There Goes the Neighborhood

September 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Intangible Dividend in an Antipoverty Experiment – Happiness. This report is interesting because, like a lot of good research, it contradicts common sense. If you move the poor into affluent neighborhoods, there is no improvement in job or education outcomes – they just have more satisfying and happier lives.

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Let Us Now Praise Stephen the Cautious

March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

I have a couple of favourite conservatives – David Frum is one. I can occasionally see a compassion inherited from his Mom – heck, more than occasionally. Frum praises Harper’s caution in the last Federal budget – don’t cut too much, gradually get to a balanced budget.

For the centre left to ignore the debt and deficit is dishonest. Maybe voters are tired of being lied to, that they can have supportive social programs and low taxes, which essentially means debt and deficit. We might, however, recommend modest tax increases and straightening out the tax code.

Can we return to the greatest political slogan of all time? “Corporate Welfare Bums”

My argument with Harper is that in addition to welcome gradualism, there does have to be some shift in emphasis so that we are doing better over a 5 to 20 year time line. This means an emphasis on research and development, infrastructure, and education for employment.

Almost all social problems get addressed by emphasizing those three things.

If you’re getting your underwear in a knot, just remember that Harper isn’t Ryan.

Dan Quayle – Right Once More

November 30, 2011 § 7 Comments

The most mocked politician in recent history was Dan Quayle – the first George Bush’s Vice President. He said in 1991: “Let’s ask ourselves: Does America really need 70 percent of the world’s lawyers? Is it healthy for our economy to have 18 million new lawsuits coursing through the system annually? Is it right that people with disputes come up against staggering expense and delay?”

Apparently, the answer is no. We don’t use lawyers nearly as much (although this is a U. S. statistic) and we produce way too many lawyers at far too high a cost.

If the free market actually worked, this over supply of lawyers should significantly reduce legal costs. Will anyone do my will for $40?

Tom Flanagan might have a point?

October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tom Flanagan is often at the top of the right wing crank list. However, he makes a decent case for some level of competition in education, based on the Alberta experience. I have two quibbles – competition works for families who are relatively decent advocates for their children. For children in the underclass, is the same thing true? Further, I have no problem with some kind of accountability, but we should be using measures that are far more sophisticated than “multiple choice” questions. Evaluation should be somewhat sophisticated.

Children – left behind or lost?

August 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Michelle Rhee is the school superintendent who best represents the current U. S. emphasis on teacher accountability. Now, the legitimacy of her district’s test scores is being questioned.
This is a large, complicated issue that can’t be reduced to three or four statements in a news story’s lede. It would seem obvious that school reform is something that requires the work and support of the entire community.
Does this mean that teachers are powerless to improve students’ performance? Absolutely not. However, the “testing” done by No Child Left Behind is mostly useless and very open to cheating. You have to spend money to do meaningful evaluation and the results won’t be summarized by a simple number. Similarly, improving instruction requires improving a set of skills that number in the hundreds.  Business and industry wouldn’t use a few numbers to evaluate and improve employee performance – why would it be different in public education?

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