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Letters by a modern St. Ferdinand III about cults

Gab@StFerdinandIII -

Plenty of cults exist - every cult has its 'religious dogma', its idols, its 'prophets', its 'science', its 'proof' and its intolerant liturgy of demands.  Cults everywhere:  Corona, 'The Science' or Scientism, Islam, the State, the cult of Gender Fascism, Marxism, Darwin and Evolution, Globaloneywarming, Changing Climate, Abortion...

Tempus Fugit Memento Mori - Time Flies Remember Death 

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Socialist, State-managed education is not high quality?

A major consultancy study says the obvious – liberate education.

by StFerdIII

Remember your gym teacher doubling as your science guru? Or your Math teacher suddenly filling in to teach Geography? How about that hapless dimwit supply teacher, schooled in Art History, now magically teaching Biology and the glories of dissection? Ever wondered how so many students got A's without breaking much of a teen-angst inspired sweat? You are certainly not alone. Educational mediocrity is a political, not a monetary problem.

New reports are churned out yearly by earnest school boards and consultancies about public education. Angst over money, performance, international and national rankings abound. But there is nothing like ignoring the obvious. Many public school systems are terrible because the production process is broken. Why is this? Most systems are goverment-run, distorted by state sponsored scarcity, and beholden to unions. Socialised anything fails. Why would education be any different?

McKinsey a premium brand consultancy, has published yet another tome, comparing the differences between national school systems, and why some are more successful than others. In the 2003 international Math test scores the Finns were the best followed by South Korea, Japan, Canada and Australia. France, Germany and the US lagged. So the obvious question McKinsey asked was why are some systems more successful than others, when in each country it is the state that is managing the bulk of children-young adult education? Educators, especially those in failing systems are keen to know.

McKinsey destroys the usual shibboleths that the wailing Marxists whine on about, when discussing education. For the erstwhile socialist, it is always the same mantra – more money, less students per class, and more hours of study time. Yawn. None of these is important in delivering a high quality education. New York City is famously the biggest per capita educational spender in the US – and amongst the worst in results. It is quite simply a terrible system.

Like health-care, education is of course a market. Like health-care education suffers from the fallacies of mommy-state interventionism. Labor rigidities [unions]; capital rigidities [state budgets]; poor professional quality [low salaries]; high overheads [unions and governments]; and indifferent output [bad students] which has no co-relation to inputs or funding. Education like health-care is a non-competitive miasma of marxist mis-management. Result? McKinsey's report makes it all too apparent what is wrong with most public education systems.

First money does not buy you love or much else for that matter, including a better public school education. Americans have doubled their spend on education in the past 20 years, with no international results or ranking improvements to show for it. The Australians suffer from the same – even after spending treble their 1980 budget in 2003. The Finns, one of the lowest per capita spending states, somehow capture top prizes on international test scores. Singapore and Canada spend less than the Americans or French, yet routinely trounce them in international scores. What gives?

Class sizes are not the answer. The Japanese score as whizzes in international mathematical tests, yet have the highest student per teacher ratio in the OECD. Canadians have far larger classes than Americans on average but outscore them by 40% or more on tests. Aussies have fewer pupils per teacher than South Koreans but finish far behind in testing.

McKinsey offers some common-sense ideas but misses a few big ones. First they state that teacher quality is the number one determinant of student quality. That makes sense. A lousy teacher, or someone who is not a domain expert, will of course produce bad product. A great teacher, one who enraptures the student body, displays a profound enthusiasm and love for his subject, will manufacture similar traits in an over-achieving and energized student body. That much is easy. How then to get the best teachers?

McKinsey flutters around the issue. But the answer is obvious. In a state managed system, budgets are fixed and allocated amongst various school boards. With the usual Marxist chant that a lower pupil to teacher ratio is good, the average teacher salary must perforce decline. The brightest minds are not attracted, usually, to a declining pay scale. This is clear if you consider statistically who becomes a teacher. They are not the bright lights of the education system. Just the opposite. The bottom feeders or those who can't get into business, medicine, science, engineering, and more remunerative pursuits, pursue teaching.

As Woody Allen said, those who can't do something teach; those who can't teach, manage schools.

The only solution to the poor quality of teachers is to liberate the salary scale. In any competitive market the best teachers should get paid the most money. The most mediocre receive less, or get fired. But with unions in charge of the school system this cannot happen. Ergo, logically, one must break the teacher's unions to enact meaningful change in attracting the best teachers, and in paying them what they are truly worth. This also means a drastic overall in budgeting, budget allotments and allocations. Schools and teachers need to be funded on how they perform. Not how long they yell, and what their unions demand.

Supply and demand also cannot be ignored. Though unionized the Finns and Singaporeans restrict the supply of qualified and domain accredited teaching specialists to national demand patterns. By so doing they can pay them very well [teaching in both countries is extremely competitive and high status], pay numerous ongoing up-grading and improvement expenses [so the teacher can stay on the learning curve], and importantly assure their students that the teacher has domain expertise, acquired by studying but also through a longish apprenticeship period. Teachers are not accredited one minute and thrust into the class, the next.

What McKinsey misses is the essential theme behind mediocre schools – a lack of competition. A lack of competition between schools ensures that one school in a locality can be a disgrace, yet it still receives full funding, since its students cannot go elsewhere. Intra-school competition fostered by vouchers where students can choose what school to attend, is a vital solution to ensure quality. School funding should be based on performance as identified by national testing standards. The best schools get more funding and more capacity to increase and attract more students. The worst will suffer and become over time obsolete. Eventually you will create centers of excellence which will be the gold-standard that all will try to emulate.

Competition must extend to the teaching cadre as well. Teachers must be hired, fired, paid and dismissed based on performance. Their performances can be graded by what students think of the teacher and student results on mandatory regional and national testing scores. The bottom 10% of teachers should be fired each year, the top 10% given raises. Teachers need to have domain expertise and a love for what they do like any professional in a competitive market.

As well the type of product being taught and used needs to be open to market forces. Most curricula are out of date, moldy and crassly stupid. The current Marxist-oriented drivel being taught in most classrooms, is a direct result of the ignorance possessed by educators about how the real world works. Teachers must be made to work before they teach. There also has to be specialists in middle and high school who can teach the real history of Western Civilisation, national history, markets, trade, and capital formation. These specialists must be shaped into the old 'Scottish school' mode, dispensing a wide array of ideas and facts on faith; ideology; our modern world; and the creation of Western civilisation. We need young people with brains, and pride, not eco-genuflecting midgets parroting Al Gore, or some uneducated teacher's Marxist nonsense.

Teaching the drivel of socialists like Howard Zinn for example, does not enliven the intellect of impressionable adolescents. It just retards their development. Marxism and socialism must be dragged out of the school yard, and hatcheted. We need students who can read, write, think and are proud of their civilisation and who can importantly, contribute to society once they graduate.

High school degrees once meant something. Now they mean nothing. This has to be corrected. Not everyone needs to go to university and study law. Not everyone needs a Masters and Phd. Our school systems need to train people for differing, varied and rewarding jobs – from trades to civil service. Currently they are failing in establishing a base of learning and dealing with different students who have different interests. Even worse they are brainwashing children with eco-propaganda and anti-American; anti-Western nostrums.

Money and classroom size are not the problems. More than enough money exists, many times over, to pay teachers well, and procure a professional learning environment. The basics are lacking – competitive forces; choice; and an orientation on results, not quantity. Like any business process it is not the quantity that counts, but the output and productivity. Like all socialised systems, this is something that the teaching profession is totally ignorant of.

As long as their unions remain in place, educational mediocrity will reign. It is a political problem, not a budget issue and we can see those problems manifest themselves in the ridiculous propaganda and illiterate nonsense being taught to students today.

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