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Saturday, July 23, 2011

What has Changed 05 - The Cost of Schools Continues to Rise Faster than Inflation

The costs of schools (at all levels) is rising faster than inflation and at a higher rate than the increase in household earning power. More and more of each national dollar earned is going into education. The curve of education spending parallels medical spending, for many of the same reasons. This is more salient at the university levels, where subsidies are considerably less than subsidies for K-12.

This has been true of the last 30 years, and will likely increase moving forward. The education-industrial complex will want to get the United States in a classroom-hours race with China or India.

But at some point, we as a nation will realize that we cannot afford the current trajectory, and we may not be able to sustain even the current level. Despite the rhetoric from those in the business, the relationship between classroom-hours and economic competitiveness does not rise indefinitely, but rather has a significant inflection point.

So while many parents are happy with today's schools (until they hit college), they will soon face a revolt of the taxpayer base or the need to reduce drags on the economy by various levels of governments.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Places to Learn - A Mini-Farm Stand By The Road to Earn Money

This stand, created and maintained by a homeschooler, teaches so much about economics.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Is there a culture of anti-parent discrimination among some professional teachers? Is that a problem?

When I am participating in round-table conversations with groups made up of people from the education industry, I am increasingly aware of anti-parent discrimination.

Specifically (and this is NOT scientific), comments that I would characterize as "anti-parent" seem to outnumber comments I would characterize as "pro-parent" by ten to one. These might include:
  • Parents don't understand the system.
  • Parents are too busy to help.
  • Parents are always late to meetings.
  • Parents are illiterate.
  • Parents don't do a good enough job at teaching kids how to behave and communicate in a classroom.
  • If parents spends five minutes helping with homework, they feel as if they have done their job.
Generic conversations often drift to tales of apocryphal parents acting highly neglectful or misdirected. These are told with a certain amount of relish and righteous indignation, even competitiveness.

Further, where parents are involved in school communication, it is always asynchronous (i.e. schools communicate to parents, schools ask parents to do something for the school, and schools provide access to course management data such as homework assignments) rather than synchronous (i.e. schools ask parents what approach to subjects their children might like, schools ask parents what kind of food they should emphasize in the cafeteria, schools ask parents about preferred bus routes).

And some schools offer programs for teachers to learn how to "deal with" parents.

Given all of that, might one formally ask is there an anti-parent discrimination in the culture of some professional teachers? And if so, is that a problem?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

How would schools act if they were voracious corporations bent on unfettered monopolistic growth?

Here's a fun game to play. We all know that schools, unlike Wall Street banks, are organizations that are inherently benign, with loving teachers and caring administrators dedicated to selflessly making the world a better place by taking on the under-paid task of nurturing our children.

But what if, in some crazy parallel universe, the school sytems were instead voracious corporations bent on unfettered monopolistic growth? How would they behave?

Here is what you might see:

  • Schools would try to push more and more school hours.
  • They would use fear to convince everyone that their services were absolutely necessary.
  • They would advertise heavily to present themselves as local and caring.
  • Schools would try to get as much money as possible, using increasingly complex schemes and indirect charges to hide their true cost, and force as many people to pay even if they did not use the service.
  • New teachers, because they would not have career options, would be treated poorly (building deep resentment).
  • Schools would try to standardize as completely as possible the offerings. They would be inflexible in dealing with customers and the community. Students would be expected to change to meet the needs of the offering, as opposed to the other way around.
  • They would produce something that is both increasingly out of line with what customers actually wanted, and as complicated as possible.
  • Schools would have huge lobbying efforts to stave off regulation and to get more tax dollars.
  • They would consume an increasingly large share of a nation's GDP.
  • You would see schools using internal metrics to evaluate success that no one outside of the school cares about.
  • Schools primary functional goal would be to help children become better students (i.e. greater and lower cost consumers of education) and eventually teachers, not to help them outside of the school.
  • You would see bigger and bigger salaries for the people at the top.
  • Decisions would be made based on internal politics.
  • You would see larger and larger administrations - the middle layer that does not teach but that "manages."
  • They would truly believe their approach was the only approach.
  • Schools would seek to crush competition, such as vouchers and home-schooling. There would be increasingly powerful, legally enforced tools to penalize truancy and other anti-school behavior.
Well, thank goodness schools are not voracious corporations bent on unfettered monopolistic growth. Because that would be a huge problem.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Nothing Hurts the Assumption of College Usefulness More Than the Assumption of College Usefulness (#unrules49)

Unschooling Rules 49 (#unrules49) is, "College is the hardest no-win decision your family may ever make."

See all college posts here: and the posts around

John Stossel is adding to the debate, saying college a scam for many: http://video.foxbusiness.com/v/1032356599001/stossel-college-a-scam-for-many/, pointing to high drop out rates and useless curricula.

Another argument is even more simple: the cost of college has outpaced inflation for over thirty years, with no end in sight. Unless you believe that college is infinitely valuable, at some point, necessarily, the cost of college will be greater than what it delivers.

And as with so many school related problems, the wounds are self-inflicted, and often the result of inter-school arms-races. University A "has" to put plasma televisions in the student lounge because University B just did.

One technique to ignore the cost of college for a while has been debt financing. But now a story in the International Business Times has the appropriate headline "Student debt crisis threatens US economy." This shell game may be coming to an end.

Having said that, the value of college degrees are artificially propped up by discriminatory corporate hiring practices. Many of the best entry and even mid-level jobs assume a college degree, despite the dubious connection between the skills bestowed by many colleges and the skills required in the job itself.

If you believe the current situation is unsustainable, given these factors, what do you think will happen:

A) The U.S. government will finance more programs to allow students to pay back debt over longer and longer periods, covering up the problem for another generation?

B) Degree discrimination will become illegal as a hiring practice?

C) Colleges will control and lower costs on their own, as a result of ethics and/or competition?

See also: