1. Phrasing liberal domestic programs in nationalist terms is great rhetoric, and none the worse for being substantially accurate. It’s true that competing with China has to mean getting better at education. And saying so leaves the Republicans who oppose him looking both pessimistic and unpatriotic.
2. John Boehner’s ostentatious boredom, even when the President says things Boehner mominally agrees with, is excellent political theater: for the Democrats.
Since the election, Obama has apparently gotten his political mojo back. The speech is fully consistent with that.
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
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19 thoughts on “Two quick notes on the speech”
I didn't watch the speech. Did he explain why he is continuing to allow Bradley Manning to be tortured?
Ah yes – if only we had the means and will to match China's lavish per-pupil expenditures on education!
Who cares about competing with China? I want a President who hopes the Chinese manage to improve their lot in life rather than one who sees virtue in framing American success as a competition against China. The thought that our best success can come with even better success for China is one we should hope to be true, as the Chinese people need to improve their lot a whole lot more than we do. I want a President who expresses hope and a plan for a world in which we can cooperate in good conscience with China to the betterment of all, not a President who spouts mindless patriotic jingoism about "competition."
I think Henry wins with the most accurate comment.
Good point by Mr. Johnston. No reason competition with China hasd to be a zero sum game. As for the comment by sd, I assume you're kidding. Pretty sure we spend way more per pupil than China, at every level.
sd, you forgot your snark emoticon for the irony-impaired.
Nonetheless, I agree that we should encourage the Chinese (indeed every country, not just China) to raise their living standards. However, our planet does not have the resources to raise everyone's living standard, especially if we continue to reproduce. Such is the problem politicians and all of us face today, whether we realize it or not.
Its certainly true that we need a better educated population in order to compete more effectively in the global economy in the future. However, from that, it does not neccessarily follow that we need to improve schooling. A bleeding heart liberal might argue that lifting more families out of poverty will do more to give us a better educated population (long term) than improving schools. And he may be right. An arch conservative might argue that reducing the rate of illegitimate births will do more to give us a better educated population (long term) than improving schools. And he too may be right.
But even if we accept the notion that improving schools is the best way to get a more educated workforce, it does not neccessarily follow that spending more money on schools is the best way to do that. Per pupil expenditures are pretty high in some states with poor outcomes, and pretty low in some states with great outcomes. Yes, MA spends more than MS and gets better results. But there are outliers on either end of the per-pupil spending distribution.
But even if we accept the notion that spending more on schools will give us better school and thus a better educated population, it does not neccessarily follow that spending more on the schools we have will give us results we would be happy with. We have good schools and bad schools. But giving bad schools more money is no surefire way to make them good schools. In some cases it probably is. In some cases it probably isn't. But nobody knows the payback on such investments.
But even if we accept the notion that our current schools are the right schools to spend money on and that spending money on schools will improve schools and that improving schools will give us a better educated population, it still doesn't follow that the mix of education programs in our current schools is optimal given the desire to improve economic performance. Its not lack of money that's causing our brightest kids to go to law school instead of engineering school. Its not lack of money that's causing our less bright kids to get meaningless business degrees from third tier universities rather than substantaitve vocational/technical degrees from high quality community colleges.
In short, I just don't buy the "we need to compete better with China so let's increase education budgets and who could possibly argue with that" line of argument. There's a whole helluva lot of details in between the goal and the means there. My snark was intended to illustrate a very important point – namely that the reason China is currently getting better education outcomes than us (which is somewhat debatable, but not a bad premise to hold) is certainly not because they spend more money on schools than us. Rather, a whole bunch of ways that Chinese society is organized and whole bunch of ways that Chinese culture influences behavior contribute to their outcomes.
This speech showed a complete disconnect with reality and was boring to boot. Meh, I'll be glad when this awful president moves on.
sd – Thank you for that clarification. I agree with virtually everything you noted concerning education and education expenditures.
OMG! Ehrlich has reincarnated as Dan Staley! You would think by now there would be a consensus that the Population Bomb was a dud.
Thank you redwave, for trotting out your canard to…um…address…my assertion. I merely reply to point out that failure to grasp basic concepts in the natural sciences is rarely compelling argumentation.
But good job for trying!
OK. Let's say you are correct. We are not China. We don't want to organize our society like China's. We don't have the same culture as China. So maybe we need to find some different paths to the same educational outcomes. What do you suggest?
(This assumes, of course, that we want the same outcomes, and that what we see in China is not just the top of the pyramid – the result of a giant selection bias. How do the medians compare?)
(Mark): "It’s true that competing with China has to mean getting better at education."
Other commenters pretty much shot this full of holes, so I'll put it out of our misery. National-level economic advance has very little to do with aggregate years in school. Economic advance has much more to do with stable property rights and contract law. A friend of mine, a Russian History/Language student who spent time in the USSR, compared staying in Russian hotels to "camping, indoors" and likened Russian academics to "PhD's living in the stone age".
It does not take 12 years to teach a normal child to read and compute. Most vocational training occurs more effectively on the job than in a classroom. Richard Arkwright was homeschooled. Thomas Heighs and James Hargreaves were minimally schooled. Cyrus McCormick was homeschooled. Thomas Edison was homeschooled and started work at 13.
President Obama is shilling for the NEA. The self-interest of Professors of Public Policy, in promoting open-ended subsidization of school, is pretty obvious, also.
Redwave, Dan is right. The Earth's human population cannot grow without limit. The sooner politicians apply the brakes, the gentler the deceleration and the fewer faces go through the windshield of this bus. Sorry.
(Bernard): "So maybe we need to find some different paths to the same educational outcomes. What do you suggest?"
A phased withdrawal by the government from the education industry, to start: vouchers, tuition tax credits, subsidized homeschooling, or Parent Performance Contracting. Ultimately a free market in education services (including repeal of child labor laws and minimum wage laws, which put on-the-job training off limits to many children).
I did not listen, so I have to take the word of others.
(Obama): "We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook."
Edison, as I already mentioned, was homeschooled and went to work at 13. The Wright brothers did not finish high school. A year in school meant more in the days before public-sector unionization.
Oh, and Henry Ford?:
Looks like he did not get his education from school, either.
Malcolm, are you claiming all students have the talents and brains of Ford et al., or are you arguing that you wish all students lived 100 years ago in order to realize these talents so we can defund public schools? Confusing….
(Dan):"Malcolm, are you claiming all students have the talents and brains of Ford et al., or are you arguing that you wish all students lived 100 years ago in order to realize these talents so we can defund public schools?"
Neither. I point out undisputed facts: these great innovators spent little time in school. Please read this and this and this.
In abstract, the education industry, like the medical treatment industry, with its critical dependence on local knowledge and its enormously variable inputs (each individual student's interests, abilities, and transient moods) and outputs (the possible career paths which a modern economy offers) is an unlikely candidate for State (government, generally) operation.
Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Paul Schilpp, ed. (1951), pp. 17-19
The government of a locality is the largest dealer in interpersonal violence in that locality (definition, after Weber). Not(education = attendance at school). Not(public education = compulsory attendance at government-operated indoctrination centers). There is a huge difference between "investing in education" and "surrendering resources (including children's time) to government agents on their (false) promise to use those resources to promote education".
"Formal Models of Authority: Introduction and Political Economy Applications"
__Rationality and Society__, May 1999
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