Education Needs More Freedom, Not More Money

 

Jess on the benchBack a few weeks ago, Emily Domenech, wrote piece on education spending. My plate was running over like Niagara falls at the time so it got set aside. I’m in the process of catching up, and I think it to be important, so here it is.

 

If you’ve ever spoken to a public school teacher or administrator about how to improve the public-school system, the conversation inevitably comes down to one thing: “If we only had more funding.”

I experienced this firsthand a few days ago at “back to school night” for my daughter’s high school in Arlington County, Virginia, where I heard teacher after teacher talk about how there just wasn’t enough funding to provide opportunities offered in the past: no field trips for earth science, no extra resources for senior project, and certainly no school-sponsored trip to France for advanced French students.

While there’s nothing new about teachers lamenting limited funds, this struck me as particularly odd given the Arlington County Public School budget for fiscal year 2015, which shows yet another increase in spending for the district. Costs per K-12 student rose to $19,040 in this 2015 budget, up 2 percent from last year. Arlington County consistently ranks far above the national average in per-student costs (which, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, was $10,608 p

 

Continue reading Education Needs More Freedom, Not More Money.

 

Thing is, I know nothing about the Arlington County, Virginia schools, but what I have always seen is that the schools tend to be a featherbedder’s paradise. Not so much the teachers as a rule, although some likely are suboptimal. But it has always seemed to me that the administrative tail is ridiculously bloated, and far too much of the work for these districts, is done by connected firms, usually on no bid contracts.

 

I’m inclined to think she is right about the ESAs, I also think that charter schools are an excellent idea, as is homeschooling, or even a cooperative school, which frankly would be an outstanding model for public schools.

 

I have noticed that some British universities are moving towards a fee based tuition. I also note that they are beginning to pay attention to the results that their graduates get in the market. This is a trend that we should embrace and advance.

 

One of the major problems in our urban schools is that they are turning out graduates that are illiterate, innumerate, or both. We and our public schools have failed absolutely with these poor people. And our country is much the poorer in more than one way for it.

 

If we are honest, we know that having Washington involved nearly guarantees failure.  So why aren’t we taking it back at least to the state level, although the township, precinct would be best, I think

 

In short we need to find ways to hold our educational system responsible for results, we our paying them (quite well, too) to educate our boys and girls,. Perhaps we have a right to expect the schools to graduate young men and women that can read and write?

 

Spanish Flu ≠ Ebola Virus; Unless We Make It

spanish_flu_newOK, let’s be honest here, Ebola is not anything to panic about. And there’s little reason it should ever be.

But we also all know the phrase, “Never let a crisis go to waste,” don’t we? And that’s the danger here. Because Obama is a statist and a progressive that believes everything should come from the government. Nor is he the first to put his politics ahead of his duty to the country. And for that matter there is a precedent for Ebola getting completely out of hand. Didn’t know that did you? I didn’t either.

But there is, and it’s a horrid story. It goes back to Woodrow Wilson, who may well be the worst man to ever be president, including Obama. Like him, Wilson was a statist, and a progressive, who thought the Constitution was outdated, and wanted to rule by his prerogative, to use the old term. He pretty much did, especially after we got into the Great War.

And as James Jay Carafano says in the linked article, the last time we made an epidemic/pandemic a national security matter, fifty million (50,000,000) people died, worldwide. Think about that for a minute.

Sufficiently revolted? Yeah, me too. Let’s let him tell part of the story.

Progressives like to expropriate the label of national security to help drive their agendas. Statist, centrally managed, with top-down direction, the national-security model is the perfect vehicle for any policy “crusade,” be it fighting global warming or raising taxes. Thus, for example, when the administration got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to label the “debt the biggest threat to national security,” it had all the cover needed to press for cutting defense and raising taxes—two cornerstones of President Obama’s progressive political agenda.

But playing “national security” progressive politics with public health can bring outright disaster. When the United States entered World War I, Woodrow Wilson played the national-security card early and often. The war effort became an excuse for everything from jailing political opponents to spying on everyday Americans. But, when the president used a global war as an excuse to preempt sound public-health policy, he reaped a global catastrophe.

In 1917, the war to end all wars was well under way. At Camp Funston within the boundaries of Fort Riley, Kansas, sergeants were turning recruits into doughboys. During their training, the soldiers picked up backpacks, rifles, helmets—and a new strain of flu. They carried all these with them as they traveled from the camp to the railroads, the big cities, the ports and, ultimately, overseas. On every step of the way to the trenches in Western Europe, they spread the deadly disease.

When news of the epidemic reached Washington, the White House decided it was a national-security problem. The British and French desperately needed reinforcements to turn the tide of the war; getting our boys over there was far more important than stopping the spread of the flu over here.

I can understand their thinking, I guess, but it’s simply wrong isn’t it? Was delaying the American deployments until the flu was burned out going to cost the war? Doesn’t seem very likely, does it? And starting a pandemic is pretty callous, even for a progressive.

Of course, so is ignoring the problem to fundraise, campaign, and play golf. Although, the president did cancel a fundraiser and a rally yesterday, so he could look like he was doing his job. What I really detest, along that line is that Wilson kept having mass rallies to sell war bonds.

President Wilson took one precaution. He transferred the Public Health Service to military control. Support the military effort, not the public health, became Surgeon General Rupert Blue’s main mission.

In less than a year, the Kansas outbreak had become a global pandemic. It was commonly referred to as the “Spanish flu.” Spain was a nonbelligerent in the First Word War. The government had not imposed press censorship. As a result, widespread news of the disease’s deadly progress appeared first in Spain. Most assumed that was where the problem started.

In the end, more died from the pandemic than from the war.

Stateside, at a military camp outside of Gettysburg, a young post commander named Dwight David Eisenhower ignored Washington’s advice to ignore the disease. Instead, he developed health protocols that broke the back of the disease’s run through the ranks. Impressed with the success of his methods, the Army ordered Eisenhower to dispatch his staff to other camps to train them on how to rein in influenza.

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Likewise, many American cities got the disease under control only by ignoring the federal government and adopting responsible public-health policies.

See the thing is, even then, how to stop an epidemic was conventional knowledge, likely we didn’t know why, until we figured out germ theory, and all that in the late nineteenth century, but we had known that quarantines worked since the Black Death cost Europe one third of its population in the middle ages.

The moral of the story is not that it’s 1918 all over again. Ebola and influenza are two very different contagious diseases. But this cautionary tale from the last century reminds us is that the best way to deal with a disease outbreak is to follow sound public-health policies, not cloud the issue with the trappings of national security.

H/T Moe Lane

Obama’s Great Big Ebola Error | The National Interest.

All accounts say that Ebola isn’t anywhere near as contagious as the (Spanish) flu. But that is no reason to screw around and generate another pandemic, while playing politics.

Naught For Our Comfort

I doubt that it is news to any of you but, one of the great joys of mine in writing this blog for the last two years has been the help and friendship of Jessica, and her co-author Chalcedon. I admire them both greatly, and one of the reasons for that is that they have rekindled my love for poetry, and you have seen all of us use it to reinforce our points. It is hardly a new method but, it is one used rarely these days. I suspect because most of us are so ill-educated that we are unaware of its richness, and ability to reinforce our point.

If you read much of Lincoln’ writings and speeches, for instance, you will see it used to great effect. For instance his famous, “of the people, for the people, and by the people’ was not original, nor did he claim it was, and his listeners knew it was not. The original is this: “This Bible is for the government of the people, for the people and by the people.” it is by John Wycliffe and it is from 1384.

And so they have enriched my life, and will continue to do so, God willing, and yours as well because it is reflected in my posts for you. And so

A sea-folk blinder than the sea
Broke all about his land,
But Alfred up against them bare
And gripped the ground and grasped the air,
Staggered, and strove to stand.

For earthquake swallowing earthquake
Uprent the Wessex tree;
The whirlpool of the pagan sway
Had swirled his sires as sticks away
When a flood smites the sea.

Our towns were shaken of tall kings
With scarlet beards like blood:
The world turned empty where they trod,
They took the kindly cross of God
And cut it up for wood.

He bent them back with spear and spade,
With desperate dyke and wall,
With foemen leaning on his shield
And roaring on him when he reeled;
And no help came at all.

There was not English armor left,
Nor any English thing,
When Alfred came to Athelney
To be an English king.

It was a very bad time to be King Alfred of Wessex, and I think it holds parallels to our time as well. to continue

“Mother of God” the wanderer said
“I am but a common king,
Nor will I ask what saints may ask,
To see a secret thing.

“But for this earth most pitiful.
This little land I know,
If that which is forever is,
Or if our hearts shall break with bliss
Seeing the stranger go?”

And here we come to my introduction to this epic by Jess, when she quoted to me on one of our political defeats

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’

Naught for your  comfort has become a catchphrase for us when things go awry, which has been often these last few years for us Americans, and for Britons as well.

We are living through a failed presidency (or at least trying to) and one of the reasons it has failed is that many of our countrymen have confused Obama with God, and I suspect he has as well. That never turns out well, and it is not here either.

I’m reminded that first class leaders hire the best men they can find to help them, and second class leaders hire third class helpers, and worst of all, third class leaders hire lackeys who will tell them what they want to hear. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

But we are going to have to soldier until after the next election, and hope we find a man (not a god) to help us lead in the rebuilding western civilization, for without our leadership it will fall. It’s going to be an epically hard battle, and we could do worse than to emulate King Alfred.

But remember, we remember King Alfred because he won. Let’s finish with the rest of the poem.

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

The King looked up, and what he saw

Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

[…]

They shall not come in warships,
They shall not waste with brands,
But books be all their eating,
And ink be on their hands.

Yea, this shall be the sign of them,
The sign of the dying fire;
And man made like a half-wit,
That knows not of his sire.

What though they come with
scroll and pen,
And grave as a shaven clerk,
By this sign you shall know them
That they ruin and make dark;

By all men bond to nothing
Being slaves without a lord,
By one blind idiot world obeyed
Too blind to be abhorred.

By thought a crawling ruin,
By life a leaping mire,
By a broken heart in the breast
of the world
And the end of the world’s desire.

By God and man dishonored
By death and life made vain
Know ye, the old barbarian,
The barbarian come again

The eternal battle against barbarism is ours to win for our generation or to lose for generations to come. It has taken us a thousand years to get where we are, and it might take longer to recover. So, Stand Fast, my friends.

Did that interest you enough to wonder about the poem and its author? I hope so. It was written by G.K. Chesterton (and its much longer than the excerpts here) it’s called The Ballad of the White Horse. You can find it at Project Gutenberg.

The Power of English

That is indeed a cat in a hat.

Andrew M. Brown in the Telegraph had some things to say about poetry yesterday. And they are good things, well said.

I want to extend that a bit though, because while I agree with him on poetry, I think it goes well beyond what we call poetry. One of the glories of English is its power to be memorable when well used. I mean phrases like “When in the course of human events”, “We, the people”, or “The sunshine patriot, the summer soldier”. are just made for memory, aren’t they? These particular ones are both political, and American, but it’s not exclusive territory.

Our friends may know that Jess has been quite ill, and many of us were quite worried about her. In reflecting on what I have always found so memorable about her, one of the things is her way of writing, which is very simple, without being simplistic, and very understandable (I wish mine was!). But the other thing is her use of snippets of poetry which tend to make her point stick in memory.

Whether it’s Kipling’s “Dogs return to their vomit” or G.K. Chesterton’s

tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

Which so moved me, when Jess used it in a post that it has become one of my catchphrases, or indeed, Julian of Norwich’s “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well” especially in its reordering by T.S. Eliot, in Little Gidding. Once you have teased out the author’s meaning, you will never forget the phrase, or the meaning either.

It seems to me to be something that English does better than most languages, and I suspect it’s part of the reason for the rise of English in the modern word.

I stumbled on to something interesting reading Philip Larkin’s letters. In 1972, when he was compiling the Oxford Book of 20th Century English Verse, he wrote to John Betjeman saying: “I have tried… to keep to poems that make me laugh, cry or shiver.” The poet laureate then helpfully wrote a newspaper review in which he praised Larkin’s selection for its “emphasis on what makes you laugh and what makes you shiver”.

Nor, I think is it limited to poetry, the best written English often seems to be written to be spoken, and it’s something the writers of early modern English did superbly. Shakespeare’s plays, I’ve always thought, are much more understandable when read aloud. The same is true for Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer or indeed the King James Version of the Bible itself. There may be better translations, I’m not qualified to judge, or even better versions to quietly read and study, but nothing could be more beautiful to listen to these declaimed aloud. The same is true for Jefferson’s Declaration and indeed is much of the reason why English speeches, and sermons are so powerful.

Now the Cambridge Poetry and Memory Project, concerned about our outsourcing of memory to digital devices, is studying how learning poetry affects us. Ever since Mr Todd at my school introduced us to Blake’s “pale virgin shrouded in snow”, I have intermittently tried to learn poems. When you fix the lines in your memory, buzzing neurons unpack the meaning, building unconscious links between phrases, picking up echoes, dredging up emotions from the past.

Larkin said Dylan Thomas stuck “words into us like pins”, and Thomas is fun to learn because there’s something so fine-sounding, powerful and elemental about his phrases: The force that through the green fuse drives the flower / drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees / Is my destroyer.

Via Memorable poetry gives you that tell-tale tingle – Telegraph Blogs.

We hear much these days about the need for more STEM education, it is true enough. But we need to be very careful that we avoid throwing out “the baby with the bathwater” to very specifically not turn a phrase, because if we downgrade the humanities very far (and it is not merely the technical people doing so, much damage is also done by people using novel and/or incorrect definitions and far exaggerating problems) we risk weakening our language, and the power of our ideas.

Election Economics 101; US and a little UK as well.

thobamaThe other day, Dan Hannan wrote on how much better Britain would be doing if it was not in the EU. Economically, yes, but in other ways as well, which are arguably more important. At least I think they are, although if I was trying to make a living in Britain, my priorities might be different, although given my outlook, I wouldn’t bet a lot on that. I’m one of those radical Americans that believe freedom is more important than nearly everything, and the EU is inimical to freedom.

Here’s some of Dan’s article:

1. Autonomous trade policy
Europe is the only continent in the world that is not experiencing economic growth, and Britain is the only EU state that sells more to non-members than to members. We are thus especially badly hit by the EU’s Common External Tariff, which sunders us from our commercial hinterland. Again and again, we have been unable to benefit from free trade because the common European position must take account of French film-makers, Italian textile companies, Austrian farmers and what have you. Norway and Switzerland, being in EFTA, recently signed free trade agreements with China. Britain can’t. Given that China grew by 7.7 per cent in 2013 while the EU shrank by 0.3 per cent, I’d say that’s a major disadvantage. Just look at this chart of where we’ll be in three years’ time.

 

Via Nine things David Cameron could bring back from Brussels to satisfy Eurosceptics – Telegraph Blogs.

OK, I hear you saying, so what, that’s Britain. Well yes, aside from the fact that I have a certain number of British readers, I want to point out the IMF number on where our economy ranks with the others as well. The other thing I want to note, as Dan did, and we’ll talk more about, the EU is dying, In a lot of cases, it almost looks like it is living off of Britain, and if Britain leaves, it’s going to be in real trouble.

Why? Well if I read right the other day, if you do your tax planning wrong in France these days, your tax bill can be about 105%, I can’t speak for anybody else but I wouldn’t work very hard to make a dollar if when I did I had to pay the government $1.05 for the privilege. That’s why so many people are leaving France.

But we aren’t doing all that well either, for all Obama’s bragging. We’re surely better than Europe but that saying almost nothing good. Here’s a bit of an article from Dan Mitchell yesterday.

[…]

Here are some blurbs from a Bloomberg report about the President’s remarks on that issue.

A month before congressional elections, President Barack Obama is making an appeal to American pride in promoting his economic policies, arguing that the U.S. is outpacing the recovery in other nations. …“The United States has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan, and every other advanced economy combined.” Obama said. …economies in Europe and Japan are sluggish. The recovery for the euro area – including France and Italy – stalled, with gross domestic product unchanged, from the first quarter to the second, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics office in Luxembourg. Japan contracted by the most in more than five years, with GDP shrinking an annualized 7.1 percent, data from the government Cabinet Office in Tokyo show. …Jason Furman, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers…called Obama’s emphasis on the relative strength of the U.S. economy “useful context to compare to other countries that are facing similar challenges.”

I don’t know if the White House is correct on every specific claim, but it’s definitely true that the United States is out-pacing Europe.

Here are a couple of charts I found with a quick search. We’ll start with one comparing GDP performance. It’s not as up-to-date as the one I shared back in June, but it does a good job of showing how our cousins across the ocean are falling behind.

And here’s another chart I found showing how Europe also is lagging on employment.

And I can also say from personal experience, based on my trips to various conferences, that Europeans look at the American economy with envy. Heck, they even think 1 percent growth is a reason for celebration!

Which should give you an idea of how bad the outlook is in Europe.

After all, the United States is experiencing the weakest economic expansion since the Great Depression. Yet compared to European nations like France and Italy, we’re a powerhouse.

Via Obama Is Right about the European Economy…

Meanwhile John Hinderaker over at Powerline Blog reminds us that the Democrats are running on the recovery. Personally I think they should be running away from such a botched recovery but, I suppose when you think all good things come from Europe. Here’s a bit of that

[…]

President Obama boasted in a speech yesterday that by any measure, the economy today is better than when he took office.

I should hope so! Obama took office shortly after the financial collapse of September 2008, in the depth of a recession. The stimulus, as you no doubt recall, was supposed to get the economy back on its feet. The problem we have today is not that we are in an even worse recession than in January 2009–God forbid–but that the current recovery is the worst one ever, by a wide margin. This graph, which I posted a few days ago, tells the story:

Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 3.48.00 PM

As for the September jobs report, was it anything to crow about? Pre-Obama, a 5.9% unemployment rate was considered unacceptably high. The average unemployment rate during the George W. Bush administration was 5.3%. Moreover, most people have figured out that the official unemployment rate has been dropping primarily because Americans are leaving the labor force. Is the latest report a sign of some real awakening of the jobs market, that will make voters more optimistic over the next 30 days?

I doubt it. The September report says that the number of those not in the labor force increased by another 315,000 last month. […]

Via WILL YESTERDAY’S JOBS REPORT BOOST DEMOCRATS?

The “dismal science” wasn’t nearly as dismal back when Reagan was President, was it?

Video Friday

Let’s start with Bill Whittle on Putin (Hint: he’s not a friend of freedom)

 

And Andrew Klavan explains income redistribution

 

Simplified a bit, he doesn’t account for the huge overhead involved but, he is correct.

Bill Whittle again on Robin Williams and 20 other very important people who died that day.

 

A few days ago, Sean Hannity interviewed PM Benjamin Netanyahu, and it’s here

 

And this, just to round out the day

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