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April 2018 posts

Quiet Virtues

By Jonathan B. Wight

When I think of my dad, I think of a quiet soldier, gentle, faithful, honest, and dependable. He demonstrated by his actions, day after day, his devotion to others, not overwhelmed by his own ego.

We are so often bombarded today by takers, braggadocios, and self-promoters, at the highest levels of society that we forget what quiet dignity is or was.

This quote from George Eliot’s Middlemarch thus struck my fancy:

“[Dorothea’s] full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth.

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Lovely! And how true!

“…that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”


Will Raising the Salaries of Teachers Improve Educational Quality?

By John Morton

 

TeachersTeachers are mad as hell, and they aren’t going to take it anymore.  The goal of the current #RedForEd movement is a 20 percent pay raise plus more money for other school activities.  To get this, teachers are staging “walk-ins” and “walk-outs.”  Polls show strong support for the teachers.

 

Even though God created economists to make weather forecasters look good, I’m bold enough to predict that across-the-board teacher pay raises will have little or no effect on educational outcomes.  Here’s why.

 

We already spend a lot with little to show in the way of return.

 

In 2013, the latest year school spending has been reported, U.S. schools spent $11,800 per full-time student.  This is 28 percent higher than the average in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a group of 35 developed countries.  Only Norway and Switzerland spent more per student.  What do we get for this high level of spending?  Not much.  The United States ranks near the middle on the 2015 test of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA Test).  The United States is 24th in science and 39th in math.  Reading is the only subject where the United States is above the OECD average at 25th

 

Socialism’s Last Stand

 

The typical teacher salary schedule is a vestige of socialism.  There is no relationship between teacher quality and teacher compensation.  The only variables are age and level of degrees.  An old guy earns more than a young guy.  A teacher with an MA earns more than a teacher with a BA or BS.  Teachers and their unions have fought tooth and nail to preserve this system and avoid compensation based on merit.

 

Local school boards, not state or federal governments, are really responsible for teacher pay.

 

There is no guarantee that more state aid would go for higher teacher pay.  In most states, teacher pay is controlled by local school boards, not the state or federal governments.  For example, in Arizona, the Tempe Elementary School District (TESD) and the Alhambra Elementary School District (AESD) have about the same number of students.  On average, TESD spent 25 percent more money than AESD.  Yet TESD paid its teachers 25 percent less than AESD.  Arizona teachers are upset with the state government, but they should focus on their local school districts. 

 

Higher educational spending must be coupled with educational reform.

 

This is not an argument against higher pay for teachers.  However, higher pay must be accompanied by higher student achievement.  Al Shanker, former long-time president of the New York City teachers union and then of the American Federation of Teachers, put it this way:  “The key is that unless there is accountability, we will never get the right system.  As long as there are no consequences if kids or adults don’t perform, as long as the discussion is not about education and student outcomes, then we’re playing a game as to who has the power.”  He also said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of children.”

 

Demonstrations at state capitols will do little to improve underperforming schools and the educational opportunities for our students.

 

[Image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Fair_Contract_Now.jpg]


What would Ayn Rand think about Trump?

By Jonathan B. Wight

This fun short video by Johan Norberg of Cato, and released by Free to Choose Media, lays it bare: She would detest him. She would reject his policies and his boorish behaviors. Her novel’s characters adhere to principles, and concern themselves with ethics (it may not be an ethics everyone agrees with). 

If Ayn Rand would abhor Trump, why have devotees of Ayn Rand (like House Speaker Paul Ryan) been so averse to calling Trump out on these matters?

With hindsight, history will not be kind to current leaders, who held their noses at Trump’s dangerous behaviors mainly so they could push through a tax cut that disproportionately benefits the rich, and that will massively widen the deficit at a time of already full employment.

Ryan just announced his impending retirement, bailing ship on this enterprise. Will he hang around Washington as a rent-seeker and lobbyist? If so, what would Ayn Rand think of that?