May 23, 2010

Now I finally get it

For a decade, there has been a growing fervor in the national (i.e., NY-DC) press over how teachers' unions are the chief impediment preventing our society from Closing The Gap, about how there are huge numbers of young Ivy League grads who only need to sleep 4 hours per night who are dying to become public school teachers in the 'hood but seniority rules keep aged timeservers in the classrooms betraying minority students.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine features a major article on this general theme every few issues. For example, today, there's "The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand" by Steven Brill. 

This assumption that there are a huge number of brilliant people out there who would love to teach in inner city schools if only all those impedimentia about job security and pensions are swept away has always struck me as slightly implausible, but I hear it all the time in the national press.

A commenter at Yglesias's site has finally clued me in to what's going on: in the two centers of the national media, NYC and DC, there really are a lot of bright, energetic, young, idealistic trustfunders with nothing much to do with their days. You graduated from Brown in 2005 with a degree in English, your Dad pays your rent in Park Slope and your credit card bill, and your fiance makes seven figures at Goldman. You've never finished writing that screenplay you've claimed to be working on while you sit around at the coffee shop, and you're starting to realize maybe you really aren't as creative as you thought you were. So, why not become an English teacher at a Harlem charter school? What a great idea. You'd be just like Hillary Swank in Freedom Writers! You'll collect material for a better screenplay! Or, at minimum, it will give you something to do all day, and you still come home to Park Slope.

And that's what you tell your college roommate who works at the NYT, and your fiance tells his boss who is on the board of a charter school charity with some trust fund guys, and pretty soon everybody who is anybody knows that The Gap is caused by having the wrong kind of people as teachers.

I'm sounding jaundiced, but some of these Park Slopers actually would turn out to be very good teachers.

But, there are definite limits to this vision peddled by the NY-DC elite press as national cure-all: nobody in Park Slope is going to move to Detroit to teach for the rest of their lives.

57 comments:

Fred said...

If the teachers union lifers were purged and swarms of Ivy-educated trustafarians rushed in to fill their places, that would would be one of the best things to ever happen to this country. Once a critical mass of these young elites got a taste of reality, their political views would shift inexorably to the right.

Alticor said...

This begs the question: WOULD bright young idealistic liberal white kids be capable of teaching jard-boiled Detroit kids-even the bright ones-even as well as not very bright old union protectees? I think that 95 IQ grizzled old NEA/AFT types might be a whole lot better in practice than 130 IQ idealistic young white kids at actually getting inner city blacks to learn what they are capable of learning.

The really effective teachers in my high school were the ones that weren't all that much smarter than the kids, but disciplined and determined. The really smart ones taught over the heads of half the class.

Anonymous said...

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052101847.html

Because if these five myths are really myths, then your inner city students can all make it to Brown too!

Harry Baldwin said...

Fred said...Once a critical mass of these young elites got a taste of reality, their political views would shift inexorably to the right.

Would they? When people don't form their views on a rational basis, they are unlikely to change them on a rational basis either. "You can't reason people out of opinions they didn't reason themselves into," as one of my friends says.

I have a very liberal acquaintance who is a public school teacher. She was telling me how her school had to discontinue the talented and gifted programs because they always filled up with whites and Asians. Did she draw an inference from this? Of course not.

Average Joe said...

Unfortunately, most of these new teachers would probably quit after a year of experiencing real minority students in Harlem and the south Bronx. Also, does anyone really believe that these teachers would have a shot in Hades of closing the gap between black and white students? All that would likely happen is that the mainstream media would have to come up with a new excuse for the gap.

Anonymous said...

that would would be one of the best things to ever happen to this country. Once a critical mass of these young elites got a taste of reality, their political views would shift inexorably to the right.

Say what you will about Mao, but I daresay one of his better ideas in the 1966-1976 timeframe was to periodically ship intellectuals by the trainload to shovel sh-t out in the provinces.

Anonymous said...

How many could there be though?

ABP said...

Maybe they'd shift to the right. Or, like my cousin, they'd retreat to communal organic farms in Oregon (or other SWPL pursuits).

Anonymous said...

Once a critical mass of these young elites got a taste of reality, their political views would shift inexorably to the right.

My Dad was a university professor, and he had a former student who did the whole urban schools teaching thing, for about two years, until the young man fled the school in terror, after having received [plausible] death threats from fifth-graders ["My big brutha be in da Crips and dey gonna kill yo white @$$" - or words to that effect].

Needless to say, the veil was lifted from his eyes.

Garland said...

This post is about me, except that I don't even have a spouse, let alone one at Goldman. When you hear about the suicide in Park Slope tomorrow (or whenever they find my body) I hope you'll be proud of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I am wondering what makes you think some of them they would turn out to be good teachers. Pedagogical skills have little to do with knowledge, mastery of one's field.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that trainee teachers are already about the most PC, multicultist group going. That was my experience at university (in the UK btw.

Yet we are asked to believe that one of the problems is the thinking and unthinking racism of teachers as a group. Well, if it is, they learned it on the job.

Doug1 said...

The main thing the teacher's unions do is protect the jobs of older incompetents, and shield them from performance reviews having an effect on their job security or even income. In "urban" schools, these are disproportionately black women , hired in a flush of affirmative action and primary importance beyond much else of racial role models.

Anonymous said...

This post is about me, except that I don't even have a spouse, let alone one at Goldman. When you hear about the suicide in Park Slope tomorrow (or whenever they find my body) I hope you'll be proud of yourself.

This is a joke, right?

[Sometimes I can't tell when people here are being facetious.]

Whiskey said...

Mao was a disaster. One of my Professors at Tsinghua (briefly during my brief stay there) had been sent down to shovel dung with the peasants. What that did was basically ruin careers for pretty much every professional, from accountants to physicists, and set China back a good twenty to thirty years in technology and infrastructure building.

So that, as Mark Steyn noted, they'll get old before they get rich.

Would sending trustafarians to teach inner-city kids do much of anything? Nope. It won't change scores or behavior a bit. It won't change the trustafarians. Or the kids.

I suspect that the driving force behind it is the drying up of some of that money sloshing around Park Slope and Georgetown. As bonuses, a down Wall Street, and global recession take their toll.

Hence the idea of getting the kids of the minor nobility a sinecure, like purchasing a commission in the Army or Navy, or getting a Parish, used to be for the minor English gentry in Jane Austen's novels. If the money is running low, its a good plan.

agnostic said...

I worked at a tutoring center full of people like that for a couple years before grad school.

Their political views would become stronger to the left, if anything. Once you see how hopeless it is to Close the Gap -- whatever improvements you may be able to make to this or that individual -- you become even more convinced of just how powerfully, insidiously rigged the system is against NAMs, if that was already your suspicion when you came in.

However, your views on order and discipline sure do shift to the right. That's just basic survival when dealing with savages.

So the typical outcome is someone who is a hardcore blank slatist and Close the Gap worshiper, but who aims to square the circle by drill sergeant methods rather than by having them chant "I Am Lovable And Capable."

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

Steve, I am wondering what makes you think some of them they would turn out to be good teachers. Pedagogical skills have little to do with knowledge, mastery of one's field."

Indeed, knowledge, and knowledge of an actual field, let alone mastery of it, have little to do with a university degree these days.

Mr. Anon said...

It would be fun to ses the I-bankers and their spawn, and the teachers unions - two important constituents of the Democratic party's support base - turn on each other.

Toadal said...

Steve said:
But, there are definite limits to this vision peddled by the NY-DC press as national cure-all: nobody in Park Slope is going to move to Detroit to teach.

However the idle brilliant could simply move to Washington DC and teach at our nation's capitol inner city schools and be paid reasonably well. It costs $24,600 annually to educate each child enrolled in the DC public school system. A princely sum that is 65% greater than number #2, New York, which only spends $15981 annually per pupil. Both the District of Columbia and federal taxpayers underwrite the district's school expenses since the 49,422 student school system (2007-08 school year) receives both local and federal funding.

This public outlay of $24,600 is somewhat below the $30,842 President Obama pays annually for each of his daughters, Sasha and Malia, at Sidwell Friends School, but the amount is around $10,000 more than other DC area private schools.

And what do federal and DC taxpayers receive for this annual sum?

Little to nothing really, the 2009 NAEP 8th grade average reading score for public students enrolled in Washington DC is 242, twenty points lower than the US average at 262. A comparison of DC NAEP scores with two sample states at a higher latitude, Idaho and Utah for example, is quite interesting. Idaho and Utah spend approximately $6,625 and $5,683 apiece and rank 49th and 50th nationally in spending per pupil, yet their 2009 NAEP Reading scores are better than the US average at 265 and 266.

Anyone care to emigrate to a less wasteful country?

Steve Sailer said...

"So the typical outcome is someone who is a hardcore blank slatist and Close the Gap worshiper, but who aims to square the circle by drill sergeant methods rather than by having them chant "I Am Lovable And Capable.""

Good insight. That explains a lot.

Anonymous said...

By going after teachers, states ironically deprived themselves of a golden opportunity to get smart people into the profession. After the recession, there were fewer openings in the private sector for bright people entering the workforce. The traditional benefits given to teachers (job security, benefits, flexible hours) also started looking more appealing.

In other words, this was the first chance in a long time to convince high IQ people that going into teaching would be a good career move (not just resume padding like Teach for America). However, with the Race to the Top and growing stigma towards teachers, the chance was missed.

agnostic said...

(Whoops, I meant "savages" to refer to pre-adults, not NAMs.)

Bill said...

Fred said . . .
Ivy-educated trustafarians . . . political views would shift inexorably to the right.

I've always wondered why experienced social workers are such right wing fanatics. Thanks for clearing that up.

Anonymous said...

Thought this post was going to be about Lost and got a little too excited.

Toadal said...

Anonymous said...
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052101847.html

Because if these five myths are really myths, then your inner city students can all make it to Brown too!

1. Admissions officers have figured out how to reward merit above wealth and connections.

A 2004 Century Foundation study found that at the most selective universities and colleges, 74 percent of students come from the richest quarter of the population, while just 3 percent come from the bottom quarter. Rich kids can't possibly be 25 times as likely to be smart as poor kids, so wealth and connections must still matter.


The author's statement is an utter logical non sequitur. What does a 3 percent acceptance rate from the poor have to do with being only 3% as smart? Mr Kahlenberg is embarrassing as a writer, however, in the Idiocracy of Washington Post readers, I can see dummies nodding their heads in agreement.

Big bill said...

Toadal, those $25k (I heard $28k) DC school figures are the cost of EVERYTHING: paper, snowshoveling, pensions, lunch ladies, new roof, everything.

OneSTDV said...

You graduated from Brown in 2005 with a degree in English, your Dad pays your rent in Park Slope and your credit card bill, and your fiance makes seven figures at Goldman. You've never finished writing that screenplay you've claimed to be working on while you sit around at the coffee shop, and you're starting to realize maybe you really aren't as creative as you thought you were. So, why not become an English teacher at a Harlem charter school? What a great idea. You'd be just like Hillary Swank in Freedom Writers! You'll collect material for a better screenplay! Or, at minimum, it will give you something to do all day, and you still come home to Park Slope.

Before I started reading the Steveosphere, I thought I was the only person noticing this. Thank God I'm not crazy.

Anonymous said...

"So the typical outcome is someone who is a hardcore blank slatist and Close the Gap worshiper, but who aims to square the circle by drill sergeant methods rather than by having them chant "I Am Lovable And Capable.""

Reminds me of Governor Moonbeam's endorsement of military academies when he was running for mayor of Oakland.

http://n.pr/c1li87

Melykin said...

On 60 Minutes tonight they did a story on the SEED school, which is a boarding school for kids from the inner city. In 20 years students of this school will probably blame all their problems on the evil school they were forced into after being ripped away from their family and culture.

That is how it worked in Canada when native kids were taken away from their drunk, abusive parents and put in residential schools. Now ALL the problems the natives have are blamed on the fact that they (or their parents or grandparents) were in residential schools. The governments and churches (who ran the schools) try to outdo each other grovelling and apologizing, also giving large financial settlements to the former students.

CJ said...

As somebody with a lot of direct experience with working in education, teacher unions, and SWPL educators, I'm actually impressed by most of the comments on this thread. Just a couple of tweaks:

I think that 95 IQ grizzled old NEA/AFT types might be a whole lot better in practice than 130 IQ idealistic young white kids at actually getting inner city blacks to learn what they are capable of learning.

Agree with everything you say, but few teachers or trustafarian prospective teachers have an IQ of 130. In my experience 105 to 115 is more like it; trustafarians are the dumber siblings of accomplished families. If they were smarter they'd be lawyers or doctors or something such. Resentment of their more successful relatives is a common issue.

Even the readers here may not realize just how dumb a lot of teachers are nowadays. Many middle-aged people don't believe me when I tell them that an IQ of 90 is perfectly sufficient to graduate from college, get a teaching certificate, and get a job teaching, but I've observed many cases of semi-literates who've done just that.

Would exposure to ghetto realities make trustafarians and other high-minded SWPL lifeforms more realistic? Well, some of them yes, but these people have developed a formidable immune system against thoughtcrime contamination. Do not the hipsters of the Bay Area know all about Oakland? Do not many leftists go to extreme lengths to live in safe neighborhoods (and drive safe cars, eat safe foods, wear safe clothes, but when it comes to politics demand revolutionary change)?

"It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into."

That's the original wording by Jonathan Swift.

Silver said...

If the teachers union lifers were purged and swarms of Ivy-educated trustafarians rushed in to fill their places, that would would be one of the best things to ever happen to this country. Once a critical mass of these young elites got a taste of reality, their political views would shift inexorably to the right.

The smarter they are the more likely they are to explain away their observations in terms of environment. It doesn't matter that environment's been done to death; smart as they are they don't have time to completely familiarize themselves with the material so there's ample room to tweak, tweak, tweak. The determination to believe in (significant) human malleability trumps all; and/or the despair that heredity threatens seems insurmountable. (Of course the latter isn't insurmountable at all. Once you get over the "wow" factor, it's actually very easy (and often fun) to accept the ways in which heredity basically fits people into life's various slots. There's nothing inherently [ba-bump] left or right wing about it.)

eh said...

...but some of these Park Slopers actually would turn out to be very good teachers.

Black children from the wealthiest families have mean SAT scores lower than white children from families below the poverty line.

Black children of parents with graduate degrees have lower SAT scores than white children of parents with a high-school diploma or less.


I'm sure most of these black kids with wealthy and well-educated parents have good teachers already.

I'm sounding jaundiced,...

Get some sun now and then.

Fred said...

"I've always wondered why experienced social workers are such right wing fanatics. Thanks for clearing that up."

How many veteran social workers have you known? The ones I've known have shifted their political views to the right -- not to the point where they are "right wing fanatics", but further to the right than where they started. The typical progression seems to be liberal Dem to centrist Dem.

Garland said...

"This is a joke, right?"

Well, partly.

"Their political views would become stronger to the left,"

Agreed.

l said...

And here I thought that current teachers weren't doing a good job because we don't pay them enough.

Memo to coffeehouse intellectuals/trust fund layabouts: Teaching jobs are available. You might have to teach for a couple of years in a crummy white suburban school before you can get a coveted ghetto school position. Just look at that prospect as "paying your dues."

Nicholas Heller said...

So the typical outcome is someone who is a hardcore blank slatist and Close the Gap worshiper, but who aims to square the circle by drill sergeant methods rather than by having them chant "I Am Lovable And Capable."

Still an improvement.

Anonymous said...

Rich kids can't possibly be 25 times as likely to be smart as poor kids

Uhh, I think that's PRECISELY the point of HBD "theory", the Central Limit Theorem, and the exponential [& square!] decay of a Gaussian.

When you're off by a standard deviation or more [i.e. two or three or four standard deviations], the rich kids most certain CAN be 25 times as likely to be smart as the poor kids.

Heck, just off the top of my head, I bet that the factor is VASTLY greater than 25 [almost certainly greater than 250 or even 2500] when e.g. comparing the children in Manhattan who grow up below 110th Street [opposite Central Park] with the children who grow up above 110th Street [in Harlem - or whatever the modern boundaries of Harlem amount to].

Anonymous said...

Still an improvement.

Yeah, that's what I was thinking, as well.

If somehow* we could work our way back to Jim-Crow-era norms of behavior, and flip the black illegitimacy/legitimacy rate from 75%/25% down to 25%/75%, then that alone would have a monumentally beneficial impact for our society.



*If pigs could fly, and whatnot...

Anonymous said...

Toadal, those $25k (I heard $28k) DC school figures are the cost of EVERYTHING: paper, snowshoveling, pensions, lunch ladies, new roof, everything.

I think that's kinda the point.

Anonymous said...

Well, partly.

Hopefully it was the part about committing suicide.

Dude - don't joke about stuff like that.

Thrasymachus said...

I have long believed the ruling class is shameless and getting worse. But this may be an exception. The primary contact the responsible drones have with the state is the school system. And the primary way the state controls and influences these people is the school system. If the school system is highly disfunctional it embarrasses and harms the credibility of the state. It has to work at least somewhat.

Doug1 points out that the job of the unions is to protect older incompetents. I suspect teaching is, for most, a job with a high burnout factor and not something you can do well for 40 years. But unions are there for 20 to 40 year careers, not 2 or 3 year learning experiences.

As we have seen from the guy who got arrested in DC, the whole Ivy League goes to the inner city thing is undoable. Inner city schools have a way of functioning, sort of, because the lower middle-class minority teachers understand and can deal with their charges. Black kids are not going to listen to an upper middle-class white teacher.

Obsidian said...

Steve,
Interesting take on things, and informs me on another aspect of the never ending status war among Whites that I hadn't considered previously. But that's another post/comment for another time.

What I would like to ask you is this, since you brought up Motown - what do you propose be done there to turn things around? To date, I cannot recall you writing about this issue and your take on what needs to be done.

I just got finished watching a Bloggingheads conversation between Brown U economics profs Glenn Loury and Ross Levine, who took up the question - if GM could be bailed out, why not the city of Detroit? Perhaps you might consider checking it out and giving your thoughts on the matter. Thanks.

O.

Anonymous said...

This topic would be incomplete without remembering Jonathan M. Levin . RIP.

Anonymous said...

I doubt if very many people actually think that having wealthy, young and privileged white persons teach ghetto blacks will do much for those kids. That's not the point.

These whites are feeling guilty. They want to suffer and sacrifice.

"God so loved the world that he gave his only son...". They want to be Christlike.

Jerry Brown - running for Governor again - knows about this sort of thing. Do you think that he went to India and cleaned bed pans so as to improve South Asian hygiene? Do you think he made an impact on the Indian "poopy pants" problem?

Wasting your time in ghetto schools is an indulgence of the teacher not a service to the students.

- Albertosaurus

alonzo portfolio said...

I went to school with a S.F. rich kid who eschewed law practice for teaching public middle school. But Daly City isn't Detroit, or even Oakland.

David said...

Garland, there is life beyond Park Slope. I moved from there to the South. Stay sane and don't hurt yourself, y'hear?

Anonymous said...

What I would like to ask you is this, since you brought up Motown - what do you propose be done there to turn things around? To date, I cannot recall you writing about this issue and your take on what needs to be done.

I dont know what would Steve would say but I suspect all the allowable solutions - like a bail out - are futile.

The solutions which would work for Detroit are off the table.

And what is 'Detroit', a collection of buildings and/or the people within?

A major part of the problem is the people within, no easy fixes in sight there.

l said...

These whites are feeling guilty. They want to suffer and sacrifice.

They like the idea of sacrifice. They never do it themselves. They rig it so other whites make sacrifices to assuge their guilt.

Ray Sawhill said...

Y'all probably know this Onion classic already, but if not ...

http://onion.com/ccM9jO

Toadal said...

Big bill said...

Toadal, those $25k (I heard $28k) DC school figures are the cost of EVERYTHING: paper, snowshoveling, pensions, lunch ladies, new roof, everything.


Sorry for the slowness of the reply ...

Andrew J. Coulson of the Cato Institute gives a pretty good analysis and account of Washington DC public school spending, however, if you have some public spending budgetary insight I lack and he ignores, please check the link below and reply.

The latest available version of the 2007-08 local operating budget for DC (.xls file) can be found on the website of the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. The relevant line items for our purposes are:

DC Public Schools: $806,251,000
Teachers’ Retirement System: $6,000,000
“State” Education Office: $28,753,000
Department of Education: $2,367,000

Before summing these up to get the local operating subtotal, we have to subtract inapplicable funds from the “State” Education Office item. About $5 million of that funding is for higher education programs, and the agency’s k-12 services cover charter schools as well as district schools. To account for this, I first subtract the $5 million and then pro-rate the remaining balance based on district schools’ share of local public school enrollment (.707), for an adjusted SEO value of $16.8 million. That brings the total local operating budget for district schools to: $831.4 million. [Note that the SEO was recently reorganized and renamed “the Office of the State Superintendent of Education,” but while some responsibilities have shifted from the district level to the new OSSE, bringing their funding with them, this reorganization does not change the overall combined operating budget for the two entities.]

Brian said...

Wasn't Park Slope at one time an Irish/Italian blue collar enclave?

stari_momak said...

Wouldn't Occam's razor, as supplemented by the fighter pilot's decision sequence say that teachers are just the latest 'factor' to blame. We tried desegregation, and that didn't work, we tried more money, and that didn't work, we tried 'afrocentric curricula' and that didnt' work, well, let's try blaming the teachers.

David said...

>Wasn't Park Slope at one time an Irish/Italian blue collar enclave?<

Significant gentrification took place there as recently as the 1990s.

stari_momak said...

BTW whatever happened to the supposedly 'white' teachers who had their 8 year old charges celebrate OJ, RuPaul, and Rodman during black history (tm) month? That story was memory holed, but if the teachers really were white, a couple of burnt out 'Teach for America' kids were probably the culprits.

David Davenport said...

... if GM could be bailed out, why not the city of Detroit? Perhaps you might consider checking it out and giving your thoughts on the matter. Thanks.



GM's non fleet sales market share is still deteriorating, and GM's UAW pension problems haven't actually been fixed.

In short, Gooberment Motors is living on welfare life support.

Anonymous said...

The only thing that could help Detroit is to get a better quality of people living there. That could be done with replacement of the current population or with eugenics over several generations.

Anonymous said...

That could be done with replacement of the current population or with eugenics over several generations.

Lately Komment Kontrol has frowned on me trying to make this point, but my gut instinct is that - all other things being equal - it takes roughly 1000 years to breed a single points' worth of average IQ increase into a population.

Furthermore, that's a best case scenario - it's entirely possible that populations could persist for tens thousands of years with no increase in IQ, and even with steady declines in IQ.

Intelligence is just EXCEEDINGLY RARE in human history - we are misled into believing that intelligence is predominant because only intelligent people leave behind records of themselves.

[From the historian's perspective, it's sort of like survivorship bias - except that most historians don't seem to realize this.]