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Monday: Slitting our own throats

Tyler Durden guest posted at Naked Capitalism yesterday.  Most of the post is beyond my economic paygrade, though Dakinikat might be able to provide us with the Cliff Notes later.  But I did find his overall observation very astute:

With articles like this coming out of Time magazine, it is inevitable that in the immediate future, the United States will be split into two partisan camps. However, this will not be the traditional schism of republicans vs. democrats, contrary to Mr. Barney Frank’s attempt to start ideological partisan warfare. The real split will be of naive, easily-manipulated, small-time mom and pop investors, who only care about looking at their daily yahoo finance screens and 401(k) statements, seeing more black than red, and only focusing on what happened in the immediate past, and the forward looking taxpayers, who see the upcoming budget deficit fiasco, the social security ponzi scheme, the Medicare/Medicaid debacle, the ridiculous underfunding in public and corporate pension funds, the rising city and state taxes, the shuttering factories, the rising unemployment, the plummeting American production base, the “seasonally” upward-adjusted economic data coupled with consistently downward revised prior economic releases, the increasing savings rate and the multi trillion discrepancy in consumer purchasing power. The taxpayers are becoming angrier and angrier at the net present value destruction of future opportunities of being a U.S. citizen, while investors cheer every piece of information (whether or not supported by facts) that provides a push to their current net worth, ignorant of what this may mean for the future. There will come a point where this schism reaches a boiling point, in the meantime, the paradox is that so many of the taxpayers are also investors, who are caught in a tug of war with themselves on what the proper response to the crisis should be: happy as a result of bear market rallies, or sad when they put the facts into perspective.

I’ve felt this coming for about 15 years now, ever since I ran for the school board because I was alarmed with the curriculum standards.  I’m sorry to break it to you guys not in the science area but our curriculum in the US doesn’t even come close to the standards in many countries in Asia.  Even our best high schools are pathetic.  I work with a lot of international scientists who find our math and science curriculums such a joke that they send their kids to Saturday schools just to bring them up to speed.  There is a lot of anger and disbelief at how educators intentionally hold our children back in our schools.  The sad part is that many of our nation’s teachers are not qualified to teach these subjects at a world class level and they know it.  And when I saw this problem emerging 15 years ago, I tried in vain to get curriculum supervisors in my own school district to see the future.  Think of it this way: if you have a country with 2 billion people and even if only 1/10th of 1% of that 2 billion was graduating with degrees in the hard sciences, it would be many, many more scientists than the US graduates.  But it’s even worse than that because NOW, if you are a chemistry major in a US university, your chances of being hired to do chemistry anywhere in this country is becoming vanishingly small.  All those jobs are now going to India and China.

We have spent the last 25 years disassembling ourselves technologically.  We did this at our employer’s encouragement.  Of course, it doesn’t help that most high tech jobs are non-union or that unions have very little power these days anyway.  When it happened to the unions, we were smug that it wouldn’t happen to those of us who had educations.  Those poor steel working shmucks and caterpillar workers were just vanishing dinosaurs.  But WE would be around forever because we were smart. We would in invest our 401Ks and watch the money pile up.

Then came the mergers when research came grinding to a halt for years at a time.  Then came the layoffs that boosted our 401K portfolios and made us cheer.  Then came the endless outsourcing and contractors and contract negotiations that came with oursourcing and contractors.  We spend almost as much of our day hunting down people to do the work we used to do as actually doing the work.  We now have people who were trained to do one thing taking on the upstream work because no one else will be hired to do it.

And the investors whine that no new drugs are being produced and they threaten to take even more work overseas.  And the layoffs will continue until there is no one left except a few project managers who will work part of their year in Hyderabad, fighting the traffic to oversee the work of the Indian PhD’s who will do low level chemistry grunt work for pennies on the dollar.

A year ago, the bulletin board of the  kitchenette on my floor was festooned with anti-tax screeds clipped from the Wall Street Journal.  Now, I’m just as likely to find letters to the editor about how when they lay us researchers off, it would be folly to think we have other opportunities in the Great American Industrial Landscape.  We have none.  When we are let go, that will be it.  There will be no bootstraps to pull ourselves up.  All the capital will have fled elsewhere.

We have eaten our seed corn.

98 Responses

  1. A masterful summing up RD.

  2. I took astrology to fulfill my HS science requirement

    • LOL! I took astronomy for the same reason and the teacher joked that her students often confuse the two.

      • People may confuse the two, but I was an astronomy nut as a kid then learned astrology as an adult. And, boy, did I learn more about the workings of astronomy then!! Even wrote pieces on declinations, etc. which are still up today at accessnewage.com…. Just learning to calculate progressions of the planets positions by hand was some feat!!

        I also taught at night school…including a course on sun signs and how they were derived from astronomy and the many traditions related to the seasons and the birth/death cycle.

        For a great book on astronomy/astrology I recommend “Conversing with the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented the Cosmos” by Anthony Aveni, The Russell B. Colgate Prof. of Astronomy and Anthropology at Colgate U. who pioneered the study of astronomical anthropology and archaeoastronomy. Named by Rolling Stone as one of America’s top ten college profs in 1991; in 1982 was named Prof. of the year by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

        So, taking astrology may not be as sissy as you think…if the teacher is really going to the root of it all…The link between them as discussed in Aveni’s book is quite intricate and part of the link between metaphysics, science and humanity.

  3. Is it Tuesday yet? Because I’m already reaching for my tinfoil hat. The seemingly intentional dumbing down of our children’s education, moving our jobs overseas, the pillaging of our savings—it’s almost as if they’re trying to destroy our country.

  4. “The taxpayers are becoming angrier and angrier at the net present value destruction of future opportunities of being a U.S. citizen, while investors cheer every piece of information (whether or not supported by facts) that provides a push to their current net worth, ignorant of what this may mean for the future.”

    We need a different model to promote the general welfare all right! I never saw a service economy as viable. I’m becoming increasingly anti-incumbent.

    Book discussion suggestion:

    Making Government Work by Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings

    From Amazon.com Product Description:

    “Confrontational at times toward those issues and institutions he cites as responsible for knocking government off course, Hollings lays out clearly his deep commitment to improving our system of government, strengthening regulations on free trade, countering dependence on campaign contributions, and enhancing our communications and education programs to compete better in an information-driven global marketplace.”

  5. Yes, but what happens when the Indian economy evolves and their wage demands increase? Are we then going to decamp India and take our business to another emerging third world nation?

    • of course…eventually getting back here when we are third world

    • Yes, it’s already happening. Vietnam wants better salaries and is losing businesses. The corporations and the governments they control want to reduce all of us to indentured servitude.

    • pretty much yes….or rather those businesses will. Business will always seek the lowest cost labor possible with the highest productivity. Labor costs in the US are very high compared to India or China or any number of other countries but our political stability and very high productivity makes it worth the cost. As other nations become more productive and enjoy political stability and as US labor costs rise, it will become very much more attractive for businesses higher and higher on the food chain to decamp to those places.

      Just look at the migration of textiles through the decades. Textiles are the first great industrial product requiring relatively low labor costs and high labor inputs. Progressively the labels in our clothes have moved from USA to Taiwan, to China, to Indonesia, to Vietnam, etc. Of course all of those countries still make textiles, but its harder to make a profit in textiles in high labor cost countries like the USA.

      Rising fuel costs will somewhat mitigate the cost advantage of manufacturing overseas, but service industries (banking, finance, telecom, etc.) have little to no transport costs, and so as long as stable political and fiscal regimes exist in nations with a lower cost basis and as high productivity, look for US jobs to migrate to those places.

      Corporations are just like anyone else. Most people search around for the best price on a product.

      • It depends on how you define “productivity.” RD has pointed out that the corporate honchos where in her industry are more concerned with profits than with producing new pharmaceuticals. I think that is part of what she meant by “eating their seed corn.” If the focus is solely on immediate profits, corporations will make decisions that hurt themselves long-term. Our government has done the same thing with education and infrastructure in this country.

        Penny wise and pound foolish.

  6. Kenosha Marge has a good essay up today which discusses some of the economics of our times…among other things…

    A Nation of Nincompoops


  7. Only yesterday I was reading an article by Peter Schiff who was saying exactly that: That we are not producing anymore. How can we consume if we do not produce anything to make money.


    We moved from an agricultural economy to an industrialized one. Then from an industrialized one to a service one, And now our service industry is being moved out too. What is left?

    And do not get me started on the educational system. I was APPAULED at the levels H. was being taught in a public Florida High School.

    Looking back at the kind of teaching I got in low tech France back in the seventies. NO comparaison. And the teaching my parents had gotten in War ravaged Europe… First Class. But we were in class an average of 7 hours a day 6 days a week. And every body behaved and learned. I would have been beaten blue by my dad if I had even thought of behaving the way some kids are behaving in school these days.

    • The education I received in high school was better than what passes for college these days. It’s terrible but our public schools have become warehouses, a place to store the kids for the day.

  8. Great post RD. Read the Naked Capitalism piece. Depressing as hell, but that is the point of the piece. I could write you a story about the mid seventies and make it sound twice as scary. The biggest long term economic gap this nation has imo is the one that you stress, education in science and math. As for our current competitive position in the world, America still has a big lead in the creative and intelligent processing of information – software and content, in all their forms. Remaining upstream, ahead of commoditization, is not a bad strategy. But we do need to keep educating smart leaders.

    • You obviously don’t do software for your living. Offshoring of all but the highest level design positions is occurring at an ever expanding rate. Those design positions will go as well when a service oriented architecture has been sufficiently developed.

      Marketing, management, and customer facing positions will be all is left.

  9. RD

    I have to agree. When I went to study medicine at a university in Germany I discovered that I was less educated in the sciences than my fellow students. It took a lot of work to catch up.

    My son is now studying biomedical engineering at one of the top three US schools in this area. He finds that the Asian and European students have an easier time with courses because of their education. This is a kid who went to a top high school and scored in the top 3% on his ACT and SAT. He’s going to school in the summers so he can reach that level of education.

    • My Italian cousins are aware and have read many American authors. They know and have read Fitzgerald, Hemingway, to name a few and they speak several languages. Many of our students think that the world only has American and British writers. And I am sure that many never even heard of Hemingway etc. We must expose our students to other international viewpoints and not be so ethnocentric in our views. The USA may think we are a super power, but behind our back, others call us dumb and ugly Americans.

      • I read Dante, Machievelli, and Pirandello in college, but I have to admit that of modern Italian authors, the only ones I can think of off-hand is Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco.

        Do you have any good recommondations?

  10. I have always believed that it behooves this country to keep the citizens dumb. Teachers are not valued and education seems to not be a priority. Celebrities make a fortune, teachers have to beg for a 2 percent hike. And why must teachers’ contracts always have to be in sync with the policeman’s or fireman’s contract?. Teachers are professionals, highly educated and most are extremely dedicated and hard working. If you want to attract great teachers, reward them and then work on increasing standards. My European cousins’ children get workbook homework that must be completed during the Summer. Great idea, so teachers do not have to spend September repeating ad nauseum. Raise the passing grades because a 65 is too mediocre and many of those kids are truly a 60-64 but many parents pressure the principal or teacher to pass their child. Social promotion must come to an end and we must bring back those vocational and technical schools throughout the nation, not just in a few cities. And one more thing, Let’s ask teachers for ideas on improving the schools, not the idiots in burocratic positions who have never stepped into a classroom. Just a few thoughts. Sorry for the long post.

    • Well, I don’t begrudge firemen and policemen their pay increases because they certainly perform a needed function under often dangerous conditions, but yeah, the pay for teachers is too low. But the problem with pay inequity is much larger than that. In many European countries, the pay for all sorts of professionals, from teachers to doctors and so on, is, judging strictly by salary, is often lower than here in the United States. But because these countries provide universal health care, well-developed mass transit systems, nonprofit affordable housing development, and the like, they maintain an admirable quality of life for their citizenry.

      Because of ideological blinders (still firmly in place with our present administration) this country has never been offered the same kinds of amenities to its citizens. This didn’t really seem to matter that much to most Americans when our country still had the most powerful and productive economy in the world during the decades following WWII, but now more and more Americans are feeling the pain that that has been wrought by our lack of sound and sensible policies to promote the general welfare.

      I also agree completely that we need to bring back vocational and technical schools. I know, for instance, that Germany’s trade schools do an admirable job of preparing students, which is one of the main reasons why that country still has a strong export-based economy.

      • A lot of the problem here in the US is the fact that we don’t pull out the really bright capable students and challenge them. It’s sort’ve a double edged sword. There are a lot of kids with incredible problems and we spend a lot of resources keeping them in a curriculum where they really don’t belong and ignoring the children who are good students and well behaved because they don’t create problems.

        Also, I’ve noticed that parents down here will send their kids to private schools (read religious schools) to avoid the challenges of behavior-challenged kids and actually pay good money to have less qualified teachers just to avoid ‘bad’ kids. Most religious schools underpay teachers miserably so they really attract some of the worst teachers who never get discovered as such because they’re just paid to keep the kids doing workbooks, prayer, and quiet.

        In Europe, they still test kids by about 5th or 6th grade, and if they are not up to par, they put them in a non college bound curriculum and prepare them for different things. That way they can fast track the bright kids. It’s not very egalitarian, but it does have its advantages. It puts resources into the kids that are academically successful. Right now, we do the opposite.

        There’s nothing wrong with fast tracking a kid into plumbing and putting more resources into a serious student to become something academic. We need plumbers, they make decent money, and it’s an honorable profession.

        Unfortunately, the kids with the parents that are least involved in their education, tend to be the loudest and the first to make a snit once you inform them they should’ve read to the children and tell them that their kids need to spend more time at the books. The reason they generally don’t is because they’re parents don’t make them. I quit teaching at the high school level because I spent more time in social work activities than actually teaching anything.

        My experience with Asian cultures has shown me that the parents are actively involved with their child’s education from day one. Kids are expected to excel and if the kid doesn’t, the parent’s take that as their failure, not the school’s failure. They seek outside activities for the kids like music and art that enhance the kid’s intellectual and creative ability. They don’t just dump them in little league and hope they become a great pitcher. I’ve taught at all levels and for every failed student, there really is a failed parent for the most part.

        • Absolutely right, dakinikat. We spend a huge portion of our time as teachers dealing with behavioral and social issues. People of my generation learned how to behave and how to get along (for the most part) at home….or there were consequences from our parents.

          And RD, I cringed when I read your comment: “There is a lot of anger and disbelief at how educators intentionally hold our children back in our schools.” In 20 years of teaching, I have never known a single educator who has EVER intentionally held a child back. The problem stems, imo, from the government being in bed with the test producers, thus testing is what is valued…not learning….not teachers either.

          • …and by design, teaching how to test versus how to think is what has dumbed-down the present (PUMAs notwithstanding) and future electorate.

          • I agree with everything you just wrote–it was one of the main reason I became a Hillary supporter in the last election. It was so clear that she had a better understanding than a certain other candidate of educational issues, including the problems with NCLB and Dak’s earlier point that “we don’t pull out the really bright capable students and challenge them.”

            Oh, but for what might have been.

          • I could write a book. I have a gifted and talented kid who was described by her REACH teacher as exceptional among exceptional kids. But in fourth grade our new district supervisor eliminated all but cursory G&T courses. How did she do it? She embraced the hetergeneous classroom experience. That has lead to behavioral problems, boredom and eventually disinterest. My daughter was kept out of Algebra this year although 21 of her classmates are taking it. Brook had a nearly perfect score on her SSAT for private schools I was trying to get her into. They had no space for her even though each one said they would have started her in algebra in 7th grade and allowed her to proceed at her own pace, putting her in the high school if she wanted to go faster. Her public school refused to move her out of prealgebra. She’s going to be learning no new material until she reached High School. No amount of begging and pleading with the math curriculum supervisor had any effect. Her NJASK scores are alway in the top 2% of students. But she has been mainstreamed. Wanna know why?
            She refused to do her homework. Well, she was scoring in the 90’s on tests without it. So, to bring her into compliance, they busted her back to regular prealgebra- which she had already taken as part of the advanced math class the year before.
            I have had to enroll her in the EPGY distance learning program from Stanford so she doesn’t start to lose interest. And as a result, her behavior in class is suffering. She got detention for telling her teacher that her Math is boring.
            Ironically, it is not the brightest children we are advancing. No, it is the child who is well behaved and obedient. Smart kids with a well developed sense of reality are troublemakers. We hold them back for mouthing off when we should be giving them more interesting work to shut them up.
            BTW, my case is by no means uncommon among my colleagues. Lots of international scientists send their kids to summer prep school programs because the school systems hold their kids back for no reason that makes any sense to us. Sometimes teachers create their own behavioral issues.

          • I think the frustration with education starts the day the parent realizes they have a TAG kid. Our US education system encourages them to amuse themselves while everybody learns to read from the same book. By the time the education system has something to offer the child, the child forgets to notice and continues to amuse themselves instead.

            I know there are some TAG kids who ‘enjoy’ reading easy books and beating everyone on the timed 2+2 test, but for the rest of us… it is just frustrating and we fight that battle on two fronts with a kid who thinks school offers them nothing and adminstrators and teachers who don’t want to ‘reward’ the underachiever with appropriate classes.

          • RD, I am sorry for the crap that is happening with your daughter. You have a very legitimate complaint. Perhaps it’s because I have spent my entire career at the elementary-school level that I have not witnessed the kind of cut-throat, political manipulation of children that the secondary schools see. I think it depends upon where you live as to whether or not your Gifted/Talented students will be truly rewarded and valued. I live in the most bleeding-heart, everybody-belongs, obot-ridden area of Texas and I have been part of a school where the G/T students and those whose behavior might be a little off but who are pretty brilliant ARE advanced and rewarded. This was in a neighbohood full of old hippies. : )

        • Hey RD and jjm,

          I totally sympathize with the troubles your kids are having, but I’m not sure that you appreciate the full extent to which our present NCLB testing regime is resonsible for their plights. Way back in September, The Confluece had a post on Hillary’s NCLB postion, which included a great video in which Hillary clearly explains why NCLB harms most students, but especially G&T students. You may want to watch her response again.

          Here’s the link.

          • Oops! I didn’t nest my comment correctly. My reply above was meant for RD and jjm above.

          • Inky,
            Thanks for the link.

            I know the NCLB made the problem even worse since most districts re-allocated the funding for TAG programs into NCLB.

          • I am happy to note that a friend of mine, a former teacher who is running for the local school board, has as a main point in her platform – more teaching and less testing.

    • Teachers and nurses would enjoy a huge upgrade if their contracts kept pace with police and fire. Police and fire are favored in conbtracts and benefits and everyone else divides the crumbs.

      • Whoa. Why does this need to be a zero sum game? My husband was a firefighter for many years and I’ve seen very up close and personally the physical and emotional toll the job levies. Heart disease, lung disease, cancers, and suicide are a pretty high price to pay for doing what in the end is a valiant and often seriously underpaid job (my husband sacrificed his health and in return received a paltry disability pension). Teachers certainly deserve good pay, but they don’t incur the tremendous risks to their physical and emotional wellbeing which firefighters and cops routinely face. Can we please stop penalizing those who undertake blue collar careers?

        • Firefighters in MA don’t make all that much. I think the average is in the middle 40s. Average for HS teachers is $47K.

        • Not at all a zero sum game, friend. I have any number of friends and family on the Irish side who are police and fire. Trust me, I am so aware of what they do. I am also aware that nursing is a dangerous occupation., currently tjhird behind commercial fishing and firefighters, and two above police. I was disabled at the age of 50 due to a raging pneumonia. I have survived a near-strangulation. I have seen my coworkers have broken bones due to patient attacks. I will always bless Janet Reno for beginning the process to make strining an ER nurse a felony in FL. I will also tell you that I have a 38% pension, not the 60% enjoyed by police and fire as despite the Dept. of Labor statistics, FL refuses to recognize nursing as a high-risk occupation, and they are not alone in this. And I also know that hospital and teachers contracts were always deferred until police and fire were done, and were usually 1-2% below.

          • My point is that this needn’t be a competition. What we need is far stronger recognition of and support for all kinds of jobs which are undercompensated. One means of doing this is to revive and strengthen unions (while eliminating the evils of corrupt leadership). “Union” has been allowed to become a dirty word, and the reasons for this unhappy state are rather obvious.

            Page through any Life magazine which predates the 1970s and you’ll see plenty of ads featuring milkmen, gas station attendants, factory and railroad workers. These ads weren’t condescending toward blue collar employment, but instead carried the implicit message that these were perfectly good and valuable jobs. The denigration of blue – and pink – collar work has played an integral role in our economic downfall. We’ve become a nation of bamboozled snobs all too ready to snarl at one another over crumbs.

          • Kast5: It only becomes a competition when you work for a coun ty facility and have to wait for other stronger (maile-dominated) unions to conbtract to see what is left for you. Truthfully, I agree that all should support bone another, and hope that I live long enough to see that happen. I do know, however, that I sat through year after year where contract negotiations skidded to a halt while we were told to see “what was left” after police and fire finished. Nursing is strrange in that it is regarded as pink-collar yet requires college level education. However, I assure you that few enter the nursing profession to become ” snobs”, bamboozled or otherwise,and I agree wholeheartedly that no nurse should ever have to dive for crumbs with what we also give to society.

          • Wow, Chatblu, how awful!

            Nurses should be paid more than doctors, IMHO. I’ve been in the hospital a few times and you barely see a doctor, much less get to talk to one. Nurses are on the front lines and do most of the work.

            I think one of the reasons teachers are not valued in our culture is that as a country we don’t care about children. Children don’t really get protected from abuse in their own homes. School is treated a place for warehousing and propagandizing.

          • These days, many firefighters also need to complete a two-year fire tech degree which includes a surprising amount of advanced math and physics. Firefighting is no longer a matter of simply aiming hoses, it’s much more complicated than that. And in many localities, firefighters are now also required to serve as First Responders, which necessitates a lot of EMT training. But, as with nursing, continuing to portray firefighting simply as not-white-collar serves to keep salaries lower. Such disparity in pay and prestige is patently and teeth grindingly unjust.

        • I do not underestimate the value of blue collar workers. I just think clumping teachers with other union workers is highly unfair and helps perpetuate this belief that teachers have such an easy life with tons of vacations and free time. Why can’t teachers , social workers etc receive what other professionals are receiving? Mayor Giuliani once argued that the teachers of NYC should not whine about not getting a raise because the police and the fireman had not gotten one either. NYC teachers make much less than the ones in suburbia. Very unfair!!! If you value the future of America and you value teachers, you show them respect and give them what they are worth. And RD is correct. We are producing a lot of dead wood because no one really wants to do anything about education.

          • I just think clumping teachers with other union workers is highly unfair and helps perpetuate this belief that teachers have such an easy life with tons of vacations and free time.

            What ‘other union workers’ do you know of who fit your rather strange characterization? Factory workers? Cops? Firefighters? Nurses?

            Let me try this one on you: But teachers have the whole summer off! This directly equates with: But firefighters just sit around and sleep all day!

            Seems like you’re falling into your own trap here.

      • Police and fire fighters tend to be traditionally male jobs with strong unions …

        • I paid dues to and sat on the board of an SEIU local.

        • Bingo!

          I’m also amazed by how often I hear “progressives” bashing and demonizing teachers’ unions and completely buying in to the right-wing trope that teachers’ unions “don’t give a damn about the children.”

    • “Let’s ask teachers for ideas on improving the schools, not the idiots in burocratic positions who have never stepped into a classroom.”

      I think that’s an awesome idea. I spent the 2007-2008 school year as an Americorps reading tutor at a tiny elementary school in Pacific Beach, WA. The teachers there are not dumb and really care for their kids. They recommend the best course of action for troubled students but get overridden by higher administration. It’s a shame.

      I do know that after that ONE year in the education system I’ve come to HATE the words “Researched based criteria.” What happens is that school administrations try and fit kids into their programs instead of fitting the program to the kids.

      In the Navy I was an aircrew instructor and I realized very early that not everyone learns the same way and I would have to tailor how I taught to the sailors that I had each day. Fortunately I had the authority to do that but teachers do not.

      Teachers may not always get the best education that they need but the ones I’ve seen know this and strive to fill those holes. To me the problem isn’t the teachers but the adminstration that tells them how to do their job.

  11. Education is not valued for sure. Bush had his “gut” , Barry’ is just “smart” ….any one who,ugh, studies, is a geek and a nerd.

    We like the idea that we are just wonderful as is ….no augmentation needed . Oh and if you are a kid and say you actully like school, be prepared to defend that statement. I remember when the Uni-bomber was addressed and someone said “well he reads you know”. Well case closed!

    Being dumb is a luxury of Empire….which we don’t have anymore.

    As for pay, it seems the level of usefulness usually dictates that, the more useful, the less money
    As in, deciding how may teddy bears dance in a cereal ad? a million….teaching kids?….considerably less

  12. On the women rights issue, the media is gearing up for a twisted mindf*k, depicting pro-abortion Obama assailed by powerful pro-life opposition who feels Obama’s promises TO THEM are not YET fulfilled. So, fasten your seatbelts

  13. When we have three Republican candidates in a primary for POTUS eagerly raise their hands and proclaim they don’t believe in evolution, when we have Republican platforms in states proudly wanting to do away with the Department of Education, when we have a party pushing vouchers . . . . the fight over the stem cell issue . . . and on and on and on –

    This nation is in a better position to improve our educational system under the current party in power, no matter how much I might dislike Obama – and yes, education for America’s youth is a partisan issue.

  14. Well, RD, you’ve covered a lot of ground here. Our education system is an issue in itself. (By the way, you can add languages to the list of courses that are taught pathetically in this country.) Will a well educated individual in this country eventually have to chase the jobs around the globe as manufacturing moves from country to country? HB1 type visas for Americans next to work in foreign countries?

    Years ago, when I worked for a small food manufacturer, I went to D.C. to complain to bureaucrats there about how the low tariffs for foreign companies in our industry were driving U.S. manufacturers out of business. Foreign manufacturers had a 7% tariff to export to the U.S. For me to export anywhere in the world, the minimum tariff was 21%. The bureaucrats listened to me and then explained that if my company went bankrupt, then I could come back and make a case with the U.S. government regarding tariffs for foreigners. I replied that bankruptcy was just what I and my competitors were trying to avoid. The bureaucrat told me, “So sorry, but that’s how the system is set up.” Today, everyone of the companies that used to be in that particular industry is owned by a foreign entity.

    The problems started over 20 years ago. We’re just seeing the cumulative results now.

  15. I’m not sure where you live, but in NY the broad core curriculum in each subject area is determined by the state education department and is tied to national content standards drafted and adopted by councils of professionals and educators in that field.
    It is up to individual school districts to devise a “map” that both fulfills the curriculum and achieves the standards. This is the ideal, but we do not live in an ideal world.

    Some school districts have more resources than others. Some students struggle no matter how hard they work and how good the instruction. Some teachers find the scope of the material that students are expected to master overwhelming. Some parents allow their children to work the system by taking astrology instead of earth science. (Sorry myiq…I couldn’t resist!)

    I’m licensed in my state to teach both English and French. I have masters degrees in both fields as well as one in education. I passed fairly rigorous exams in subject content and pedagogy to earn my certification.

    I do not intentionally hold children back in school. I am a partner in your child’s education. So are you. So is the student.

    I’m not sure what it means to be “qualified to teach at a world class level”, but I do know this. I’m not the only teacher in my building who works hard every day to bring about the best result for other people’s children. It’s not always a perfect result, for I am not perfect and neither is the system.

    It is also important for parents to remember that their children are distinctive in their gifts. Not everyone can be a star athlete; nor can everyone be a “world class” mathematician or scientist. Embrace, nurture, and encourage the unique individual that comprises your child. That is the best education any of us can hope for.

    P.S. The teacher in me wants to remind you to use the subjunctive mood (“were graduating” not “was graduating”) in speculative conditional clauses.

    • ChezMadame, I don’t know you. But I respect your dedication to your work.

      That said, the simple principle of being a partner in the child education with its parents and the child itself irkerd me. And what about that Astrology is even offered as a credit course?

      That approach of diversity and partnership is, to me, the core of the problem. The system worked way better before those 60’s ideas of respecting and embrassing individuality.

      I yearned for the days of catholic school where everybody was terrified but learning the curriculum and the principles of discipline and consequences. The best free thinkers came out of that system.

      Children were coming out prepared for life and basically educated. The ones who had performed the best went on, and the other were educated enough to know how to show up in time at work and take orders.

      The concept that the goal of education is to help children to achieve their goals is ludicrous. And children are paying the price dearly.

      Education should be to prepare the childern to function at best in society first and foremost, and then above that threshold, it should be to help them to achieve the best they can, not the best they want!!!

      The education system nowadays is serving the children. It worked way better for everybody when the education system stands for serving society at large first.

      • I teach in a Catholic high school. Kids today are not terrified of anything. They all have lawyers. They know who my boss is and who his boss is. It is not uncommon for parents to be angry and incredulous when rules are enforced.

        As for partnership…let me put it this way. Teachers are not solely responsible for the outcome of any child’s education. And every child is not cut out to be a scientist, mathematician, doctor or lawyer.

        Parents need to realize this and help to prepare their children for surviving in the world we actually inhabit where prospects can be scarce. They can begin by instilling a sense of responsibility and accountability. They can continue by letting go of the notion that their child is the exception to every rule.

        • Hurrah for you for saying things which need to be said.

          We’ve got to stop demeaning all employment which doesn’t take place in an office or indoors. Not everyone is suited for college level work, either temperamentally, intellectually, or both. Many students would be far better suited for a vo-tech track, but this choice has been demeaned for years now, with academia’s eager participation. What this country seems to have lost is nearly all sane perspective when it comes to its economy and the needs of many of its citizens.

        • This lawyering of the parents is indeed the problem. No your child is not “Speeecial” . Very few of them are.

          I do think that schools should be protected from being sued like any other municipaly employees, but for criminal misconduct.

          And sorry, I don’t agree with this partnership idea. it implies a sense of equality. Teachers are not equal to students, by no means. They are older, more knowledgeable and to be respected if not feared.
          And teachers are not equal to parents, they are specially educated to perform a job most parents are not able to do.

          That said I believe one of the real problem is that teachers are now supposed to be not only teachers in Academics but educators.

          On the premises that an unrully child has to be academically taught no matter what, teachers have to put up with disrupting behavior. This mandatory goal is the problem because the parents can abdicate their duties of discipline and pass it on to the schools.

  16. The really poor level of education in this country is a serious emergency. It’s been bad and embarrassing for decades now, but now I think we’re moving into national security concern territory if you ask me. The curricula are embarrassing. I mean they still have basically the same classes covering the same material found in the 60’s and 70’s. No kidding. To me what we saw in high schools in the 60s and 70s should now be in middle school so we have room for more advanced material.

    I mean seriously, the highest level of math we teach high school seniors, the calculus, in much of this country is from the 1600’s. Seriously, that’s the most advanced we think our teenagers can handle? Seriously? That’s just pathetic. And the level of physics taught is just as sad. Here’s the thing, if you’re not going to get them through at least universal algebra in math and hamiltonian mechanics (vs. just lagrangian) in physics, and a thorough treatment of first order logic, then you shouldn’t go past the first great reader in english either. That’s where we are. It’s as if nothing has happened in the world since Newton in the 1600’s. It’s really stunning. Hmm, can you tell that’s a hot button issue with me….

    A Computer Science professor friend of mine took a leave for a year and taught in the UK. He came back just stunned and amazed at what the freshman already knew from high school. He could launch right into universal algebra and category theory on day one in a freshman class. Try doing that in the US.

    And on the economic/job front, what the f*ck are these nimnogs thinking when they want to outsource every skilled job, get ride of manufacturing, and turn us all into service workers. Um, who the hell is going to buy their crap if they keep doing that? That’s always puzzled the hell out of me. “Hey, why don’t you buy a GM car?” “Um, because I flip burgers at mikey-d’s you f*ckwad.”

    • Here are the core curricula for the NYS. I don’t think they are embarrassing.


      • To me they are very embarrassing. To me the level of math and science discussed there is the equivalent in english and french to not getting past grunting.

        • You read all those documents in four minutes?

          • I’ve read them before, so I only had to skim them. I’ve also worked through similar material for other states as well as much of the material from Core Knowledge and a few other places. I’m familiar with various approaches, and I don’t dislike some methodologies and ways of helping people learn in different ways depending on their inclinations, etc. So I don’t dislike some of the ideas.

            But the bottom line is if the end result of the material doesn’t really get past what we knew as cavemen, then it’s sort of missing the mark.

            Actually I have to say, when I looked through the math material it was so bad and upsetting that it brought a tear to my eye. It really is that bad.

          • There is no Core Knowledge curriculum for high school.

            However, the core knowledge sequence is employed in many NY elementary and middle schools in devising the map for the core curriculum.

            It’s also important to remember that the “core” comprises what every student should know. It is a baseline, not an apex.

            As for the NYS math core curriculum, not everyone has the power to skim, judge, and shed tears over a 128 page document all in the space of four minutes. I’ll let the other readers decide for themselves.

            Click to access MathCore.pdf

          • What part of I read them before did you not understand? And I never said CoreKnowledge published a HS curriculum, though some members have researched and discussed such things at their conferences. It’s so nice and sensitive of you to be so smug about my reaction to our lacking curriculum, and not just the core of it, in NY and other places. Thanks for sharing.

            Notice in the full report how it doesn’t even go past algebra 2 and trig. So we’re not even making it into the 1600’s in this math curriculum. I’m impressed.

          • Full disclosure, I’m here in Charlottesville, home of CoreKnowledge. And I’ve worked with them and other educators on these topics. It’s a bit of a hot button issue with me, so please forgive me if I get a bit touchy on the topic. The main point is, if we’re keeping kids in arithmetic through the 8th grade and only getting them to algebra and trig by senior year, we have failed. To me it’s analogous to not letting kids use anything but coloring books through to the 8th grade, and not letting them get past 3rd grade readers through high school. To me that’s the level of math and physics we’re teaching.

    • kids in india learn calculus in 5th or 6th grade

      • That’s about the right. Many US schools continue to spoon feed kids arithmetic through 8th grade. That’s the equivalent of requiring all english through 8th grade to not go past 1st grade readers. Imagine how bored they’d be.

        • I appreciate your input DandyTiger. It’s amazing what a store of knowledge we have here. If we all put our heads together, imagine what we could accomplish!

      • When H. went in High School in Florida, she had an ENTIRE year without maths. I cried myself to sleep over the fact she was stuck in that High School (long story).

        To me for a High School curriculum to have no maths for a year is UNBELIEVABLE.

        And the rest of the classes were horrible too.

        I remember at her age I had 8 subject matters plus gym and one or two optionals with a minimum of 3 hours per week in the major subjects, (French, Maths, Natural Sciences and Physics), 2 hours for English, German, Geography, History, Philosophy, 3 hours of gym, 1 hour of Chinese and 1 hour of Italian. Additionally, I was involved in theater every saturday.

        With that kind of schedule, we had no time for drugs, fooling around and so on. And the one who did were standing out in a matter of weeks. This was Public education in the 70’s. It worked and I miss it.

    • I spend a lot of time in freshmen finance and economics courses trying to figure out just exactly how bad my student’s grammar and math skills will be so I can spend time covering things they should walk in knowing already. Most of my students have terrible algebra skills. I’m lucky if they know enough geometry to do two dimensional graphs. Most of these kids have come from catholic educations also so, it’s not just public schools.

      • That really compounds the problem when teachers at the next levels and even in other subjects have to worry about their students lack of education. Which of course means you’ll cover less territory in your subject. Grumble.

      • I’ve had a few teachers from private schools tell me that most of the kids there weren’t any better than the most of the kids in the public schools they used to teach at.

  17. Confluence:
    So what do you propose we do about the situation?
    We are supposed to be enterring the “Information Age,” our contribution to the scheme of things is the superior information we can add to the mix. Our people have been trained and educated to be superior minds to the rest of the world. Unfortunately, the inventor of the “Information Age” forgot that most information comes from making things, and the need to invent solutions to real problems.

    • Try to find a way to hold parents accountable for their children’s behavior and poor performance in school. I suggest that they either be forced to pay for extra attention or they be forced to volunteer in the schools and take classes with their kids if their kids are a problem.

      • I resent this. My kid is one of those behavioral issues because she’s bored out of her mind and I have the test scores to prove it. There is one solution to this probelm: teach her at *her* level. The school district has refused every possible suggestion I give them. At this point, we can do no more. They have to stop treating her like trailer trash and sending her to detention when ever she raises her voice. It is making the situation worse. In fact, school is the only place where she has behavioral issues. She is being conditioned to act this way.

        • It is so frustrating to hear about the problems Brooke is having. I was bored in school too, and I know what that feels like. I barely had to study when I was in high school–at least in some of my courses. That’s probably why I liked chemistry and physics so much, because they were challenging for me. Schools are geared to the average kids. One size does not fit all.

        • Smart kids are a pain in the ass.

          Stupid kids you can entertain with a television. They’ll sit there in a trance, quietly drooling down the fronts of their shirts until an almost-bursting bladder rouses them briefly to use the bathroom.

          The worst smart kids are the ones who aspire to become scientists.

          If you don’t watch those little Lex Luthor wannabees carefully your house will blow up, burn down or get seized by the cops as an “asset forfeiture”

        • RD, whatever you do — do not let them tell you she has ADHD or any other thing — okay?

          She *is* too smart. And, creative types move faster than the norm anyway. My best friend and I were cutting class at her age we were so bored.

          You are correct when you say she is being conditioned — the thing is though — she may be a genius? Too smart for the class — plus that raising her voice issue? I’m glad she does. We did, in the 70’s.
          Do not let them tell you to put her on something to conform, okay?

          The rest of you can read Aaron Kipnis on this. He has theories about what is being done with pharma, kids and classrooms.
          Hey tell her that she knows some grown ups who were like her once upon a time…

          me & MIQ.

          umm, hmm. that’s my guess…..

        • Can you switch schools then?

      • There are bad teachers out there. Teachers who don’t know how to motivate students. Teachers who shouldn’t be teaching at all. I once was in a class where we had one of the worst teachers. All the students he taught said the same thing about the guy. No student wanted to show up in class. He was boring and almost seemed to be in his own world. So maybe it is a two-way problem. Teachers have to be creative in the ways they teach.

    • The approach has to be on what society expect from the children and not what the children and their parents want.

      The whole notion that the schools are there to serve the need of the children is WRONG.

      And until we go back to the notion that the schools are there to serve the needs of society, we will have this discrepency.with the rest of the world.

      And by the way, all performing educational systems in the world are operating on preparing children according to society needs and not preparing children according to the children wants.

  18. Speaking of big time outsourcing. Here’s a story from PBS in 2007 which didn’t happen then, I’m convinced, only because it was exposed and had to be slowed down.


    Today is another story and the outsourcing is picking up pace quickly. I think in the end this story will be all too true.

  19. Stirling Newberry’s take on “The Money Thing” at corrente. This is a bit different view than I’ve seen and makes some sense to me.

    I’d love to get Dakinikat’s economist take on it.


    Would the states really be the best place to concentrate now for Main Street’s revival?

    • That’s an interesting take and essentially true. I’ve thought for years (since the early 80s any way) that we needed to essentially pull our military out of places like Europe and Japan or make them pay a huge amount of money for keeping them there. We’ve had money funneled to us in a slightly different way for doing that. They’ve been able to grown their standards of living by not facing the guns v butter trade off. The money runs the wrong way with Israel too. They should be paying us instead of us propping them up and selling them arms on the cheap.

      Yes, we should focus again on main street and re-developing manufacturing. Other countries subsidize these things which gives them a most uncompetitive competitive advantage. We subsidize stuff that is of very little value.

      I think capitalism is mom and pop ventures and small businesses. Monopolies and corporatism is the antithesis of that and subsidizing and enabling business to grew huge and inefficient is just plain self defeating. So much of Wall Street and Washington DC exist to enable monopolism instead of capitalism.

      • I have family in Canada, and one of the things I’ve had a hard time understanding is why manufacturers would prefer to operate in Canada over the United States. They certainly have more employee friendly labor laws. I think part of the attractiveness is lower utility costs and universal health care. And, as for the universal health care, one of the reasons they can afford it, is because they don’t expend as much money on their military.

      • We are sure in agreement about capitalism and small business. I own a small business with my daughter in-law and we’re doing our level best to keep it above water. So far successfully because she’s just wonderful!

        Without small business, capitalism would be dead.

  20. I guess after reading this the question is where to go?
    Where to go if the whole place is about to crumple into mayhem.

    There must be some politicians someplace reading your article. I wouldn’t be surprised, RD.

    Hopefully they plan on putting this country first, again. Personally, I have reduced consumption on purpose. I tend to want to buy things made in America for all the usual “Democratic” reasons — and if I can’t? Well…

    What you have talked about in this piece covers every industry that I can think of. Companies here forgot the golden rule in the last 25 years — as they put things out of business. What were they expecting?

    The question is who (which set of politicians) let this ball go into motion without seeing where it was going to roll.

    Really sad.

  21. “There will be no bootstraps to pull ourselves up.”
    Now you know what it’s like to be black.

  22. Great post. We truly have just about outsourced everything.

    As for education, the schools seem to be putting a lot of pressure on the youngest students (kindergarten and first grade), but after that it seems as though they start to slack off. Most schools now teach students to read and do basic addition and subtraction in kindergarten, yet they don’t seem to end up any farther along by the time they reach middle or high school.

    As a parent, I can’t help but wonder why we’re putting so much pressure on our youngest students, and their parents (we are held accountable and lectured on a regular basis for their academic progress as well as for their behavior). I know I help my children much more than my parents ever helped me.

    The school systems certainly seem spend a lot of time testing, measuring and grading each student, so it is puzzling that we’re slipping farther behind. Perhaps teachers are being forced to spend more time evaluating and testing students than teaching.

    All in all though, I have to say I’ve really liked many of my children’s teachers. If anything, they seem to be trying to do their best while meeting the requirements set forth by local, state and federal mandates.

  23. I greatly underestimated the Confluence. Good show.

  24. At this point, I feel really discouraged about the status of our educational levels in many realms. More than several decades ago, we recognized the math/science deficits and helped develop goals and programs to address them. We encouraged better curriculum and developed means to honor and encourage science teachers. We fostered programs to encourage middle school students to enter the fields of medicine, nursing, and basic sciences. We also talked way back then about our poor standing in relation to the rest of the world and, yes, about eating our seed corn… seems it is still happening.

    Still, many of our efforts to overcome the problems were working for awhile –but something is just not right yet. I think it is far beyond blaming the teachers and has more to do with the confusing array of political demands on our school systems.

    I know there are real problems daily when I read anything on the web or hear people talking — from news anchors to reporters to average persons. I am shocked daily when I hear poor English usage from Americans who were educated in this country. “Her” and “him” are used where the nominative case is needed, as in “Her and John went to the store. Noun/verb agreements and conjugations are misused wildly. “We was….” “I seen the plane coming down….” I have heard anchors say, “She had fell down…he had saw her.” Those are only a few samples; I read and see many others. Aaargh…. I could understand such language if the persons speaking had just arrived in this country — but these speakers are own products. How did any of them pass the eighth grade?

    Despite all of these defects, however, we do have many well-educated people who have lost jobs simply because of corporate policies — and not because they are unqualified. We also are seeing companies discriminate against experienced workers in the primes of their lives — many of them in the college-educated/technical fields. Many of them are scrambling for any kind of job so they can eat and stave off homelessness. (Further, we already are seeing employer abuse — another story, another day.)

  25. New Thread

  26. “And the investors whine that no new drugs are being produced and they threaten to take even more work overseas. ”

    Well, if Big Pharma quit wasting money on marketing and put it into research instead already! If a med’s good, has the peer-reviewed, appropriate studies behind it, we’ll prescribe it. We don’t need those overdressed drug reps coming in trying to sweet-talk us about Brand X when we’re frazzled and running behind in between patient visits. That’s my (not-so) humble grumpy opinion as a prescriber.

    A friend who used to rep told me that Pizer (? anyway, one of the BigPharma Co’s) used to have 53 different drug reps in one year make calls in Cody, Wyoming. Yes, that’s fifty-three (53), each with a tidy expense account. That was in the good ol’ days. They probably have only 20 now.

    And as for all the money spent advertising prescription drugs direct to consumers….Another d@mn waste.

  27. It’s NOT the educators who are holding back the kids from math and science education. It’s the parents and the school boards. Try having real standards and surviving in the public schools teaching a core subject. You are not only NOT popular, you probably won’t get tenure. The kids refuse to do the homework, and the parents refuse to let the kids sit in detention to do the homework. Kids act out and are allowed back into the classroom to persist in behavior which detracts from the curriculum. Teachers of popular subjects criticize you for trying to teach/remediate what should have been learned in previous grades. But the kids weren’t kept back and made to learn the basic building blocks because 1) the parents didn’t want it, 2) the principal thought it made him look bad, and/or 3) the school board didn’t want to get unelected. We had 110% turnover in math teachers in my jr. high in 9 years. One former Marine (teaching math) walked to his car on the second week of school to discover 4 flats. While teaching grammar, I had the window shot out of my car. It’s amazing to me that teachers still try to do their jobs in these circumstances. Standards have to start at home and with the school board. Teachers have to be able to concentrate on the brightest, or at least the willing. Not on their personal safety and job security.

    • Yes, I agree with you. My husband is a retired teacher, whose car was vandalized when he was teaching. Many years earlier, we had rocks thrown at our house. In recent times, my niece taught briefly in a rural school and had a bloody, dead rabbit placed on her desk because she was failing a student who wouldn’t do his work. She chose not to return to that school for the next year!

  28. Ms. Mahoney put her finger on one cluster of major reasons our schools have gone to hell.

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