Free Markets, Free People

Education

0% Tolerance; 100% Nonsense

We’ve all heard the stories about students being suspended for bringing aspirin to school, etc., where administrators are tasked with enforcing a “zero tolerance” policy with respect to drugs, weapons, and the like. While being kicked out of school for a few days for bandying over-the-counter analgesics is bad enough, when kids who are otherwise good citizens are thrown into reform school you know things are really getting out of hand:

Zachary Christie is a six-year old student in Newark, Delaware who is facing 45 days in reform school because he brought his new Cub Scout eating utensil to school for lunch. The utensil includes a knife, and this violates the school’s brainlessly, robotically enforced zero-tolerance policy on “weapons on school property.”

I can sort of understand the school’s problem with Christie having a knife (although, if it isn’t a lock-blade, it’s use as a weapon is awfully questionable), but how on earth does that merit being sent to reform school? When I used to work with troubled kids in a alternative-education wilderness program (where most of the kids came to us through social services and/or the courts), they were allowed to have pocket knives, and these were the kids who were kicked out of every school they had ever attended. If they could be trusted with such a utensil, why is that a Cub Scout can’t have one?

If I were the kid’s parent, I would be looking to move as quickly as possible, because that sort of non-tolerance is simply intolerable.

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At Least They’re Still Singing His Praises In Maryland

In elementary school.

Again.

Longfellow Elementary School in Howard Country, Maryland to be specific.

Obama,
President Obama,
President Obama,
President Obama,

President Obama–He says Yes we can!
President Obama–We say Yes we can!
President Obama–I say Yes I can!
President Obama–He says Yes we can!

Barack Obama–Oh yes he rates,
The first Black President in the United States!
He’s smart and he’s–so so good!
He’ll lead this country as he should!

He wants us all to work together,
To make this country even better!
Prez’ Obama says–”Yes We Can!”
Make the US better–hand in hand!

Obama,
President Obama,
President Obama,
President Obama,
President!

Since this was featured on a blog in an email, my first stop was snopes.com. They’ve never heard of it. Doesn’t mean its true, but it certainly wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if it was.  The Assistant Principle to whom the email allegedly is from does exist at that school. And the email is dated Sep. 29th of this year. So with enough due diligence to say “it’s plausible”, I’ll also say it is totally inappropriate – especially for first graders. And you’d think, after the blowup recently concerning the video of small school children singing a similar song, they’d know that by now.  And you have to assume the three ‘R’s have been mastered if they have time for nonsense like this.

The irony is Longfellow is probably rolling over in his grave as he surveys the “poetry” of the lyrics.

~McQ

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School Indoctrination? Where? Cult of Personality? No way!

This was filmed around June 19, 2009 at the B. Bernice Young Elementary School in Burlington, NJ.

[HT: NRO]

Appropriate?

Lyrics (some unintelligible noted – if you can understand them help fill in the “something-somethings:)):

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that all must lend a hand [?]
To make this country strong again
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said we must be clear today
Equal work means equal pay
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said that we must take a stand
To make sure everyone gets a chance
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
He said Red, Yellow, Black or White
All are equal in his sight
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama
Yes
Mmm, mmm, mm!

Barack Hussein Obama

segue to

Hello, Mr. President we honor you today!
For all your great accomplishments, we all [do? doth??] say “hooray!”
Hooray Mr. President! You’re number one!
The first Black American to lead this great na-TION!
Hooray, Mr. President something-something-some
A-something-something-something-some economy is number one again!
Hooray Mr. President, we’re really proud of you!
And the same for all Americans [in?] the great Red White and Blue!
So something Mr. President we all just something-some,
So here’s a hearty hip-hooray a-something-something-some!
Hip, hip hooray! (3x)

Is this what school is about now?

And you have to love the “Jesus Loves Me” rip off …

I’m sorry – but this is just a bit over the top for me. Your tax dollars at work.

~McQ

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Revisiting Political History

A little reminder for those on the left who sniff at those uncomfortable about a politician addressing school children. It’s also handy for those who like to like to recall George H.W. Bush’s address to school kids and pretend like the left wasn’t bothered by that:

But when President George H.W. Bush delivered a similar speech on October 1, 1991, from Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington DC, the controversy was just beginning. Democrats, then the majority party in Congress, not only denounced Bush’s speech — they also ordered the General Accounting Office to investigate its production and later summoned top Bush administration officials to Capitol Hill for an extensive hearing on the issue.

Of course that won’t happen in this case. Nor will this:

The National Education Association denounced the speech, saying it “cannot endorse a president who spends $26,000 of taxpayers’ money on a staged media event at Alice Deal Junior High School in Washington, D.C. — while cutting school lunch funds for our neediest youngsters.”

And you certainly won’t hear Democratic politicans saying anything like this either:

“The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the House Majority Leader. “And the president should be doing more about education than saying, ‘Lights, camera, action.’”

But you know, this is all a new bit of right-wing paranoia, isn’t it?

~McQ

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It’s Always The “Conservatives” … (Update)

It couldn’t possibly be independents and libertarians objecting as well could it?

School districts from Maryland to Texas are fielding angry complaints from parents opposed to President Barack Obama’s back-to-school address Tuesday – forcing districts to find ways to shield students from the speech as conservative opposition to Obama spills into the nation’s classrooms.

The White House says Obama’s address is a sort of pep talk for the nation’s schoolchildren. But conservative commentators have criticized Obama for trying to “indoctrinate” students to his liberal beliefs, and some parents call it an improper mix of politics and education.

“The gist is, ‘I want to see what the president has to say before you expose it to my child.’ Another said, ‘This is Marxist propaganda.’ They are very hostile,” said Patricia O’Neill, a Democrat who is vice president of the Montgomery County School Board, in a district that borders Washington, D.C. “I think it’s disturbing that people don’t want to hear the president, but we live in a diverse society.”

The White House moved Thursday to quell the controversy. First it revised an Education Department lesson plan that drew the ire of conservatives because it called for students to write letters about how they can help the president.

One more time for the slow and stupid, i.e. the media – this is about a president presuming to speak directly to our children without our permission. It’s not so much about the message, it’s the presumption. To me that’s a presumption which he has no right to make. If he wants to speak to the nation on national TV I, as an adult, have the ability to choose whether or not to watch him or instead a Braves’ game. If he wants to talk about education and address children, I’ll put mine in front of the TV if I think what he’ll have to say is useful and necessary. That’s a parent’s job and a politician – any politician – presuming he is above such parental control or choice is just flat wrong.

As this was originally planned, although it appears some school districts are now going to provide an alternate activity for those who object, this was to be a captive audience forced to watch the message. Many parents, not just conservative parents, understand the ability for something like this to be abused. Again, it’s not so much about the message as it is about the precedent.

Lastly, many of the objections haven’t been focused on the speech but the fact that this is an organized event with a lesson plan that, until the outcry, had some portions where were obviously political. And that’s the opinion of more than just conservatives (the White House dropped some of those more obvious portions from the lesson plan).

So to boil it down so even the media can figure it out – it isn’t just conservatives objecting to this. More importantly, it’s about the 3 “p’s” – presumption, precedent and politics.

Oh, and concerning the tu quoque?

Obama isn’t the first president to be criticized this way. O’Neill recalled President George H. W. Bush made televised address to students in October 1991 as campaign season was heating up. A handful of Democrats denounced Bush’s address as pure politics. Bush asked students to “take control” of their education and to write him a letter about ways students could help him achieve his goals, strikingly similar to Obama’s messages.

Yeah, that was wrong as well. Okay? This president as with any president has more than enough to do without presuming he’s welcome to become the national daddy. Why don’t we refrain from centralizing that too and concentrate on taking over another car company or something instead?

UPDATE: Speaking of outrage (and disengenuousness) – I have to ask, given this bit of outrage from the left (and speaking of tu quoque), would this line of reasoning have survived an attempt by George W. Bush to do the same thing?

More broadly, Obama is the leader of this entire nation. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him–or even if your head threatens to explode every time you think about him. He is the president, and, as such, it’s a big deal that he’s speaking directly to students about the importance of education.

Just sayin’…

~McQ

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Big Brother Has Such A Nice Smile!

Is anyone else even slightly creeped out by this upcoming presidential address to our kids and grandkids?

Maybe its just me but there’s something just not quite right about it all. Oh, I suspect he’ll be very careful about what he has to say and probably keep it pretty general in tone and nature. But there’s just something about a politician addressing young children without an alternate or dissenting voice that smacks of, oh I don’t know, some novel I read years and years ago.

Its "for the childern"

It's "for the children"

In fact, I’m pretty sure they made a movie of that book.

You know, it’s one thing for a teacher to use a politician’s words or deeds in class as an example of some point they’re trying to make in a lesson. But it is quite another to have a captive audience with no choice as to whether they listen or watch sitting in front of TVs because a politician decided that would be a good idea.

Maybe it’s my cynical nature that’s coming to the fore. Who knows, this may be nothing but a “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best” speech. But then I wonder why, if that’s so, he assumes the right to make such a speech best left to moms and dads. Of course he did tell us this week to make sure we wash our hands, sneeze in our sleeve and stay home if we’re sick. So addressing real children after treating us all like children isn’t a real stretch.

The real reason there’s a growing creep factor to all of this is that not only does he presume to have the right to address our kids, his speech has a lesson plan. It’s one thing to have a politician give a speech and everyone go, “ok, that’s nice” and get back to work. But it is entirely creepy when that politician has a lesson plan sent out to accompany the speech. For the pre-K to 6th grade group the plan suggests pre-speech questions like: “Why is it important that we listen to the President and other elected officials, like the mayor, senators, members of congress, or the governor? Why is what they say important?”

Now that doesn’t tend to border on indoctrination or anything does it? “Obey you young skulls full of mush. Elected officials are good. Listen to them. Question authority? Not till you get to the 7th grade.”

7th – 12th graders get a little more sophisticated lesson plan than do the little guys. And guess who it is all about?

Short readings. Notable quotes excerpted (and posted in large print on board) from President Obama’s speeches about education. Teacher might ask students to think alone, compare ideas with a partner, and share their collaborations with the class (Think/Pair/Share) about the following: What are our interpretations of these excerpts? Based on these excerpts, what can we infer the President believes is important to be successful educationally?

Yeah, you see, this seems to be more than “hey youngsters, good luck in school and try to do your best”, doesn’t it?

After the speech, the 7-12 crew will have a “guided discussion” in which questions like, “What is President Obama inspiring you to do? What is he challenging you to do?”, will be pondered.

And the poor little tykes in preK to 6 (preK?)? Well they get the full cult of personality treatment:

Students could discuss their responses to the following questions:

What do you think the President wants us to do?
Does the speech make you want to do anything?
Are we able to do what President Obama is asking of us?
What would you like to tell the President?

Boy, you know what I’d like to tell the President if I was in one of those classes?

Leave our freakin’ kids alone. And don’t ever assume you have either the right or privilege of addressing them about anything ever again without our permission.

But, you know, that’d probably be some sort of overreaction or something. After all, I’m sure his intentions are sweet and pure and good and he only want’s to be our national daddy. And anyway, I don’t even have a lesson plan.

~McQ

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Tiger Woods – Bourgeois Tool

At least in Venezuela.  Apparently the game of golf is the latest thing under assault in the socialist paradise Hugo Chavez is fashioning:

After a brief tirade against the sport by the president on national television last month, pro-Chávez officials have moved in recent weeks to shut down two of the country’s best-known golf courses, in Maracay, a city of military garrisons near here, and in the coastal city of Caraballeda.

“Let’s leave this clear,” Mr. Chávez said during a live broadcast of his Sunday television program. “Golf is a bourgeois sport,” he said, repeating the word “bourgeois” as if he were swallowing castor oil. Then he went on, mocking the use of golf carts as a practice illustrating the sport’s laziness.

Meanwhile, the rubber-stamp National Assembly passed a bill that will broaden the state’s control of what is taught in schools:

The bill would order schools to base curricula on what it calls “the Bolivarian Doctrine” — a vague reference to ideals espoused by 19th-century independence hero Simon Bolivar, such as national self-determination and Latin American unity.

Or, more simply said – socialism. Unsurprisingly, it has generated protests a colleges and universities – not that Chavez cares.

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to tank, Chavez is using the dictator’s normal first choice to divert attention from economic problems – claiming there is an external threat.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday raised tensions with Colombia over a U.S. troop plan, accusing his neighbor of sending an army patrol over their Orinoco River border and ending a Colombian gasoline subsidy.

Chavez made his remarks on the eve of a regional summit in Ecuador, where the persistent Washington critic will try to fuel opposition to a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops more access to seven of its military bases.

[...]

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a staunch U.S. ally, says the troop plan is necessary to fight drug traffickers. But Chavez claims a greater U.S. presence in the region is a direct threat to him and risks sparking war in South America.

Where have we seen all of his before? And how predictable is this as well?

Poor Venezuela – they’ve got a tiger by the tail and they’re in for an awful ride. They’ve allowed this goon Chavez to manipulate the democratic process into autocratic rule and he’s now developed into not just a threat to the freedom and liberty of his own citizens, but a threat to other nations.

Anyone can see this isn’t going to end well. I feel for the people of Venezuela.

~McQ

Who Is Going To Say, “We Can’t Afford It?!”

It may seem like a trivial sum given that yesterday the government’s deficit for the year reached a trillion dollars 3 months before the end of the budget year, but it is symptomatic of the problem that got us there:

President Barack Obama plans to announce a community-college initiative designed to boost graduation rates, improve facilities and develop new technology. The effort will involve $12 billion in spending spread over the next 10 years.

We. Can’t. Afford. It.

Why is that so freakin’ hard to understand?!

~McQ

Right Policies: Opting Out

Yesterday Jon Henke challenged the Right to come up with policies that are popular, viable, workable, transformational and sustainable. (Follow the link to see what he means by each of those.) I’ve previously suggested a broad-based agenda that I thought could be sold as an alternative to the Democrats’ agenda, but I think a few of the specific policies are particularly strong, and they stick to a consistent theme.

Libertarian paternalism — which means that certain initial decisions are made for you, but you are left a way to opt out — can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the status quo. If the status quo is freedom, I’d just as soon not add in an element of paternalism in virtually any case. But if the status quo is paternalism, then libertarian paternalism is a step in the right direction.  Fortunately, giving people more options is much more popular than changing their status quo decision.

I propose that the Right should target existing paternalism and offer as many opportunities to opt out as we can devise. My main two examples are education and entitlements.

Education

I consider education to be any political coalition’s #1 long-term priority. If your opponents control education, chances are you will eventually lose on everything else. So, what policies should the Right pursue on education?

Vouchers aren’t a new idea, but we on the Right could be pursuing them in much more creative ways than we are now, to build a broad working alternative to state schools.  With variable-cost vouchers and pilot programs that target the “victim classes”, the Right can play full court press on vouchers in every school district.

Variable-Cost Vouchers

In every school district across the country, we should have vouchers at least equal to the variable cost of sending one extra child to public school. Democrats have argued for a long time that we need more spending per student to give kids smaller class sizes and better materials such as textbooks, and have used that to justify countless bond measures and tax increases to increase public school funding.

If a voucher just covers the variable cost of an extra student, then a voucher helps create smaller class sizes and increases the amount of money the public school can spend on each student.

You can see how a voucher for variable costs puts the Left in a Catch-22: Every extra dollar they want to spend per student is an argument for a bigger voucher, and an opportunity for the private sector to spend the dollar more efficiently than the public sector.

Make Friends in Low Places

We can do even better: pilot voucher programs should very openly target kids who are performing worst in the current system, in part because proposing vouchers for them undercuts the argument that vouchers just skim the cream of the crop.

Voucher proponents have already focused on several low-income and minority populations, using needs-based criteria and simple geography; the Right should be pushing this smart strategy much more aggressively – it undercuts Democrats’ arguments against vouchers beautifully, and makes a direct play for the Left’s base. The apparent success of the DC voucher system has made attempts to cut the program very embarrassing for Democrats; we need more of that.

Moreover, the Right should propose vouchers that help children who score on the bottom half of the test-score distribution. The research I’ve read indicates that these children show the greatest gains from voucher programs.  For the same reason, target kids with histories of disciplinary problems and special-needs children (paging Sarah Palin).

It would be a bridge too far for the Democrats to argue that these kids enhance the performance of public schools after using the opposite argument to fight vouchers for so long.

And finally, the Right should propose voucher programs to target the many minors who have already dropped out of school.  Kids who have outright given up on the public school system, or who rarely show up, aren’t doing anything to improve the performance of those schools.  If Democrats want to keep up the pretense that they care about these kids, they shouldn’t have any problem with helping these kids become part of a new private education market.

Those are just a small number of ways we can turn the Left’s most popular arguments against them and start to build a real market in education. In the meantime, the Right would be demonstrating that markets can work better than state-administered programs, and help the “little guy” who’s been screwed by the public system.

Where necessary to make the policy viable, the Right could be flexible on the matter of vouchers for church-founded schools (like Catholic schools); the first priority is building a broad education market outside of the state.

Entitlements

Here’s another place where reform would be truly transformational. The Right should push for an opt-out for the major entitlements – Medicare and Social Security. A reform doesn’t have to be a full privatization to accomplish a great deal of good.

Many people are currently collecting benefits from Medicare and SocSec, and we can assume that they will turn out to vote against anything that takes away those benefits. The Right can start making progress on reducing our crushing long-term obligations by (once more for effect) giving everyone as many opportunities to opt out as possible.

Social Security

Why not allow people to adjust their expected benefits, with higher or lower individual taxes to compensate for the change from the “standard” level?  The SSA could set a minimum level of contributions to guarantee its promised benefits, so that the legislation becomes non-threatening to beneficiaries, and thus politically viable.  To get the greatest tax cut, you opt out of all retirement benefits; you can change your mind later, but your benefit and/or tax level must be adjusted appropriately.  And the more people who opt out, the lower the minimum tax rate can go; that rate could be adjusted at periodic intervals, perhaps once a year.

Similarly, why not allow people to adjust their expected retirement age, again paying higher or lower taxes to compensate?

Both of these adjustments would introduce flexibility along with a price mechanism.

Yes, this means that some people might choose to pay the minimum tax and find themselves at age 67 regretting their earlier decisions, but everyone would know that they made a conscious choice to change from the status quo.  And in the meantime, those who opt out don’t feel like such direct stakeholders.

Medicare and other state medical benefits

To get more people off the rolls, allow them to opt out of Medicare eligibility and other state medical benefits in exchange for some mix of:

    • lower payroll taxes
    • tax-free health savings accounts
    • a tax cut on their individual health insurance
    • vouchers for private insurance and private disability coverage

… as long as the total cost of the mix is lower than the expected cost of Medicare benefits.  This way, the Right can not only cut into the massive expected costs on the near horizon, but also get fewer people to feel like stakeholders in the future of the state-administered system.

Conclusion

The most effective arguments against reform are allegations that people will lose the benefits they have now. Psychologically, we regret losing a dollar more than we regret not acquiring that dollar in the first place. That’s a big part of how the Right beat universal health care under Clinton: by telling the American people that they would lose their current insurance, with which most of them were satisfied.

Whether we like it or not, it is stupid to do a frontal assault on a hardened position. Instead, we should apply libertarian paternalism to divide and conquer by giving our opponents as many chances to defect as possible.

Immigration May Detract From Other Issues

President Obama, has decided that in addition to the health care, energy and education debates, he’ll also crank up the immigration debate:

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office. Latino voters turned out strongly for Mr. Obama in the election.

“He intends to start the debate this year,” Ms. Muñoz said.

12 million is the low-side estimate. Others estimate the total to be as high as 20 million.

Here is the argument he can plan on seeing prominently pushed from the other side as it concerns legal status for illegal immigrants:

“It just doesn’t seem rational that any political leader would say, let’s give millions of foreign workers permanent access to U.S. jobs when we have millions of Americans looking for jobs,” said Roy Beck, executive director of NumbersUSA, a group that favors reduced immigration. Mr. Beck predicted that Mr. Obama would face “an explosion” if he proceeded this year.

“It’s going to be, ‘You’re letting them keep that job, when I could have that job,’ ” he said.

The argument that the jobs immigrants hold are jobs Americans won’t do rings even more hollow in a recession.

Additionally, starting this emotional issue up now, while he’s trying to push the other issues I mentioned is going to diffuse focus and may cost him critical support on health care, energy or education.

This is not a smart political move. But it is one I welcome.

~McQ