rtg24

RIP Capitalism

82 posts in this topic

As I noted above, here in Michigan, definitely NOT an education leader, the teacher's union and the Detroit Educational Office Union are running very slick advertisements on the major media extolling their good. They have worked systematically against charter schools and home schooling and recently moved to unionize Dept of Soc Services approved "home care givers" - relatives being paid to baby sit children, paid by the State. One of the angles here is new leverage on home schoolers. The Democratic head of the Senate education group announced today they will enter the Obama Administrations competition for grants to states showing the highest level of approved education reform.

I wouldn't count on the tide turning in public education any time soon.

Everything possible must be done to support quality k-12 private education.

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19th century America in its essentials. If you want something in which every principle was implemented in law, even if not fully applied, that didn't happen. But in comparison with other societies, America was essentially capitalist, a distinction of fact that must be retained. The success and then loss of that earlier character is real and worth noting. Arguing by a standard of Platonic-like ideals and glibly lumping everything together that doesn't qualify is not very helpful. Neither are diversions about what percentages of which features occurred exactly when to push it over the edge into a mixed system. It is more useful to identify conceptually that America was essentially capitalist and then look at specific historical facts of what went wrong and right and how we got to today's mess. The things that were wrong in the early days are not unimportant and were certainly not irrelevant to those hurt by them, but they are irrelevant for purposes of general classification. Still, we know that capitalism was never fully implemented or fully intended to be, and we do not pretend otherwise. Not to further discourage you, but a good book, mentioned here on the Forum previously and showing that in some ways things were already being undermined in America from the earliest days in ways most people don't know about, is Arthur Ekirch's The Decline of American Liberalism -- it didn't wait to start to go bad until 1936 :-(

America of the 19th century (up until 1865) was a slave republic. While it was illegal to buy and sell slaves in some states, property rights in slaves were to be recognized in ALL states. This was the thrust of the infamous Dred Scott decision wherein Justice Tanney of the highest court in the land ruled that human slaves had no rights anyone was bound to recognize. Furthermore the U.S. Constitution required that the legal authorities in all States co-operate in the return of escaped slaves. The Fugitive Slave Act spelled this out in further detail.

Perhaps you think it Platonic of me to regard the legal status of ownership in human beings as an evil thing. I am a propertarian from top to bottom and left to right and from front to back. All humans own their bodies, their time and their energy. Capitalism is all about the private ownership of the means of production. Our bodies (including our mind/brains) are our means of production. We own them fully, exclusively and privately. Any political order that contradicts self ownership is not only unjust, it is anti-captitalistic. In this regard (and it is an important regard) 19th century U.S.A. was anti-capitalistic.

Human Slave toleration and Capitalism are contrary. Period. End of statement.

But that is just me being Platonic again. Or is it me being concrete bound?

Slavery, which dominated in the more feudalist south and adversely affected a small minority of the population, was eliminated by 1865 because it was incompatible with the founding principles and nature of this country and could not be tolerated. If America had not been predominately capitalist it would not have been eliminated. No one here has said that slavery is capitalist or denied that it existed. We form concepts based on similarities and differences for purposes of classification, not unachievable "ideals" as "limiting cases" that don't exist -- America was essentially capitalist as against the rest of the world, which predominately was not. The difference matters. Dismissing the capitalist nature and value of America, and the significance of its loss, in sarcastic lectures about slavery and sophistry about "ideal gases" that don't exist so there was nothing to lose isn't going to work. Dramatically writing out punctuation doesn't help either. It seems that it's not the facts that you are concerned with, but rather selecting certain facts out of context to dismiss the concern that others have in mourning the loss of capitalism incorporating values that did exist, as if there was no essentially capitalist society to lose.

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Would JDR as he really existed be a hero in an AR novel? I don't think so.

Actually, yes, according to the ARI's Alex Epstein: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues...oil-company.asp

This reads like a biography of Wyatt!

:P

I am downloading this and reading it today; also re-visiting Chernow. For now, I stick to my view: the real Rocky had no place in AS.

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Besides the crushed dreams and ambitions of many American high school/undergraduate/graduate students who wanted to be engineers or scientists but soon discovered that they were never taught the basic skills needed, and now find themselves in the situation years later where they need those skills but have neither the time nor inner-fire left to correct and fill the gaping holes in their knowledge?

Sorry, Carlos, I have no sympathy for this argument. What about the crushed dreams of the factory workers who thought they could continue to just turn the same tools for the rest of their lives on comfortable salaries? And who are fired because the car factory just went FANUC? (they're really cool multi-tasking yellow robots from Japan)

You know these kids. They are not dreamers. They get drunk every other day, they attend enough classes to just pass, they are socialist because everybody else is. Just like in Europe. And in India, where most students just smoke pot, go on binge drinking weekends and cram just before the exam (as I noticed from meeting Indian interns from the best universities when working for an Indian company). The thing is, the foreigners you're exposed to are the best - those that wanted to emigrate and seek a better life. I think to an extent the Indian/Chinese risk is overstated. Number crunching ability alone does not a good hedge fund manager or engineer make.

As it stands, I know those American (and British) kids who want to get ahead can do so relatively easily - information has never been so cheap and readily accessible. It is no accident that the kids from my class who made it to Cambridge also all entered the "Advanced Extension Awards", the maths Olympiads, the maths competitions, the science competitions, and did loads of extra reading. The syllabus is also a joke in the UK. For A-level music (we have final high school year exams called A-levels which determine your University entry score), the teacher simply did not teach us any of the syllabus until a month before the exam. He went over it in 2 2h sessions. The rest of the time we all studied interesting things. We all got A.

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In fact I'd venture to say the Chinese are such good number crunchers because the education system there is geared towards things which can be measured - such as number crunching/algebraic problem solving ability.

I have yet to meet a non-Westernized Chinese engineer with initiative, drive, and innovative spirit.

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Sorry, Carlos, I have no sympathy for this argument. What about the crushed dreams of the factory workers who thought they could continue to just turn the same tools for the rest of their lives on comfortable salaries? And who are fired because the car factory just went FANUC? (they're really cool multi-tasking yellow robots from Japan)

You know these kids. They are not dreamers. They get drunk every other day, they attend enough classes to just pass, they are socialist because everybody else is. Just like in Europe. And in India, where most students just smoke pot, go on binge drinking weekends and cram just before the exam (as I noticed from meeting Indian interns from the best universities when working for an Indian company). The thing is, the foreigners you're exposed to are the best - those that wanted to emigrate and seek a better life. I think to an extent the Indian/Chinese risk is overstated. Number crunching ability alone does not a good hedge fund manager or engineer make.

As it stands, I know those American (and British) kids who want to get ahead can do so relatively easily - information has never been so cheap and readily accessible. It is no accident that the kids from my class who made it to Cambridge also all entered the "Advanced Extension Awards", the maths Olympiads, the maths competitions, the science competitions, and did loads of extra reading. The syllabus is also a joke in the UK. For A-level music (we have final high school year exams called A-levels which determine your University entry score), the teacher simply did not teach us any of the syllabus until a month before the exam. He went over it in 2 2h sessions. The rest of the time we all studied interesting things. We all got A.

This is a very offensive misrepresentation of the kind of people I am specifically talking about; the ones whom I tutored who came from poor education backgrounds, who were striving to correct those problems, and found themselves bewildered in the midst of a college education system that was just as corrupted and just as apathetic about educational ideals. They were not drunks, they were not loafers, they were not socialists; they were honest, hard working students in an educational system that has been dying for the last 40 years, and they aren't of a high enough intellectual caliber to correctly identify all the deficiencies in education they've accumulated, much less fix them all on their own.

You cannot demand that the average man should be able to self teach himself Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Eqs, and all the cumulative levels of study pertaining to their scientific field, then run out there in the world and be successful like the rest. I am not those Leftists who say your social conditions determine you, and therefore the government should regulate your social conditions. I am pointing out the simple fact that most people are not educational superheroes, and can't be expected to self teach themselves everything that their educational system failed to accomplish. Every man has an intellectual limit as well as a psychological limit to what his inner-strength can endure; perhaps not all people are not as intelligent as you, and learning things takes more work.

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Sorry, the last sentence was supposed to be

perhaps not all people are as intelligent as you, and learning things takes more work.

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Also, what you (rtg24) may not realize is that not only do Americans often not learn the material in high school, but often they are taught subjects in such inappropriate ways that it functions as 'negative knowledge' that must be unlearned before you can get anywhere at all.

Consider this: Around 10th-11 grade in high school I had an epiphany that finally allowed me to understand math for the first time, and it allowed me to understand the course material on a much higher level than my fellow students in Algebra/Calculus. The crucial realization that I made--and I had to do this independently--was that when you graph a function y(x), you get the values for y by simply plugging values in for x, and therefore the shape of the functions has a logic to it than can be seen in the numbers.

Graphing functions and doing different things with functions had been entirely taught to us as the blind memorization of rules. If x is squared you get this shape. If x is like this (x-3)^2 you move the graph over 3 to the right. If it is like x^2+3 you move it up 3, etc.

No one actually knew what any of it meant; we were just memorizing rules, and we thought that's what algebra and math was.

When we learned about matrices or logarithms, we were given sophisticated calculators and were only taught how to do math operations using the calculators. No one learned what matrices were, how you actually do anything with them; it was just blind memorization of key-strokes on a calculator. We thought that's what math is, and that's what learning math is like.

Now do you want to make fun of people like me who complain that it is difficult to rise above our backgrounds and be scientists when we were naively taught math and science in literally anti-conceptual ways that were destructive. Can you imagine how difficult it is to unlearn an automated approach to math and mathematical science that is wrong and hinders your ability to do higher level studies, when that very approach had been hand delivered to you by people you thought were experts?

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Would JDR as he really existed be a hero in an AR novel? I don't think so.

Actually, yes, according to the ARI's Alex Epstein: http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues...oil-company.asp

This reads like a biography of Wyatt!

I am downloading this and reading it today; also re-visiting Chernow. For now, I stick to my view: the real Rocky had no place in AS.

John D Rockefeller is praised for his business accomplishments, not for whatever his personal life was like. This does not make him the equivalent of Wyatt. His descendants living off what he left them are, despite the more ordinary business careers of some of them, fascistic and anti-capitalist. Laurence Rockefeller is especially well known for his immersion in government connections and promotion of the National Park Service. Likewise for banker David and his wife Peggy, who have done enormous damage in Maine where they had an island estate and didn't want the view from their yacht muddied by middle class 'riff raff' living on the coast.

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2. Agree on the "Americans are dumb" assertion.
They aren't dumb, they just have received basically zero formal education of any quality, and as a result are innocently ignorant of what education even is anymore.

Having better immigration policies would alleviate this problem to a very large extent, though. There is really no negative I can easily think of for just importing your scientists...

Immigration policies do not determine education of American citizens. The proper concern is over what is happening to individuals, not a collective utilitarian goal of 'more scientists' -- The proper response is not to dispose of and disregard the victims if they can be replaced by imports. Nor would it work to save either education or the country.

Besides the crushed dreams and ambitions of many American high school/undergraduate/graduate students who wanted to be engineers or scientists but soon discovered that they were never taught the basic skills needed, and now find themselves in the situation years later where they need those skills but have neither the time nor inner-fire left to correct and fill the gaping holes in their knowledge?

This is a generation by generation rape of intellectual potential in our young; the Eddy Willers lack the inner-strength and/or mental ability to push themselves and independently make up for the education they didn't receive, and the Dagni Taggarts still manage to succeed, but at a reduced rate because so much of their mental energy was wasted on re-educating themselves and dealing with the mental anguish of an education system that was designed to fail.

When I was a tutor for Texas Tech I encountered kids who came from schools in farm-towns that care more about Friday night football than every day education, and I saw first-hand the tragic futility of their efforts to catch up on the knowledge in college that they should have already had in high school.

Some kids like me can find ways to make up for their lacking education; others can't and fail at their original academic aspiration. Fail or succeed though, their full potential was permanently clipped by their original education, and this is a serious thing that no one seems to care about in America.

Sorry, Carlos, I have no sympathy for this argument. What about the crushed dreams of the factory workers who thought they could continue to just turn the same tools for the rest of their lives on comfortable salaries? And who are fired because the car factory just went FANUC?...

How can you have "no sympathy" for those whose aspirations are wrecked by a destructive education? What do "factory kids" have to do with it and how is thinking one can "continue to just turn the same tools for the rest of their lives on comfortable salaries" be called a "crushed dream" rather than parasitical wishful thinking? Bad education should generate sympathy for anyone hurt by it, but those who want to make something of themselves, rather than "continue to turn the same tools" for a "comfortable salary", are the best and the most deserving of moral support and any other support one can afford to provide them.

As it stands, I know those American (and British) kids who want to get ahead can do so relatively easily - information has never been so cheap and readily accessible.

That is not a substitute for competent education and is not an antidote to the destruction now occurring in education. Learning what is possible and how to think is not the unorganized "information" floating out there on the internet. Epistemology and educational philosophy and competence matter.

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ewv,

I do agree with what you and Carlos are saying. It is incredibly important to have a good education available to children here, because that to a very large extent makes any kind of cultural change possible. That won't ever happen if kids continue to be so poorly educated that they can barely understand basic arguments and concepts.

My point was primarily that taken by itself, an open immigration policy is a desirable thing and it does make the country and everyone living here better off. It is by no means the most important component, though, and I should have chosen better words than I used before.

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ewv,

I do agree with what you and Carlos are saying. It is incredibly important to have a good education available to children here, because that to a very large extent makes any kind of cultural change possible. That won't ever happen if kids continue to be so poorly educated that they can barely understand basic arguments and concepts.

My point was primarily that taken by itself, an open immigration policy is a desirable thing and it does make the country and everyone living here better off. It is by no means the most important component, though, and I should have chosen better words than I used before.

I did not mean to sound like you were uncaring of what is happening, I just wanted to emphasize how bad it is, and how the situation may not be as stable as it looks.

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ewv,

I do agree with what you and Carlos are saying. It is incredibly important to have a good education available to children here, because that to a very large extent makes any kind of cultural change possible. That won't ever happen if kids continue to be so poorly educated that they can barely understand basic arguments and concepts.

My point was primarily that taken by itself, an open immigration policy is a desirable thing and it does make the country and everyone living here better off. It is by no means the most important component, though, and I should have chosen better words than I used before.

I did not mean to sound like you were uncaring of what is happening, I just wanted to emphasize how bad it is, and how the situation may not be as stable as it looks.

Yeah, I can see that part of it myself as well. It seems like year by year what freedoms still exist in schooling are being eroded ever so slowly. Some of these voucher programs are a good sign but they are so limited in scope that it's not really going to make a difference unless they apply them on a massive scale in the near future (and no Democrat is going to support that because the unions oppose school choice).

Part of my reasons for home-schooling revolve around the fact that I would very much like to spend that much time with my kids; being around them and seeing them develop is one of the most profoundly selfish values I can achieve in my life and I would love to maximize that. I also believe I can give them a very good education. But the other component is definitely that most alternatives are so horrible that home-schooling is also a damage control measure of sorts. I don't know of any awesome private schools around here and I don't know if I could afford to send my kids to one even if there was one, so it seems like it is the only viable option in that case if you want your children to have a good education none-the-less.

A lot of education policy is made on the local and state level, though, and I think certain states are much better than others. That helps a lot because it doesn't tend to be as vulnerable to huge changes in public opinion. At least, the better states (in this respect) seem more stable than the federal Gov't is.

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This is a very offensive misrepresentation of the kind of people I am specifically talking about; the ones whom I tutored who came from poor education backgrounds, who were striving to correct those problems, and found themselves bewildered in the midst of a college education system that was just as corrupted and just as apathetic about educational ideals. They were not drunks, they were not loafers, they were not socialists; they were honest, hard working students in an educational system that has been dying for the last 40 years, and they aren't of a high enough intellectual caliber to correctly identify all the deficiencies in education they've accumulated, much less fix them all on their own.

Warren Buffett had by the age of 12 already read every book on investing in his public library.

For the record, in the French public school system I was never taught how a graph worked. I eventually worked it out by myself like you did. So did everybody interested in knowledge (maybe 1/4 of the class). The others not so much. My mother worked nights to pay for her medical education (and didn't sleep for a couple of years as a result). Her fellow students slept, but she still beat all of them and came top of her year. Drive works. If you can't learn as fast as an MIT engineer, then you gotta work harder to succeed, or maybe give up the dreams of being an engineer and become a chef instead - a profession that is just as if not more challenging, but does not involve 4-6 years of advanced maths and expensive lab experiments. There IS such a thing as too much education: http://adamsmith.org/blog/education/yes,-y...n-200911074408/

The core of the problem is not with the educational system, it is with the "other" American culture I see everywhere here, which says that you are entitled to John Paulson's pay for a quarter of his hours just by virtue of having completed a "brand" undergrad course (and you will lose 10 lb in 3 days by eating grapefruit only, and you can always have access to the best treatment in the world for free). Work as hard as Paulson to make it and maybe you can have a shot at it.

There are no such things as equal opportunities. When I've made my $100m by the age of 30 I will make sure my kids go to the best private schools, get taught by the best tutors and go to the best universities (be that Harvard or its ancestor over the pond). I fully expect this investment to pay off and give them a nice big headstart over your tutored kids. Yeah, tough on the kids. But just like startups come and bite the hell out of big business, those of the poor kids that work out how the game works will work twice as hard as my kids and beat them anyway. Especially if you have taught them the value of education :P

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Part of my reasons for home-schooling revolve around the fact that I would very much like to spend that much time with my kids; being around them and seeing them develop is one of the most profoundly selfish values I can achieve in my life and I would love to maximize that. I also believe I can give them a very good education. But the other component is definitely that most alternatives are so horrible that home-schooling is also a damage control measure of sorts. I don't know of any awesome private schools around here and I don't know if I could afford to send my kids to one even if there was one, so it seems like it is the only viable option in that case if you want your children to have a good education none-the-less.

Here is a very interesting talk by Art Robinson (scientist and publisher of Access to Energy) on home schooling and the state of contemporary public education (ignore the religion, which isn't much). It makes me think I should go back and start over to do it right.

The whole public school system is child abuse. There's no other way to describe it.
If I had to sit in a public school room I would have attention deficit disorder, I hope, because I surely wouldn't want to pay attention to what they were doing.

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Re Rockefeller: I read the ARI piece last night and skimmed Chernow; JDR was NOT a "capitalist" in the AS sense; the ARI author downplays his falls from capitalist grace, but there were plenty. Both the ARI piece and Chernow do demonstrate that Rockefeller's success came primarily from his virtues, as, presumably, most readers here would conceive virtue, and his vices were punished, at least in the business world. Lives like Rockefellers', pushed as paradigms, either leave one open to charges that capitalism is bad - which can be argued and refuted in our terms, but doubtfully to the population at large - or the charge of Platonism levelled above, or at least suggested above. If you think the world must look like AS, as portrayed in the heroes, to be "capitalist", you may wait quite a while to see it.

Re Education: I was schooled in the fifties and early sixties by the dreaded nuns at Catholic schools. We read mostly, but not exclusively, Catholic writers and had religion class every year. But the emphasis was always on "big picture", conceptual thinking. Granted the content was not healthy psychologically at times (but, if you went to one of those schools, you know how many students never really bought in, even as most American Catholics do not today) but one learned the importance of ideas and systems of ideas. One learned to analyze conceptually, make inferences. My wife was fired by Flint schools many years ago for refusing to pass two thirds of the sixth grade class because they had the language arts skills of first graders. I helped her grade public school lessons; they were and are completely concrete bound. Today I teach part time at a "right to try" college. If you can walk and breathe you will be admitted. I have a finance class right now. If I give these 20 to 40 year olds prblems using formulas and calculators and the equations, they can do very well. Ask them to do a little simple algebra or try to lead them thorough an If...Then issue or a This one is Like This one, therefore... issue, I mostly get blank looks.

One needs to see through the political and social crap in American eduction today if you have children to educate. If they are healthy and if they become good thinkers, they'll become good "doers". Like JDR, more or less.

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Slavery, which dominated in the more feudalist south and adversely affected a small minority of the population, was eliminated by 1865 because it was incompatible with the founding principles and nature of this country and could not be tolerated.

Historical fact: The population of the Southern States at the outbreak of the Civil War was 9,000,000 of which 4,000,000 were Negro Slaves.

Some small minority that was.

Bob Kolker

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This is a very offensive misrepresentation of the kind of people I am specifically talking about; the ones whom I tutored who came from poor education backgrounds, who were striving to correct those problems, and found themselves bewildered in the midst of a college education system that was just as corrupted and just as apathetic about educational ideals. They were not drunks, they were not loafers, they were not socialists; they were honest, hard working students in an educational system that has been dying for the last 40 years, and they aren't of a high enough intellectual caliber to correctly identify all the deficiencies in education they've accumulated, much less fix them all on their own.

Warren Buffett had by the age of 12 already read every book on investing in his public library.

Similarly, Ayn Rand in her younger years had already formulated Objectivism; I guess that should put the people in their place who dare to complain that they never were exposed to Objectivism in their younger years. Those lazy, drunk, socialists should have been taking self responsibility and learning on their own everything they should have.
For the record, in the French public school system I was never taught how a graph worked. I eventually worked it out by myself like you did. So did everybody interested in knowledge (maybe 1/4 of the class). The others not so much. My mother worked nights to pay for her medical education (and didn't sleep for a couple of years as a result). Her fellow students slept, but she still beat all of them and came top of her year. Drive works. If you can't learn as fast as an MIT engineer, then you gotta work harder to succeed, or maybe give up the dreams of being an engineer and become a chef instead - a profession that is just as if not more challenging, but does not involve 4-6 years of advanced maths and expensive lab experiments. There IS such a thing as too much education: http://adamsmith.org/blog/education/yes,-y...n-200911074408/
In other words, if a group of kids are sent through a bad education system, it is justice that the extremely intelligent ones with more inner-strength can survive and continue with their dreams while less intelligent and less strong students give up out of frustration and malaise?

I guess textbooks, teachers, schools, and the entire education system is merely a crutch to hold up the lazy students who should be able to independently rediscover entire realms of knowledge so long as the materials are provided.

The core of the problem is not with the educational system, it is with the "other" American culture I see everywhere here, which says that you are entitled to John Paulson's pay for a quarter of his hours just by virtue of having completed a "brand" undergrad course (and you will lose 10 lb in 3 days by eating grapefruit only, and you can always have access to the best treatment in the world for free). Work as hard as Paulson to make it and maybe you can have a shot at it.
If this is your attempt at a serious evaluation of the problems in America, you've just revealed how little you accurately know about the state of affairs here.
There are no such things as equal opportunities. When I've made my $100m by the age of 30 I will make sure my kids go to the best private schools, get taught by the best tutors and go to the best universities (be that Harvard or its ancestor over the pond). I fully expect this investment to pay off and give them a nice big headstart over your tutored kids. Yeah, tough on the kids. But just like startups come and bite the hell out of big business, those of the poor kids that work out how the game works will work twice as hard as my kids and beat them anyway. Especially if you have taught them the value of education :P
"those poor kids" will never have a chance to match the level of a bright kid started from day 1 in an ideal, challenging educational system. They can certainly rise above and be scientists if they stick with it, but no few years of heroics later in life can replace an entire missed youth of education. Not only have they missed years of cumulative building of knowledge, but they've missed understanding what the entire epistemological process of learning is.

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Reply several posts of Maarten:

I very much sympathize with your views on home schooling, and I may attempt home schooling with my children as well.

One element that I saw everywhere in our public schools that I never want my kids exposed to is the rampant anti-intellectual attitude amongst students, particularly the 'popular kids', 'jocks' and bullies. It's an atmosphere where the dunces, promiscuous/air-headed girls and destructive class rebels are revered, while quiet industrious kids who study hard are generally not well accepted.

Bad teachers, bad administrators, bad textbooks, bad peers, bad atmosphere, no learning, and some political brainwashing; what the hell would I have a kid in public school for anyway?

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Carlos,

not to mention that you have no choice over what public school your child is sent to. Sometimes they mess with districts because of racial quotas and your child gets sent to a further away school, meaning they spend an extra hour a day traveling. As if they don't have better stuff to do...

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Carlos,

not to mention that you have no choice over what public school your child is sent to. Sometimes they mess with districts because of racial quotas and your child gets sent to a further away school, meaning they spend an extra hour a day traveling. As if they don't have better stuff to do...

As a still fairly new resident of Australia, I wonder if there is a similar situation in Australian high schools. I don't detect the same kind of grassroots movement to home school kids here, but I am curious to know if Australia has been less adversely affected by progressive schooling ideas.

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Carlos,

not to mention that you have no choice over what public school your child is sent to. Sometimes they mess with districts because of racial quotas and your child gets sent to a further away school, meaning they spend an extra hour a day traveling. As if they don't have better stuff to do...

As a still fairly new resident of Australia, I wonder if there is a similar situation in Australian high schools. I don't detect the same kind of grassroots movement to home school kids here, but I am curious to know if Australia has been less adversely affected by progressive schooling ideas.

The impression I have is that America was uniquely affected by the progressive movement in education; apparently Europe and other places weren't as disastrously influenced.

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But that's exactly it! You pay a fortune for the kid's education precisely because it gives him an advantage! It's completely fair: money = good education. It's capitalism. The smart kids will beat the system to compensate for their lack of money.

The same is true of healthcare. Is it "just", according to your definition of justice, that the factory worker (non-unionized) on government healthcare doesn't have access to the $1m cancer treatment that could prolong his life by 6 months when the hedge fund manager does?

I do not see where you are going with this. What is your argument? If it is "public schools suck" then I agree, they suck, in Europe too (my little brother's class was such a performance outlier that they broke it up and put each kid in a class of comparatively "terrible" pupils to "average out" the level - welcome to France, we're good at maths, but only the guys who escape to America). But where do you go next? And what is your definition of "justice"?

Bad teachers, bad administrators, bad textbooks, bad peers, bad atmosphere, no learning, and some political brainwashing; what the hell would I have a kid in public school for anyway?

Because you can't afford private. How "unjust". Since we can't put everybody in a private school like Eton, let's instead ban them and give equally bad teaching to everybody - that way every kid has the same terrible opportunities. Much more just.

The problem with the line of reasoning that considers that some fields of life (be that education or healthcare) need to reach a certain standard regardless of personal wealth or affordability, i.e. the egalitarian line, is that you end up with FDR's Bill of Rights' kind of "justice".

And what about markets! If you are "right" about the fundamentals but everybody else is a brainwashed socialist idiot (not far from reality) then you get a bull run from March 2009 to who knows when, and all your US shorts get squeezed out. As they say, "we're not in this business to be right, we're in this business to make money." Well, you can't blame your education, you can just try and pick up the pieces and make it regardless.

Look, I don't know where you got your socialist/drunk thing from. My original point about the average Indian student was to counter your assertion that somehow the kids over there get a wonderful education whilst US education is all broken, just because those who made it to the US are exceptional. My point was that they are in the US because they are exceptional and driven. I am not placing the blame on the students for giving up and smoking pot instead of going to extra calculus classes. I know that the statist leftist bureaucratic machine is responsible for a lot of lost productivity and great careers. If anything however, I strongly disagree with your assertion that students give up. Certain students, regardless of how bad their background has been, and how brainwashed they are, are naturally curious. Those students will immediately react to Objectivist or individualist ideas; and I've seen enough of those people in sheep packs to have hope that even a 30 year old can pick up his life and become great, and catch up the lost time. The problem is that they have never been even so much as EXPOSED to those ideas - the average reaction amongst the youth of France is to decry any libertarian/individualist/selfish/Objectivist ideas as "disgusting liberalism" (in the Classical sense - that is the line advertised by Mr. Sarkozy) equivalent to Nazi Germany; just as if you worshipped the Fuhrer you'd probably keep it quiet from your colleagues, those that have been exposed to "liberal" ideas keep it quiet from theirs. But when the ideas come to light, they are adopted, let me assure you. Regardless of prior brainwashing.

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Yes, it seemed that schools were much less affected by Progressive educational philosophy back in the Netherlands. Especially when I was in elementary school it was much harder and more rigorous; for my younger siblings not so much. Even the two years' difference between my sister and me made a fairly large difference because I think it started going downhill in the 90s, as well. Then they reformed the high school system to make it more modern or something, and quality again suffered quite a lot. Compared to the exams the people a few years before me had to take, we had it extremely easy, and after that it was made easier year by year because the students complained that tests were too hard, etc. It was quite sad to see that.

I think one thing that helped a lot was that the Dutch education system is divided into tiers starting in the first grade of high school (that's age 12/13 there), and then again in the second grade. That allows them to separate the students' abilities much better and make sure there is not too much difference between the fastest and slowest learners in each class. Also, they have tracks that students choose that determine to a certain extent what classes you need to take, so if someone is really interested in liberal arts they take mostly courses in that area and have less science/math courses, and vice versa for science people. While it makes people less well-rounded than a traditional education here in the US makes them, the specialization aspect works quite well and I think to a certain degree it is responsible for students from those countries being further ahead in their field of study.

After about age 15 I didn't really have to take many languages or liberal arts courses any more, and in college I only took classes in my major. This allowed us to study so many more aspects of the discipline that I think it gives you a huge head-start over an American student who is forced to take a lot of courses they aren't necessarily interested in, or that even have any application to what they want to do in life.

On the downside, it does require students to know what they want to do at a really early stage, long before they need to make these choices in the US. You start the process at age 15, and then you choose your major right after graduating high school. For the people who aren't sure what to do it doesn't work very well because they tend to just do one thing and then change, or have to backtrack because they miss certain courses. But I think for the ones who know what they want it allows them to go through a more demanding curriculum that places them ahead of most students over here.

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The impression I have is that America was uniquely affected by the progressive movement in education; apparently Europe and other places weren't as disastrously influenced.

I can only comment from the POV of the UK and France, and I don't know what "not as disastrously" means, but let's say we are creating generations of zombies fit only for receiving welfare cheques. Thankfully the UK is 10% private. France is not so fortunate. Here's a couple of clips of a modern French school, from a film about a teacher who tries, against all odds, to teach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQwRidE5t-c

Not quite the beautiful romantic Haussmanian streets and wonderful rural restaurants with 5 course dinners and welcoming grandfather figure! I highly recommend the film, because it shows nicely where the US is heading, and the problems of the welfare state (in education and in life).

My brother attended a "good" UK state school. He talked of chairs thrown at teachers, of fireworks set off in the corridors (hitting students), of pigeons sliced with knives in the canteen... Remember also that underperformance is already systematized in the UK. University selection is done on "GCSEs" - exams you take when you are 16. A student in a UK state school is usually not allowed to enter for a grade higher than C:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Certi...Education#Tiers

Tiers

In many subjects, there are two different 'tiers' of examination offered:

Higher, where students can achieve grades A*–D

Foundation, where they can achieve grades C–G

If a candidate fails to obtain a Grade G on the Foundation tier or a Grade D on the Higher tier they will fail the course and receive a U. Candidates who narrowly miss a Grade D on the Higher tier, however, are awarded a Grade E. In non-tiered subjects, such as History, the examination paper allows candidates to achieve any grade. Coursework also always allows candidates to achieve any grade.

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