February 8, 2014

Education roundup:Rigid public schools, rogue colleges, new crackpot regs and Catholic schools

Degrees of Value: Making College Pay Off by Glenn Harlan Reynolds. For Too Many Americans, College Today Isn't Worth It

America's higher education problem calls for both wiser choices by families and better value from schools. For some students, this will mean choosing a major carefully (opting for a more practical area of study, like engineering over the humanities), going to a less expensive community college or skipping college altogether to learn a trade.

But discounts don't address the real problem: high costs. What's really needed in U.S. higher education is major structural change. To remain viable, colleges and universities need to cut expenditures dramatically. For decades, they have ridden the student-loan gravy train, using the proceeds to build palatial buildings, reduce faculty teaching loads and, most notably, hire armies of administrators.

Most of the growth in higher education costs, according to a 2010 study by the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think tank, comes from administrative bloat, with administrative staff growing at more than twice the rate of instructional staff. At the University of Michigan, for example, there are 53% more administrators than faculty, and similar ratios can be found at other institutions.

Under financial pressure, many schools have already farmed out the teaching of classes to low-paid adjuncts who have no job security and often no benefits.
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The economist Herbert Stein once said that if something can't go on forever, it will stop. The pattern of the last few decades, in which higher education costs grew much faster than incomes, with the difference made up by borrowing, can't go on forever. As students and parents begin to apply the brakes, colleges need to find ways to make that stop a smooth one rather than a crash.

Instead Reynolds writes Consider alternative schooling:  Don't fear innovation. Nobody ever got shot or pregnant from online or home schooling.

Last week, I wrote here about zero-tolerance stupidity, suggesting that as schools grow more and more willing to punish and stigmatize kids for reasons of bureaucratic convenience, it might be parental malpractice to put your kids in public schools. But there's another problem with public schools that goes beyond these kinds of problems: Even when they work well, public schools introduce all sorts of costs and rigidities into everyday life.

That's not surprising. Public schools were designed to be rigid. Back in the 19th century, when Massachusetts Board of Education Secretary Horace Mann toured Europe looking for models of public education to import to America, the one he chose came from Prussia. Inflexibility and uniformity were Prussian specialties, and when Mann brought Prussian-style education to America, those characteristics were seen not as a bug but as a feature.

School was practice for working in the factory. Thus, the traditional public school: like a factory, it runs by the bell. Like machines in a factory, desks and students are lined up in orderly rows. When shifts (classes) change, the bell rings again, and students go on to the next class. And within each class, the subjects are the same, the assignments are the same, and the examinations are the same, regardless of the characteristics of individual students.
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Many parents, thus, are embracing alternative education -- like homeschooling or online school -- not only as a way of escaping the often-poor instructional quality and questionable discipline of public schools, but also as a way of escaping the rigidities they bring.

Interview with Glenn, The School of Instapundit

The Outlaw Campus  Victor Davis Hanson writes the university has become a rogue institution in need of root-and-branch reform and he suggests reform in 10 areas:

1. Tenure.
2. Faculty exploitation.
3. Curriculum.
4. Admissions.
5. Administration.
6. The credential.
7. National competency testing.
8. Budget.
9. Publication.
10. Legal exemption.

"We have allowed the university to become a rogue institution, whose protocols are often at odds with normal practice off campus and secretive to a degree unknown elsewhere".

This won't work  Undisciplining Kids Through 'Restorative Justice'  as the IBD editorial points out.

Re-education: Under new federal guidelines for reforming "discriminatory" school discipline, the disruptive will learn quickly that their teachers must now tolerate even more disruptive behavior.

[In January] the Education Department warned the nation's school administrators it's not a good idea to remove unruly kids from the classroom. What about the violent ones? Suspend them only as a "last resort." Think twice about even sending them to the principal, and whatever you do, don't call the cops.

Obama's educrats say minorities bear the brunt of these "draconian" practices. And based on statistics they've cooked up showing racial "disparities" in punishment, they smell school racism on a national scale.

Instead they urge the implementation of a crackpot theory called

Restorative justice, also called reparative justice or distributive justice, is part of a fringe civil rights movement that demands the abolition of prisons. Under this approach to justice, there are no offenders. Just victims. It trivializes crime and has increased recidivism wherever it has been applied…..White staffers are taught to check their "unconscious racial bias" — also known as their "whiteness" — when dealing with minority students who act out. They are told to open their eyes to "white privilege" and have more empathy for black kids who may be lashing out in frustration. They're trained to identify "root causes" of black anger, such as America's legacy of racism. Teachers are advised to avoid "trigger" words, and watch their "tone."
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This is a prescription for disaster. Restorative justice practices already have been tried in Oakland, Calif., Baltimore and Portland, Ore. Students only grew more violent as schools slashed suspensions.

So why do students at Catholic schools always do so much better than those at public school?  William McGurn writes The Catholic school's secret: love.

we focus on more tangible measures of success: how 99 percent of Catholic school students get their high-school diplomas; how a black or Latino child is 2.5 times more likely to graduate from college if he or she has attended a Catholic high school; how Catholic schools manage to do all this at a fraction of the cost of public schools.
Sonia Sotomayor, an alumna of Blessed Sacrament in The Bronx, calls Catholic schools a “pipeline to opportunity” for people like her. That’s true. And it’s true largely because Catholic school students are not just taught, but loved. 
Posted by Jill Fallon at February 8, 2014 12:58 PM | Permalink