Posts tagged with: education

Blog author: dpahman
Friday, January 4, 2013
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800px-Programming_language_textbooksIn addition to my post in late November about the textbook bubble (spurred by this post from AEI’s Mark Perry), the Atlantic‘s Jordan Weissmann joins the discussion, asking, “Why Are College Textbooks So Absurdly Expensive?” (also the title of his article). It is a good question, and one that highlights the danger of disconnecting the determination of prices from the subjective valuing of consumer demand. There is no competition, no free market, where students are required to buy only certain books for their classes at artificially inflated prices. Weissmann provides a helpful summary of Kevin Carey’s related Slate article as follows:

Academic Publishers will tell you that creating modern textbooks is an expensive, labor-intensive process that demands charging high prices. But as Kevin Carey noted in a recent Slate piece, the industry also shares some of the dysfunctions that help drive up the cost of healthcare spending. Just as doctors prescribe prescription drugs they’ll never have to pay for, college professors often assign titles with little consideration of cost. Students, like patients worried about their health, don’t have much choice to pay up, lest they risk their grades. Meanwhile, Carey illustrates how publishers have done just about everything within their power to prop up their profits, from bundling textbooks with software that forces students to buy new editions instead of cheaper used copies, to suing a low-cost textbook start-ups [sic] over flimsy copyright claims. (more…)

The video below of a second grade teacher in Providence, RI reading his letter of resignation has recently gone semi-viral with over 200,000 views on YouTube.

What I would like to offer here is an Orthodox Christian critique of the anthropological assumptions that separate this teacher from the “edu-crats,” as he terms them, who in his district so strongly championed standardized testing-oriented education at the exclusion of all other methods and aims. (more…)

Pin not actual size.

I commented last week on the “textbook bubble” (here) and have commented in the past on the “higher-ed bubble” and the character of American education more generally (see here, here, and here). To briefly summarize, over the last few decades the quality of higher education has diminished while the cost and the number of people receiving college degrees has increased. The cost is being paid for, in large part, through government subsidized loans. But with the drop in quality and increase in quantity, a college degree is not as impressive as it used to be; in many cases it no longer signals to employers what it used to. When a critical mass of those loans goes into default, we will have another housing-bubble-esque crisis on our hands. At the same time, government loans, which are largely indiscriminate with regard to the risk of the applicant and guaranteed on the backs of taxpayers, have incentivized colleges and universities to raise the costs to students for the sake of increased expenditures, inflating the bubble even more. Now, Alex Williams of The New Times reports last Friday,

The idea that a college diploma is an all-but-mandatory ticket to a successful career is showing fissures. Feeling squeezed by a sagging job market and mounting student debt, a groundswell of university-age heretics are pledging allegiance to new groups like UnCollege, dedicated to “hacking” higher education. Inspired by billionaire role models, and empowered by online college courses, they consider themselves a D.I.Y. vanguard, committed to changing the perception of dropping out from a personal failure to a sensible option, at least for a certain breed of risk-embracing maverick.

An increasing number of students are realizing that they, to quote Good Will Hunting, do not want to be $150,000 in debt for an education that they could have gotten “for a $1.50 in late charges at the public library.” (more…)

Blog author: dpahman
Thursday, November 29, 2012
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According to AEI author Mark Perry, there is another education-related “bubble” to worry about: the textbook bubble. He writes that this textbook bubble “continues to inflate at rates that make the U.S. housing bubble seem relatively inconsequential by comparison.” He continues, “The cost of college textbooks has been rising at almost twice the rate of general CPI inflation for at least the last thirty years.” Given that many students use loan money to purchase books as well as pay for classes, we might think of this as one of the many sources pumping air into the student debt bubble. But what choice do students (or professors, for that matter) have than to surrender to the textbook “cartel,” as Perry characterizes it? This bubble popping, while a bad thing for the textbook bubble-boys committed to the old, cartel-style model, could be a small relief and contribute to slowing the growth rate of the student debt bubble. (more…)

A schoolhouse in New England from the 1830s.

According to a recent Pew Center report, “Record levels of bachelor’s degree attainment in 2012 are apparent for most basic demographic groups.” 33% of 25- to 29- year-olds are completing both high school and college. According to the report, this number is up from five years ago and at record levels for the United States in general. But what does it mean? Statistics like these are constantly being produced, but they are no good to us if we do not know how to interpret them. After attending the joint Acton/Liberty Fund conference this past weekend on Acton and Tocqueville, I have Tocqueville on the brain and wonder if, perhaps, he might have some insights that are still relevant today. (more…)

Our world desperately needs heroic people—people who shape events, who act rather than watch, who are creative and brave. Such people are needed in every field, in every realm of life—not only in law enforcement and disaster response but also in science, education, business and finance, health care, the arts, journalism, agriculture, and—not least—in the home.

Rev. Robert Sirico and Jeff Sandefer, in their about-to-be-released book, have written a “blueprint” to the heroic life. The two joined Acton last week to talk about their endeavor (listen to the podcast here), and discuss some of the themes of this book. Both stressed the need for people of all ages to strive for living not just a good life, but a heroic one:

We need brilliant men and women…we need people with a broad vision of what can be and what really is of lasting value, people with the strength to surmount obstacles and maintain a definition of success that is deeper and more authentic than what we find in today’s celebrity tabloids.

The book will be ready for sales for the Christmas season, in both print and e-versions. Watch the blog for the upcoming release date.

Blog author: jcarter
Monday, November 19, 2012
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Timothy Dalrymple wonders whether education reform should be one of the great objectives for American Christians in the twenty-first century. Taking up that cause will require overcoming the intransigence of the teachers’ unions:

Try firing an ineffective teacher.  Roughly 1 in 50 doctors lose their medical license.  Only 1 in 2500 teachers ever lose their teaching credentials.  Process that for a moment.  It’s much easier to become a teacher than a doctor, yet teachers are fifty times less likely than doctors to be removed from the profession.  One of the statistics cited in Waiting for Superman, an extraordinary documentary on the crisis of American public education, is that only 61 out of Illinois’ 876 school districts have attempted to fire even one teacher, and only 38 of those districts were successful.  The tenure system — designed to give the most accomplished university professors the freedom to advance new ideas in their teaching and writing without fear of reprisal from their employers, and gained only after many years and rigorous examination — has become an iron shield protecting ineffective teachers who earned their tenure after two years.  Good teachers are a national treasure.  Bad teachers who refuse to change their ways are leeches on the system who cannot be removed and who miseducate our children into truancy and joblessness.

Read more . . .

The Acton Institute is pleased to announce that registration is now open for the 2013 Acton University (AU), which will take place on June 18-21 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Space and scholarship funds are limited – so register or apply now! Please visit university.acton.org where you will find the online registration form along with complete conference information.

Blog author: jcarter
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
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Now that the presidential race of 2012 has ended it is time—whether we are ready for it or not—for the presidential race of 2016 to begin. Since the next election will not include any incumbents, the question of who has the relevant “experience” to be the chief executive will once again become an issue of primary concern.

What has been missing from previous discussions, however, is a plan for helping future presidential candidates acquire the skill-set needed to be the leader of the free world. That is why I’ve decided to design a preparatory course that would help prepare future candidates for the job, one that would (Acton bias alert) promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.

Here’s how it’d work. Candidates for the course would signal their intention to run for the highest office in the land by applying to head of their political party. Once the candidate was accepted, the DNC, RNC, or third party organization, would fully fund the cost of the schooling and pay the “student” a salary equivalent to a second-term Congressional representative. Candidates would be provided with full health and dental benefits as well two weeks vacation per year.

The 105-week curriculum would begin the week before Inauguration Day and end just in time for the student to organize their campaign for the coming primary season.

The course would include the following eight sections:

(more…)

Laurel Broten, the Education Minister of Ontario, stated on Oct. 10 that the “province’s publicly funded Catholic schools may not teach students that abortion is wrong because such teaching amounts to ‘misogyny,’ which is prohibited in schools under a controversial anti-bullying law.” Ontario enacted Bill 13 in June and it casts a wide net against bullying in schools. It is under this law that Broten has declared that Catholic schools may not teach that abortion is wrong.

Broten noted,

Bill 13 has in it a clear indication of ensuring that our schools are safe, accepting places for all our students. That includes LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer] students. … Bill 13 is about tackling misogyny, taking away a woman’s right to choose could arguably be one of the most misogynistic actions that one could take.

Broten is equating the Catholic Church’s pro-life stance with the hatred of women, and deems the Church’s teaching now illegal, disallowing freedom of conscience, clearly putting the state in a position of telling a church what it can and cannot teach.

Fr. Tim Boyle, a Catholic priest from Mattawa, Ontario, says this,

Minister Broten ignores … the fact that her decision also violates section 93 the Canadian Constitutional Act which enshrines the rights of Catholics in Ontario to a school system in which they can teach their children in a Catholic environment without government interference. While it may be debatable whether or not Bill 13 in its entirety might be constitutional, a matter soon to be taken up by the courts, it’s clear that prohibiting Catholic schools from teaching that abortion is wrong is a clear violation of this legal guarantee of the separation of Church and State.

Of course, one of the issues here is that Catholic schools in Canada do receive public monies. Recently, Catholic Charities of Tulsa, Okla., chose to stop all government funds, relying instead on private donations.

“What Catholic Charities of Tulsa is doing is showing the way forward for Catholics and other Christians who want to be faithful to the ancient Church’s age-old moral teachings, and who want to assist those in need without compromising the truth of the Gospel,” wrote Dr. Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty…

Fr. Robert Sirico, the president of Acton, agrees. “I think we need to separate the giving from the mechanism of the state,” he said. “There’s the threat that he who drinks the king’s wine sings the king’s song.”

It remains to be seen if the Catholics of Ontario will be satisfied with the king’s song and dance.