting bill and a budget bill. Of course the governor wants to bust the unions; they’re horribly inefficient, expensive and powerful and to boot, their ideology is largely homogeneous, which is a problem come election time. That they are inefficient and expensive are a large part of the budget problem, and to help bring the budget into line, things must be done to cut spending, which includes cutting union expenses.

The governor doesn’t want to cut spending on the unions because he hates the union members, he’s doing it because he can’t afford to do anything else. If he doesn’t cut union expenses, then he’ll have to cut from other budgets, and no one wants to see reduced budgets for state highway maintenance or education or whatever else state governments do that most people actually like. (As a libertarian, I have trouble naming any state programs that I wouldn’t mind seeing cut, either marginally or in their entirety. Use your imagination for this bit if you don’t mind.)

I just don’t see why teachers and postal workers and the like need collective bargaining. I really don’t understand it. If a teacher can’t teach, why should they keep their job? What is it about working for the government that changes the broadest requirements for keeping one’s job: being able to do that job? Teachers are, as they claim, some of the most important people in societies; the information they give to kids effectively shapes the future. They might ought to get more money for what they do, and if we privatized the system, I’d wager that they actually would. The trade-off, though, is that they would have to produce results that justify that extra money, and they might not have a job if they’re bad enough.

Wisconsin public-sector union employees, you’ve just got to hold your breath and get through the next few years. The perk of working for the government is increased job security. The trade-off is reduced compensation. You can’t have both, and you risk additional reductions in compensation when your employer, the government, is having a bad year or decade, as it were, just as private non-union employees do. But at least you don’t have to be as worried about being fired. Unfortunately for the taxpayers, I’m sure you’ll be back at your original compensation levels or higher when revenues go back up.

Links for Monday 4.10.10

4. October 2010

Since I’m finding myself short on time and long on reading material, I’ve decided that I’m going to start publishing a daily list of what I’m reading. If we’re friends on facebook, you realize that this means that I’m not going to keep posting ten links per day. Instead, I’ll just post this at the end of the day. If you read this and feel as if there’s a great website I haven’t yet visited, feel free to comment with the URL and I’ll do my best to visit it. I’m always looking for new RSS feeds. Also, I’ve redone the site a bit. The changes aren’t all that big, but the tagline has changed. Fear not, this is still the same blog.

The United States government seems to feel that we don’t know that the world’s pretty dangerous.
Our friends in good ol’ Deutschland have been reunified for twenty years now. Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Tag der Einheit, Deutschland!
The President and Co. have finally realized that the system was set up for gradual policy changes and is changing their plans accordingly.
The Union folk don’t seem to like school choice too much. It’s a pity, since their plan,  throwing money at the system, hasn’t worked yet.
This is a great artist whose music is both beautiful and truthful. If you like this, here is his iTunes.

When I get some more time, I’ll be posting actual articles of my own. If you’re planning on being in Atlanta for the Students for Liberty conference during October 23-24, let me know. I’d love to meet up with you!

In Honor of Earth Day.

22. April 2010

As a freshman in college, I’m obligated to muddle through two semesters of biology. The first semester is more of an anatomy and physiology class. The second is focused on environmental science. I told you that so that I could tell you this:

Humans are part of the environment.

If all of the bugs and the trees and the fish and monkeys are part of the environment, then humans are too. But you wouldn’t think that the way environmental science is being taught in the schools these days. In the eyes of most professors, humans are unnatural. When we hear about genetics, it is emphasized how similar human DNA is to other primates’. But in other contexts, our very presence is an aberration. We’re somehow different and exempt from the laws of nature which include

  • Adaptation to our environments
  • Competition with other species for resources

When we talked about natural selection and adaptation early on in the semester, it was explained that some organisms in a species would die because they couldn’t adapt to a hostile or changing environment. Take, for instance, the bugs that died because they couldn’t resist the DDT that farmers were spraying on the crops. Some could survive because of genetic mutations or some other biological mechanism that allowed them to resist the poison in the DDT, but these were in the minority. They would breed and eventually the entire species would be immune to the effects of the DDT.

However, when humans adapt to their environment by, say, killing a bison to make a coat, it’s inhumane! It’s wrong! We should never hurt other organisms like that! The fact is that if humans hadn’t learned how to keep warm by making those coats, we might have died out long ago because our bodies are not naturally suited for cold environments. We did what we had to do to prolong our species. Our bodies are not our evolutionary strong suit. They don’t change very quickly. One quick poke in the wrong spot and we’re dead. Our minds are our evolutionary advantage, and that is how we adapt to our environments. We can’t grow a coat when the weather changes, but we can make a coat or build a building or turn up the thermostat.

The other point I wanted to address was our competition with other species for resources. It’s done all the time. The weeds in your flowerbed are competing with your roses for sunlight, water and nutrients from the soil. One will likely win, but no one laments the death of the weeds. However, if humans want to build a neighborhood in some land which is the natural habitat of an endangered frog, well that’s just cruel! You’d take that frog’s habitat away and drive another species to extinction just so you can build more houses for more humans? Well, yeah. We’ve got the ability. The frogs are free to leave, and they might when they see that their habitat is being changed.

The really intense environmentalists – the ones who believe that the life of that frog is more important than your life or mine – are the worrisome ones. They purport that humans are unnatural and, therefore, can’t live by the predator/prey laws of nature. However, humans are biologically really animals just like any other, so they are wrong. They, by saying that these frogs need protection, recognize that they are the weaker species and that humans are naturally dominant, or the predators. In other words, they recognize that in the natural order of things, another predator would be justified in hunting this frog to extinction, but that because humans are humans, it’s an outrage.

The true outrage is that we’re instilling a double-standard mindset in the school-age generation that humans are both almost identical to other species that we deem “animals” and that we are unnatural and exempt from the laws of nature. I by no means advocate that we stray away from the first teaching. It’s important to emphasize this fact. I believe that the science curriculum in our schools needs to stop teaching the second idea. It’s incorrect, and if left unchallenged, slows down the progression of the human race on this earth.

On Education as a Market.

13. November 2009

Imagine  that the world was limited to one college course. It can be equated to the “market” as defined in the economic sense. There are the rich- the A students, the middle class- the B through C students, the poor- the D students, and those living below the poverty line- the F students.

Now imagine that the professor, who in this case stands in the place of the government, decides that she doesn’t want any of her students to be failing. So she organizes mandatory study groups each comprised of one rich, two middle class and one either poor or destitute student. They are required to study for the next test together, because that’s the only way that she feels the grades of the D and F students can be raised.

After the tests are all graded, the professor is baffled by the results. It seems that those who previously had As made Bs, those who had Bs or Cs stayed about the same, and those with Ds or Fs improved as much as a full letter grade. So she brings her top students in and questions them about it.

“You all made better grades on your last tests than you did on this one. What happened?”, she asks.
“We spent so much time trying to teach the failing students things that we already understood that we didn’t really get a chance to study what we needed to,” they responded.

So she takes this into consideration when she decides on the study groups for the next test. Obviously, since the groups didn’t work out well last time, she needed to organize them differently. So she uses the same general structure, but changes the people in the groups.

This is the failure of liberalism. Being wrong, being proven wrong, and then continuing to act on the principles that have been proven wrong.

This is based on what my Public Policy Leadership 101 professor has decided to do for our next test. Instead of actually teaching us the lessons, as is her job, she has decided that the kind of study groups described above is the best way to raise the grades of those doing poorly.

When she told me about the groups this morning, I immediately felt the urge to laugh, for my mind had jumped to Atlas Shrugged. She didn’t understand why I was smiling, but went ahead and said that she had decided to put one woman in each group, for our class has a disproportionately high number of men to women, and that she feels that “the men tend to have a general ‘let them fail’ attitude towards those not scoring as well”, and that she thinks having women in the groups will introduce a measure of compassionate understanding into the groups.

She obviously did not know to whom she was speaking.