December 17, 2013

My new Taki's column: Education-Industrial Complex

From my new column in Taki's Magazine:
During the Vietnam War, a famous protest bumper sticker read: 
It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber. 
But these days, spending on quick fixes for education is approaching levels similar to the military-industrial complex. For example, Los Angeles school superintendent John Deasy plans to pay Apple a billion dollars to furnish every student with an iPad and software (some of which hasn’t gone through the formality of existing yet). 
While the Air Force’s notoriously expensive B-2 Stealth Bomber program cost $45 billion from 1979 to 2004, the LAUSD iPad rollout, if scaled up to the entire country, would total about $75 billion. 
That’s a lot of Rice Krispies Treats. 
A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon we ought to be talking about real management. Unfortunately, the education industry approaches aerospace-sized projects with more starry-eyed optimism than is prudent for a bake sale, much less a war.

Read the whole thing there to see what lessons we can learn for education reform management from a successful military innovation: the invention of stealth technology.

44 comments:

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention both Mathias Rust and his low-tech plane and the fact the Serbs managed to shoot the stealth bomber down in 1999.

But you get an "A" with respect to your comments on education....

pestered by sequesters said...

Considering Bruce Dern's strong Oscar buzz of late they canceled that $297 million blimp just in time.

important difference said...

The Navy would never have approved that LEMV project, it'd only inevitably get hijacked by Bruce Dern and/or John McCain

Goslings I have met said...

With West Point & Annapolis & CO Springs they've managed to combine old-fashioned DoD waste with edu-fad waste. I await the thoroughly footnoted response of iSteve commenter "David M" who probably has a Google alert out whenever the Black Knights need another shot of Hill+Knowlton

Anonymous said...

Yea why didn't you mention a foreign power shooting down an America plane Steve. The real hero are the Serbs and the Soviets of course why didn't you mention Richard Powers getting shot down. Why don't you renounce your citizenship huh Steve huh. What are you some kind of patriotic sheep. I bet you said the pledge of allegiance without crossing your fingers.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention both Mathias Rust and his low-tech plane and the fact the Serbs managed to shoot the stealth bomber down in 1999.

That was actually an F-117 , not the B-2 Steve was referencing. The F-117 cost quite a bit less than the B-2 I believe.

heaviside said...

The Serbs shot down an F-117, not a B-2.

Anonymous said...

The real hero are the Serbs and the Soviets of course why didn't you mention Richard Powers getting shot down.

Richard Powers? You, sir, are a monument to the modern education-industrial complex. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Education and military are alike in this sense.

In the military, we don't expect every soldier to be officer material, let alone four star general material. We don't expect every soldier to qualify for Navy Seals. We don't expect every military technician to be an ace engineer-innovator coming up with new technology. Most soldiers are scaled for their natural ability--mediocre--and taught to do basic stuff, like how to use guns and grenades. And most of this happens through discipline, acceptance of hierarchy, and drilling.

And everyone is ok with that.

Similarly, in the real world, we know that most people are not gonna be Bill Gates. They are not gonna go to Ivy League university. Most people don't have the mental power to be creative or innovative. The most we can hope for of most people is that they will find some useful but unspectacular job and have enough discipline to become good at it.

And yet, educators still keep dreaming of turning every kid into Steve Jobs.. which is like people in the military dreaming that every soldier will be a general.

Anonymous said...

Even though military technology is hellishly expensive, maybe they are a bargain because it did produce awesome weapons systems. It paid off.

But what about spending at the lower rungs of technology like $700 hammers? It seems a lot of money is spent with no good results.

And I'll bet men who manage funds at higher levels for advanced technology are more principled and honest than the men who manage funds at the lower levels for basic supplies and other goods. I'll bet much get pilfered and stolen, not least because lots of negroes, hispanics, and hillbillies manage offices at lower levels.

Anonymous said...

I'll bet much get pilfered and stolen, not least because lots of negroes, hispanics, and hillbillies manage offices at lower levels.

Ahhh, the Triple Entente of corruption: negroes, hispanics and hillbillies. If we could just get all those negroes, hispanics and hillbillies out of Washington and Wall Street we could clean up this country pronto.

Anonymous said...

"The real hero are the Serbs and the Soviets of course why didn't you mention Richard Powers getting shot down."

Everyone knows Richard Powers U2 incident went down the memory hole after George Kennedy became president.

slumber_j said...

Off-topic, for which I apologize, but a Harvard student named Eldo Kim has been charged with Monday's finals-cancelling bomb hoax. In this case, the Kim in question issued his bomb threat to get out of an impending exam--rather than, say, to get the US to send fuel oil or whatever.

I'd like to meet the Tiger Mom behind this one:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/17/harvard-student-charged-in-bomb-hoax/

Military First!!!

cecil said...

Toys for most of the kids in lieu of developing their minds.

Will look good to educators and parents, but won't produce results.

We already see that educators are not into producing thinking and knowledge in students.

Instead they simply serve to justify their own profession.

adhequ 2 said...

"For example, Los Angeles school superintendent John Deasy plans to pay Apple a billion dollars to furnish every student with an iPad and software (some of which hasn’t gone through the formality of existing yet)."

Un-freakin-believable that Apple would charge money like that for their 10 cent crap and yes, that's what it is. Not the brainpower that goes into making it but the raw materials.

Jesus. Apple should GIVE their existing stock to the kids.

No - it won't close the education gap, but it would be a nice gesture, and one that they can afford.

Effing Andrew Carnegie was an anti-union bastard, but he did build libraries at his own expense.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnegie_library

OK, I'm not sure he foot the entire bill, but he was the prime mover behind them, and it created jobs, dammit, in the communities where they were built.

Screw Apple.

(Pathetic, isn't it. I can scream all I want, and the f*cks who run Apple will still be billionaires.)

Anonymous said...

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/12/16/mandela-event-signer-was-in-group-that-burned-men/4037851/

12 Minutes A Negro in Flames(over stealing a TV).

Eric said...

I'm glad you used the term "education industry" rather than "schools", because this kind of wild spending tends to be done more by outside ed reformers than by regular school districts, which are usually fairly parsimonious.

carol said...

What's really depressing is how here in flyover, some gypsy school superintendent can make a huge salary (by local standards) simply by recycling a fad from somewhere else.. in our case, the hustler copped "Graduation Matters!" from back East.

Yes, graduation really really matters (to our budget), and if you dropouts come back and keep your butt in the seat just a while longer, we'll make sure you get that diploma!

The Rotary crowd think he's a genius.

Les Elkins said...

It's been quite a while since I read "Skunk Works", but two things stick out in my memory. The first was Kelly touting the SR-71's near invulnerability to SAM's, followed by a pilot's account of how nervous he was when flying over the USSR due to the SAM threat. The second was Kelly touting their stealth ship as an ideal anti-air platform and how dumb the Navy was not to get that, and then me thinking about what happens when you take a stealthy ship and mount air search radars on it (essentially a huge "I Am Here" sign for anyone with a detector more complex than a Fuzzbuster).

Henry Canaday said...

One simple way to refute the nonsensical allegation that military spending is driven by the military-industrial complex and rigidly unrelated to need is to look at Defense spending as a fraction of GDP, which has swung widely over the years, doubling or halving frequently as wars, hot or cold, waxed or waned. The same wild gyrations characterize counts of uniformed military personnel, Defense Department staff and civilian Defense workers.

You can always argue that military spending is too high (or too low) for any given set of conditions, but the proposition that it is not driven by at least the perception of need is absurd, given its extreme volatility.

Then take a similar look at the fraction of GDP consumed by domestic spending and its major components, such as education and the various entitlement categories. These metrics display exactly the kind of constant or constantly increasing levels that one would expect if spending were driven by the heavily organized interests of voter-recipients, rather than changing needs.

Sure, education and provision for the poor and elderly do not vary as suddenly or dramatically in importance as war-related activities do. But neither do these domestic challenges relentlessly increase across every dimension. For example, the U.S. population is generally longer lived, healthier and wealthier today than it was 50 years ago. Shouldn’t that mean that at least come categories of income assistance for at least some portion of the population should be declining in importance? And the digital revolution in information technology has brought significant gains in productivity across many industries. Should it not also bring productivity gains in education, thus reducing expenditure per pupil, not just form another capital expenditure requirement? After all, education is in large part the transfer of information, which is where the revolution has occurred.

Paul Mendez said...

A little OT, but does anyone know a home-schooling co-op or a conservative private school that collects the "labels for education" off Campbell soup cans and such???

Jeff W. said...

Ambrose Burnside was more to blame for the Battle of the Crater than was U.S. Grant.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Crater#Background

"Burnside, whose reputation had suffered from his 1862 defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg and his poor performance earlier that year at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, gave Pleasants the go-ahead."

Anonymous said...

http://www.nj.com/camden/index.ssf/2013/12/only_3_students_scored_college-ready_in_camden.html#incart_river_default

Only 3 youths from camden are "college ready" There are too many statistical selection bias issues here. First of all, tons of students drop out, tons of students don't take the test. What is a "college ready" SAT score? Absolute numbers vs. percentages?

Anonymous said...

"Harvard student named Eldo Kim has been charged with Monday's finals-cancelling bomb hoax."

Bomb threat to cancel an exam? Only an Asian could come up with such stuff.

Gubbler of the Society of Reformed Chechenistics said...

In some troubled schools, instead of passing out iPads to all students, paddles should be passed out to all teachers.

Maybe we can make one called iPaddle. It digitally suggests how much paddling a student should get.

Anonymous said...

With so much porn on the internet, students might turn iPads into iPuds.

Anonymous said...

"what happens when you take a stealthy ship and mount air search radars on it (essentially a huge "I Am Here" sign for anyone with a detector more complex than a Fuzzbuster)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_probability_of_intercept_radar

"A low-probability-of-intercept radar (LPIR) is designed to be difficult to detect by passive radar detection equipment (such as a radar warning receiver – RWR) while it is searching for a target or engaged in target tracking. This characteristic is desirable in a radar because it allows finding and tracking an opponent without alerting them to the radar's presence.

"Ways of reducing the profile of a radar include using wider-frequency bandwidth (wideband), frequency hopping, using a frequency-modulated continuous-wave signal, and using only the minimum power required for the task. Using pulse compression also reduces the probability of detection, since the peak transmitted power is lower while the range and resolution is the same.

"Constructing a radar so as to emit minimal side and back lobes may also reduce the probability of interception when it is not pointing at the radar warning receiver. However, when the radar is sweeping a large volume of space for targets, it is likely that the main lobe will repeatedly be pointing at the RWR. Modern phased-array radars not only control their side lobes, they also use very thin, fast-moving beams of energy in complicated search patterns. This technique may be enough to confuse the RWR so it does not recognize the radar as a threat, even if the signal itself is detected. All military EM (EM) emitters, including fighter aircraft, naval ships, and missile systems are designed for reduced electromagnetic profiles for improved stealth.[citation needed]

"In addition to stealth considerations, reducing side and back lobes is desirable as it makes the radar more difficult to characterise. This can increase the difficulty in determining which type it is (concealing information about the carrying platform) and make it much harder to jam.

"Systems that feature LPIR include modern active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars such as that on the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the electronically steered phased array on the S-300PMU-2 missile.

Anonymous said...

"That was actually an F-117 , not the B-2 Steve was referencing. The F-117 cost quite a bit less than the B-2 I believe."

The difference between the F-117 and B-2 vis-a-vis air defense radar is the fact that the B-2 is larger and low band VHF radar (meter sized) aren't as subject to Raleigh scattering and hence detection.

http://www.ausairpower.net/APA-Rus-Low-Band-Radars.html

"The physics of radar scattering depend to a large extent on the size of the radar wavelength vs the physical size of the target. In the Raleigh scattering regime, the wavelength is similar or greater in magnitude to the physical size of the target, and the magnitude of the reflection is essentially proportional to the physical size of the target. As the wavelength is reduced, the resonant region is entered, where the wavelength is comparable in size to key shaping features on the target, and the magnitude of the reflection fluctuates strongly with wavelength and aspect. Finally, in the optical scattering regime, target shaping can be used to precisely control the magnitude and direction of reflections. The high effectiveness of stealth designs against decimetric and centimetric band radars reflects the reality that for most aircraft sizes, these wavelengths are a tenth to a hundredth of the size of key shaping features (Author)."

Paul Mendez said...

To my two commenting rules I wish Steve would enact (No anonymous posts, and no posts with links that are not live) I add a third:

"No posts that quote Wikipedia about ANYTHING."

Seriously -- do you think any of the readers of iSteve don't already know how to use Wikipedia?

Cail Corishev said...

"What's really depressing is how here in flyover, some gypsy school superintendent can make a huge salary (by local standards) simply by recycling a fad from somewhere else."

Yes, it's really pathetic. There's nothing a small-town school (or government) likes better than to hire someone from a big city who will teach us rubes how things are done. Lots of small-town folks have big-city envy, but school and government workers have it in spades.

Thing is, the schools are so regulated that the new guy's ideas, if he has any at all, are irrelevant. There are few things he can change, and most are for the worse. His main job is trying to wheedle or browbeat the public into paying more taxes for the schools. Usually in the end he's paid to go away under some sort of sealed agreement where the taxpayers aren't allowed to know why -- did he diddle one of the kids, or just a teacher? -- and then we start the search for another big-city genius.

Cail Corishev said...

Bomb threat to cancel an exam? Only an Asian could come up with such stuff.

Or anyone who watched the movie Road Trip.

Anonymous said...

Yea I got Gary powers confused with Richard powers the guy who wrote the Hoover biography I just read sorry that the confusion completely obscured my meaning. Obviously no one knew who I was referring to.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Francis Gary Powers, I'm still trying to get my head around his being "shot down". Delicate plane
at 65,000+ feet gets shot down and the plane and the pilot both survive relatively intact.

Anonymous said...

"Seriously -- do you think any of the readers of iSteve don't already know how to use Wikipedia?"

Do you click every link that shows up? No. I bet most of what you know was obtained on the way to something else.

Lots of us LIKE being anonymous, thank you. It allows us to comment without any strings attached.

What happens when you DON'T allowanonymous comments? I heard the Chicago Tribune's John Kass say on WLS-AM that since the Chicago Tribune implemented a non-registered user "No Comment" that it kept out the 'racist riff-raff' i.e. the HBD crowd.

Anonymous said...

I for one am very glad that Steve has his liberal comments policy.

Anonymous said...

Steve
Great take down of the ed system and you didn't even get into the ideology/brainwashing side, my main beef with it. Hanging with Ed Realist?

Steve Sailer said...

I knew who Francis Gary Powers was since I was 11: he was the freeway traffic reporter in local radio station KGIL's helicopter.

Steve Sailer said...

"Speaking of Francis Gary Powers, I'm still trying to get my head around his being "shot down"."

So did President Eisenhower -- he assumed the U-2 pilot was dead, so he lied about the mission being a weather forecasting research project that had accidentally strayed over the USSR. Very embarrassing when Powers showed up alive in a Moscow jail -- this scrubbed the 1960 summit conference with Nikita K. It probably got JFK elected.

Anonymous said...

And yet, educators still keep dreaming of turning every kid into Steve Jobs.. which is like people in the military dreaming that every soldier will be a general.

No ... educrats keep trying to turn every dumb kid into Steve Jobs, and every smart kid into a factory drone.

Mr. Anon said...

"Who wants to read the memoirs of Dilbert’s boss?"

That isn't fair to Ben Rich. The Pointy-Headed Boss in Dilbert is an idiot, who knows nothing but "management". Rich started out as an engineer, and worked as one for many years before entering management. That's what distinguishes a good technical manager - they have to understand the technical side as well as the managerial. Many managers nowadays do not.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""The real hero are the Serbs and the Soviets of course why didn't you mention Richard Powers getting shot down.""

Everyone knows Richard Powers U2 incident went down the memory hole after George Kennedy became president."

Yeah, his Vice-President and Attorney General, Don Johnson and Bobby Troup, saw to that.

Mr. Anon said...

Were there not once rumors that Powers plane may have actually been brought down by a bomb planted in it by soviet agents at the airbase in Turkey? I remember hearing that once.

Anonymous said...

8/13, 5:27 AM

 slumber_j said...

"Off-topic, for which I apologize, but a Harvard student named Eldo Kim has been charged with Monday's finals-cancelling bomb hoax. In this case, the Kim in question issued his bomb threat to get out of an impending exam--rather than, say, to get the US to send fuel oil or whatever. I'd like to meet the Tiger Mom..."


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Anonymous said...

The russian who shot down powers has a brother who later immigrated to nyc. His son was my eldest boy's best friend when they both attended bronx science hs, the school that educated many russian and russia jewish refugees.

Funny how that worked out.