March 7, 2009

How random is admission to charter schools?

You often read articles about charter schools whose students do wonderfully on standardized tests even though admission is by random lottery. The implication is that all we have to do to Fix the Public Schools is to do in all the other schools in America whatever it is that works so wonderfully at this one school with its (presumably) representative student body.

Of course, the parents who choose to apply their children to charter schools tend to be a notch above the average in the first place.

But there's another question I've never seen asked: Who says the admissions lottery is completely random?

The charter schools say their admissions are totally random.

But why would you believe them?

A few years ago, I applied my son to a new charter high school founded by the best teachers from his public middle school. Admission was by random lottery. I dropped by the office and nervously asked a teacher, who had been at my kid's junior high school the year before, if my son's application had been chosen.

He picked up the list, "What's the name again?"

"Sailer."

The teacher looked at me. "The kid who got a 5 on the AP Biology test in 7th grade?"

"Uh, yeah. That's him."

He put down the list without looking further. "He got in."

"Well, could you check to make sure he's on the list of those who were picked in the lottery?"

The teacher gave me a look that said, "How can a smart kid like that have such an idiot for a father?" and repeated. "He's in."

I looked blank.

He patiently reiterated, "Don't worry about it. He's in."

"Oh," I said. And then I smiled.

He smiled back, happy that he didn't have to spell it out any further.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

67 comments:

Anonymous said...

Scandalous!

Anonymous said...


I applied my son to a new charter high school founded by the best teachers from his public middle school.


For a guy who has such a smart kid you sure have problems with words ...

How did you apply him? With a roller? Those pesky prepositions and verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive sure trip people up, don't they.

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised by this in the least, and it traces back to the fundamental reality of how teaching talent is allocated in public education. The simple rule is that good schools have good teachers because they have good students. Good schools are not made by good teachers; good teachers are attracted to schools where there are talented students to begin with. Schools with academically talented and motivated students will attract and retain teachers who are both skilled in the classroom and knowledgeable about their subjects; that such schools are often located in communities with greater incomes and thus provide higher salaries is simply a bonus. (Although, the salaries don't need to be high--only high enough.)The exceptions to this rule are the small but significant minority of "martyr teachers" who deliberately seek out tough assignments to "make a difference", and those who grew up in a community and feel strong ties. There exist a number of teachers who strongly desire to teach in the very school system that produced them.

But for good teachers who don't fit into those exceptional categories--people who have natural talent in the classroom (not necessarily the techniques taught in ed school, either, I should add) plus a strong background in the content, teaching in a school with little or no naturally good students is going to be a frustrating experience.

Schools where the majority of class time is spent enforcing discipline are not going to attract or retain strong teachers.

Schools with class after class of students who are not only indifferent to the subject matter at hand but also personal and intellectual betterment in general are not going to attract or retain strong teachers. The added frustration of sitting in endless meetings discussing strategies on how to change this seemingly immutable situation doesn't help either.

So what are your options if you are passionate about your subject and teaching, but you want more than being a glorified babysitter for willfully ignorant hooligans?
Basically it's wait for an opening at a better school, wait for an opening to teach AP courses (and as many of them as you can), or go to a private school. (Or quit!) Subpar schools have good teachers from three groups: martyrs (most school reform initiatives are predicated upon virtually all teachers behaving this way,incidentally), community-ties teachers, and good teachers waiting for positions elsewhere. Everyone else is usually incompetent and/or just collecting a paycheck. No "regular" good teacher is willingly making a career there.

Chronically low-performing schools can throw money at the problem, although that really only makes them competitive amongst the martyr group; their gain of a few good martyr teachers is another district's loss. And the lowest performing schools will have few community-ties sorts as well, for the simple fact that the community is too dysfunctional to have ties to--anyone with sense left as soon as he or she could. And as far as attracting the other sort of good teacher--forget it. No low performing school district can offer salaries high enough to attract significant numbers of good teachers, and they'd lose in a bidding war with more affluent districts anyway. An extra $10,000 and the possibility of getting assaulted by a student? No thanks.

But it's not necessarily about money--Catholic schools usually do better and usually pay far less in salaries and benefits than public schools. All teachers, to some extent, possess that martyr instinct; the best of them usually could make a lot more money doing something else. But Catholic schools do have something else--discipline and parents who desire their children to learn. No government entity forces a child to attend a private school--someone else cares enough to send him there and see that he learns. Most people do not realize this distinction, but the reality of America is not that we have compulsory education; it's that we have compulsory attendance. No one can make you learn, no matter what edu-theorists say.

The bottom line is that policy makers don't get it because they can't get it. And even if they do get it, they can't say it. Good teachers are attracted to well-run schools that pay decently, enforce discipline, and where most of the students (or at least their parents) expect academics to be taken seriously.

SKT said...

Whoa, he got a 5 on AP Bio in 7th grade?

That trumps my achievement of a 5 on Calc BC in 12th grade when all our school offered was Calc AB.

Gene Berman said...

Second Anonymous:

"verbs that can be both transitive and intransitive" WTF? There are verbs which are EITHER (determined
by use) but not BOTH.

I know you recognize a question mark since you used a couple. What happened at the end?

Hey, this nitpicking and criticism shit is easy! I might try it sometime.

Reader said...

So, how the heck did your son wind up taking the AP Biology test in 7th grade anyway? And did he do well because he went to a hell of a middle school, or did his "bedtime stories" growing up consist mainly of E.O. Wilson and Luigi Cavalli-Sforza?

Pat Shuff said...

Why charter schools at all,
just take what works and where it works in the public education system, the northern tier states, and redistribute it. Transfer the teaching staffs and school administrations to the lower ranked school systems to equalize things.
Maybe switch parents too.
Or just hand out sticks and hockey helmets to be worn in classrooms, there seems a connection between hockey pucks and sticks and what smarts (slapstick humor.)

It would be interesting to see these annual public education system rankings
adjusted for student population demographics.
I suspect a reordering of the perennial bragging rights, with some state school systems achieving more with less and others less with more,
apples-to-apples.

rightsaidfred said...

What's the rule--every post correcting grammar will have at least one grammatical error...

Anonymous said...

Basically what you are saying Steve is that some people lie and cheat to get ahead.

Dennis Mangan said...

What an unsubtle way of letting your readers know how smart your son's father his.

BenjaminL said...

That's a great point.

However --

The statistics on the entering classes of these schools don't show a huge amount of overachievement in their prior schools. Generally their test scores are indistinguishable from the rest of their cohort.

So maybe the charter schools do have some nefarious way of spotting kids who are smart but who underachieve in the public schools - but that's not the same as picking kids who are already doing well. The student populations at "no excuses" or "paternalistic" charters are overwhelmingly NAM and low-income.

Chester "Checker" Finn observed that hard-ass paternalism is a trait shared by prep schools like Exeter, his alma mater, Catholic parochial schools, as well as the new charters, so there might be something to that.



References:
David Whitman on the new paternalism

YES Prep ; MATCH Charter ; KIPP Schools

Anonymous said...

"How can a smart kid like that have such an idiot for a father?"

Ouch.

Gene Berman said...

Third Anonymous:

You made a good start in analyzing criteria both on which teachers are selected and on which teachers choose from among alternatives. But you neglected some and, in conclusion, undervalued the role of monetary compensation.

In my opinion, you were guided most by psychological or social values; a truly economic analysis would have included these as well as others in something more likely to show a true picture.

A commonly-recognized reality is that supply of a good increases with increasing compensation and conversely, lowering will tend to decrease offered supply. This has more important ramifications than you've indicated.

Many teachers, including good ones, have somewhat altruistic motives, i.e., there are features comparable (to them) to or even more important than remuneration.(Translation: they can be had cheap because they value the experience itself. Or, they're enamored of significantly long vacation periods. Or combination. Etc.--ou get the idea.

In the main then, it's OK to underpay these folks (both with you and the school boards) because you've got 'em by the scrongs: take it or leave it but that's the deal!

But what you (and school boards everywhere) seem (or pretend) not to acknowledge is that there's more to this hiring than just what you've mentioned: other "fringe" benefits attractive to some in the pool of applicants. In the old days, we'd've gotten many with an "authoritarian" streak, maybe even a sexual "discipline" fetish who'd trade away some extra bucks for a fair chance at ass-whuppin' opportunities.

Those are mostly a thing of the past; but we've still a surprising
number of molesters (of both major persuasions) for whom opportunity to disport themselves with the
(presumably) innocent in their charge can be inferred as having a definite (though unquantifiable) cash value. A solution to this is simple: MO' MONEY! At the height presently offered, some applicants are those for whom the "fringes" are determinative of behavior; raise the wage offer a notch and you will admit a number equally qualified who won't work for less precisely because opportunity to molest is not valued.

If you (and school boards) hadn't understood this, I can understand (but don't think it says much for intelligence). But if, on the other hand, you DO understand (which I believe the more likely case), it actually says something even more damning about prevailing attitude: the number and incidence of deviants and miscreants AND the relative miseducation of youth (both subject and social content) is pretty much OK, sort of "par for the course."

A guy with statistical flair could probably even come up with rough quantification of reward magnitude necessary to offset some of these "fringes," whether of positive or negative impact; I'd think it relatively easy. Now that's occurred, it occurs that the "education establishment" would have data and expertise required to throw light on the subject. Maybe some reason they haven't done so already?

Garland said...

The KIPP school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn said they do pre-interviews with the parents before accepting the kids, sort of making sure the parents are going to be serious about it. They were actually pretty careful to make sure we (potential teachers) knew this, even saying something like "no, we don't 'cream' the best kids but acceptance is not automatic; I [the principal] go to every students' home, talk to the parents" etc. As I said, this was to an audience of teachers considering employment there, though there was also one journalist.

They did emphasize it was otherwise non-competitive admission.

Anonymous said...

the small but significant minority of "martyr teachers" who deliberately seek out tough assignments to "make a difference"

One such martyr was not only sabotaged by the principal, he was sued by a parent (who probably thought she'd won the lottery).

http://www.city-journal.org/html/13_1_how_i_joined.html

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about "martyr teachers," etc.,

I would add this:

1. A lot of young energetic teachers (martyr or otherwise) burn out and bail pretty quickly from lousy schools (or get thrown out). I've seen it happen many times that some bright, idealistic kid in his or her 20s gets a job in the NYC public schools.

What happens next is the school principal assigns that kid to a heavy schedule of problem students. Those students make sport of hounding, baiting, and attacking the teacher until he or she says or does something which is a bit over the line. The new teacher is then reported to the principal who fires the teacher. The incident gets put into the teacher's file so he or she will never get a job teaching again.

I'm sure you can make a pretty good guess about the races of the people involved.

2. Another downside to "throwing money at the problem" is that when you raise teacher salaries, you can't use the extra money to provide special incentive for star teachers. Instead, you must raise everyone's pay, including the incompetent lifers whom you've just incentivized to defer retirement for a few more years.

Steve Wood said...

Schools with academically talented and motivated students will attract and retain teachers who are both skilled in the classroom and knowledgeable about their subjects;

Good post, Anon.

There have always been good schools and bad schools. Even in the days when discipline was not as big an issue in bad schools as it is today, there were still discipline problems, especially in urban high schools serving poor and working-class neighborhoods. (The movie that unleashed "Rock Around the Clock" on the world - Blackboard Jungle - was about a high school filled with troublesome students. It was made in 1955.)

Similarly, schools in affluent suburbs have always had, on average, brighter, more interested and better behaved students.

So, here's the question: Has the phenomenon you describe always been true, or have social changes in the last 40 years made teachers more mobile and more willing to jump to another district for better teaching condition? I'm betting on the latter. In particular, I suspect that the community-ties thing you talk about is not as strong nowadays. Also, in the old days, many women teachers, especially in lower grades, were basically just waiting to get married. It seems likely that such a teacher, however talented she might be, would be less likely to focus enough on her career to make a change, right?

This appears to be yet another instance where recent social changes have led to increasing stratification of society, as the "haves" pull further and further ahead of the "have-nots."

Anonymous said...

As you've noted before, a huge degree of selection takes place because of the byzantine nature of the LAUSD charter/magnet/transfer system. My kids go to public schools on the northwestern edge of the LAUSD in schools that are mostly a mixture of anglo, persian and armenian, and black and latino kids mostly who come in from central Los Angeles. And the kids who get bussed in are almost all bright, motivated, and well-behaved, because they're the ones with the parents who go the extra mile to get their kids into decent schools. This is probably another reason why you have high schools in central LA where hardly anyone scores above 1000 on the SATs. The bright kids from the neighborhood are most likely getting bussed to Taft, El Camino, or the good charter and magnet schools.

Jonathan Silber said...

Terrific analysis, Anonymous; how have you come by your knowledge of the public schools?

guest007 said...

The same thing used to happen in the South during the post-segregation days.

Schools had tracks like regular, basic (remedial), and accelerated (now honors, AP, IB).

Every child of a school board memeber, teacher, city council member, etc always managed to get into the accelerated track with all of the white kids but the smart black children were left in the regular or basic classes.

The Washington Post has admitted that in majority/minority schools such as T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria that virtually all of the white/Chinese/HIndi kids are in the AP track where as all of the black/Hispanic kids are not.

Anonymous said...

steve - did your son really pass AP Bio in 7th grade? impressive.

SFG said...

Whatever. I got a 5 on BC Calc in the 10th grade and fat lot of good it did me.

They let him take AP courses in the 7th grade? Wow. Though I guess AP Biology does kind of make sense, given Daddy's proclivities...

"Daddy, why do people do x?"
"Well, a long time ago people who did x left more kids than people who didn't, and all their kids did x. So now everyone does x."

"Daddy, why do all the insert_ethnicity kids sit together in the cafeteria?"
"Well, each group evolved in different circumstances, and they developed different traits to survive in those circumstances. So, since people like to be with people like them..."

clem said...

There exist a number of teachers who strongly desire to teach in the very school system that produced them.

"Welcome back, to the same old place that you laughed about...."

"Ooh, Mr. Kot-ter! Mr. Kot-ter!"

Johnny Abacus said...

I went to one of the top 20 schools on this list (http://www.newsweek.com/id/39380O).

Until quite recently they had an explicit policy of sibling preference and an unofficial policy of encouraging under-performing students to move to a different school.

By the time students moved from middle school to high school, most of the wheat had been separated from the chaff.

anony-mouse said...

"How can a smart kid like that have such an idiot as a father?".

Hey, Steve, he agrees with you about genetics.

So what's you answer?

Johnny Abacus said...

I went to one of the top 20 schools on this list (http://www.newsweek.com/id/39380).

When I went, they had an overt policy of sibling preference and a covert policy of encouraging under-performing students to move to a less demanding school. There was about a 33% attrition rate from the start to the finish of middle school and another 10% from the start of high school to the end of high school.

By the time AP classes rolled around, the wheat had already been separated from the chaff.

Anonymous said...

Why is your son taking an AP class in the 7th grade?

Anonymous said...

Damn, Steve, shut the hell up, what is wrong with you??? You trying to blow the cover on this or something? The last thing we need is the Dept of Ed getting a whiff of this and starting some investigation. I recommend you delete this post, forthwith.

Anonymous said...

This is a good specific instance of a more general thing: how people just stopped actively designing the institutions and customs that turn children into adults and let it all go into freefall. Americans generally cannot tell you the FIRST THING about their educational system. It changes all the time and has massive regional variation; there are all kinds of alternative systems; people just don't care and don't keep up with it. It's very easy to game the system. This isn't true in other places.

TGGP said...

The draft during Vietnam was supposed to be random, but it wasn't.

Anonymous said...

Admit it, this post was just an excuse to brag about how your son got a 5 on his Biology AP in 7th grade. I see past the pseudo-intellectual veneer.

Anonymous said...

Had it been my son who got a 5 on the AP Biology test in the seventh grade, one would have been able to measure the time it took me to write about it in hours instead of years.

Anonymous said...

"The Washington Post has admitted that in majority/minority schools such as T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria that virtually all of the white/Chinese/HIndi kids are in the AP track where as all of the black/Hispanic kids are not."

This was true when I went to T.C. Except there were virtually no Asians there at the time.

Anonymous said...

Charter Schools? Try PUBLIC SCHOOLS - http://www.usnews.com/listings/high-schools/virginia/thomas_jefferson_high_school_for_science_and_technology

This is one reason that the Fairfax County VA PUBLIC Schools still have the umph to be considered among the best in the US in spite of the illegal alien invasion taking place there. As was noted earlier, good schools are more a functtion of having a body of good students than of having a huge pot of money.

Just for jolly, let's ask:

How many ESOL, special Ed, and remedial classes are at TJ?

How many TJ students are chronic disiplinary problems?

How many students at TJ drop off their babies to a TJ Single-Mom Nursery in the morning?

How much gang related activity is going on at TJ?

How much money does NOT having to deal with the above mentioned problems save TJ that can be used for talented students?

You get the picture....

D Flinchum

Anonymous No. 3 said...

@Jonathan Silber:

Thank you for your kind remark. As you might guess, my knowledge comes from experience: 6 years spent as a classroom teacher. I took option number four and quit, moving to education-related IT. I do not regret quitting at all apart from teaching AP.

I do wish to clarify one point I made, as well as illuminate the larger and more insidious national tragedy that is going on in public education. I do not wish to imply that good teachers only will seek to teach the best and brightest--far from it. Indeed, to teach the upper end of the talent spectrum takes both an intelligence equal to the task but also a personality suited to the particular challenges such students pose. Even those who possess the requisite knowledge to teach the more advanced classes may find themselves disappointed in doing so--bright students can be reluctant to ask questions or make comments for fear of losing face, or may be so arrogant as to refuse help when it is needed or cheat when success is felt owed to them.

Rather, the larger point is this: good teachers like teaching. And that means not spending most of the class period getting unruly students to stop disrupting class. Further, it means not spending your time covering your rear end with tons of paperwork to prove you've told lazy students' parents that you're going to fail their children. It also means not sitting for hours in faculty meetings listening to how we can best pour all of our limited resources into students who aren't willing to lift a finger to help themselves. One disruptive student can be handled usually, but once a class reaches a certain number of such students, it essentially halts all learning in that room.

And therein lies the tragedy. Even in our worst schools, there exist students who have, in whatever quantity, a desire to learn. But in classroom after classroom across the country, they can't. The ability of a few students to stop the learning process of others drives good teachers away, or leaves an otherwise good teacher unable to convey a lesson. And so those good teachers, apart from the "hometowners" and the martyrs, flock to schools (or schools within schools, or GT or AP tracks) where even if the class as a whole is not stellar academically, they at least behave with a common decency towards you and towards one another. Some of those who make that move find themselves paid more, which is nice, but ultimately a bonus. Indeed, some may instead go to a private school to rid themselves of their public school experiences, even at lower pay. Such a financially downward move may seem peculiar, but in all honesty teaching students who want to learn, at any level of achievement, is a joyous experience. In the end, the big loser are the students who want to learn but are stuck with poor teachers and/or barbarian classmates. It is those students--not bright enough for the AP escape hatch but hard-working and academically serious--that have always broken my heart as an educator. They have no advocate--the dimmest have an army of special ed teachers and coordinators and truckloads of federal money; the brightest may get some of the meager monetary scraps tossed off into GT programs. But the well-behaved middle--those who will need to be the backbone of the future economy--are getting royally mistreated. Between their unruly classmates and the hair-brained pedagogical schemes inflicted on them but aimed at their feckless classmates, it is their education that is being wasted.

Liberal politicians don't get it: there is no amount of money that can change this situation. Conservative politicians don't get it, either: calling for reform, higher standards, or trashing the unions won't change it either. Until we are willing to say, "Yes, we can leave a few children behind" the only thing that will happen is that few children get ahead. Clear out the deadweight in the classroom by all means, but don't limit that sentiment to the teacher. Only then will we move forward.

(And God help us when it comes to the university teacher training programs, but that's another story.)

sn said...

The same pattern repeats itself with mind-numbing consistency across various good public high schools.. Virtually all of the kids in the AP/Advanced classes are Asian (of various hues) or Whites; hispanics and blacks are almost never to be seen in these classes. The only place where they interact might be second language classes (like Spanish). So this is "streaming" or segregation in action, which seems to result in getting good teachers being really engaged with bright kids, doing creative projects, tackling advanced materials. This would be impossible in a mixed class. The public schools have figured out a system that works! The only caveat is that this will only work in areas where whites and asians are in reasonably large numbers.

Evil Sandmich said...

On my site I had commented on the apparent success of a charter school in (ugh) East Cleveland. A commenter took me to task for talking down this success and a large portion of his argument hinged on the fact that the student body at this charter school was exactly like the student body at the regular public schools. So much is tied to showing success at these schools to show proof of the NCLB lie that I’d find it hard to believe that there wasn’t any rigging going on.

Steve Sailer said...

"(And God help us when it comes to the university teacher training programs, but that's another story.)"

Please do share that story with us at some point.

Thanks,
Steve

Anonymous No. 3 said...

@Steve Wood

Briefly, I'd say the phenomenon is stronger today, in part because mobility itself is easier. It's also generally more accepted across all aspect of the labor market. Another unexplored factor is the inter-regional brain drain as students get educated and leave their homes. West Virginia is a good case of this. Other factors include regional job fairs and Internet recruiting.

To your point about female teachers I would add that prior to feminism, the options for intellectually talented women were fewer, and thus teaching took on a disproportionate share of this talent. With more options open, this isn't the case anymore. Most of this generation have now retired.

And to the anonymous poster who posted the City Journal article, that's a concrete example of exactly the kind of things I'm talking about. He's a classic martyr type, and while his is an extreme example, the elements he described I've seen or heard about in many different places. It just takes a few to ruin it for everyone, yet all the power-brokers: administration, state boards of ed, federal government, and even the unions (try reading NEA Today, the union mag) all steadfastly refuse to acknowledge this reality.

Here's the analogy: Iraq is a failure because Bush tried to make it a democracy. But democracy is more than just showing up to vote, having political parties, and a nice parliament building. Civil society has to exist--and a relatively liberal one at that. That doesn't exist in Iraq. Likewise, our policymakers are similarly deceived. Build some new buildings, hire some new teachers, implement some new teaching fad, and learning will occur. Schools require a civil society to function just as a democracy does. But to build that up requires a truthful identification of the problem, and that means culture and behavior have to be criticized. We all know how likely that is to occur.

@Steve Sailer,

I'd be happy to give my story about ed school--but it would take some time to remember it all coherently. My time spent in the Seminary of Multiculturalism is not a period I think of often.

AMac said...

Anonymous No. 3,

Thanks for the two insightful comments in this thread. I live a mile away from a teachers' college; the only hint of the faculty's activities is when they make the news for defending some pedagogical fad. Last time, it was Whole Language or Ptolmeic Epicycles, I forget which. Perhaps it was some combination of the two.

It would be interesting to hear your take on university-level teacher instruction.

John of London said...

I've no idea what 5 on AP Bio in 7th grade means, but a lot of the situation described is just like England. Anonymous no 3 hit it:
"The ability of a few students to stop the learning process of others". I think that at 14 a boy is old enough to decide if he wants to learn or not: if not, chuck him out. It's not a race thing, btw: I'm thinking about White yobs here. Part of the problem may be that instead of being described as right little sods, these kids now "suffer" from Attention Deficit Disorder or some or other Syndrome. No they don't; it's their classmates who suffer from them.

josh said...

is this story true? You'd. think you would have mentioned it before.

Slampo said...

Whoever said charter-school admission is "random?" Obviously, the parent who seeks to place his child in a charter school, whether or not that child scored a 5 on the AP biology test in 7th grade, has more wherewithal (mental, that is, not necessarily financial) than a parent who'd leave a kid in a low-performing regular public school. The better charters require parents to sign contracts agreeing that they and their children will meet certain standards (including not being disruptive in the classroom). In other words, the charters mandate parent involvement, something public schools can't do. That takes the "randomness" out of it right there.

The problem for the public schools is that the charters can send the non-performers and "culture breakers" (as they call them) back to the public schools for breach of contract. That puts the regular public schools at risk of simply becoming the default holding-pens for the behavior problems and chronic-low performers. This could be cured by having each public school that gets a bounced charter kid send in return a problem student of its choosing to the charter ...

BTW, re: your second commentator: You really do need to proofread your copy better, or hire a cheap copy editor. Something.

KDeRosa said...

Even having something as simple as an admission form is going to have selection bias effects.

If picking up and filling out an admission form is required, it's generally going to exclude the parents at the bottom of the barrel (and their offspring).

Dave R. said...

Ha! Point taken. I agree that the every-child-is-above-average attitude needs to go.

I do think its an error to assume public schools are doing the best they can now with the students they're given. Overall literacy has been sliding slowly since the 1940s. There is room for improvement for the middle and bottom quintiles, but the practical method of improving education for the masses is not likely to be found by educational elitists. It is likely to be more humble and basic in its goals. And competition in education can only help at this point.

Steve Sailer said...

Right. Now I recall that the reason I had to drop by the school was that they wouldn't mail out the results of the lottery. You had to drive by to find them out, which was another selection method to find out which parents really wanted to send their kids there.

Gene Berman said...

Dave R.:

There's evidence that literacy rates have been dropping longer than that, clear back to before there were public schools. I'd seen some reports on literacy from pre-1820 indicating 90+ percentages in the cities. In those days, there were more newspapers in the U.S. than in the rest of the world combined. DeToqueville commented on the high literacy even on the frontiers (AL,MI) of those days.

A couple years ago, there was an
8th-grade exit exam from Salinas, KS floating around on the web; I think it would have challenged most college students of today.

Anonymous said...

What was that bit in "30 Rock" about backdoor bragging?

Anonymous said...

It's not a race thing, btw: I'm thinking about White yobs here. - John of London

Are you prepared John for when its Black yobs being excluded at a higher rate per capita than white, in London that could even be in higher numbers not just per capita. Hope you can take the flak, the accusations of racism. that will inevitably be coming your way.

TCO said...

Bosun: XO, we caught this sailor. He's a thief.

XO: That's funny. He doesn't look like a thief.

Bosun: But, XO, he really is a thief.

XO: But he doesn't look like one.

Bosun: Ah...ok.

*Returns 15 minutes later with apprehended sailor who now looks like a thief.*

Anonymous said...

What I'd like to know is why not take some of these disruptive kids and get them into a heavily weighted vocational program. Some of them can probably work well with their hands.

I think a number of European school systems operate this way. Around the age of 15 students choose what track they want to take. They can change their minds later if they want to. In fact, isn't this they way the American public schools commonly used to work?

John of London said...

"Are you prepared John for when its Black yobs being excluded at a higher rate per capita than white".
In schools where Blacks are a large proportion of the disruptive kids, or disruption is even entirely due to an all-Black clique, then Blacks are also a large proportion of the victims, ie the kids who are being prevented from learning. So once again, it's not a race thing. No doubt both White racists and self-proclaimed Black Nationalists will say it is, but they're just wrong.
I used to know a man who went on and on and on about the harm "immigrants" and Blacks were doing in schools. The same man spoke contemptuously of schoolteachers as compared to manual workers, and boasted of his own defiant (as he saw it; ie disruptive) behaviour in his own schooldays (which he enjoyed). He endlessly complained about "Political correctness", but could never see that his own younger self had deserved a good clip round the ear, rather than the politically-correct sympathy for his "problems" that he had received. I think there are a lot like him.

Steve said...

@ Gene Berman:

You said "I'd seen some reports on literacy from pre-1820 indicating 90+ percentages in the cities."

Of course, at the time there were far fewer immigrants struggling (or not bothering to struggle) to learn the language. Also, that figure probably excludes almost the entire black population since almost all of them were still enslaved at the time. So, in actuality there was 90+ percent literacy among native whites. This probably hasn't changed much in 200 years. However, I wouldn't be surprised if the definition of "literacy" has been dumbed down since then.

JeremiahJohnbalaya said...

[Disclaimer: I haven't read this in detail]
This survey of studies on the results of vouchers programs indicates "9 of the 10 analyses show significant, positive effects for at least some subgroups of students."

I found it in an NRO post, The Early-Ed Big Lie [Adam Schaeffer], wherein Obama is taken to task for claiming that "$1 of early education leads to $10 in saved social services."

Gene Berman said...

Steve:

You're likely right about that, though I somehow (memory ain't what it used to be) believe that literacy was substantially higher here than in England (and that the prospects for writers of stuff that could sell on newstands was also good0. I remember reading that when Thomas Paine wrote anything, it sold like wildfire and almost everyone could quote from it (and, of course, that was even earlier).

Along these lines, it's irksome to hear the constant complaint from black activists that "it was against the law for them to read," etc. Many southern states did, indeed, pass such laws precisely because so many slave-owners taught their slaves, at least partly because it increased their practical value. I remember something written by an "abolitionist" Yankee to the effect that, when he'd spent time in the South, he frequently observed teachers hired to teach owners' kids teaching the black kids at the same time. He asked one such owner about this and was told that everybody did it, the law was just so they could arrest and prosecute any "outside troublemakers." Martha Washington taught school for slaves and white employees at Mt. Vernon.

Jefferson has been scuffed up a bit lately but his slaves had regular hours and, when "off," could come and go more or less as they pleased. Most actually chose to work for neighbor outfits for cash wages and were good customers at the local "general store," especially for imported crystal ware and Wedgewood china. Most also ran charge accounts and paid their bills monthly (from C-SPAN
documentary about 15 years ago).
Also hardly ever mentioned is that the largest slaveowner in the country was a black man named Harris with about 15000 slaves, whom he leased out in gangs, especially for construction projects, for which he had every type of trade specialty needed.

Another story (similar source) I found interesting is that a young slave in Georgia designed a covered bridge which was an enormous improvement on existing bridges. His owner applied for a patent (in the slave's name) and, when it came through, freed him and spent about $30K to set him up in a fine home in the black professional neighborhood of Charleston, SC as a consulting engineer; then applied for $10K
loan for him for working capital at a bank in Atlanta. They asked for his co-signature, which he refused, saying that, if they couldn't recognize a good loan when they saw one, another bank certainly would. The guy got the loan. Eventually, nearly every covered bridge in the country was built to that design (called the "Princess").

Truth said...

Yeah, those slave masters were wonderful human beings.

Gene Berman said...

Truth:

From time to time, you actually put up a well-made, valid point (though irregularly enough to make
your "handle" a point of ridicule).

Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.

The episodes I mentioned were not intended to minimize grievous injustice of the past but merely to suggest that whatever conditions existed were not nearly as monolitically cruel and barbaric as frequently portrayed, not only by those seeking to solidify and exploit resentments for present partisan political effect but also by those intent on a distortion of historical understanding for even longer-range propagandistic effect. Truth is whatever it happens to be. I am persuaded (whether rightly or not is beyond our ability to know) that neither you nor I (nor society at large) benefits by the absorption of myths and legends, especially those deliberately packaged for deceptive purpose.

You might disagree with me on any point stated; but, unless you are prepared to offer either factual evidence to falsify a version of events or a chain of logical statements in refutation of an expressed opinion, you further diminish whatever claim you feel you have to the "Truth" nom-de-plume.

Truth said...

"The episodes I mentioned were not intended to minimize grievous injustice of the past but merely to suggest that whatever conditions existed were not nearly as monolitically cruel and barbaric as frequently portrayed."

I think it is you that does not understand, my friend. Slavery was a horrible, terrible institution. Slavery was, however run by human beings, so their were some slave masters who were better than others, some were less violent, some were less callus, some were more caring, but let me tell you what sport; all of them BOUGHT AND SOLD HUMAN BEINGS. All of them denied a group of humans freedom which is the ultimate desire in life. Even moreso, to some degree, than food or shelter, if this were not the case, slave would have never run away.

Let me give you a appropriate example. Child molestation is widely considered a bad thing, certainly some molesters put these 7 and 8 year old boys and girls in nice feather beds, some fed them excellent meals, and maybe even gave them anaesthesia in order to lessen the pain but does that prove that in terms of child molestation "whatever conditions existed were not nearly as monolitically cruel and barbaric as frequently portrayed,"

I would say not, maybe you have a different idea. In my humble opinion there is NO saving grace to those who traffic human beings, you may differ, but how would you like to loan one of your children to one of these kind benevolent genetlemen?

Truth said...

By the way Gene, I understand that OJ bought his wife very expensive gifts.

Anonymous said...

John of London - In schools where Blacks are a large proportion of the disruptive kids, or disruption is even entirely due to an all-Black clique, then Blacks are also a large proportion of the victims, ie the kids who are being prevented from learning. So once again, it's not a race thing. No doubt both White racists and self-proclaimed Black Nationalists will say it is, but they're just wrong.

I note that whites get to be the racists and blacks get to be nationalists. So for starters lets change that to most self-proclaimed White nationalists and Black racists.

I'm not denying that disruptive pupils need to be dealt with whoever they are. I suspect that the measures to deal with this are going to fall harder per capita on Blacks than Whites. Are there significant numbers of cases where black pupils education is disrupted by Whites as opposed to the reverse? The hierarchy is much more like this - with no clear cutoff - Black kids disrupted by black kids, white kids disrupted by blacks, whites disrupted by whites. One relationship is, I suspect, going to be missing. There is a disparate impact racially. Removing the worst white offenders will mostly help other whites, removing the worst black offenders will help all.

I'd love to see stats somewhere for this, something which educational authorities must know but will guard like the Enigma secret. If they wanted the likes of you to win the non-racist argument they would pump those out 24/7. They don't. I wonder why?

See also black/white crime rates.

I used to know a man who went on and on and on about the harm "immigrants" and Blacks were doing in schools. etc etc

Argument from anecdote.

John of London said...

"I suspect that the measures to deal with this are going to fall harder per capita on Blacks than Whites."
Who cares? kick the sods out. And you've got it the wrong way round; tolerating disruptive behaviour falls on the kids who want to learn; they're the victims. There seems to be an assumption that kids are excluded for the convenience of teachers: everyone needs to be clear that it's protecting the rights of the other kids.
The other objection raised is "what will the excludees do then?" Irrelevant to exclusion; schools should not be holding camps.
"Argument by anecdote"; statistics aren't the whole truth. sometimes you have to know what people are like.
Gene Berman sounds EXACTLY like the pro-slavery propagandists of the 1840s who so infuriated Darwin (who had seen the reality), as described in "Darwin's Sacred Cause".

Gene Berman said...

Truth:

Whatever is your "case," I don't think you've advanced it even a little bit by your arguments, which boil down to maintaining that an impression shaped by political partisanship of one sort or another is superior to a more realistic understanding.

You can't, by words, transform me (or others) into advocates of slavery (or unequal political status). But it's plain that many ("black activists"--whether that includes you will be better determined by yourself than by me) wish to portray historical reality as different than actual, a process apparently intent on hardening, especially, attitudes of division, resentment, and hate.

I already cited the matter of reading. Let's take another, patently ridiculous, but widely retailed by those "in the business." I refer to the common canard that early ex-colonials, the founding nucleus of the U.S., considered blacks as "3/5ths of a person." In the first place, the "3/5ths rule" referred not to blacks but to slaves. Intent was not to reduce influence of the black population but the reverse--to prevent such numbers being used by slave states (where largest slave numbers were concentrated) using that to gain influence in Congress; intent was exactly reverse of that maintained by modern activists. (I don't assert intendion was to benefit slaves but nobody'd maintain eventual emancipation wouldn't be more difficult under a regime of more slaveowner representation on the backs of their slaves.)

Whether you or I like it or not, bondage of one form or another has been an almost constant feature of human civilization. A general committment to freedom for all peoples (as well as a committment to their political equality) is, by and large, not only a modern development but also one almost entirely due to the mental and physical activities--including war--of modern, capitalist-inclined, white men of almost exclusively European descent. Whether we like it or not (and I do and am thankful for it), much of the freedom enjoyed over the face of the world by people of every sort is due to the efforts of those very same people; not only black people but hundreds of millions of Japanese, Chinese, Russians, eastern European peoples, and many Muslims are among those similarly benefitted, however slightly they may be conscious of it.

It might also be worth noting (and you could, perhaps, benefit by "reading up" on it) that the ENTIRE theoretical PROOF of the complete unworkability of all forms of bondage (including that most thorogoing, commonly known as "socialism") is also a product of modern, European (and white and Jewish, as happens to be the case) thought (known as the "Austrian School" of economists).

Nor is it even permissible, Truth,
to consider slavery, in its various forms, as an unmitigated evil. Development and evolution of civilization included conflicts arising among our primitive forbears; slavery must be understood as a step "upward" from the only apparent alternative: extermination of defeated parties.
There exist hardly any, anywhere, who might very well not exist today but for someone's discovery in those dim recesses that a dead guy was just a dead guy but a living one might have some future value.

Anonymous said...

slavery must be understood as a step "upward" from the only apparent alternative: extermination of defeated parties.
There exist hardly any, anywhere, who might very well not exist today but for someone's discovery in those dim recesses that a dead guy was just a dead guy but a living one might have some future value.


Except that when slavery itself became a thriving business, it expanded and perpetuated itself. African tribes would enslave captured enemies, true, but when Arab and European slavers started paying big bucks, tribes massively increased the number of raids on their neighbors just for the purpose of selling the captives into slavery. Result: a lot more slaves AND dead people. Massive profit from international slave trading took a localized phenomenon and blew it up into a gigantic multinational enterprise that lasted for centuries.

You're really taking the wrong tack with Truth and not coming off too well. Much more effective to point out that slavery has existed at some point in ALL civilizations, and continues to exist in some parts of the world, and that plenty of white people were sold into slavery (the word "slave" comes from the word "Slav", a people who are as white as white gets), and that other people have managed to overcome slavery's rotten legacy.

Truth said...

"In the first place, the "3/5ths rule" referred not to blacks but to slaves."

And it was against the law to enslave a white person at this time, yes? So this is a distinction without a difference,

"But it's plain that many ("black activists"--whether that includes you will be better determined by yourself than by me) wish to portray historical reality as different than actual."

At times this is true, but I don't consider myself "black" or an "activist" so I would not qualify here. Any so-called "black activist" who portrays slavery as a blight on humanity would, in my opinion be right, not in yours?

"Intent was not to reduce influence of the black population."

People who are destined to be born into...and die into existence as slaves, cannot be taught to read or write and can be sold at the "owner"'s whimsy have no influence to begin with, so how can this be reduced?

"a process apparently intent on hardening, especially, attitudes of division, resentment, and hate."

I don't like hatemongers of any race, nor do I like people too obtuse to see what is blatantly obvious. Once again, the traffic of human beings is a bad thing, there is no saving grace in this. You did not answer whether you would have sacrificed your children to such an institution, now did you?

"Whether you or I like it or not, bondage of one form or another has been an almost constant feature of human civilization."

I agree with this, as a matter of fact, I realize that the term "slave" comes from "Slav" who were the chosen unpaid workforce of Rome, but, in the history in most parts of the world "slavery" was where one side lost a war, was taken into custody and forced into a few years of hard labor which ended and at that time he was granted land and a wife and inducted into the tribe. Birthright slavery was a European on African thing. Do your research. Now how different would this country have been if the slaves were released after, say 20 years, and given a peice of land and an (obviously white) wife and inducted into the greater "tribe?"

"Whether we like it or not (and I do and am thankful for it), much of the freedom enjoyed over the face of the world by people of every sort is due to the efforts of those very same people;"

Sure, as is most of the tyranny, hardship, murder, etc. etc. etc. I'm sorry buddy, I have nothing against "white men" as a whole, but the facts are the facts.

"Nor is it even permissible, Truth,
to consider slavery, in its various forms, as an unmitigated evil."

For the third and final time, would you subject your progeny to it?

"slavery must be understood as a step "upward" from the only apparent alternative: extermination of defeated parties."

You just wrote two paragraphs earlier that slavery is "an almost constant feature of human civilization." Therefore "extermination of defeated parties" is and was never the only apparent alternative. Your own words.

I think you confuse me my friend, I do not blame you for slavery, any more than I genuflect to you for inventing electricity, but slavery was a horrible, terrible institution and there is no level of literary gymnastics that can change this.

"and that other people have managed to overcome slavery's rotten legacy."

Yes, but in order for black people to be enslaved, they had to be considered "demons", "sub-humans" "animals" and the like. This is why white people were never enlaved in America, and why the native American slave experiments ended early...they simply looked to much like their "owners" to make it comfortable. This, not slavery, is what has been so difficult for black people to "just get over it."

Both of you guy should pick up the book "lies my teacher told me." It's an excellent read.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but in order for black people to be enslaved, they had to be considered "demons", "sub-humans" "animals" and the like. This is why white people were never enslaved in America, and why the native American slave experiments ended early...they simply looked to much like their "owners" to make it comfortable. This, not slavery, is what has been so difficult for black people to "just get over it."

Actually, there have been other examples of birthright slavery, in Africa and Southeast Asia. And the ancient Greeks often enslaved barbarians, whom they considered a lesser breed, innately inferior to the Greeks. (As for failed attempts to enslave the American Indians: it proved to be too difficult because the Indians were still connected to their tribes and tribal lands; they hadn't been atomized. But Africans who had been uprooted, atomized, and transported thousands of miles to an alien land and culture were much more easily broken for slavery.)

So, it's not as if other enslaved peoples had it so much easier than African slaves in America. The only real difference is elapsed time: the wounds of American slavery and Jim Crow aren't completely healed. But the grievance mongers and race hustlers like Sharpton and Jackson are just aggravating the problem and delaying the day when black Americans can finally let go of it and move on. (Yes, I know, I know. I'm not saying you like or approve of Sharpton & Co.)

Anonymous said...

John of London And you've got it the wrong way round; tolerating disruptive behaviour falls on the kids who want to learn; they're the victims. There seems to be an assumption that kids are excluded for the convenience of teachers: everyone needs to be clear that it's protecting the rights of the other kids.

Ive not anywhere advocated tolerating disruptive behaviour. Yes kick the sods out. But your repeated plaintive pleas that its got nowt to do with race dont stand up. The problem is that such measures will fall disproportionally on blacks.

Stand by for the anti-racist backlash. Getting the white left and the black grievance peddlers to come on-side with such a race blind conservative policy is doomed to failure under the current paradigm.

Ditto knife crime, gun crime, black single mothers, absentee black fathers. Getting policy makers/MSM to address these issues and notice the importance of race to them is nigh on impossible.

Anonymous said...

What's that? Truth went on another victimrant about slavery and again forgot to mention the 350 years during which North African Muslims enslaved European Christians? Could it be that the suffering of one million whites means nothing to this serial white-basher?

The question answers itself.