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December 26, 2007

Comments

"With all due respect, Brett's position is inherently unreasonable. He does not deny racism exists. He calls AA 'racist'. That is his whole argument."

You don't have to identify erythropoietin as an appropriate treatment to know that bloodletting doesn't cure anemia. Racial preferences don't eliminate racism, they reinforce it, by legitimizing treating people according to skin color. So long as racial discrimination is official policy, racism will thrive.

In a nutshell, I believe that the Democratic party, after a period of remission, went back to it's roots as a provider of racial spoils, with the only real difference being who gets them. It was the path of least resistance, after all, and buying votes is a constant temptation for politicians.

Which is why Democrats are not adverse to a "remedy" which promises to perpetuate the disease, and thus be available as an excuse to buy black votes forever: If you ever stopped getting damned near every black vote, you'd be toast, wouldn't you? Why would you want to ever stop making those payments?

What is to be done about racism? Step one is already being done in several states, thanks to the successes of Ward Conorly: Racial discrimination [i]by agents of the government[/i] must be banned.

The 14th amendment doesn't, honestly read, authorize the federal government to demand more, but states are free to go beyond this, and ban private sector racial discrimination, too. I can't say that as a libertarian I'm enthusiastic about this: Freedom lives in the space between what we should do, and can be compelled to do, between what we shouldn't do, and can be compelled to refrain from. A world where all that's not prohibited is mandatory is my nightmare.

But, still, banning private sector racial discrimination would help the cause of extinguishing racism, and would at least present a uniform front on the subject of whether racial discrimination is acceptable.

Third, racism needs to be subject to public shunning.

Above all, if we are to have any hope of abolishing racism, we need an utterly unmixed message that it's unacceptable. NOT that it's unacceptable in one direction, and public policy in the other.

But I'd be willing to accept racism as an explanation for the discrepancy, too.

Well, that's might white of you.

Above all, if we are to have any hope of abolishing racism, we need an utterly unmixed message that it's unacceptable.

That sounds fine to me, but let's put some teeth in it, OK? I'm holding out for the eye for an eye approach.

Deny someone a job based on race or gender, you lose your job.

Deny someone a mortgage based on race or gender, you buy them their house or give them yours.

Deny someone a place in school based on race or gender, you pay for their education.

I'm not sure public shunning will do the job. Hit 'em in the pocketbook, that gets folks attention in a hurry.

Thanks -

Brett: . Racial preferences don't eliminate racism, they reinforce it, by legitimizing treating people according to skin color. So long as racial discrimination is official policy, racism will thrive.

I'm not seeing any recognition from you that, where there are no affirmative action programs consciously making employers and college admins look at people of color, the default is all too often an affirmative action program by which white jobseekers or students get places.

Russell is suggesting that instead of undoing this white-supremacist affirmative action program by putting in place a program that forces employers and colleges to be racially diverse, people are punished severely for racist actions. The problem with that as a strategy is that the more severe a punishment is for what is regarded as culturally normal behavior, the less likely a person is to be convicted of the crime. It has been demonstrated (over and over again) that it's more effect to change the cultural patterns of behavior - and one means of doing that is affirmative action programs.

By the latter, Brett, I mean:

It's been demonstrated that when you begin from institutional racism, with people doing the hiring or running admissions, who are - without intending to be racist - "seeing" a white person over a black person, merely having "colorblind" rules isn't enough.

A good affirmative action program has been demonstrated to be an effective way of getting past that stage - changing the culture of institutional racism.

You reject that, because you think it unfair to white people to have employers or admissions admin required to hire (or to admit) people of color, when they could be accepting white people instead.

So, what's your strategy for changing a culture of institutional racism? So far all we've heard from you is rejection of strategies proven to work: do you have any positive ideas about how to change institutional racism?

Jes: A good affirmative action program has been demonstrated to be an effective way of getting past that stage - changing the culture of institutional racism.

Do you really think it changes it? Or does it just drive it underground where it can be even more insidious? For instance, who to choose is always a very subjective decision. Choosing one person over another can almost always be justified in ways that stay far away from race. What I have in mind here is the manager I mentioned. HR would never catch him at his game. His hiring/promotion decisions always appeared to be well justified. As long as the decision involves an interview process it’s never going to be objective.

Look, Jes, you can't reasonably penalize people for failing to do the impossible. And, in a society where different ethnic/racial groups have different educational achievement, that means that it's impossible for a college admissions office or a hiring department to achieve strict racial proportions, unless they throw qualifications out the window, and impose a quota system.

And that's not abolishing racial discrimination, it's institutionalizing it. It only "works" if your aim is to create the illusion of a non-racist society, over the reality of racism.

You want to eventually reach a society where different racial groups are going to get admitted to college in proportion to their numbers, without racial discrimination? You won't do it with quotas and racial preferences. You'll have to look at root causes, and work your way through the age demographics, fixing out of wedlock birth rates, prenatal nutrition, pre-school nurturing, cultural attitudes towards educational accomplishment. Year by year, step by step, you'll have to do something liberals are, by virtue of their multi-culturalism, ill equipped to do:

You'll have to commit cultural genocide, abolish the cultural differences between ethnic/racial groups.

Because those cultural differences are how the legacy of ages of racism work's it's ill effect on the present generation.

You'll have to look at root causes, and work your way through the age demographics, fixing out of wedlock birth rates, prenatal nutrition, pre-school nurturing, cultural attitudes towards educational accomplishment.

Great ideas, Brett. I'm in favor of all of them. In fact, dare I say it, those solutions sound very... liberal. Walk through what you're suggesting from beginning to end: who's going to help? It's not going to be churches or charities--they can only do so much. It's not going to be their neighbors--they're just as poor.

It's going to be the government, Brett. What you're talking about are government programs. If you think these things are the real solution to a lack of minorities being successful, then I suggest you work within your party to have them stop obstructing your proposed solutions, along with improving the quality of schools in poor urban communities, eliminating draconian laws that are designed to disproportionately incarcerate blacks for longer sentences, universal basic health care that would ensure everyone gets what they /need/ without having to worry about feeding their children that month, and any of the other thousands of things Republicans as a whole routinely fight against.

When you stand behind a party that effectively says government should get out of the way and let everyone sink or swim on their own, rather than trying to figure out how to reduce the number of people who sink as much as possible, you are not part of the solution, and have no place criticizing the proposed solutions of those who are.

You want to eventually reach a society where different racial groups are going to get admitted to college in proportion to their numbers, without racial discrimination? You won't do it with quotas and racial preferences. You'll have to look at root causes, and work your way through the age demographics, fixing out of wedlock birth rates, prenatal nutrition, pre-school nurturing, cultural attitudes towards educational accomplishment.

And these things aren't significantly impacted by the systematic denial of educational opportunity? Of course all these things need to be addressed head-on as well (though I can't imagine what would improve cultural attitudes toward education better than education itself). But without the educational component, I don't see how you can succeed in any of these areas.

Year by year, step by step, you'll have to do something liberals are, by virtue of their multi-culturalism, ill equipped to do:

You'll have to commit cultural genocide, abolish the cultural differences between ethnic/racial groups.

I think you are mistaken in assuming that changing these sorts of negative aspects of a culture (and the use of "culture" here is really mushy, given the incredible cultural diversity among black Americans) is tantamount to destroying that culture. Of course, your phrasing here -- "cultural genocide" -- is very loaded, unless you are actually talking about something morally repugnant and unconstitutional, like re-education camps or some such. You could be more clear, I think, about what you see as the more conservative (or illiberal?) solution to these problems.

Or perhaps your point, Brett, is that the conservative solution is no solution at all or, put more succinctly, "sucks to be you"?

To try and return to some examples, I suggest we should consider the example of orchestral musicians discussed by Malcolm Gladwell in _Blink_. Whereas previously, orchestras were a very male dominated preserve, when orchestras went to a blind audition, it resulted in a a much more balanced situation. Here's a link to Gladwell's discussion of the conclusion, which includes cites to papers about orchestral auditions. I'd be interested to know how this example is wrong or how it is somehow different from the case of racism being discussed here.

"and the use of "culture" here is really mushy, given the incredible cultural diversity among black Americans"

Yup, as diverse as their success or failure.

"Of course, your phrasing here -- "cultural genocide" -- is very loaded, unless you are actually talking about something morally repugnant and unconstitutional, like re-education camps or some such."

Yes, it is pretty much my contention that, short of coercive destruction of cultural diversity, you could never conceivably reach a state where there would just automatically be no statistical disparities in hiring and admissions, even if there were no such thing as racism.

But it is also my contention that curing the damage of past racism is going to inevitably require changing a lot of black culture, because a lot of that culture IS the damage from past racism, and so long as it stays intact, the damage will remain.

But I don't see how that can be done by government. Government is not the answer to all problems.

OCSteve: Do you really think it changes it?

In the long run, yes. I think it has to be clearly understood that you don't change anything in the short run.

Or does it just drive it underground where it can be even more insidious?

If you mean that people who are racist will continue to try to be racist even though policies and regulations and laws forbid them to be racist, yes, I'm sure they will. And they will be bitterly resentful of having to hire or work with or study alongside people they see as inferior. And they will claim that these "inferior" people only got the job, or got into the course, because of the color of their skin - and they will try to prove this by pointing out some white candidate who didn't get in whom they claim was superior to the black candidate who did.

But twenty to forty years down the line, yes, this will make a difference. You have to start somewhere. You want to go take a look at the white reaction to the 1948 Executive Order to integrate the military? It's educational. But, fifty years on, the US military had become famous worldwide as an example of how forcible integration and affirmative action can change an institution that anyone would have said was locked into institutional racism.

Jes: Solid response. I love that you and I can participate on the same blog.

"A good affirmative action program has been demonstrated to be an effective way of getting past that stage - changing the culture of institutional racism."

Which institutions do you believe that affirmative action has been a key or an integral part of breaking down institutional racism?

I'm not sure I understand how you equate the integration of the military with this. I could be totally missing the history of it, but I'm unaware of *affirmative action* being a large part of this. The order to integrate wasn't affirmative action at all. It was an order to stop discriminating against black people.

Liberal_japonicus, "Whereas previously, orchestras were a very male dominated preserve, when orchestras went to a blind audition, it resulted in a a much more balanced situation. Here's a link to Gladwell's discussion of the conclusion, which includes cites to papers about orchestral auditions. I'd be interested to know how this example is wrong or how it is somehow different from the case of racism being discussed here."

I would be 100% unshocked to find that this example is true. But notice that the remedy to the situation was not anything remotely similar to affirmative action. It would analogize to completely race-blind admission processes for example.


That's a good point, Sebastian, but notice that this would be precisely the nub that Brett would object to if the government instituted completely color-blind hiring procedures, preventing employers from asking about race or havin face to face interviews and dealing out stiff penalties for those that do. And you too, I think, given what I remember as your libertarian leanings, iirc. (And this is what has been done in Japan to deal with the problem of discrimination against Burakumin and we are prohibited from asking for a range of information in any sort of application process)

Also, given that Brett seems to argue that we are close enough to color blind in the US, we do not need AA (I'd note that it's not clear to me precisely what his stance is, as sometimes he's suggesting that the playing field is level enough and other times, he is arguing that the cultures represented by minorities in general and African Americans in particular would be lost in permitting them access to jobs reflecting actual demographics), the point of th anecdote is to suggest that he is wrong on this. Interestingly, the Vienna Philharmonic is probably the last major orchestra to have non-blind auditions and the 'Kultur' of the Orchestra is held up as a reason to permit this.

At any rate, given that there is no way to intervene in the hiring process in a way similar to that done with orchestras, AA would seem to be the appropriate intervention, at least to me, and if it is not, then what would be appropriate to replace it? Of course, all sorts of draconian impositions could be suggested, (I seem to recall one thread (probably not here) where someone argued for increased police powers of search and arrest, and when questioned about the problems with it, balanced them with proposing a death penalty for cops who commit perjury), but given the state of society, what would you (not you specifically, but a general 2nd person pronoun) propose?

That's a good point, Sebastian, but notice that this would be precisely the nub that Brett would object to if the government instituted completely color-blind hiring procedures, preventing employers from asking about race or havin face to face interviews and dealing out stiff penalties for those that do. And you too, I think, given what I remember as your libertarian leanings, iirc. (And this is what has been done in Japan to deal with the problem of discrimination against Burakumin and we are prohibited from asking for a range of information in any sort of application process)

Also, given that Brett seems to argue that we are close enough to color blind in the US, we do not need AA (I'd note that it's not clear to me precisely what his stance is, as sometimes he's suggesting that the playing field is level enough and other times, he is arguing that the cultures represented by minorities in general and African Americans in particular would be lost in permitting them access to jobs reflecting actual demographics), the point of th anecdote is to suggest that he is wrong on this. Interestingly, the Vienna Philharmonic is probably the last major orchestra to have non-blind auditions and the 'Kultur' of the Orchestra is held up as a reason to permit this.

At any rate, given that there is no way to intervene in the hiring process in a way similar to that done with orchestras, AA would seem to be the appropriate intervention, at least to me, and if it is not, then what would be appropriate to replace it? Of course, all sorts of draconian impositions could be suggested, (I seem to recall one thread (probably not here) where someone argued for increased police powers of search and arrest, and when questioned about the problems with it, balanced them with proposing a death penalty for cops who commit perjury), but given the state of society, what would you (not you specifically, but a general 2nd person pronoun) propose?

Sebastian: Which institutions do you believe that affirmative action has been a key or an integral part of breaking down institutional racism?

The US military is actually, I think, one of the best examples in the world of how legislation against institutional racism followed by affirmative action will break down the white-supremacist pattern. cite.

But there's no denying that it takes time.

There's a famous story in Star Trek fandom, how Whoopi Goldberg saw Nichelle Nichols playing Lieutenant Uhura and went running to tell her family "There's a black woman on TV and she's not playing the maid!" Nichols got the part of Uhura - and the part was kept in the show very much against Paramount's wishes - because Gene Roddenbury was practicing his own personal affirmative action to make sure Nichols wasn't fired for being black. As Nichols makes clear in her autobiography (worth reading, even if you're not a Trekkie) open, blatant racism in the movie industry was a major roadblock in her career and the careers of others. Her example made changes, in and of itself. And that was 40 years ago - some of the security guards who used to harass Nichelle Nichols as she was entering the lot are probably still alive, though hopefully retired.

"Gene Roddenbury was practicing his own personal affirmative action to make sure Nichols wasn't fired for being black."

That isn't affirmative action as has been used in this discussion.

From your cite: "The board that handled promotions was ordered to look at the records of eligible black colonels and to determine if they had been given lesser assignments or evaluated negatively by officers who were racially prejudiced. Once race-related blemishes were expunged, black colonels with otherwise sterling records emerged as strong candidates for promotion."

That isn't affirmative action either, even though the NYT pretends it is.

You can make the claim that those two examples are affirmative action, but if that is so the race based preferences you are allegedly defending using the term 'affirmative action' are propagandistically mislabeled. Both of those examples involve removing anti-black policies to aim for color-blind policies. This is especially true of the military program--as shown in the last sentence of the quoted passage.

That isn't the same at all as disfavoring much more qualified Asian students for much less qualified Black students, to use the college admissions example.

Both of those examples involve removing anti-black policies to aim for color-blind policies.

If there were a way to establish truly color-blind policies in all of the cases under discussion, I don't think there would be a discussion. We could all simply apply those color-blind policies and move on.

In almost any real-world case I can think of, there is no practical way to eliminate race from consideration. At some point in almost all hiring, promotion, or other candidate-evaluation decisions, somebody sits across the table from somebody else and talks to them face to face. At that point, the color of their skin, their gender, or perhaps some other undesirable quality is evident.

Symphony orchestras can evaluate candidates purely based on their playing. Perhaps the military can evaluate candidates for promotion purely on the basis of a paper record. But in most other contexts, part of the evaluation process is getting a human gut check on how the candidate will fit in the environment they will have to work in.

That brings us back to the subjective world of the judgement call. In real life, people get passed over for positions for reasons like "too abrasive or arrogant", "didn't give clear answers", "not enough drive", or "not a big-picture thinker". Good luck proving that those characterizations are or aren't really screens for "too dark for my taste", "female", or "seemed kind of gay".

For all of their faults, the advantage of programs like AA is that they objectively measure outcomes, without having to evaluate or legislate individual's motivations. It's easier, by far, to require that the ratio of black, female, or gay applicants hired (as examples) be reasonably close to those who apply than it is to evaluate and enforce "color blindness".

I'm not a fan of preferments and quotas, for many of the reasons raised by Brett and yourself, but I'm far less a fan of further generations of blacks, women, gays, or whatever other group you care to name being excluded from opportunities and positions of responsibility and achievement.

If you can tell me how to design and enforce a color blind evaluation policy that will work in contexts other than the armed forces and symphony orchestras, I'm all ears. Otherwise, I'm afraid we're left to choose from among less-than-ideal options.

It sucks, but that's life.

Thanks -

Holsclaw,

That isn't affirmative action as has been used in this discussion.

Well, yes, specifically it is, unless you can logically convince the peanut gallery that she was "the best candidate" for the part. For the question remains, what are the 'best' qualifications. If Roddenberry was specifically 'reserving' that part for a black woman, he was engaged in the very act of 'reverse discrimination' which you claim is so abhorrent.

As for the editorial, you appear to have missed its essential point:

Once race-related blemishes were expunged, black colonels with otherwise sterling records emerged as strong candidates for promotion.

This included (if you actually read the article) previous 'lower grade' assignments which acted to negate future chances for promotion that were deemed to be the result of race based decisions in the past. The very ground rules were changed to enhance promotion of blacks. In effect, the military rigged the rules to get the outcome they chose as a policy goal. For some reason, conservatives cannot grasp this basic fact.

Most black and Latino students are still confined to mediocre schools that place even excellent, hard-working students at a disadvantage in terms of standardized test scores.

The real money quote in the article. I notice you managed to ignore it. What a suprise.

Most black and Latino students are still confined to mediocre schools that place even excellent, hard-working students at a disadvantage in terms of standardized test scores.

An excellent argument for a national voucher program…

What, so even more money can be funnelled away from schools which have a majority black and/or Latino student body, so that they can be even worse off? Which is the first and obvious effect of a "national voucher program".

It's a better argument for doing what conservatives hate to do: funnelling more money into public schools, and especially into schools currently tagged "mediocre".

You can argue that if Nichols and Roddenbury hadn't already had a close personal relationship, Roddenbury would never have got the idea for having a black woman as a bridge officer. But it's clear that having a diverse bridge crew was a big part of Roddenbury's dream: that Nichols, once given the opportunity, won the part on talent: but that because she was black, Uhura wouldn't have been allowed to remain in Star Trek as a a major character, if not for Roddenbury's personal intervention. All in all, yes: Nichelle Nichols as Lieutenant Uhura is a working example of how affirmative action challenges institutional and personal racism.

Jes: What, so even more money can be funnelled away from schools which have a majority black and/or Latino student body, so that they can be even worse off?

I just think that these kids should have the same educational opportunities as kids whose parents can afford to pay for their education twice (once via school taxes, a second time via tuition for a private school). Every child should have the same opportunity for a quality education. Why should a child be trapped in a failing public school because their parents are poor?

And the “first and obvious effect” IMO is that the competition forces public schools to improve benefiting all students in the area.

Just throwing money at the problem certainly is not the answer.

OCSteve: I just think that these kids should have the same educational opportunities as kids whose parents can afford to pay for their education twice (once via school taxes, a second time via tuition for a private school).

Great. So, why not quit being a conservative and campaign for funding for public schools so that they're better than private schools? That way you'll be sure that all of those kids get the same educational opportunities, regardless of the income of their parents.

And the “first and obvious effect” IMO is that the competition forces public schools to improve benefiting all students in the area.

Er, you're citing an article sponsored by a right-wing think-tank to "prove" that taking funding away from Florida public schools "benefits" all the students in the area - and another article by another right-wing think-tank to "prove" that merely paying teachers rather less than most graduate jobs (rather than substantially less) is not going to improve the quality of education in the US?

First of all, "competing" schools is like "competing" hospitals. It's a nonsense. A child needs an education, and the local school should be able to provide education to a high standard. If the local school isn't doing well, the voucher system ensures that it will receive less funding next year, which is a pretty good way to ensure that it does less well, which is an excellent way to ensure that the children whose parents take least interest in their education will receive an even worse education than before - even if you assume that all the children whose parents did take an interest were promptly removed from the failing school and sent elsewhere, which supposes that all of those parents were able to find a better school in the area which was willing and able to take their children. (A hypothesis, not a fact.)

Vouchers are a guarantee that the children who most need support in getting the same educational opportunities as the children of wealthy parents - won't. And that is exactly why the kind of conservatives who sponsor think-tanks like the Hoover Institute love the idea of vouchers - it means they can continue to guarantee a permanent underclass.

Jes: Rather than dismissing the articles due to the source, can you take issue with the data cited? Is it incorrect or manipulated in some way? Do you think I would find support for my viewpoint at the NEA website?

This either is or is not a verifiable fact:

Between 1982-83 and 2001-02, total revenues for public education in New York nearly tripled – and the state’s share of education funding grew even faster in New York City than elsewhere. Counting all sources of revenue (local, state and federal), total public school funding in New York City rose during this period from $3.8 billion to $11.3 billion, while per pupil spending went from $4,165 to $10,842.

As is this:
Nonetheless, city schools did not improve, according to key pupil performance measures. Barely half of city high school students graduate on time; the percentage of students receiving a Regents Diploma in 2001-02 (32 percent) is actually lower than it was in 1982-83 (36 percent); the gap on state test scores between city students and the rest of the state stayed the same or increased; and the number of city students attending failing schools increased dramatically.

I can tell you from experience that “Regents Diploma” line is very important. Colleges won’t even look at applicants from NY who have the standard and not the Regents Diploma.

I’ve shown you a case where a dramatic increase in funding failed to yield any positive results. Can you show me a case supporting your point of view? I promise not to dismiss it out of hand if it comes from the NEA…

OCSteve: I’ve shown you a case where a dramatic increase in funding failed to yield any positive results.

Actually, you haven't. To show that was a dramatic increase in funding in real terms, you need to show a lot more than merely saying "total public school funding in New York City rose during this period from $3.8 billion to $11.3 billion, while per pupil spending went from $4,165 to $10,842". The article you cited, I noticed, did not show any background to these figures - and that was by itself enough to raise a red-alert flag. (It also helps that I am familiar with conservative arguments in the UK complaining that services which conservative governments consistently underfunded for nearly 20 years, didn't magically and instantly get better after a Labour government began to increase funding.)

When a person employed by an organisation dedicated to putting forward a particular political viewpoint, produces an article which supports that political viewpoint, this is really unsurprising.

Now would you care to respond to the argument against defunding public schools by vouchers that I presented?

New Year's Resolution: to get an education thread up at TiO...

Steve, I'll sign up to agree that just "throwing money" at schools isn't magic that will automatically cure problems.

That's really not a controversial idea. If a school was granted one hundred million dollars, but chose, for some reason, say of incompetence or corruption, to spend every dime on confetti decorations for the school for the next ten years, that wouldn't help a lot.

So, obviously, it matters how the money is spent, what the nature of the student body is, what their problems are, what the best solutions for their problems are, whether more social services help outside the school system is required, whether other expertise can be found and applied, and so on and so forth.

But money tends to be necessary for most of these things to be done.

To say that money alone isn't sufficient to cure educational problems is actually entirely anodyne. Having agreed to that point, what can we say about the fact that to do a lot of what we can do to help young 'uns get educated does require money, as well as that it be well-spent?

Because the fact that money alone isn't magic, absent paying attention to all those other factors mentioned above (and more), doesn't actually in the least make the case that spending a lot of money on education can't help, or won't help in the right circumstances, and should be dismissed as irrelevant.

Let me also throw in that my mother worked for the NYC Board of Education before I was born (as a social worker) and returned to work for them a couple of years after I was born, first as an "attendence teacher," and then teaching reading, and eventually being chair of the Reading Department at Erasamus High School in Brooklyn for many years before retiring. My crazy father also worked for the Board of Ed, as a therapist, for many years, until he finally was crazy enough to get fired.

I grew up with the Oceanville-Brownsville strike. I know a little something about dysfunctional school systems. Sure, lack of money isn't remotely the only problem, and more money alone isn't a cure.

But calling for more sane management also shouldn't be cover for union-bashing, which is what it often tends to be. Teachers' unions aren't the root of the problem;, it should be said.

I just think that these kids should have the same educational opportunities as kids whose parents can afford to pay for their education twice

This is a topic that deserves its own thread, but I'll chime in briefly to note that there are also examples (Edison Schools for one) of privately operated schools being more expensive and of lesser quality than their public equivalents, and in fact ultimately failing.

Straight up -- schools in poor areas frequently suck, and it's not just an inner city problem. My niece currently works as a reading trainer under a NCLB grant for a school district near Syracuse NY. Some of the kids she serves don't get their homework done because there's no electricity at home. No electricity, no lights. Folks heat their houses with wood.

Schools in poor areas stink quite often because they're primarily funded through property taxes. No tax base, no money. No money, crappy schools.

You might get a voucher scheme to work in a big city, where there are other institutions that will sponsor a competing school either as a charity (ex Catholic or other parochial school) or as a money-making operation (ex the above-mentioned Edison schools). For poor rural districts, it's not likely to be a meaningful alternative.

We do spend a lot of money on public schools in this country. I'm not sure how it compares to other, comparable nations, but it is a lot of money. I'm not sure what the money is being spent on, but it is apparently not being spent on the two things that will actually improve the quality of education -- teacher salary and class size.

Moving away from the public school model may be attractive for a number of reasons, but there are significant benefits that will be lost if it's allowed to fail.

Thanks -

russell: We do spend a lot of money on public schools in this country. I'm not sure how it compares to other, comparable nations, but it is a lot of money.

I'm not sure that it's proper to compare between countries, either. I know that in the UK, you can easily have a school which has much higher funding levels and yet has worse results - which tabloid journalists are fond of using as examples of poor state education, because they won't use the background to the data that shows why a school received higher funding, if it was really higher funding or still not enough for what is needed, and over what timescale we might expect that funding to show better results.

Granted, "just throwing money" at a problem won't fix it. But the notion that you don't need to pay teachers good salaries in order to attract the best graduates is one that has been current in the UK for quite a while, with corresponding bad effects on the number of teachers available and the size of class that teachers are expected to take. (At primary school, my class was 30+ children, consistently, over 7 years: this was considered a large class, but not unusually so. UK classes are still among the largest in the world.)

The problems of problem schools are always far larger than the schools.

They're the problems of a concentration of poor people living a culture of poverty which produces more poor people.

One of the best recent dramatizatons of this was the fourth season of The Wire. The problems of whole families and neighborhoods and cities need to be addressed to properly begin to deal with the needs of the kids, their families, their neighborhoods, and their city.

Trying to deal with just one area in isolation, like the local school, can only have highly limited effects at best, anyway.

"Invalid email address '[email protected] '"

When will it end, Lord?

I always find these discussions of school vouchers to be pretty meaningless without knowing the particulars of the program being proposed.

"Schools in poor areas stink quite often because they're primarily funded through property taxes. No tax base, no money. No money, crappy schools."

Not in most of the large states. California--'serving' nearly 1/6 of the entire nations school aged children is funded centrally yet it ALSO has some of the very worst inner city and rural schools. Your complaint for the most part is a relic from the 1970s schools battles--it is nearly as relevant in the 2000s school battles.

"As for the editorial, you appear to have missed its essential point:

Once race-related blemishes were expunged, black colonels with otherwise sterling records emerged as strong candidates for promotion.

This included (if you actually read the article) previous 'lower grade' assignments which acted to negate future chances for promotion that were deemed to be the result of race based decisions in the past. The very ground rules were changed to enhance promotion of blacks."

It is rather amazing that you can come up with the a$$_H*** comment 'if you actually read the article' when quoting the part of the article that I actually quoted.

The rules were changed to directly address and directly look at the individual assignments which had previously been made on a racist basis. Those individual racist assignments were looked at differently. That has almost no policy implications for defending say an ongoing project of only allowing marginal Asian students into a university at an educational testing standard almost a full standard deviation higher than marginal Black students. (The difference in the Michigan case was almost enough to count for the difference in getting the lowest test score possible and the highest test score possible).

In the army they said: racist commanding officers gave black people bad assignments. We therefore can't exclude otherwise excellent black officers based on the racist assignments. That was a particularized remedy for actual overt racist action and took place over a very small time frame. It has very little to do with open-ended race-based educational quotas, or with 'small' pluses that can overwhelm the difference between the minimum score and maximum score on the SAT. (And no matter how much you might want to claim that the SAT isn't 'sensitive' enough to black culture or some similar argument, it is not so insensitive as to deserve to have the difference between the 'I got every single freaking question wrong' score and 'I got every single question right' score. )

BTW, I use the university of Michigan policy despite the US Supreme Court outcome, because it is representative of the extreme steps needed to have racially balanced outcomes at the university level. The Supreme Court just said they couldn't put a specific number on the plus the way they did--that they weren't allowed to formally systematize it (a very odd result). That is rather willful blindness about how it actually works.

As for the objection that there can't be race blind procedures like the symphony, that isn't true in the university setting. The number of schools with much weight attached to the interview is very small--and many schools have dispensed with the personal interview altogether. So unless you send your picture, most people can't tell if you're black or white. (The argument about black sounding names is a separate point, but doesn't apply to the large majority of black people in any event--there are far more Wil Smiths than there are Latishas.)

Not in most of the large states.

Noted. I think we're still largely property-tax-based here in retro New England.

As for the objection that there can't be race blind procedures like the symphony, that isn't true in the university setting.

This could well be true, it's been a long, long time since I was in school. The face to face interview is, AFAIK, still an essential part of the hiring process for any professional position.

If there are useful, practical color-blind procedures available, IMO they'd be preferable to racial preferments. It remains unclear to me if they are, in fact, available.

Thanks -

Let us suppose - just as a hypothesis - that it's not particularly good to award places in college purely on the results of SAT scores. Let us further suppose that because black students in Michigan tend to have gone to inferior schools or received inferior teaching. Let us further suppose that students from inferior schools/who received inferior teaching tend to get lower SAT scores than students from higher-quality schools. Finally, let us assume - since no one has mentioned that the quality of graduates from Michigan U went down - that a student with a low SAT score who goes to a good college can in fact do as well at college as a student with a high SAT score.

None of those assumptions sound that freaky and out-there to me, Sebastian: do they to you? If so, which ones?

Going to college is not a prize that should be awarded based on winning a competition. Going to college is a necessary stage in many of the more highly-paid, influential, and socially valuable careers. If the frequency of low SAT scores among black students means that basing admissions purely on SAT scores would result in many good students being rejected in effect purely because of the color of their skin, then why shouldn't Michigan U decide that it will ensure that at least so me of the good students will be admitted even if they have low SAT scores?

There is of course the Bell Curve option, which argues that the difference between black and white scores on standardized tests is due to the "fact" that the more melanin you have in your skin, the less intelligent you are likely to be. Someone who believed that would absolutely be arguing that a pattern of lower test scores for black students compared to white means that black students are less likely to "deserve" a college place than white students.

Sebastian,

California is not a good example for you to pick. The decline of the California public schools was a direct result of Proposition 13 (the limit on state property taxes). At the time funding was closely tied to local property taxes.

Things have improved recently and in my view it is largely a result of increased spending, especially to reduce class sizes in the lower grades.

I happen to be a charter school supporter, by the way. My two children attended California Charter School #1.

Public school funding in California is a complicated subject and I have to admit that I'm not as up on it as I used to be but back in the mid-1990s the numbers were appalling -- per-pupil spending in the $4,500 range.

You aren't paying attention to magnitude. We aren't talking about subtle distinctions between SAT scores. We are talking about the difference between scoring the very lowest possible score. And in any case, I had misremembered the facts. In the Michigan case being black was worth 20 points on their scale while the difference between getting the worst possible score and the best possible score was only 12.

Whatever minor flaws may exist in the SAT system, they aren't so big as to pretend that the difference in educational achievement between a null score and the best possible score is less than the difference between being black and Asian.

And that is the level of affirmative action tipping that we are talking about at the university level.

"The decline of the California public schools was a direct result of Proposition 13 (the limit on state property taxes)."

Per pupil spending as of 2002 was $7,511 and was ranked at 23rd in the nation (so right in the middle). cite. I also note that DC has the highest spending and among many of the worst inner city schools in the nation.

That puts California spending above most European countries. I used to have a nice Mercury News link for that stat, but they've apparently reorganized (evil!). But this is the closest I could come up with on short notice (and it still shows US per pupil spending and well above European standards-- cite [Note this particular dataset might be inappropriate for direct CA comparison because I'm not sure how 'primary' shakes out. But the Mercury News story said the same about CA statistics.]

Holsclaw: "The rules were changed to directly address and directly look at the individual assignments which had previously been made on a racist basis.

Precisely. Previously, promotion to colonel and above would have required (let us make up an example) exhibiting outstanding leadership qualities in an 'elite' fighting unit as opposed to 'merely' keeping the mess hall running. Demonstrated competence keeping the mess hall running was given more weight for purely racial reasons, i.e., to increase the number of black colonels. Assuming that the number of colonels is (in some meaningful sense)'fixed', one could argue that other, 'more qualified' applicants were denied promotion--a occupational death sentence for a military professional.

They changed the rules to increase the number of black officers. In a heirarchical command social structure, they found a way to make it work, all traditional elements of what constitutes an 'effective' officer corps be damnned. I am sure that one could, without much effort, find more than a few (now civillian) captains and majors from that era who are still bitter about being passed over by 'unqualified' blacks. Too bad for them.

So yes, this example has a lot to do with "'open ended' race-based educational quotas".

I was involved in the budgeting back in the day (my per-pupil number is from memory). I just downloaded a RAND">http://www.rand.org/pubs/monographs/2004/RAND_MG186.pdf">RAND report showing a statewide K-12 average of around $6,500 in the 1993 time frame (when I was directly involved). Of course that's an average and we were K-8, not K-12.

The funding formulas for individual districts were not easily comprehensible but I can tell you that making the budget work at the level of funding we had was almost impossible.

"Demonstrated competence keeping the mess hall running was given more weight for purely racial reasons, i.e., to increase the number of black colonels."

They temporarily changed the rules about how to weight mess hall assignments because the assignment TO MESS HALL had been done on a racial basis. The assignments had been made in a racist way to keep blacks from advancing so the racist intentions of the assigning officers was thwarted. It also was not open-ended.

That isn't even close to weighting purely on race at 160% of the difference between the lowest and highest possible scores on the SAT. In order to justify that, you have to say that race is a more likely indicator of academic success than the difference between the worst and best possible scores on the SAT.

Sebastian: They temporarily changed the rules about how to weight mess hall assignments because the assignment TO MESS HALL had been done on a racial basis.

And you're OK with that because it was twenty-odd years ago and demonstrably, it worked.

Why aren't you okay with temporarily changing the rules on how high a SAT score has to be to get you into college, given that low SAT scores appear to be the result not of inferior intelligence but of racial discrimination?

"And you're OK with that because it was twenty-odd years ago and demonstrably, it worked."

No. I'm OK with it because it was a specific and limited response to specific racist acts.

"Why aren't you okay with temporarily changing the rules on how high a SAT score has to be to get you into college, given that low SAT scores appear to be the result not of inferior intelligence but of racial discrimination?"

A) it isn't temporary.

B) there are lots of things that contribute to academic success other than raw intelligence, so your formulation "not of inferior intelligence but of racial discrimination" is wrong. The difference between the lowest and highest possible scores on the SAT are almost certainly NOT a result of racial discrimination. And if it were, you would have trouble explaining why Asian-Americans seem to do very well on the SAT and are also the ones MOST DAMAGED by the affirmative action racial discrimination policies.

Sebastian: it isn't temporary.

I know of no affirmative action programs that have been permanently adopted. All of the ones I am aware of have been implemented subject to review. Which permanent programs were you thinking of?

The difference between the lowest and highest possible scores on the SAT are almost certainly NOT a result of racial discrimination.

Got an argument why, in that case, the distribution scores of SAT tests tend to be racially skewed? Does it have anything to do with the Bell Curve argument?

and are also the ones MOST DAMAGED by the affirmative action racial discrimination policies.

First I think you'd have to show that anyone AT ALL has been damaged by affirmative action programs.

Jes: Now would you care to respond to the argument against defunding public schools by vouchers that I presented?

You said: “Vouchers are a guarantee that the children who most need support in getting the same educational opportunities as the children of wealthy parents - won't”. I’m not really sure that is an argument. I mean if it is a certainty (guarantee) in your mind how do I counter that?

I’d probably favor some kind of interim funding, say for a couple of years. If a public school is hit hard by students taking advantage of the opportunity to go elsewhere, they get the loss made up by tax dollars for some time. If they can’t turn things around in a couple of years then that money stops.


Gary: Having agreed to that point, what can we say about the fact that to do a lot of what we can do to help young 'uns get educated does require money, as well as that it be well-spent?

This is entirely reasonable. I agree with you. It does take money, and more than they get now. I’m for increasing funding as long as it comes with requirements for accountability. That rarely seems to happen though. If you took a look at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity case I noted, the New York State Court of Appeals has mandated a “sound basic education” for all New York City pupils. But the court also ordered that city schools have to be accountable for results. Everyone had their eyes on the money, but that accountability thing kind of got lost.


All: I want a solid public school system. I have no desire to kill it off. But I don’t agree that economically disadvantaged kids should be stuck in a poor school system with no way out. Getting a good education is practically their only way out of that environment. They should be able to take their share of the tax money allocated for their education and take it somewhere else.

You said: “Vouchers are a guarantee that the children who most need support in getting the same educational opportunities as the children of wealthy parents - won't”. I’m not really sure that is an argument. I mean if it is a certainty (guarantee) in your mind how do I counter that?

By showing how, in your mind, giving schools with poorly-performing students less money will help those students do better? That's what the voucher system promises: that if a majority of the students are doing badly, a school will get less money next year. That's your argument: you say that by defunding the education of students who are doing badly, somehow this will do more to help them than increasing the funding. How do you work that out? What makes you think poorly-performing students do better if their school is given less money?

If a public school is hit hard by students taking advantage of the opportunity to go elsewhere, they get the loss made up by tax dollars for some time. If they can’t turn things around in a couple of years then that money stops.

Sounds like great motivation for the school to get rid of the poorly-performing students.

But I don’t agree that economically disadvantaged kids should be stuck in a poor school system with no way out.

Then why do you want to make the poor school system worse? Or why do you think a poor school system will get better if it's given less money?

They should be able to take their share of the tax money allocated for their education and take it somewhere else.

A five-year-old kid in grade school should be able to do this? Or a fifteen-year-old kid in high school? Or their parents should? What about the kids whose parents are working 80 hours a week and don't have the time or energy when they get home to figure out what other school their kid could go to? How are those kids going to benefit more by being in a school that's got less money?

Holsclaw: They temporarily changed the rules about how to weight mess hall assignments because the assignment TO MESS HALL had been done on a racial basis.

Uh, oh. Out come the ALL CAPS! Musta' struck a conservative nerve.

So, currently we have black kids who have been racially assigned to crappy neighborhoods and schools and thus have poor SAT scores, and thus do not qualify for "elite" schools, but dare we not, like the military, impliment rather non-traditional and actually (in their case) rather brutal (in terms of departure from what traditionally constituted 'merit') corrective measures, and change the rules to overcome the outcomes due to this racism?

Is that what you're saying, Sebastian?

The authors of the 14th Amendment are rolling in their graves.

from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/special/affirm/stories/aaop031595.htm

The first lesson is that affirmative action in the Army eschews quotas but does have goals. Guidelines for Army promotion boards are to select minority members equivalent to the percentage in the promotion pool. This means that the Army promotion process is based not on the number of minority members in the Army, but on the number of minority members in the pool of potential promotees to the next higher rank. Very important, there are no "timetables" to meet goals.

Temporary, eh, what, Sebastian?

Jes: You’re holding out for the perfect, something many here have argued against in terms of AA. [mind reading cap on] You seem to be willing to let everyone suffer the current state of the system unless it can be fixed for everyone across the board. This is not a new issue; our public education system has been going downhill for decades.

Anything you suggest in terms of more money will take decades more to turn things around (IMO). In the meantime, you’re condemning the sharp kid whose poor parents want her to benefit from a better education. Vouchers could change that overnight.

It’s like government control is more important as a means to an end than outcome. (Mind reading foul accepted.)

Personal anecdote: I lived in a zip code in PA desirable mostly due to the good reputation of the school system. Philly suburbs. Made me money selling my house there - just the desire for that public school system. Many people from the city would register their cars in my county, claim a relative’s or friend’s address in my zip code as their primary residence just so that they could put their kids into my local public school system.

No bus service for that obviously. They went to extremes to drive their kids from city to ‘burb and retrieve them every day. Ask any Philly commuter what that is all about. That was a severe hardship on the entire family; they did it illegally so that their kids could have the best education. And some were caught and prosecuted for it.

This is not as simple a matter as parents not being involved with their kid’s education or not having the time to decide what would be best. Parents are breaking the law as it exists to try to get their kids out of failing schools. And note that I’m not even talking about parents moving their kids from public to private school – just parents moving their kids to a more desirable public school – at risk of jail and fines…


However… ;)

To congratulate myself at least one time in 2007 – I had the good sense to steer clear of the abortion thread. ;)

I'd like to touch back on something Jes mentioned, about outcomes: Is anyone asserting that the graduates of colleges with affirmative action programs have become less competitive? Or otherwise impaired? And are they producing any data in favor of the assertion?

I know of several common complaints about declining standards of other sorts among college graduates, but none of them are related to affirmative action, so nearly as I can tell. It's a safe bet that, for instance, affirmative action has nothing to do with declining drill in grammar and mathematics among the students of upper-class predominantly-white prep schools. Hence the phrasing: is there any reason to believe that making a more diverse student body an institutional goal leads to institutions preparing their students less well than rivals who don't have that goal?

For affirmative action in law schools for instance we find that black people admitted under affirmative action tend to have much higher drop out rates, much lower grades and much lower bar passage rates (the last being especially cruel as they are then saddled with $100,000 in debt with no hope of actually becoming a lawyer.

See for example here, and here

To congratulate myself at least one time in 2007 – I had the good sense to steer clear of the abortion thread. ;)

So you wind up on a thread that veers wildly off course (it started out discussing B. Bartlett's intellectual dishonesty), descends inexplicably into affirmative action (the death zone of racial discussion of any kind), and thence into the merits of vouchers (yet another dead end)and the Philadelphia 'burbs.

For this you congratulate yourself? Well, happy new year in any event, OCSteve!!! :)

Thanks, Sebastian, I'll read up on those. Anything about general university conditions?

I think it is probably difficult to measure in general university terms (very easy to match bar passage to affirmative action admits but I can't think of an easy comparable measure for general university). But I wonder if there is a good reason to suspect dramatically different outcomes at the general university level. (I can think of some differences which might come to bear, but they don't seem compelling.)

Well, that's part of the point I was getting at. I've read a lot of criticisms of college-level affirmative action which seem to presume the existence of grave harm being done by such things, but very little discussion of what such harm would include, or how you'd measure it, or whether anyone's tried. And I'd find all of that stuff more interesting.

Bruce, I'm confused. Are you asking about the overall achievement level of students from schools that practice AA or just of those admitted because of AA? Because I think one of the problems of AA is that simple admission policies are not, in and of themselves, solutions, but students admitted need to be supported in other ways. I did some study on this in New Zealand, where they are trying to bring Maori into higher education and it is not simply an admission policies that were revamped, but special course work and tutor systems were put in place. This sort of brings us back to the center, cause if you set up a system that helps students thru, majority students complain that they would have done as well or better with the same kind of support. I'd grant the point, but if there is not a support network (cause face it, college is not simply how one does in the classroom, but organizing living details, balancing classwork and real-life, dealing with differing expectations, figuring out what a social life is and, need I say, sex and love, and all of these can be just as much a cause for someone dropping out as poor performance in the class, either as a trigger or as a causative factor for poor grades), it is not really surprising that lacking such a network, minorities are more at risk for dropping out or poor performance.

LJ, I've read some discussion of dropout risks and other concerns that apply during student years. I was asking - or at least intending to ask, which isn't the same thing :) - about outcomes after the student years are done.

LJ, I've read some discussion of dropout risks and other concerns that apply during student years. I was asking - or at least intending to ask, which isn't the same thing :) - about outcomes after the student years are done.

I thought there was the Bowen and Bok study where the outcomes in "real life" weren't that much different...

"So you wind up on a thread that veers wildly off course (it started out discussing B. Bartlett's intellectual dishonesty)"

Threads don't have a programmed course to go "off" from. There aren't rules requiring anyone to stay "on topic," and discussing veering onto whatever anyone wants to talk about, within the general bounds of custom and non-trolling, is perfectly normal.

You might also consider using quotation marks, or blockquoting, to indicate when you're quoting something.

OCSteve: Jes: You’re holding out for the perfect, something many here have argued against in terms of AA.

Actually, no. Deciding that education is going to be given good funding so that all kids shall receive good education isn't "the perfect". It's merely a goal any country ought to have.

Anything you suggest in terms of more money will take decades more to turn things around (IMO).

Well, yes. Is that any reason not to begin now? Vouchers are an excellent way of deciding not to turn things around - to keep most kids with poor parents in schools that are getting worse and worse. It beats me why you think this is a good idea.

In the meantime, you’re condemning the sharp kid whose poor parents want her to benefit from a better education.

While you're condemning all the sharp kids whose parents are way too busy to even think of moving them to a better school to an even worse education. Why - again - do you see this as a better goal than long-term investment in good education for all?

Jes: Tell you what…

In exchange for a voucher program and some accountability in public schools I hereby bless a 50% increase in my school taxes.

If you can't explain why you think it's good for kids to be stuck in a failing school with ever-decreasing funding, OCSteve, why do you support that happening?

Here's the fundamental problem in principle with "vouchers", as I see it.

In any given area, there are so many children, and they all need an education. Say there are three schools, A, B, and C. A gets very good results: B gets mediocre results: C gets poor results.

A is a private school that lets in poor-but-bright kids on a scholarship system, and accepts any kid whose parents are wealthy enough to pay their extortionate fees, in exchange for which the parents get a virtual guarantee - plenty of individual attention, small classes, lots of funding for textbooks, equipment, etc - that their kids will get into the college of their choice.

B and C split the available public funding pie between them. They don't get the rich kids, who go to A: they don't get (or they lose) the very brightest of the poor kids, who also get skimmed off to A. Because of where C is located, C gets a lot of kids who didn't start learning English till they went to school, and C doesn't get any extra funding for English tuition. If you look at how kids improve, C actually does better than B. Neither C or B can compete with A for teacher salaries.

Introduce vouchers. For school A, this is pure gold: they can take even more bright kids at even less cost to them. Their results get better. For school B, this is a blow: their share of the public funding pie goes down. Some parents who can't get their kids into A take their kids to B instead.

For school C, this is a knell. Their share of the public funding pie goes way down. The good they were able to do for the kids in their area melts away. Their results get worse and worse.

Again, OCSteve: not seeing why you think this is better. The UK introduced "parental choice" for schools some years ago: but all it's meant is an end to the system where kids from the same neighborhood all went to the same school, forming a community. Education authorities try to keep families together, but often siblings have to go to different schools: some kids have to travel an hour or more to get to school even when there's a school five minutes walk away, which they are not allowed to attend because it's a "good" school and therefore already full to the brim; and, if I need add: most parents don't have any real choice about where their children go to school.

Jes: If you can't explain why you think it's good for kids to be stuck in a failing school with ever-decreasing funding, OCSteve, why do you support that happening?

Why do you support every kid being stuck in a failing school with their parents having no choice about it?

I pay around $2,300 per year in school taxes. Increase that to $3,500 and I won’t complain as long as I see some accountability (administrators can actually administer their schools) and some options right now for parents to move their children to the school of their choice.

You want more money – done. I want accountability and some choice.

Why do you support every kid being stuck in a failing school with their parents having no choice about it?

I don't. I support providing more funding for schools and education so that no kid is stuck in a failing school.

I pay around $2,300 per year in school taxes. Increase that to $3,500

How generous. You're actually willing to pay a bit more so long as kids in failing schools get a lot less! Why - again - do you feel that kids in failing schools are better off if their schools get less money? Is this a question you're even willing to consider - since you're patently unwilling to answer it?

I don't. I support providing more funding for schools and education so that no kid is stuck in a failing school.

But at an all or nothing cost. No poor kid escapes that unless every single one does.

Why - again - do you feel that kids in failing schools are better off if their schools get less money? Is this a question you're even willing to consider - since you're patently unwilling to answer it?

I’m unwilling to answer it because those are words you put into my mouth. Why do you object to accountability and parental choice?

Obviously I don’t feel that giving a school less money will help them in the short term. In the long term I think it will force them to either get their act together or close their doors. Either outcome is acceptable to me. (And no, that doesn’t mean that I expect those kids to get no education at all. I expect the government to insure that those kids still get an education.)

But at an all or nothing cost. No poor kid escapes that unless every single one does.

And your objection to all kids getting a good education regardless of their parents' income level is...?

I’m unwilling to answer it because those are words you put into my mouth

Oh, please. Fine: explain to me how you think vouchers work. When child Z leaves school C, with a "voucher" to be paid into the funds for school A, does or does not school C lose the funding represented by the voucher? Are you thinking of vouchers as brand-new money which comes into the system?

Why do you object to accountability and parental choice?

I have no objection at all to accountability. What makes you think I do? I have no objection to parental choice, but think it preferable to fund all public schools sufficiently well that kids will still get an excellent education even if their parents have neither the money nor the time nor the knowledge to be able to investigate all the schools in a given area and figure out which one they ought to try to get their kids into.

Obviously I don’t feel that giving a school less money will help them in the short term. In the long term I think it will force them to either get their act together or close their doors.

So in the short term, you find it acceptable for most kids to receive an inferior education as their school loses money. And you have a fantasy that a school will somehow do better the less money it gets. How is it supposed to do that?

And no, that doesn’t mean that I expect those kids to get no education at all. I expect the government to insure that those kids still get an education

So long as there are voters like you who find it acceptable for children to receive an inferior education in a filthy, falling-to-pieces school, I don't suppose any government will find it worthwhile to invest much in education.

Have a good day Jes. I give.

Ah well: I guess it makes you a better person that you are unwilling to consider the consequences of defunding education for poor kids, than if you were actually rubbing your hands with glee over the thought of maintaining a permanent underclass.

"Actually, no. Deciding that education is going to be given good funding so that all kids shall receive good education isn't "the perfect". It's merely a goal any country ought to have."

Ok, but vouchers are a form of funding. In theory you could have exactly the same funding levels and do it all through vouchers.

Your A,B, and C thing doesn't think the numbers through. There aren't very many 'A' private schools that are totally outside the system in your formulation. Acting as if they will swamp the system isn't understanding the magnitude. What is more likely to happen is that people from the 'C' schools will now get to go to the 'B' schools. And also many of the 'C' schools will improve so they don't lose all their students. And further some new private schools will become available in the old 'C' neighborhoods because there isn't a monopoly anymore.

You are wrong about teacher salaries. For the most part teacher salaries are lower in private schools than they are in public schools.

"Ah well: I guess it makes you a better person that you are unwilling to consider the consequences of defunding education for poor kids, than if you were actually rubbing your hands with glee over the thought of maintaining a permanent underclass."

This is almost comical. In actual point of fact, the schools which have been most instrumental in maintaining a permanent underclass have been run by Democrats for more than a generation. See especially New York and California. Don't try to put that on OCSteve or Me. Your ideological compatriots have been firmly in charge of schools--and are already spending much more money than they do in the UK or almost anywhere in Europe. Something else is going on--it isn't a lack of money, and you can't blame Republicans for the day-to-day actions--the Democratic affiliated teachers unions have been completely in charge for longer than my lifetime.

SH: "the Democratic affiliated teachers unions have been completely in charge"

From what I've seen, where the unions have been weakened, the educational system has worsened. Money is in fact a problem in CA - we have many schools with fundamental structural problems, and the cost of living here isn't comparable to most of Europe. We had a fine educational system when there was more money available, until the conservative/populist Prop 13 enacted as a reaction to attempts to make educational funding more equitable when the state was conservative. And, well, the problem of ESL students isn't simple or ignorable.

And, jeez, why respond to Jes, who treats you so discourteously?

Ok, but vouchers are a form of funding.

True. They're a form of funding that ensures the poorest schools get the least money, so the kids going to those schools get the worst education. OCSteve felt this was acceptable: do you?

OCSteve's argument was that giving less money to schools with poorly-performing students would magically make those schools do better: is this an argument you follow? Can you explain how less money improves a poor school?

OCS, fwiw my understanding of the accountability argument is that private and charter schools can be reasonably seen as attempts to avoid what some consider burdensome accounting (e.g., demanding teachers be certified [which at least according to the policy expert here at Stanford is very important]), and the teacher-testing part has to be evaluated in light of the extreme difficulty in coming up with a reasonable regime. It's really hard to evaluate a single school fairly over the course of years - to do so on the individual level is much harder.

Also, it seems to me that the conservative critique of the current system ought to look a lot more at principals than teachers and at inequities in district organization.

From personal experience I sympathize with the frustration of dealing with an entrenched education bureaucracy that I believe is behind the support for vouchers. It was my own frustration that led me to become deeply involved in a charter school, although it was my daughter who actually decided she wanted to go there.

But it seems to me, to believe vouchers are the solution to the problem is tantamount to trusting the invisible hand of the market. That approach has some dangers. First, the "creative destruction" entailed often disproportionally harms the poor and weak. Also, when a large lump of money suddenly appears, as would be the case when implementing vouchers on a large scale, it tends to attract sharks. I do not trust our current political environment to guard against these dangers. So although the threat of vouchers may be a useful blow to the head with a 2-by-4, I believe vouchers would be a cure worse than the disease.

We were extremely lucky at our charter school in that we had the support of the district superintendent of education. In our particular district there was bad blood at the time between the teachers' union and management, and this carried over to opposition to the charter. We would have welcomed union teachers in the early years but none were willing to take the plunge.

I agree strongly with rilkefan -- principals and other administrators are far more likely to be the cause of poor school performance than teachers or teachers' unions. This was made vivid to me at the high school my daughters attended after leaving the K-8 charter. A new principal there completely changed the atmosphere in a few short years.

At bottom, though, a lack of sufficient funding is the biggest problem. Again, in my experience, if every decision one makes is colored by a lack of funds, it is almost impossible to achieve good results. The best that can be hoped for is to stave off failure.

"From what I've seen, where the unions have been weakened, the educational system has worsened. Money is in fact a problem in CA - we have many schools with fundamental structural problems, and the cost of living here isn't comparable to most of Europe. We had a fine educational system when there was more money available, until the conservative/populist Prop 13 enacted as a reaction to attempts to make educational funding more equitable when the state was conservative."

I'm not really sure where you are talking about unions losing power. They haven't in California for instance.

Prop 13 has impacted the state as a whole, but funding for schools in California is way up compared to the 1970s (which is the last time they could plausibly be considered good in general). It used to be plausible that it was mainly a money issue, it really isn't very plausible anymore.

I certainly suspect that some principals suck, but I can't really see how they are likely to be more of a problem than teachers (who see the students every day) or overall funding (which makes the limits in which principals operate). Administrators in schools operate with very tight strictures. They are hemmed in by the unions on one side, and the school board on the other (unless the school board is effectively controlled by the union which it often is). They are the reverse of the classic CEO--all the responsibility, with very little of the power to make fundamental changes.


Ral, the schools are underfunded excuse is a relic of the past. Compared to almost all Western countries we spend much more per pupil . Back in the 1970s we spent the least, now we spend pretty much the most. It isn't just money.

Sebastian, compare California to New York.

I agree, though, it isn't just money.

So, with regard to the effect of inflation and population increase, what is the difference between funding in Californian public schools in the 1970s and 30 years later? How much of that is affected by the increase in necessary school equipment? (In the 1970s, computers were not considered a necessary classroom aid: in the 2000s they certainly are. That would be one difference: I imagine there are others.)

For those interested in gory details, see the RAND report I linked above. Dated 2005.

"So, with regard to the effect of inflation and population increase, what is the difference between funding in Californian public schools in the 1970s and 30 years later?"

Even counting inflation and population, California has seen enormous increases in funding for schools. That is how we went from spending much less than Europe to much more. Strangely this is exactly the time California went from having good education to having very bad education.

I'm not really sure what you want me to take away from the RAND report. I'm certainly in agreement that California education as hit a huge multi-decade decline. But as they show, most of the decline took place during vast increases in expenditures--including as the RAND report shows two ONE YEAR INCREASES of around 27% in 1994-1995 and 2001-2002. It simply isn't a lack of money that is the problem in California schools.

Even counting inflation and population, California has seen enormous increases in funding for schools.

So, cite, Sebastian, cite! Where are the figures for school spending in the 1970s? For school spending in the 1980s? For increase in population? For increase in inflation? For increase in school equipment now considered necessary? For increase in school maintenance costs? What is the increase in real terms, and where is the increase being spent? Where are you getting your figures for this from?

We've had these discussions before Jesurgislac. I don't look up cites for you because you don't really care. I don't even think you believe I'm wrong in this case.

Once I show them, you just ignore. You can use google just like anyone else. I already cited the world comparison numbers. Look over there to your heart's content. It is a fact that California has massively increased their spending per pupil. The RAND report even shows that.

Just to be clear I will NEVER look up a cite at your request Jesurgislac, unless it at the very least begins with "I believe that you are wrong about that number and that you are wrong enough to materially change the argument" or something to that effect.

I've been "cite-please" trolled by you far too many times.

But because I'm a sucker, I point out that most of the cites you request already exist in this thread as links either by me or ral.

California has spent less per pupil than the national average for many years. "Enormous increases" from a low base do not indicate sufficient spending. Then there is the fact that spending is so variable year-to-year.

The relatively recent funding for lower class sizes in the early grades has, I believe, led to some good results that will probably have a long tail.

Why are you comparing with Europe?

Sebastian: We've had these discussions before Jesurgislac. I don't look up cites for you because you don't really care.

I don't recall that we've ever had a discussion about school funding Sebastian, but since you brought it up: yes, your habit of making stuff up and claiming it as fact in other discussions has led me to ask for cites. When you provide them, they usually turn out not to be to reliable sources of factual information, but to biased news articles or websites geared to providing biased information to prove the point you want to make.

I point out that most of the cites you request already exist in this thread as links either by me or ral.

*goes back and checks* Yes, you did provide a cite to spending in 2002 in Californian schools on December 31, 2007 at 04:43 PM. I apologize for asserting that you hadn't provided any.

Re the infamous 20 points in the U. of Mich undergrad admission system: see this to dispel some misconceptions.

Sorry -- brain damaged markup.

Jes And you're OK with that[reevaluation of mess hall assignments] because it was twenty-odd years ago and demonstrably, it worked.
Why aren't you okay with temporarily changing the rules on how high a SAT score has to be to get you into college, given that low SAT scores appear to be the result not of inferior intelligence but of racial discrimination?

Jes, the difference to me in the military response versus the UM response is in how the remedy was applied. In the military, they had a lot of sources to turn to: former commanding officers, soldiers, performance reviews, performance in OCS and school, etc. The military already had a track record in its own institution to turn to and try, as objectively as possible, to unwind the discrimination. The military did not use a 100 point scale for promotion to general and automatically assign 20 points to African Americans, did they?

As for the SAT argument, if each college put as much effort as the military presumably did the results would be more acceptable. I would have no problem overlooking a low SAT score of a student raised by a single parent who worked afternoons to help support the family who had a good attitude and positive teacher reviews, or went to a really lame school, etc. Just giving 20 points doesn't cut it. The remedy was nowhere near as tailored as the military's remedy.

bc: In the military, they had a lot of sources to turn to: former commanding officers, soldiers, performance reviews, performance in OCS and school, etc.

Recommend you read the article bemused linked to, which outlines the other sources besides SAT scores that Michigan U could and did use in deciding which students to admit.

As for the SAT argument, if each college put as much effort as the military presumably did the results would be more acceptable.

Good. They did. It would be the universities that admit purely on SAT scores that don't put as much effort into admissions as Michigan U did.

On school funding:

I was involved in the formation of one of the first charter schools in Alaska. Alaska mandated union wages for teachers. Funding in Alaska comes from the State and local funds (in my borough's case, 1/3 came from local funds). The borough refused to allocate ANY local funding (interpreting the law to not require any). We started a school being 1/3 behind and accepting all comers of whatever background.

The school succeeded and continues to be a tremendous success. I attribute all of the success to dedicated teachers and parents. Wherever you have that combination, it's going to work. Take away one or the other and it will likely fail. After all, our school did it when literally it had no money after salaries and building costs were paid.

Throwing money is not the solution (although there has to be adequate money). I now live in California. We have a funding crises in our district. Some say that is due to Prop 13. I am not entirely convinced. Our funding is far above what the Alaskan charter school started with. It is interesting how focused the district is in maintaining standards with the funding it has. That focus with better funding would probably result in improvement. But when funding increases, the focus seems to go away.

Right now the focus is on parent involvement and using volunteerism to fill in where things are short. That should really happen no matter what. In my local area, the kids that are failing are most often from failing homes. Getting their parents on the stick is going to yield way better results than throwing more money IMHO.

I find it hard to understand why so many defend a system that almost completely lacks merit advancement. The NEA works tirelessly to squelch any attempt at basing salaries on merit and rewarding teachers who go above and beyond. I believe more of a business model would yield better teachers and attract more talent. I would be in favor of such a system.

Also, my local system appears to have had way too much administrative costs attached. Too many people for starters. I would be interested if anyone has looked into how administrative costs have changed since the 70's especially in light of the growth of the Dept. of Ed.

I would love to see vouchers tried all over the country on at least a trial basis. See what happens. I don't share Jes' concerns. I think it could be the best thing to happen to education in a long time. My only worry is that it takes a dedicated parent to take advantage of a voucher and what to do about the kids who's parents simply don't care.

Jes: Good. They did. It would be the universities that admit purely on SAT scores that don't put as much effort into admissions as Michigan U did.

What is your basis for saying UM put as much effort into the problem as the military?

I read the article. It fails to account for problem outlined above by Sebastian Holsclaw (20 points for being African American vs. 12 points from worst-to-best SAT score). It's not as if they said they would give UP TO 20 points depending on how a particular student faired due to racial discrimination issues. Each student automatically got 20 points.

I am not against any tipping of the scale as I said way upthread. This just seemed to be too much.

bc: "I believe more of a business model would yield better teachers and attract more talent."

Would this be the same 'market' model that is dusted off and used to justify obscenely high CEO incomes? That one? If this is such a great model, why not apply it to all facets of public service...for police, for firemen, for civil servants? (Oviously, if you want the 'best' for 'our' money, then if follows you have to pay through the nose to get the very best....does it not?)

Oh, wait, we already tried that model in the 19th century. We called it the 'spoils system'.

It never ceases to amaze me that we, as a society, insist on the very highest qualifications for teachers, pay them like dirt, and then whine and moan like little spoiled children when they 'fail'. And heaven forbid that we raise their salaries to attract better, and better motivated, candidates.

But we persist in treating them as a form of public service priesthood (service, sacrifice, mission, and boy oh boy--they work cheap, too!). If that be the case, then 'free-market solutions' are obviously not a meaningful solution.

What is your basis for saying UM put as much effort into the problem as the military?

What is your basis for thinking they didn't?

Though I've linked to this before, this Dave Eggers article again seems apropos.

bc: Right now the focus is on parent involvement and using volunteerism to fill in where things are short. That should really happen no matter what.

I agree and I believe there's research showing a strong correlation between parent involvement and good results. It was one requirement in our charter and in the first year we had more volunteers than we knew what to do with. It worked out, though, and the school is still going strong.

However, I fail to see how vouchers will increase parent involvement. Parents who want to get involved tend to do so and charter schools give them the opportunity. Vouchers are just a way to reallocate existing, too limited, funds.

I don't see anything in the article that bemused linked that impacts my argument negatively. Basically they say that other things were considered. I never said otherwise. But the fact that the SAT min to max is weighted at 12 while race is given a full 20 shows the enormous weight being given to race.

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