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January 08, 2020

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In case you don't follow the link through from the cited article, let me call this out:

From Long-Term Trends in Deaths of Despair (a white paper title for the ages):


Mortality from deaths of despair far surpasses anything seen in America since the dawn of the 20th century.

And it goes on from there.

The markets are roaring!

"At some point, the bottom half of the globe by income realizes they can double their wealth by taking the wealth of the world's richest 26 men, who have more money than 3.8 billion people."

This seems to confuse money with wealth. If the very rich had to turn their wealth into money, much of it would turn into vapor.

"Affixing your own oxygen mask before helping others is a decent tagline for capitalism."

I'm pretty sure this is what most safety manuals and training would tell you to do.

"If money is the transfer of work and time, we've decided our kids will need to work more in the future, and spend less time with their families, so wealthy people can pay lower taxes today. If that sounds immoral, trust your instincts."

And yet, in spit of payroll taxes, US taxes are more progressive than most first world democracies.

russell's article is a mixed bag. Another quote is this:

"Suicides spiked with the onset of the Great Depression, but they were rising steadily throughout the 1920s. The declines after 1915 and 1938 are partly attributable to World Wars I and II. These drops do not so much reflect the substitution of war-related deaths for suicides: suicide fell among women during these periods too, and the declines began before Americans entered the conflicts. Rather, as Emile Durkheim first posited, the likely explanation is that wars promote social integration, which reduces despair."

If true, is this an argument for war? I think I'd rather have despair.

This seems to confuse money with wealth.

Perhaps a less... mechanically literal reading is called for here.

If true, is this an argument for war?

Um, my guess is no. It's an empirical observation, and a hypothesis about the effects of social disintegration.

There are better paths toward a cohesive society than war. I suspect the authors would prefer those.

"One way to reinvest in the unremarkable: a Marshall Plan to increase four-year public colleges by 40%, and junior colleges and trade schools by 80% over the next 10 years."

Let's throw money at old ways of doing things in the hope they'll still work in a changing world.

Why not, if the new ways don't do the job?

This is as much of as in spite of Trump, trade wars, etc, as because of him.

"By nearly every measure today, we are living in a magnificent time for the American economy. There is a booming stock market fueling trillions of dollars of wealth gains, record low unemployment, 3 percent to 5 percent wage gains, and seven million unfilled jobs. So the recent headline for a CBS report seemed to strain all credulity when it declared, “Two years after Trump tax cuts, middle class Americans are falling behind.” Huh?"
Contrary to what the media reports, middle class Americans are surging

Why not, if the new ways don't do the job?

The government-backed student loan bubble is over a trillion dollars. The easy to get loans bided up the cost of university education. Throwing more money at universities is unlikely to do much to alleviate current problems.

median household income, meaning the middle class, has gained about $5,000 of income in just three years

That's 2 1/2% a year. Which puts it about one-half-of-one-percent ahead of inflation over the same period.

After being flat for something like 40 years.

And all of that said, the thrust of the piece is about the prospects of younger people, who are starting out. And who are (the author claims) being squeezed out of access to things like education and housing due to competition for those goods from wealthier and/or otherwise more exceptional peers.

If you need $100K to go to school for four years (which is not, remotely, unusual) $5k over three years of household income is not going to change your world.

Emile Durkheim first posited, the likely explanation is that wars promote social integration, which reduces despair."

If true, is this an argument for war? I think I'd rather have despair.

I think Durkheim missed something critical. It isn't that wars promote social integration directly. It's that building a big army to fight one does. So it's not that we need a war. It's that we need something like a draft which enlists some substantial part of the population from across all classes and incomes. IMHO, eliminating the draft may have been the worst public policy error of my lifetime.

Doesn't even have to put people in the military as we normally envision it -- something like the CCC during the Depression, or like the Peace Corps, would do fine. Just so it dumps a lot of people together with others from outside their usual environment. And has them forced together to accomplish something for the general good. Or at least for something beyond their personal benefit.

It's that we need something like a draft which enlists some substantial part of the population from across all classes and incomes.

So, involentary servitude is OK if government does it?

I'm not against stuff like the CCC etc but I'm not sure that's even what is necessary.

IMO it would be sufficient if people saw modest but tangible goals to be within their reach. Get an education that gives you a path to meaningful employment without incurring six figures of debt. Be able to afford to live close enough to where you work to not have to spend 2 or 3 (or more) hours a day getting to and from. Not have to work two jobs just to get by.

Be able to afford to have a kid before you're 35. Be able to buy a place to live before you're 40. Save enough money over the course of your life that you don't have to work until you're 75 years old.

Stuff like that.

The markets are roaring, but most people don't own a piece of the market. At least not a big enough piece that their lives are materially better or worse due to the roaring.

The Hill piece Charles links to trumpets the increase in household income. $5K in three years!!

Let's spell the numbers out again. Median household income is about $63k. That's household, not individual. $5k is right about 8% of that. Over three years, that's about 2.6% per year.

Inflation over the same period is about 2% a year. So the roaring markets have brought the average household an increase of one half a percent, per year.

A half of one percent of $63K is $315. Our middle class family can replace 3 out of 4 of the tires on their car. Or maybe everybody gets a new pair of shoes.

The Hill finds this brag-worthy.

The Hill finds this brag-worthy.

When your ideological position can't be convincingly justified by reality, you're stuck with smoke and mirrors. What else can they do? Admit that their ideology doesn't work as advertised in the real world?

"In this book, we show how neighborhood participation in the housing permitting process exacerbates existing political inequalities, limits the housing supply, and contributes to the current affordable housing crisis. Participatory institutions like planning and zoning boards invite comments from neighbors on proposed housing developments. While neighbors with all viewpoints are welcome, we show that the individuals who choose to participate hold overwhelmingly negative views of new housing—far more negative than their broader communities—and are socioeconomically advantaged on a variety of dimensions. Using land-use institutions, these individuals—who we term neighborhood defenders—are able to raise concerns that lead to lengthy delays, high development costs, and smaller projects. The result is a diminished housing stock and higher housing costs."
Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America’s Housing Crisis

"Boston University's Katherine Levine Einstein explains the dysfunctional politics behind America's housing crisis."
The Weeds: Neighborhood Defenders (PodCast)

Throwing more money at universities is unlikely to do much to alleviate current problems.

"Throwing money at" is a wording that makes it easy to ignore crucial distinctions, as is discussing only universities and ignoring the part about junior colleges and trade schools.

If the money is going to opening new schools rather than pushing even more money into the ones that exist, it's not bidding up the cost of education. It's increasing the supply. I thought increases in supply, ceteris paribus, pushed prices down.

"Using land-use institutions, these individuals—who we term neighborhood defenders—are able to raise concerns that lead to lengthy delays, high development costs, and smaller projects. The result is a diminished housing stock and higher housing costs."

So, involuntary servitude for individuals in established neighborhoods is OK if local governments decide to abolish public input into land-use decisions?

So a Ukrainian passenger jet manufactured by Boeing crashes after take off from Iran, killing all on board.

During this week of all weeks, those three proper nouns find themselves side by side in the news?

The markets love it, and if the markets love it, then I love it too and I hope it happens again and again and again.

To make up for all of the conservatives who hate Trump, but can't bring themselves to vote for any Democrat in 2020, because a few more Americans might get health insurance and taxes might be raised, just as they couldn't compromise their insufferable fucking standards to vote for Clinton in 2016 but rather threw their vote away to a third-party jasper who might ask today "What's a Boeing .. and where is this Ukraine you speak of .. and Iran? Never heard of it", I'm voting for Trump in November.

It's the least I can do to balance out the stupid in America and bring the killing, butchering, and slaughtering that is coming to the conservative movement in America and around the world a little closer to goddamned reality.

IMO it would be sufficient if people saw modest but tangible goals to be within their reach. Get an education that gives you a path to meaningful employment without incurring six figures of debt. Be able to afford to live close enough to where you work to not have to spend 2 or 3 (or more) hours a day getting to and from. Not have to work two jobs just to get by.

Be able to afford to have a kid before you're 35. Be able to buy a place to live before you're 40. Save enough money over the course of your life that you don't have to work until you're 75 years old.

I like these goals, but getting there seems extremely complicated.

To take a couple of them:

Get an education that gives you a path to meaningful employment without incurring six figures of debt.

Education is (IMO) important in itself, but not as a means to employment. Most employment requires specific knowledge and job training. In so many ways, education is a luxury and a status symbol. I say this as someone who would like to insist on education for as many people as want it, because I think it is intrinsically a good thing, so the price of college is absurd. So we need cheaper college, but we also need more egalitarian hiring practices. (The internship phenomenon is an example of what's wrong.)

Be able to afford to live close enough to where you work to not have to spend 2 or 3 (or more) hours a day getting to and from.

How many urban centers have been successful at making policies to address this? Post-WWII has some wonderful models, but their acceptance in our society seems to have been premised on racist implementation.

Etc. Wealth inequality is a huge problem. Heavily taxing the rich, and spreading money around fairly directly, is the main way to solve it. Health care

So, involuntary servitude for individuals in established neighborhoods is OK if local governments decide to abolish public input into land-use decisions?

This is a subject that I find extremely problematic. Everyone has a NIMBY issue of some kind. Some land use schemes are extremely intrusive and unsuccessful at the same time.

Oops. "Health care" randomly appears in my comment. I was about to go on and on, but apparently decided to spare everyone.

But, yeah, health care. We need it. Everyone needs it, and there are good models for providing it to everyone.

Most employment requires specific knowledge and job training. In so many ways, education is a luxury and a status symbol.

A four-year degree is a signal to potential employers that you'll do what you're told, work hard and not make trouble. Job knowledge may be secondary.

Education is (IMO) important in itself, but not as a means to employment. Most employment requires specific knowledge and job training. In so many ways, education is a luxury and a status symbol

First, "education" doesn't necessarily mean four years of college.

Second, for much if not most work other than unskilled or trades labor, you need a college degree to apply. Whether that degree is directly relevant to the job skill set or not. Depending on what you want to do, it is neither a luxury, nor a status symbol. It's what opens the door.

So, I disagree with this.

There is a broad range of work folks can do that does not require a college degree, although it could require professional training of other kinds. But a very broad range of work does require it.

How many urban centers have been successful at making policies to address this?

I don't know.

I've lived in or near NYC, Philly, and Boston. In Philly I lived right in town, so I just took the subway, bus, or walked.

In NYC and Boston, I got to work mostly by car - as I do now - and it was and is dead normal to spend two-plus hours a day getting to and from. If I took the train from where i live now, to where i work now, it would take longer. If I commuted at rush hour, it would be three hours a day, period.

And I live / lived within 15 miles of downtown Boston.

A lot of people live really far from where they work. Some of that may be the legacy of race-based or -influenced policy, but most of it is just about money. It costs a lot to live within 20 miles of Boston, so if you don't make a lot of money and you work in the city, you're going to spend a lot of time on the road.

My understanding is that it's the same in lots of places.

Always been like that to some degree, the degree to which it is so is just larger now.

Education is (IMO) important in itself, but not as a means to employment. Most employment requires specific knowledge and job training. In so many ways, education is a luxury and a status symbol

And yet I consider what happened here half a century ago. The California Master Plan for Higher Education in 1960 included things like tuition free education at the University of California for the top 12.5% of high school graduates. And at the California State Colleges for the top 1/3. Plus 2 year community colleges for anyone who could benefit from it. And we implemented it.

It may, of course, be entirely coincidental that California's economy boomed for half a century, while the generation that benefited (all us Baby Boomers) worked. And that Silicon Valley is where it is. Etc., etc., etc. But I don't think I really believe in coincidence to that extent.

Just did some quick research on education inflation as it relates to my personal history. I started the Masters program at University of Texas at Austin in 1986, at which time out of state tuition+fees was a little under $1300 per semester for a full load (9 hours/3 courses), which inflation adjusted to today would be $3000. Actual current tuition today is listed at $9400. One semester I was a TA for 2 classes, which qualified me for in-state tuition, which was around $350 then/$830 inflation adjusted to today. Current in-state is right about $5000. I did not investigate the amount/availability of scholarships/Pell grants/financial aid then vs. now, which conceivably could put a small dent in the difference, or also cut the other way.

On UT's handy Cost of Attendance calculator there's an option for "Texas Resident living with parents", of whom there are probably a not-insignificant number, given the rise of housing costs in Austin. The last three years I lived there (88-91), I shared an old 1916 two-story house with a mostly revolving cast of characters, at least 3, more usually 4-5 of us at a time. Rent was $620/month and did not increase during my tenure, the place was owned by a couple who ran a local head shop in addition to being student-ghetto slumlords.

At some point the house was sold and renovated to some degree, may have been returned to a single-family residence for a while. When I visited in 2002 for my one long-time roommate's wedding, I swung by the old San Pedro Arms, as we called it, and judging by the back yard littered with plastic cups and some beer kegs, the place had reverted to student housing. It was beginning of July and there was a For Rent sign, so I guessed that the occupants had held a moving-out party of large proportions.

By then the rent had increased to $1300+. Couldn't find a current price, but one has to assume it has increased a bit in 18 years.

By the way, those 1986 tuition rates were about triple what they had been the year before, the oil bust had put a hurting on the University's reserves, so they jacked up the rates. $400/semester for out-of-state would have been sweet.

russell's article is good, and pretty much self-evidently true, it seems to me.

I am electing not to read Long Term Trends in Deaths of Despair however.

"A four-year degree is a signal to potential employers that you'll do what you're told, work hard and not make trouble."

Who needs involuntary servitude to government when we so easily volunteer it, and our right to free speech, to the highest bidder in the private market?

A four-year degree is a signal to potential employers that you'll do what you're told, work hard and not make trouble.

Here I always saw it as a signal that you are capable of learning new stuff. Even if your degree happens to be in something pretty far removed from what the employer does, if you can learn you can be trained.

First, "education" doesn't necessarily mean four years of college.

Second, for much if not most work other than unskilled or trades labor, you need a college degree to apply. Whether that degree is directly relevant to the job skill set or not. Depending on what you want to do, it is neither a luxury, nor a status symbol. It's what opens the door.

Sure. I guess I wasn't clear. A college degree is a luxury and a status symbol which, because of hiring practices (which favor hiring elites), is what opens the door. In other words, status is what actually opens the door. My guess is that if the applicant presented some other emblem of status (Dad is rich and famous), door would often open for that as well.

As to living in or near a city, and having to fight traffic: yes, but I don't know what that means. I grew up in the burbs of Washington, DC. My middle class parents would not have been able to afford a similar home in the city. (They bought a brand new house in the '60's for under $30,000, which was sold recently for almost $700,000.) However, anyone who lives in that burb (which back in the day was a far-out burb, but now is a relatively close one, with a Metro station) has an hour commute to DC. People who can't afford a $700,000 house live much further out now, and can have a much longer commute. What you describe, russell, is typical in major cities, and getting more so in smaller ones.

None of this is news. Tell me what housing policies have prevented this. Tell me what housing policies should be pursued. Many housing policies have been implemented. Rent control. Zoning. Subsidized housing. Public housing. There are new problems with every solution.

Philly has affordable housing in the city, as does Richmond, VA (for now) (although this article discusses the struggles of poor people living in Philly). There are a lot of neighborhoods where old homes are occupied by lower income people, for whom it's difficult financially to renovate and improve. Landlords want a return on their investment if they do it. People like to maintain the character of the city, but doing that is expensive.

I'm not saying we should quit trying, but people haven't come up with a way to live in a neighborhood in San Francisco or Boston or Washington DC, where we can walk to work and restaurants and bars for a low price. One way to make affordability happen is to build communities outside major cities. That means employers have to move there, skilled people have to move there, and everyone has to build cultural centers there. A lot of work, and a lot of buy-in.

A college degree is a luxury and a status symbol which, because of hiring practices (which favor hiring elites), is what opens the door. In other words, status is what actually opens the door.

Is it worth noting that, in order to be that kind of status symbol, a college degree has to be restricted? And high price is one way to achieve that.

Make it once again affordable, and it ceases to be a luxury good. Then its worth reverts to being the worth of the education itself. (Those who care mostly about the status can go back to only caring about degrees from Harvard, etc.)

"Why we need to stop wasting public funds on education

Despite being immensely popular--and immensely lucrative―education is grossly overrated. In this explosive book, Bryan Caplan argues that the primary function of education is not to enhance students' skill but to certify their intelligence, work ethic, and conformity―in other words, to signal the qualities of a good employee. Learn why students hunt for easy As and casually forget most of what they learn after the final exam, why decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation, how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy.

Caplan draws on the latest social science to show how the labor market values grades over knowledge, and why the more education your rivals have, the more you need to impress employers. He explains why graduation is our society's top conformity signal, and why even the most useless degrees can certify employability. He advocates two major policy responses. The first is educational austerity. Government needs to sharply cut education funding to curb this wasteful rat race. The second is more vocational education, because practical skills are more socially valuable than teaching students how to outshine their peers."
The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

I disagree that the educational system is a waste of time. I wish it weren't so expensive. It's one of our international treasures though - people want to attend American colleges because they're excellent to those who value formal education.

But whether one has to have a degree to have many of the jobs that require one is a different issue. And if we remove the prestige of college by making it free, , will advanced degrees, or expensive certifications be required? Obviously, for some disciplines, it makes sense to require deeper formal knowledge to, say, teach, or hold oneself out as an expert. This doesn't apply to most jobs which require training and hands-on experience.

Part of the problem is "weeding out". What do you do when you have a lot of smart people, all of whom are qualified for a job? You create weeding mechanisms. I don't know how to fix that.

This seems to confuse money with wealth.

but further down the thread you explicitly equate a bubbly stock market with wealth (creation)...but you buy stock with money...so i remain mystified.

If the very rich had to turn their wealth into money, much of it would turn into vapor.

What? The wealth or the money? Financial assets, including cash, are simply claims on wealth (i.e., productive capacity and/or ability), or the future stream of wealth derived from the ownership of said capacity.

So, involentary servitude is OK if government does it?

If it is OK in the private sector, why not in the public sector?

but further down the thread you explicitly equate a bubbly stock market with wealth (creation)...but you buy stock with money...so i remain mystified.

But, on paper(on a computer?), a stock can be worth a lot more than the dollars the stockholders paid for it.

What? The wealth or the money?

The wealth. If Bill Gates tried to liquidate a not even significant portion of his Microsoft holdings, it would scare the crap out of the other stockholders and the price of Microsoft stock would crash.

If it is OK in the private sector, why not in the public sector?

I don't know of any case where private actors will send armed henchmen for you if you don't show up for your servitude. About the only current instance of private use of involuntary servitude I can think of is the private use of prison labor which is facilitated by governments.

None of this is news. Tell me what housing policies have prevented this.

Ok, I think I understand your point better now. Thank you for expanding on it, and for your patience.

There are lots of issues that contribute to people having to live far from where they work. Some of those reasons are related to the issues raised in the article, and some are not.

Among the issues related to the article is the phenomenon of very large amounts of money chasing finite and scarce available real estate. In markets where that is typical, working people get crowded out, often way out, sometimes way, way out.

That's the case in NY, DC, Boston, San Francisco. It's becoming the case, increasingly, in other places. It's not so much the case in Philly, because I guess because of the mix of industries there.

In some markets, a lot of newer development is luxury stuff that people buy and never even live in, just to have a safe place to park their cash.

But, on paper(on a computer?), a stock can be worth a lot more than the dollars the stockholders paid for it.

But to realize that "wealth" you sell and get.....money. LOL.

The wealth.

So, wealth = money? And the government creates money. Interesting concept there, Chas.

I don't know of any case where private actors will send armed henchmen for you if you don't show up for your servitude.

ah...ridiculous. Not worthy of a reply.

"Is college worth it? As the cost of American higher education soars, inequality widens, and wages stagnate, millions of Millennials and Gen Zers have asked themselves that question. The answer, at least from economists, has remained a resounding yes. One study found that college graduates earn nearly twice as much as their peers without a college degree.

But what if those earnings are no longer translating into financial security and long-term prosperity? A new study by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis suggests that might be the case. College still boosts graduates’ earnings, but it does little for their wealth."
The College Wealth Premium Has Collapsed: Younger folks have come of age during an era of consumer debt.

Among the issues related to the article is the phenomenon of very large amounts of money chasing finite and scarce available real estate. In markets where that is typical, working people get crowded out, often way out, sometimes way, way out.

There are places where real estate really is that kind of finite. Manhattan. Parts of San Francisco. Singapore. Hong Kong.

But there is plenty of real estate within easy commute distance of even those. Except, in the US (not sure about elsewhere), use is artificially constrained by zoning laws. If you insist that every half acre (or maybe even full acre) have only one, single family, dwelling -- no apartments -- then lots of money chasing those limited acres can send prices thru the roof. But if, for example, we were willing to build Manhattan densities elsewhere, the problem of unaffordable housing and extreme commutes disappears.

"If Bill Gates tried to liquidate a not even significant portion of his Microsoft holdings, it would scare the crap out of the other stockholders and the price of Microsoft stock would crash."

Hmm, this is not borne out by behavior in the markets, particularly in bull markets.

Read any market commentator who tracks insider stock purchases and stock sales. The unanimous boilerplate is that insiders sales do not matter to the market; insiders can sell for any old reason; it's nothing to do with company prospects.

Insider buying, however signifies overwhelming bullishness by insiders.

It's self-fulfilling.

Add in that insider buys are happily touted and insider sales are tut-tutted, even by the sellers.

Now, if you would like to couch your claim within the context that stock market commentariat, with few exceptions, are steadfastly bullish at all times and work overtime knocking down any whiff of negativity in order to always support share prices, and squeezing the shorts whenever possible (I never short; what am I, a Commie?), in other words the every day grift of Wall Street's eternal sunny-side up bullshit, because they will be fired if they are not cock-eyed, predatory, prosperity gospel optimist kudlowist purveyors on the sell side, then I might find agreement with you.

But libertarian dogma applied across the board has little to do actual human behavior.

"I don't know of any case where private actors will send armed henchmen for you if you don't show up for your servitude."

Sure you do.

People are regularly fired and visited minutes later by private armed henchman, told to empty their desks, or worse, to leave everything, including family pictures, behind with no hope of return of their private property, and escorted to the sidewalk.

The employee's voluntary servitude, which they wish to continue under their own free will, is denied them. They are forced to NOT show up for their servitude, and their health insurance is canceled by fucking force.

Are you a bubble-boy, or what?

I like Kramer's gambit in Seinfeld: "Oh, you can't fire me, I don't even work here," as he is escorted from the desk he had commandeered as a squatter, while of course filing regular reports with the higher-ups.

The logical nest step would of course be to automatically make the employer the creditor for the student loan debts of his employees (the loan selachii holding them originally would become just initial caretakers for a reasonable fee). That would establish a proper system of volontary servitude (peonage) without (formally) violating the constitution or libertarian principles.

i learned a lot of things i would have never learned on my own, in college. and i learned a lot of stuff that i quickly forgot (fluid dynamics has never come up in my programming career. but discrete math has been pretty handy)

maybe some of y'all got ripped off.

But what if those earnings are no longer translating into financial security and long-term prosperity?

Aha!! The penny drops.

Except, in the US (not sure about elsewhere), use is artificially constrained by zoning laws.

if, for example, we were willing to build Manhattan densities elsewhere, the problem of unaffordable housing and extreme commutes disappears.

I'd say Manhattan is not a good example of this, especially as regards affordability. Even commute time - if you don't have large dollars in Manhattan, you live in Washington Heights, and are once again spending lots of time getting to and from if you work downtown.

In some markets, money is simply chasing people out. Like, for instance, Boston. Developers replace affordable residential units with luxury condos, because money. People who live god knows where buy the units with no particular intention to live in them, because money. Very very very wealthy people don't really have a good use for their money because they have so fncking much of it, but they don't want to lose it, so they turn it into a condo that nobody lives in, displacing people who can no longer afford to live in their own neighborhood.

It's not like that everywhere, but it is like that here.

Lather rinse and repeat for a million different things, ranging from seats at a ball game to concert tickets to a college education. A small number of people have such an extraordinary amount of money that it crowds access for everyone else out.

If the solution to that is something along the lines of packing everyone into something like Manhattan density, I'm not sure that counts as a solution.

Median price for homes sold in my county is $420K, according to Zillow. Median household income is $76K. So you are going to pay 5 1/2 times your household income for a house.

How does that math work, for most people?

We are moving toward a society sequestered by income. Social and economic mobility is declining. If you don't already have a lot of money, many opportunities that once would have been available to you, are increasingly not available to you.

You get a cool phone, a swanky TV, and a shitload of debt. And a drinking problem.

Not a good future.

maybe some of y'all got ripped off.

I hope I was clear that I was not ripped off, and that I don't think higher education (or advanced higher education) is worthless. I would recommend it to anyone, want it to be available to everyone, and have had many discussions here where I've taken that view.

However, I'm not sure that what's learned there translates easily to employment skills (although there are people who believe that). In my experience, people who are intellectually curious and creative have made good coworkers. Even people who don't have those qualities, but are dedicated, honest and focussed have made excellent coworkers. It depends on what they're doing but a college degree isn't necessary for every type of work. It does seem to be necessary now in order to get hired for many types of work.

Additionally, most people are interested in pursuing advanced degrees sacrifice in order to do that (at least in the short term). I have nothing but respect for them.

Just wanted to make that clear.

Except, in the US (not sure about elsewhere), use is artificially constrained by zoning laws.

That's why, even though zoning laws improve the quality of life for a lot of people and contribute to making cities beautiful, they are problematic in many ways. Some are more necessary than others.

Among the issues related to the article is the phenomenon of very large amounts of money chasing finite and scarce available real estate.

That phenomenon does exist, but it's not the only problem, and the answer to that is not so easy. Finite and scarce, especially coupled with useful, convenient and chic, equals expensive. That happens in all categories. Well-meaning people have tried to figure out how to make it better for low income people with very limited success. The answer is (IMO) to distribute employment opportunities, and build more cultural centers.

If the solution to that is something along the lines of packing everyone into something like Manhattan density, I'm not sure that counts as a solution.

That is one part of the solution for large cities.

The article you cited, russell, mentions taxing real estate transactions. That's another possible part of the solution.

I did have some quibbles with the article. For example, the fact that a large number of properties are owned by LLC is not really an indicator of shady intent. Instead, it suggests that the properties might (not necessarily) be intended as rental properties, or are owned by more than one unrelated person who are investors. There's nothing wrong with investing in rental property per se. I doubt that a large percentage of the properties mentioned are standing vacant. It would be great if everyone lived walking distance from their workplace, but how is that going to be rationed? Company town situations could ease some people's commute situations, but that would come with the same kind of problem as health care - you lose your job, you lose your house.

This problem has been with us for a long time - to a lesser extent, perhaps. My parents faced it. People make more money working in a city, but they pay more in living expenses or live in substandard housing, so they commute. The answer is to distribute jobs elsewhere, allow telecommuting, etc.

I notice that my skills at self-editing are steadily diminishing. Sorry about that. Hope you get my drift.

One impact on housing cost is wealthy Chinese nationals looking for places to park some of their wealth in case things go sideways in China. Trump's trade war has put a crimp in some of that.

"China, meanwhile, topped all other countries for the seventh consecutive year, with $13.4 billion in home purchases, but that was down a whopping 56% from the prior year, NAR said. About half those sales were all cash, down from 58% a year earlier. The next largest international buyers – Canada, India and the United Kingdom – also had big drops, but they represent smaller shares of the market."
Chinese buyers pull back from U.S. housing market, hurting home sales

First, thanks much for changing the subject.

I am with CWT for the most part. I'll approach it like this: Professor Galloway's grades are consistently in line with the quality of his analysis, i.e. about what you'd expect from a mediocre intellect whose thoughts runs largely to ideological bullet points.

Consider these two brilliant ideas:

Tax K-12 private schools and reinvest the proceeds in public schools. We are barreling toward a caste system, sequestering kids by income, which cuts at a key ingredient to capitalism: empathy.

Leaving aside the illiberality of labeling private education something on the order of a public nuisance if not enemy, all taxing those schools would do is increase the cost and therefore the demand and make them even more exclusive. Brilliant. Further, the proposition that paying the currently underperforming coterie of educational professionals more money will somehow convert them into more competent performers with a better student outcome across the board is unproven at best and contrary to experience in many respects.

Eliminate capital gains and mortgage tax deductions. Both are transfers from the young and middle class to the old and rich.

This is just stupid. No one is going to risk their capital on a start up if the gain is subject to taxation, as Galloway would have it, up to 50 or even 70%--and no one is going to do it if they are taxed at 37 or 40% either. If he wants to make sure there are no jobs for new entrants into the employment market, just take away the incentive to start or expand businesses. Like I said, brilliant. Nothing grows an economy and creates more opportunity than the gov't shaving off the top 40 or 50% of the economy's net production. It's like an ironclad law of economics. If Prof. Galloway is reading this, I'd better clarify and note that the last two sentences are "sarcasm."

As for eliminating the "mortgage taxes", this is simply further proof of why Galloway was a poor student with a mediocre intellect. There is no "mortgage tax" deduction. What a shithead.

There is a "mortgage interest" deduction and a "real estate tax" deduction, but they are two very different things, the latter being capped at 10K per taxpayer and being tied the to value of one's property in almost all instances.

Both of these deductions make it easier and not harder for middle class people to buy their own homes. Like I said, he really isn't that smart.

Capping the property tax deduction was a red state slap at blue state policies. I live in a red state and I'm glad I do. However, I visit NJ 3-4 times a year and, from my limited viewpoint, NJ provides a lot of nice amenities for its citizens that seem to be paid for, at least in part, by local taxes. That's the beauty of federalism: the states, through the electorate, get to pick how much they pay into the state treasury in exchange for what services. As a matter of policy and preference, I'm offended that blue stater's have to pay much of the SALT with after tax dollars. It's government--the feds in this instance--deciding winners and losers. I don't like it when lefties do it. I'm equally against it from the right.

Further evidence of his marginal intellect is his assertion that the wealthy paid taxes at rates of 70%, then 47% and now 23%. He is mixing capital and earned income rates. It's either dishonest or stupid. I'll go with stupid given the other items I've noted.

As to the larger point: how do we provide broad and meaningful opportunity to the NextGen?

Let's begin by examining the premise that this is something that gov't can actually do. As an aside, in the last 9 months, I've had repeated encounters with the Feds (FAA, SS Admin, Post Office), and even given the decades they've had to get it right, they have managed to get worse, not better, over time. So, we have a beginning issue of whether there is sufficient centralized competence to accomplish this task.

The second question is: just how much can be done for Galloway's "unremarkable's"? Particularly if the Unremarkable's he is talking about are those of mediocre ability. Galloway engages in a bit of definitional sleight-of-hand when he refers to "grit, luck, talent, and a tolerance for risk."

In reality, what makes the difference is ambition, hard work, deferring gratification, prudence coupled with risk tolerance and intelligence.

You can't make someone smarter nor, with few exceptions, can you make someone better or more inspired. My success rate at motivating people to move out of their comfort zone and really get to the next level is less than 10%. Over the last 40 years, I've been one of an "employer group" numbering between 1 and 5. I've spoken directly to hundreds of subordinates, pointing out strategies, actions etc that would better their chances of advancement. Having thought about it a bit further, I'm downgrading my 10% to 5%. Most people are content with their job, with doing what they're told to do and taking life as it comes.

But, even if everyone suddenly turned into a self-starter on steroids, given the hugely complex nature of modern America, most people--and this will get worse over time and not better--being "average" will find it more difficult to find success, particularly in an urban setting.

What is killing people is the cost of living space and transportation in our urban areas. That isn't going away. Scarcity causes higher prices. That's immutable absent a command economy. People pay more for proximity (and higher taxes, Prof. Galloway).

Ms. McKinney and I have short commutes, but we downsized significantly for that opportunity. When we ultimately retire in what is objectively a not-bad golf community, our all-in cost is well under 1M because it is a one hour drive minimum to downtown Austin.

IOW, we made a huge trade off to get more cake with much less access to the urban amenities we really like in Houston.

Bottom line: if gov't is going to try to impact the future for millions of people, it has to come up with a way to disperse the economy throughout the country, which drives down commute times and cost of living space. However, all of the incentives work to concentrate the economy in exponentially and increasingly costly urban areas. I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks again for changing the subject. This was fun.

"No one is going to risk their capital on a start up if the gain is subject to taxation, as Galloway would have it, up to 50 or even 70%--and no one is going to do it if they are taxed at 37 or 40% either."

Wow, no start ups in the 50's, when the marginal tax rate was 90%? I guess that decade was some sort of depressed economic hellscape.

all taxing those schools would do is increase the cost and therefore the demand and make them even more exclusive

not all: improving public schools with the money is the point.

Wow, no start ups in the 50's, when the marginal tax rate was 90%? I guess that decade was some sort of depressed economic hellscape.

If you're going to snark, you should have something to snark with. The cap gains rate in the 50's was 25%, not 90%, which was something entirely different. Here's a link:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_gains_tax_in_the_United_States

Do you understand the difference between tax rates on earned income vs capital gains?

This is why Prof. Galloway's article resonates. People don't always know as much as they think they know, and for the most part, people with progressively more progressive views on the economy, and free market capitalism in particular, have mostly a theoretical understanding of starting and running a business. This is particularly the case when it comes to running a business large enough to fall under all of the federal regulatory regimes.

Galloway writes as if there are magic wands to be waved and predictable changes which will ensue. Like I said initially, he's not very smart.

Slightly off topic, another federal agency I've had the pleasure of encountering with starting our new firm is the DOL. We have a 401K for our employees with a 5% match. How hard can that be? An employee makes 100K a year and we put 5K in that employees account regardless of the employee contribution. The document I had to sign creating our 401K is over 600 pages long. The foreplay leading up to the signing was roughly 50-60 hours of personal attention by either me, my wife or my principal law partner.

I asked my broker why this was the case. It's all to comply with a needlessly, foolishly, ridiculously complex regulatory regime. If you don't have to do it yourself, it's not a big deal. If you ever do, you'll start to appreciate why people like Galloway sound like idiots to people like me.

Further, the proposition that paying the currently underperforming coterie of educational professionals more money will somehow convert them into more competent performers with a better student outcome across the board is unproven at best and contrary to experience in many respects.

Interesting. One could say much the same about paying the current coterie of corporate executive professionals less, no?

I'm skeptical about things like CEO salaries myself, of course, but skepticism about the idea that you get what you pay for, or that there's a straightforward correlation between pay and performance, does set you apart from many other conservatives. Congrats!

(A more sincere objection: I'm not sure where you're getting your 'contrary experience', but my own understanding is that it's actually quite well established that well-funded schools -- e.g., the ones in well-off areas with plenty of tax revenue -- do predictably perform substantially better than neglected schools in depressed or marginalized areas. It's not *just* the money that makes the difference, to be sure, but it's not exactly unimportant.

This effect plays quite a large role in the education policy success that was busing, and the story of why we should bring it back.)

i learned a lot of things i would have never learned on my own, in college. and i learned a lot of stuff that i quickly forgot (fluid dynamics has never come up in my programming career.

I also found Anthropology, which I had never previously heard of. I got interested enough to get a Masters in the subject. And while I never worked in the field, I have found the insights from it extremely helpful when dealing with coworkers from multiple cultures.

And I, too, never used fluid mechanics (MS in Mechanical Engineering) in my programming career. (How ever did we end up with two people in this small group who studied what has to be a really obscure field??? ;-)

I asked my broker why this was the case. It's all to comply with a needlessly, foolishly, ridiculously complex regulatory regime. If you don't have to do it yourself, it's not a big deal. If you ever do, you'll start to appreciate why people like Galloway sound like idiots to people like me.

I don't think Galloway is an idiot.

I do think that some regulatory schemes are counterproductive, although I don't have the knowledge to judge 401K set-ups, which is a program that I would expect to be complicated for somebody (although maybe the complicated parts should have been made into a turn-key decision for businesses). In other words, I'm not sure why you, your wife and your law partner were the ones tasked with going through the mire of the regulatory issues involved, but since the concept involves investments, securities, etc., I would expect it to be highly regulated.

At various times, I've wanted to engage in small-scale enterprises, and have been hindered by regulations. Usually, though, the regulations themselves make sense. Compliance could be made easier in many cases.

Speaking of compliance, taxes could be made easier. The federal government has all of the information it needs to figure out most people's taxes. It should provide a draft tax return for everyone, with room for amendments. People could start from scratch with their own return if they thought the draft was way off base. Elizabeth Warren has a preliminary plan for this.

a college degree isn't necessary for every type of work. It does seem to be necessary now in order to get hired for many types of work.

I agree. But what I see is a broken HR process. That is, jobs are posted with "requirements" for a college degree, not because the hiring manager said he needs someone with a degree, but because HR routinely puts that it unasked. Not sure whether they felt the need for a way to do triage on applications in fields that they knew nothing about (pretty much all of them) back when unemployment was high and so they got lots. Or maybe there was some other motivator.

JL, several points.

1. I think you mean "corporate executives" and not "corporate executive professionals" because in most instances, the corporate executives are not degreed professionals except in the legal and accounting/tax departments.

2. Whatever your view of how well compensation in the private sector lines up with performance, the cost of same is not born by the public purse. Galloway proposes increasing taxes to pay more for public education without offering any evidence that more money makes a mediocre teacher better.

3. My brief review of available articles on the relationship between spending and outcome shows that you can get whatever answer you want. I suspect a lot of the writings are driven by skewed stats that get the author wherever the author wants to be. Spending in DC, I have read many times, does not correlate to outcomes, ditto the Dakotas. However, my point is: where is the evidence that spending more in Houston, for example, will make HISD teachers better or will produce better student outcomes?

i learned a lot of things i would have never learned on my own, in college. and i learned a lot of stuff that i quickly forgot (fluid dynamics has never come up in my programming career.

And, you learn a lot of stuff that you think you won't need but in fact comes in very handy. Algebra and geometry come up frequently (and indirectly) in litigation as well as running a business (weird, but if you are updating or building out space, having a sense of geometry makes planning a lot less complicated).

The concept of a liberal education is to produce an intellectually well-rounded person. I'm a big fan of trade and other specialized schooling, but I'm also a big fan of a base-level, core exposure to a general understanding of history, literature, civics, etc.

Galloway proposes increasing taxes to pay more for public education without offering any evidence that more money makes a mediocre teacher better.

Maybe the point is not to get so many mediocre teachers in the first place. (Not that I've come across many, if any, in my experience, but I imagine they must exist.) Or to get resources to schools that most severely lack them, rather than spraying money around indiscriminately.

No, money poorly spent won't help. But improving things effectively will cost money.

(although maybe the complicated parts should have been made into a turn-key decision for businesses). In other words, I'm not sure why you, your wife and your law partner were the ones tasked with going through the mire of the regulatory issues involved, but since the concept involves investments, securities, etc., I would expect it to be highly regulated.

You would think. It should be turn-key, but it isn't. There are a bunch of i's and t's that, to my small mind, seemed entirely pointless and my broker/advisor had no good answer either. The investment part is, in practice, very simple: you pick an outfit like Fidelity or Vanguard which offers a decent selection of funds ranging from conservative to somewhat risky (capital growth type funds) and the employee allocates by percentage among the available funds. In practice, it's all pretty straightforward. But, that doesn't keep the DOL from covering us ups with BS.

No, money poorly spent won't help. But improving things effectively will cost money.

The logic is infallible if we could only find that recipe for "effectively improving things."

My point is: there is no compelling evidence that, under current practice, more money will produce a better outcome on a macro basis.

Inner city schools carry a different demographic. Students are often raised by a single, economically and educationally challenged parent--usually the mom--. They have much higher discipline issues. Motivation and attention at home are issues. This is much less the case in school districts in which the student population has a relatively high number of students from 2 parent families who are more engaged with their children's education.

It isn't money. It's methodology. Whatever we are doing today, it isn't working. So, before raking in a bunch of money with no clear idea what we are going to do with it, someone needs to find out what that "effective improvement" consists of.

"You probably think you know which states have the best and worst education systems in the country. If you regularly dip into rankings such as those published by U.S. News and World Report, you likely believe schools in the Northeast and Upper Midwest are thriving while schools in the Deep South lag. It's an understandable conclusion to draw from those ubiquitous "Best Schools!" lists. It's also wrong."
Everything You Know About State Education Rankings Is Wrong: Minds and dollars are a terrible thing to waste.

Galloway proposes increasing taxes to pay more for public education without offering any evidence that more money makes a mediocre teacher better.

I haven't heard anyone argue that more money will make mediocre teachers better. But I have definitely heard the argument that low salaries result in potential good teachers deciding to do something more rewarding instead of teaching.

That is, while higher salaries won't improve individual teachers, they will improve the quality of those in the teaching profession overall.

given the hugely complex nature of modern America, most people--and this will get worse over time and not better--being "average" will find it more difficult to find success

Leaving Galloway's specific suggestions - not all of which I agree with, either - to the side, what you've said here was pretty much my takeaway from the piece.

That, and the disturbingly grim fact that the Congressional Joint Economic Committee finds it appropriate and relevant to identify "Deaths of Despair" as a thing and track them accordingly.

That's Mike Lee, (R) UT on the byline, BTW, not any ivory tower liberal coastal elitist. And that's appropriate because a lot of damage done by economic and social disparities shows up in rural areas.

About 40K people die from firearms in the US, and about 60% of those are suicides. Lotta old white guys out in the sticks blowing out their own brains.

Which brings me to this, from McK, which seems inarguably correct, to me:

Bottom line: if gov't is going to try to impact the future for millions of people, it has to come up with a way to disperse the economy throughout the country, which drives down commute times and cost of living space.

And improves not just commute times and cost of living space, but breathes new life into a lot of communities that have been left behind by the FIRE sector and the tech industry.

I do know that tech, specifically, is beginning to branch out from CA and MA to places like Salt Lake City, Denver, Austin, and others. All of which is a good thing.

About time.

Thanks again for changing the subject. This was fun.

My pleasure, believe me.

The concept of a liberal education is to produce an intellectually well-rounded person. I'm a big fan of trade and other specialized schooling, but I'm also a big fan of a base-level, core exposure to a general understanding of history, literature, civics, etc.

Aha, something on which I think most of us can agree!

Inner city schools carry a different demographic. Students are often raised by a single, economically and educationally challenged parent--usually the mom--. They have much higher discipline issues. Motivation and attention at home are issues. This is much less the case in school districts in which the student population has a relatively high number of students from 2 parent families who are more engaged with their children's education.

Aha, back to business as usual!

So, before raking in a bunch of money with no clear idea what we are going to do with it, someone needs to find out what that "effective improvement" consists of.

I don't know why anyone would argue otherwise, even mediocre Galloway. I also, not being an expert in education, would assume that there are such experts who have myriad ideas about how to improve things after studying at length the problems that exist.

I bet people have written theses and dissertations and other papers on such things. Some of them might be tried under a program of some sort with a source of funding.

Mediocre Galloway is probably more familiar with these things than you and I are.

Inner city schools carry a different demographic. Students are often raised by a single, economically and educationally challenged parent--usually the mom--. They have much higher discipline issues. Motivation and attention at home are issues. This is much less the case in school districts in which the student population has a relatively high number of students from 2 parent families who are more engaged with their children's education.

I can see a correlation there. But also (as several of us have noted) other correlations. Causation, however, is far from established.

Some of them means some of their ideas for improving education. I don't want to try the people or the papers they've written.

I'd pay more heed to all of these radical education reformists if a single one of them had ever spent meaningful time as a K-12 teacher, but they are almost always either business and entrepreneurship types or are people who dropped out of teaching in the first three years thinking that they know better.

But the narratives that they spin about education reform (which is almost always pitched as an opportunity for innovation (read "privatization" or "public/private partnership or techno-woo) ignore all of the research done by researchers looking at the nations and systems that actually succeed at doing what we claim to want to do. Like Finland.

https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

And more recently:

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/education/how-finland-is-fighting-inequality-with-education-andwinning/article29716845/

Stop treating teachers as childcare and stop paying the profession as if it is the fallback career for students who cannot make it in their academic major. Start with knowledgeable candidates and put them through a full professionalization program organized by actual teachers with pedagogical expertise. Then pay them like the professionals that they are so that you can retain them in what is an extremely demanding profession.

Or go back to your free market homilies and begging the question.

Funding for free preschool would be one thing to try (more of) in the most disadvantaged districts. Early education pays great dividends.

Parental leave and/or community childcare are both good ways to help with the early stages of education and integration into a community. Relieving food insecurity is another.

Good luck with either of these in the modern GOP.

Fascinating Atlantic piece on Finland, nous. Given the inevitable ripostes, I was particularly interested in this:

But the number of foreign-born residents in Finland doubled during the decade leading up to 2010, and the country didn't lose its edge in education. Immigrants tended to concentrate in certain areas, causing some schools to become much more mixed than others, yet there has not been much change in the remarkable lack of variation between Finnish schools in the PISA surveys across the same period.

1. I think you mean "corporate executives" and not "corporate executive professionals".

But that would have ruined the word play...

2. Whatever your view of how well compensation in the private sector lines up with performance, the cost of same is not born by the public purse.

I'm not sure what difference that makes. Salaries either correlate with competence or they don't. And if they do, and government needs to hire a chemist, say, then they need to pay enough to get a competent one. There's no ethical principle saying taxpayers have to put up with incompetent service because the government is required to be miserly.

Galloway proposes increasing taxes to pay more for public education without offering any evidence that more money makes a mediocre teacher better.

Well, to start with, what HSH said: stop conflating 'more money for education' with 'more money that will all go to exactly the same existing teachers'.

Things like textbooks, computers and facilities matter too. Even the more limited phrase 'more money for teachers' doesn't mean more money to the *same* teachers, it usually means, as above, *more* teachers -- maybe both more and better trained ones.

And that last part should give you a clue as to how this might work: more teachers mean smaller class sizes. And a smaller class might allow even a mediocre teacher do a much more passable job for their remaining students. (At the very least, fewer students in their care will limit the damage.)

3. My brief review of available articles on the relationship between spending and outcome shows that you can get whatever answer you want. I suspect a lot of the writings are driven by skewed stats that get the author wherever the author wants to be. Spending in DC, I have read many times, does not correlate to outcomes, ditto the Dakotas. However, my point is: where is the evidence that spending more in Houston, for example, will make HISD teachers better or will produce better student outcomes?

To be clear, my point was not necessarily that pouring more money into a system from the top will improve things. It's difficult draw conclusions about funding and outcomes by looking at it across entire states, cities or even districts. There are just too many confounding factors -- administrative incompetencies, political or demographic constraints, weird nooks and crannies where money collects, etc. (And DC, of all places, is probably more idiosyncratic than most.)

What I think is less controversial -- possibly to the point of being obvious -- is that putting a little more money into a particular school will, all else equal, help students in that school do better. Another teacher, a new computer lab, whatever. Doubly true if that school is already underfunded relative to peers and lacks those things.

Yet inequality of that sort is something that US school systems struggle with, largely because of local funding. School A does fine, but School B -- 10 minutes down the road -- gets a third as much money, and is, rather unsurprisingly, crap.

Fixing that doesn't even necessarily mean spending more money overall. (Although often will, in practice, since you otherwise can't equalize funding between school A and B without robbing from B -- and then someone at B would holler.)

Here's a little white paper which sort of gets at this: Texas Education Funding. From the Reason Foundation, of all places, yet I find myself largely in agreement with most of the analysis and conclusions (with some hefty caveats around charters).

It looks like in some ways Texas is ahead of the game already: there's an infrastructure to (try to) provide funding fairness via state-level redistribution. But it's inflexible and over-complicated, and still allows at least some major intra-, if not inter-, district inequalities. See the part where they talk about how schools in 'good' areas generally get their pick of the best, most expensive, teachers, for example.

Funding for free preschool would be one thing to try (more of) in the most disadvantaged districts. Early education pays great dividends.

Fine. Preschool. Early education. Is there a consensus on what this should consist of? How it should be taught? Is there a consensus, supported by objective evidence, of an approach/method that will noticeably enhance out-year performance?

We continue to spend boatloads of money, and do a shitty job of most of the non-transfer spending, and that doesn't deter us in the least from finding new stuff to buy, like we've somehow gotten smarter.

The above is my last comment on this sub-topic because I'm thread-jacking. The issue is how--realistically, how, not theoretically how--to shift the paradigm to broaden opportunity for the average person. Regardless of spending priorities or confidence in gov't as a solution, it's hard to argue against increasing opportunity. Finding new and betters ways to cram more people into the same space seems problematic to me because there has to be an end point at some point and then what?

I like the idea of moving out of the cities, but other than tax incentives, I'm not sure how, short of a command economy, you make it happen.

Funding for free preschool would be one thing to try (more of) in the most disadvantaged districts. Early education pays great dividends.

There are studies indicating that any advantages gain from preschool is largely lost by the second or third grade. Better to let kids play than an early start on hammering square pegs into round holes.

And the pressure to make kindergarten more academic leaves not only the kids crying.

"Increased academic pressure and testing in kindergarten are bringing everyone to tears—including the teachers.

When Dr. Peter Gray wrote a piece for his Psychology Today blog about kindergarten teachers in Brookline, Massachusetts, protesting dwindling recess time and mandated 90-minute reading and writing blocks, he received a virtual cubby full of comments from kindergarten teachers across the country at just about the end of their jump rope."
Government Standards Are Making 5-Year-Olds and Kindergarten Teachers Miserable: "I'm retiring earlier than I had planned because I just can't be a part of this any longer."

Inner city schools carry a different demographic. Students are often raised by a single, economically and educationally challenged parent--usually the mom--. They have much higher discipline issues. Motivation and attention at home are issues. This is much less the case in school districts in which the student population has a relatively high number of students from 2 parent families who are more engaged with their children's education.

Even if we were to suppose this was actually the problem, what's the fix? It can't be just to curse the, ahem, darkness.

Nothing is going to entirely replace having a stable home life and educated, involved, high-income parents. But, to mitigate the challenges students without those advantages are facing, a school *could* do things. Have better meal programs, hire extra teams of counselors and one-on-one tutors, maintain an extra high teacher-student ratio to cope with in-class discipline, give teachers and adminstrators extra training, etc.

In other words, it seems to me those students have a lot of needs. And as the Reason paper suggested, money should follow students and their needs. Clearly, we should be putting far more money into poor, inner-city schools than we do into wealthy suburban ones.

But. Which set of schools do we actually put more money into? Let me just check my notes...

a project overseen by people who are skeptical of the whole thing, and are constantly threatening to upend it all if measurable results can't be shown at every stage, is the kind of project that's going produce things like academic testing of kindergardeners.

jack lecou's link:

The Solution to Trenchant Inequity in Texas Public Education: A Funding System that Puts Students First (pdf)

There are studies indicating that any advantages gain from preschool is largely lost by the second or third grade. Better to let kids play than an early start on hammering square pegs into round holes.

I agree with you about such programs being too academic, but that doesn't mean they're unimportant.

Studies show the benefits of 'early education' programs aren't about academic performance a couple of years later. They're about lifelong increases in stability and happiness.

So they DO work, just maybe not quite the way they say on the tin. It'd probably be better if we just re-branded them as free child-care. Which would also argue for an expansion to even younger, entirely pre-academic, ages -- preferably far enough to meet a correspondingly more generous parental leave policy in the middle. Comprehensive early health and nutritional interventions also wouldn't go amiss.

What nous said.

Also, early concentrated parental attention, rather than early ‘education’ counts for a great deal. How government might make much of a difference here is... complicated.

Also, and easier, better early years TV:
https://mosaicscience.com/story/childrens-tv-education-sesame-street-teletubbies-kids-videos/
(Genuinely interesting.)

Which would also argue for an expansion to even younger, entirely pre-academic, ages --

Be careful how far you extend this. Or, in a couple of generations, people will be arguing that, without free child-care, toddlers wouldn't learn how to walk.

what if we just... installed air filters ?

Be careful how far you extend this. Or, in a couple of generations, people will be arguing that, without free child-care, toddlers wouldn't learn how to walk.

Really?

Fine with me though. Babies take about a year, maybe a year and a half to get on their feet. Still can't run from predators on their own at that stage, but close enough.

So let's call it fifteen months of paid parental leave?

Stop treating teachers as childcare

Start with that.

Some communities - places where parents and care givers don't have the option of not working - need childcare. Provide childcare, other than the school system.

The "inner city school demographic" is people who live in cities but don't have enough $$$ to send their kids to private school. So, poorer people, living in crowded places where public services are generally overstressed.

It shouldn't surprise anybody that those are environments that present challenges to educators.

Not much different than poor rural communities.

One way to combat the death by despair rate: pay people more.

Better to let kids play than an early start on hammering square pegs into round holes.

Who said anything about hammering square pegs into round holes or not letting kids play while at preschool?

And the pressure to make kindergarten more academic leaves not only the kids crying.

Who said anything about this? Do you have a cardboard cutout of me that makes arguments you'd prefer to engage in rather than the ones I actually make?

My kids went to a Montessori preschool and kindergarten. The basic premise of the Montessori method is that different children learn at different paces and in different ways, and that children should be left to find their own ways of learning with only gentle guidance from teachers. And they get to play.

I think loading kids up with homework and constantly testing them is idiotic. Let the fncking teachers teach.

Montessori is so wonderful. I think it gives kids a permanent desire to work at learning. Your kids are lucky hairshirt. I so wish that all children had the opportunity to be excited about learning.

For what it is worth, veteran (master) teachers are almost unanimous in believing that homework is out of control and that art and play are important. All of the pressure to load on homework comes from the DoE down and the parents up, with some teacher buy-in mostly from teachers who began their career after high-stakes testing became ubiquitous.

I'm not at all convinced by the assessment and quant research, either. I've seen the sausage being made and it's full of assumptions that support the narrative that the careerists and innovators doing the studies want.

Learning defies standardization and teaching is an art, not a science.

Try it yourself if you doubt.

It was almost an accident that our kids went there. When my oldest was 4, we wanted to get him in some kind of preschool or learning-oriented daycare, even though we had family who could watch him while we were at work. Then if only to get him used to being in a school environment, socializing with kids his age. We didn't even really know what Montessori was.

We visited a couple preschools/daycares before visiting the Montessori school that happened to be very close by. As soon as we visited the Montessori school, it was no contest. We were sending him there. The other three in succession right behind him.

My wife ended up working there part time as a teacher's assistant for a couple years while our youngest was there and still does story-time/library once a week, even though all our kids have "graduated." (Two years of pre-K and kindergarten is all that particular school does.)

Visiting a Montessori classroom is like having meditation time. That's me, speaking as an adult. The kids seem more than okay. I've known kids who went through some elementary grades using the system. The classrooms are three age groups together, so 1st-3rd, 4th-6th. Kids are encouraged to help each other learn. Grown kids who reminisce on the system describe it as being like college seminar classes - they feel responsible and engaged.

I'm sure Montessori isn't the only path to early childhood education, but it's certainly great. Why our society isn't putting everything we have to promote learning for kids of all incomes (including immigrants, whatever legal issues their parents face) is beyond me. It's so inspiring to see kids loving to learn.

Amazing what happens when you treat people like humans, rather than commodities.

A bit more about why I am suspicious of a lot of academic assessment. I've been a part of several assessments and am also constantly having the curriculum within which I teach assessed. I was also a corporate data and process analyst for a few years before going into academia.

Good assessments start generally start with a lot of qualitative assessment (interviews, focus groups, observations) to get an idea of the theory behind a curriculum and how that curriculum is actually taught and notes differences in classroom style and emphasis. And it tries to understand when, where, and why the curriculum is excepted or abandoned if the teacher feels that the curriculum is not working as intended.

Not many assessments actually do this because it is time consuming and requires cooperation from teachers who have to be either compensated for their extra work or solicited for their good will. Absent these things, all qualitative assessment is seen as a time sink and an intrusion and is treated with suspicion. This is more true the more contingent the teacher's position.

Without a preliminary qualitative assessment driving the quant side to determine how best to measure outcomes, the assessment usually falls victim to either poor assumptions about what is actually being done, or to messy numbers. The messy numbers are then solved either by throwing them out and using more assumptions, or by imposing curricular changes aimed at producing less ambiguous results, which means more standardization and a less conceptually challenging curriculum that leaves students less able to adapt and think laterally.

I've read the reports that have come out of some of the assessments that I have been a part of. The good ones are brilliant and helpful. The bad ones are self-justifying and walllpaper over the cracks with their own biases.

Those bad assessments are great for careerists, though, and for people wanting assurances that their money is being used efficiently. Horrible for actual teaching and learning that thrives on the judicious use of ambiguity and messy borders to provoke growth situations.

Worst of all, the institutional pull is towards the bad, top-down, clear cut assessment on the cheap because the top of the institution is laden with careerist.

What nous said, again.
Much of the assessment in the UK is seriously sub par and counterproductive.

I think we've lost the ability to make judgements about quality that aren't based on numbers.

I think we've lost the ability to make judgements about quality that aren't based on numbers.

I admit to not knowing how education results should be evaluated. When I was extolling Montessori, I also know that the kids I know who experienced that system know grammar and math concepts extremely well, can write coherent essays, and have gone on through public school, colleges, and grad schools, and have ended up doing interesting and respected work. So not only did the kids enjoy the classroom, but they were able to manage the performance evaluators. They did well on standardized tests, for example. Then they grew up and were self-supporting (with a lot of help from parents who were able to provide for them in the meantime).

I know that's a shallow measure, but I have no idea what the measure is supposed to look like, whether kids are "succeeding" in learning, and whether classrooms are delivering that opportunity, without measures such as testing (which can't be completely objective, but, again ...).

I have friends who are or have been teachers, people completely dedicated to kids, who have been frustrated at many levels. I have no idea whether they are actually good teachers or not. I know instinctively that some teachers are good, because I've seen them interact with students, and I know about their own knowledge and curiosity.

I don't know what the answer is, so I stay out of it, other than to vote for local politicians who support education funding (because schools and teaching materials aren't cheap, even if we do underpay teachers), and try to listen to people (teachers, parents and students) who have things to say. Unfortunately, my experience with my peers is that we don't always see eye to eye about what is good for kids, other than basic love, safety, nurturing and enrichment - and there's not really common ground in defining those things. So I mind my own business and let people who provide those basic things have at it.

Educational results are so massively cohort dependent, and the results of any particular interventions can take years to show up at the school level, that even knowing what to measure is not a simple problem at all.

The best numbers can sometimes be something you didn’t intend to measure (as my TV story, which I again recommend, indicates):
https://mosaicscience.com/story/childrens-tv-education-sesame-street-teletubbies-kids-videos/
... By the late 1960s, most US households owned a television set, but whether they could watch Sesame Street depended on where they lived, because in some areas it was broadcast on Very High Frequency (VHF) channels, in others on Ultra High Frequency (UHF) channels. UHF signals were weaker, and some TV sets couldn’t receive them, which meant only around two-thirds of Americans had access to Sesame Street.
“Just the act of being exposed to the show and watching it routinely increased school performance among the children who were able to view it,” Levine says, citing the results of a study he and Melissa Kearney at the University of Maryland published. Yet the study found that children who watched Sesame Street were more likely to be academically on track, and less likely to be held back, than those who didn’t. Crucially, access to a VHF signal wasn’t contingent on parents’ wealth or education – factors which might have affected children’s later school performance. In fact, the study showed that children growing up in “economically disadvantaged” communities benefited the most from watching Sesame Street....

...but discrete math has been pretty handy)...

I have been disappointed for years -- make that decades -- by how hard it is to get people outside of a few majors exposed to discrete math.

I think we've lost the ability to make judgements about quality that aren't based on numbers.

I don't think we've lost the ability. But we are out of practice. Combined with having decided that we shouldn't make anything but quantitative evaluations.

Mind, moving towards more frequent use of measurement was a needed corrective, back in the day. But, as so often, we over-corrected. Plus, we ended up embracing the idea of measurement, without (all too often) any understanding of how to select which metrics might be appropriate.

having decided that we shouldn't make anything but quantitative evaluations

And thus, my point, more or less.

...Students are often raised by a single, economically and educationally challenged parent...

Speaking as a single parent, I say that the single-parent aspect is in itself irrelevant.

Having time for your children matters. Valuing scholarship matters. Financial security helps.

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