Politics Open Thread, Nov 25 –Dec 1

Let’s discuss politics.

Advertisements

123 thoughts on “Politics Open Thread, Nov 25 –Dec 1

  1. Chief of Staff John F. Kelly has told others about watching television with Trump and asking the president how much the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff earns. Trump guessed $5 million, according to people who were told the story by Kelly, startling the chief of staff. Kelly responded that he made less than $200,000. The president suggested he get a large raise and noted the number of stars on his uniform.

  2. This is from the WSJ. I’ll just post the whole thing. Unfortunately the chart doesn’t come through intact, but you can get the general idea.

    WASHINGTON—Democrats gained ground in the recent elections in part by stressing far-reaching proposals like providing Medicare for all and reducing income inequality. But one formerly favored issue was, and remains, notably absent from their agenda: free college.

    That idea captivated many young voters in 2016, when Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., V.T.) made it a central plank of his primary bid against Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, who once eschewed the idea, adopted a modified version of Mr. Sanders’s plan after winning the nomination.

    But two years later, Democrats have largely steered clear of mentioning “free college” in their campaign to retake Congress.

    Who Wants Free College

    Voters’ views on waiving tuition at public institutions for students from households earning up to $125,000 and for making all community colleges free
    Source: WSJ/NBC News telephone poll of 900 adults conducted Oct. 23-26, 2017; margin of error for full sample: +/-3.27 pct. pts.
    Favor
    Oppose
    Overall
    Democrat
    Republican
    0%
    100
    25
    50
    75
    That’s because proposals to make college tuition-free prove to carry slim appeal with many of the groups Democrats would like to win back, such as white blue-collar voters, party strategists say. Some liberals have also concluded the proposal wouldn’t provide sufficient help to the neediest students.

    Strategists said voters can be suspicious of promises about free benefits, and that fewer Americans see college as a preferred path in any case. “People don’t think it should just be free. People think there should be some responsibility” for individual to shoulder at least some of college’s costs, said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake. “And a lot of people think that something should be available other than just college.”

    Candidates in swing districts largely avoided the topic, preferring to frame the issue in terms of “college affordability.”

    Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.), who has expressed support for tuition-free college proposals in the past, rarely if ever mentioned eliminating college tuition in her 2018 campaign. Her higher education platform featured proposals to lower student debt and increase access to job training.

    “No one ever believed free college was possible, primarily because of the cost,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R., N.C.), the outgoing chairwoman of the House Education Committee. “We have changed the conversation. Instead of who’s going to pay for what, we’re talking about making better choices and students getting the chance, and taking the chance, to use their God-given talents in life. The conversation is finally about students and their choices, and it’s not going back.”

    It isn’t that the idea of free college is broadly unpopular. A generic proposal to eliminate tuition at public colleges for families making less than $125,000 enjoys wide support, with 60% of people in favor and 34% opposed, according to a 2017 Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.

    But in the months following the 2016 election, pollsters and other political operatives say they found that some swing groups either didn’t envision themselves or their children attending college, or perceived the benefit as something that would flow to others.

    “The feeling people had was, ‘Don’t impose your version of the American dream on us,’” said one Democratic strategist who helped shape House Democrats’ campaign message.

    The attitude is shared by voters like Donna Rehs, 59 years old, a longtime Democrat who voted for President Trump in 2016. Ms. Rehs, a sales representative for a food-services distributor in Franklin, Ohio, said she worked to help put her two boys through college and is turned off by the “feeling of entitlement” reflected in the notion of tuition-free college.

    “The reality of the world is, nothing is free,” she said. “You have to work for it and you have to earn it.”

    Voters like Ms. Rehs appeared much more receptive when candidates talked about making vocational training affordable or free as well.

    In one survey conducted earlier this year for the Congressional Progressive Caucus, free college ranked as the lowest priority among voters in competitive districts. Creating a public health-care option and eliminating corporate political spending registered as top goals.

    Still, some on the left say free college should continue to be a central progressive promise.

    “This has everything to do with the future of our country,” Mr. Sanders said in an interview. “We used to have the best-educated workforce in the world. That is no longer the case.”

    A tuition-free college bill Mr. Sanders introduced in 2017 gained backing by several possible 2020 Democratic candidates, including Ms. Warren and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Kamala Harris of California. That increases the likelihood that the issue will reappear in the next Democratic presidential primary.

    But other Democrats argue that free tuition for all would provide resources to students who don’t necessarily need them. An analysis of Mr. Sanders’s free-college plan, conducted during the 2016 Democratic primary, found that more than half of its cost would go to upper-income students. (The Sanders campaign disputed the findings.)

    “There’s a growing consensus that free college itself is not even that progressive of an idea, given that the limited money we have would be redirected to middle- and higher-income students,” said Tamara Hiler, deputy director of education at Third Way, a center-left think tank.

    House Democrats, who introduced a broad higher-education bill this summer, didn’t include a tuition-free plan, but instead proposed sharply increasing financial aid for low-income students.

    “We focus on students actually being able to get a quality degree and entering the workforce successfully,” said Josh Weisz, a spokesman for the House Education Committee Democrats.

  3. The voters above a certain income threshold know that “free” is not really free. There is a cost to the “free”. The sentiment to strengthen community and vocational colleges/training is echoed by a lot of people here. Not everyone wants to go or is qualified for a four year college. There have been many articles on students being unprepared for college, so in general voters favor better schools and better preparation as well as good alternative paths to college than free college where you graduate without a path forward. At least that it the sentiment in my swing area.

  4. some swing groups either didn’t envision themselves or their children attending college

    It’s important to keep in mind that only about 25% of those 25-29 have a college degree and the percentage doesn’t rise a whole lot more from there. College is very much an elite activity as much as most totebaggers have trouble with that concept.

  5. Without “free” college, we already have far too many dropouts. Nearly half of all students who enroll at four-year colleges don’t graduate within six years. The numbers are worse for community college students. https://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickhess/2018/06/06/the-college-dropout-problem/

    Why create more incentives for an even greater number of unprepared and uninterested students to waste their time and taxpayers’ money in college? Community college is already reasonably affordable, and most dropouts (or failures to enroll) there are caused by reasons OTHER than “I can’t afford the tuition.”

    The Democrats were smart to drop this promise.

  6. even greater number of unprepared and uninterested students to waste their time and taxpayers’ money in college?

    But it’s not about being unprepared. It’s about a lack of ability.

  7. Here (in my area) the military offers young people a buffer period and training to grow up. It may not be a popular view to state this but it does offer structure, training and a path forward to many young people. It helps them get away from not so stable home lives, trouble at school etc.
    We need a cilivian program like the military which helps young people.

  8. I think that it’s both. A kid from a non-totebag family at a mediocre high school may well have the cognitive ability to get a college degree, but simply lack the study and test-taking skills needed to keep up. And he may have been put on the vocational track in high school, missing out on the college prep courses. But I agree that lack of cognitive ability for college level work is also a big factor, and one that most politicians and educational policy wonks entirely avoid.

  9. But I agree that lack of cognitive ability for college level work is also a big factor, and one that most politicians and educational policy wonks entirely avoid.

    Why do you think that is? Most countries seem more or less OK with the idea that some kids are college material and other kids aren’t. Is it the American myth that anyone can do anything they set their mind to?

  10. I agree it’s both being unprepared and lacking ability. We have a post coming up later this week that supports the unprepared argument.

    I must say I assumed this would have broad Democratic support, which arguably it does at 75%. but maybe it just dropped down in importance as an issue worth campaigning about. Free healthcare is probably a more popular issue.

  11. “Is it the American myth that anyone can do anything they set their mind to?”

    I think that must be part of it. Plus civil rights issues have driven the agenda for abolishing tracking and vocational education in K-12.

  12. I’m not in favor of free college, but I think that the California system that Fred, Rocky and I benefited from has merits. As I recall, anyone could go to community college, the top third of high school graduates were guaranteed admittance to a CSU and the top 1/8 could go to a UC. As always, it was harder to get into Cal and UCLA than the others, but the others were still stellar institutions. The cost was more than nominal, but doable with a combination of work and loans. I recall in the 80s, fees (there was no tuition) was a little more than $400 per quarter. Inflation, yada, yada, but still doable.

    And, since anyone (provided they had the academic qualifications) theoretically could benefit from a relatively cheap university education, there wasn’t the class conflict that paying different rates can engender. After all, either someone’s parents were doing well and paid for the cost of the university before hand, or someone took advantage of the education and did well enough to pay taxes for the next generation to benefit.

  13. I think everyone should have some skin in the game.

    When I was benefitting from the CA (state subsidized) higher ed system 10 yrs before Cassandra, the registration fees were $700/yr for UC, $200/yr for Cal State, $0 (i.e. books only) for CCs. Not just because I got to take advantage of it: the system broadly worked. Lots of people also transferred between schools of the same system and between systems. While Cal & UCLA were perceived as being above the rest, there was no problems having a degree from the other UC campuses. I’d argue it’s still that way.

  14. Most countries in Europe have free or nearly free college. As far as I know, they do not have the high drop-out rates that we have here. I think this is due to a combination of factors. First, the wage premium for college graduates is not as high there as it is here. There are viable, remunerative, and respected career paths for those who do not choose college, so those who are academically disinclined do not choose it. Second, many European countries provide a stipend to college students to cover living expenses, which allows students to focus on their studies instead of juggling low-wage jobs, classes, and homework. I have read that many working class students leave college because the demands of working and studying full time are too great, and the wages they earn are often insufficient to pay living expenses plus the cost of attendance.

  15. I like the idea of the California system – accessible cost. But most community colleges aren’t prohibitivly expensive anyway, AFAIK. Our city colleges are around $6000/year including fees/books, so they can be almost 100% covered by Pell Grants for lower-income students and affordable for middle-income students. Some of the state schools have gotten pretty pricey though.

    I don’t even know what “free” actually means to Bernie – no tuition/fees and loans to cover books and living expenses? Stipends? Is is public schools only?

    I’d be good with increasing funding and expanding need-based federal aid as well (e.g. Pell Grants).

  16. As far as I know, they do not have the high drop-out rates that we have here.

    Because they ruthlessly filter for ability. In Germany anyone can go to any University as long as they have an Abitur*. And you can only get an Abitur if you go to Gymnasium, which you are tracked into when you’re (IIRC) 9 years old.

    We have a high dropout rate because the vast majority of schools aren’t selective and will take essentially all paying customers.

    * The Zeugnis der Allgemeinen Hochschulreife (“certificate of general qualification for university entrance”), often referred to as Abiturzeugnis (“Abitur certificate”), issued after candidates have passed their final exams and have had appropriate grades in both the last and second last school year, is the document which contains their grades and formally enables them to attend university. Thus, it encompasses the functions of both a school graduation certificate and a college entrance exam.[

  17. The City of Seattle is going to start funding 2 years of free community college tuition for Seattle high school graduates. This to me is more palatable than free 4 year tuition for everyone. I do think there are students/families for whom $3,000 – $4,000 of tuition a year isn’t financially feasible and for whom free tuition will make a difference. The community colleges here offer vocational training as well as traditional college classes.

  18. I also wonder how much is cultural and lack of support. I really can’t imagine how hard it is to be the first in your family to go to college – maybe with the people around you flat out saying that it is a waste of time, maybe with them being proud of you but not really knowing how to support you in any meaningful way. And if your peer group is clueless or ambivalent, that doesn’t help either. Also – picking a field of study and lining that up with a job that you may actually like to do that will pay the bills – that is difficult.

    Plus, how good is the job market for grads of low-tier schools? I don’t mean Directional U or moderately selective LAS, I mean the schools like DeVry and their Non-Profit counterparts. We end up hiring some of those grads into jobs that wouldn’t have required a college degree 20 years ago – clerical type jobs – which are pretty dead end. (but at least in a climate-controlled office with 9-5 hours and some flexibility vs. retail/foodservice/Amazon warehouse)

  19. The program also offers supports for the last year of high school in terms of getting help with financial aid forms, applying for community college, summer support (to make sure kids actually show up in the Fall at the community college).

    A work colleague volunteers with a refugee family from Nepal whose parents don’t speak much English (and I’m guessing didn’t go to high school let alone college). I can see this sort of program helping high school students who get little or no family support – either financial or in the know-how of how to navigate college forms, enrollment processes, etc.

  20. Plus, how good is the job market for grads of low-tier schools? I don’t mean Directional U or moderately selective LAS, I mean the schools like DeVry and their Non-Profit counterparts.

    DeVry is terrible. But if you’re talking about a not at all selective Directional State U (and their LAS counterparts) accounting major then the opportunities are very good.

  21. I agree that colleges in Europe are more selective, which mitigates the drop-out problem. I would be OK with a similar tracking system here (maybe not as early as age 9, but perhaps by 12 or 13) if we had more standardized education in the early grades. Right now our public elementary and middle schools are all over the map. Even within NYC, some middle schools include algebra as part of the curriculum, while others do not. This amounts to a “tracking” system based not on ability or performance, but where you happen to live.

  22. Unfortunately, where education has become standardized as a result of Common Core, it has been standardized down, for example by removing algebra from the middle school curriculum. The goal of Common Core is to help students avoid remediation at community college. My understanding is that an Abitur requires a higher level of achievement than avoiding remediation at community college.

  23. The goal of Common Core is to help students avoid remediation at community college. My understanding is that an Abitur requires a higher level of achievement than avoiding remediation at community college.

    I agree with that. My point is simply that every elementary school/middle school needs to give students the opportunity to get on a path to earn the Abitur equivalent even if many students lack the ability to avail themselves of that opportunity. The problem that I see here is that many kids don’t have the opportunity at all.

  24. My point is simply that every elementary school/middle school needs to give students the opportunity to get on a path to earn the Abitur equivalent even if many students lack the ability to avail themselves of that opportunity.

    Wouldn’t it be better to put kids on the track for which they are best suited? If only about 1/3 have what it takes to succeed in college, why put so much effort into college readiness for the 2/3 who don’t have the ability to succeed on that track?

  25. “The problem that I see here is that many kids don’t have the opportunity at all.”

    I agree with the goal, but that would require shifting resources (not only money, but good teachers) from richer schools and districts to poorer ones. I don’t think that many people would support that.

  26. Also, culturally, are we ok with telling a bunch of middle schoolers that they can’t hack college, so “no college for you”? Are we ok with our kids being told by a test that they can’t go to a good college? What about smart kids who are poor test takers? Or kids with disabilities? We are too individualistic as a culture to allow these types of decisions to be made by the state.

  27. Well, in elementary and even middle school, I would argue that it is difficult to determine the track for which kids are best suited. As I have noted many times, we do have tracking in our middle school, at least for the honors track. I have seen several instances of really smart kids getting tracked out. Maybe other schools are better at it, but ours is not. Our superintendent once made a comment at some opening of school speech that he was concerned that our district doesn’t send many kids to good STEM schools. Well, I thought to myself, perhaps it is because the district knocks all those immature, disorganized, quirky, smart kids off the track that would lead to those schools back in 7th and 8th grade.

    Germany does have the draconian tracking in which your future is sealed at 5th grade, but other European countries do it much later, around age 15. And they still manage to have low cost college.

  28. “The problem that I see here is that many kids don’t have the opportunity at all.”

    Head Start, vouchers, charters schools etc. etc. have all shown very little ability to move the needle. Opportunity isn’t the problem as much as we’d all like to believe there was something that could be done about folks with low cognitive ability.

  29. “Wouldn’t it be better to put kids on the track for which they are best suited? If only about 1/3 have what it takes to succeed in college, why put so much effort into college readiness for the 2/3 who don’t have the ability to succeed on that track?”

    Because too often the decision metric is based on what color the kids are, what their native language is, if their parents are competent, if they are relatively more mature girls, if they don’t irritate the teachers too much, etc.

  30. “The problem that I see here is that many kids don’t have the opportunity at all.”

    Head Start, vouchers, charters schools etc. etc. have all shown very little ability to move the needle. Opportunity isn’t the problem as much as we’d all like to believe there was something that could be done about folks with low cognitive ability.

    Rhett, I believe you have very limited exposure to how easily/often kids are thrown off the path. When my son’s school tracked the kids into regular and advanced math class, none of the kids from the poor elementary school got put into the advanced math. Some of us raised heck and we got *some* of the kids into the advanced math. We didn’t get them all. When the kids transitioned to high school, over half the kids who should have continued into the high math group got put in a lower group (yes, it is small community where everyone knows way to much stuff that really isn’t our business). We once again got all the kids put back where they belonged (or at least the kids we caught in 7th grade), But, depending on a bunch of gossiping busybodies is a terrible education strategy. I see kids get thrown by the wayside every year and denied opportunity every year.

    I don’t know that there are many studies done on how many kids get pushed off the path because they have the wrong parents, but it happens all the time. There are lots of kids with low cognitive ability, but there are also lots of kids with high enough cognitive capacity who don’t have tiger parents.

  31. Anon – acknowledging its faults, we used to have a system that I think worked…tracking. In my truly MC elementary school there were 4 each of 3rd-6th grades. Math & Reading/English were tracked. Race was not an issue at my school (we were all white, so one could not make the claim that e.g. all the black kids were being systematically tracked into the lowest groups). The practice of grouping student by demonstrated ability only formalized what all the kids knew…e.g. Jim was better at math and/or reading than some other kid. I think the system was worthwhile and probably helped some/many kids who were at the lower end of the skill scale improve but nowadays, perhaps for good reason, it has largely been abandoned.

  32. Data doesn’t support the idea that shifting resources from richer schools/districts to poorer ones improves achievement very much- poor DC schools are very well resourced.

    The problem is that ability grouping within a school has civil rights issues so ability grouping tends to occur between schools or even, from what I hear of New England, between micro school districts.

    From what I read, the NYC schools do a good job of giving opportunity to the top ~5% of students with selective admissions. The fact that Asian immigrants are over represented and Black/Hispanic students are underrepresented is politically problematic. Previously, there were Honors classes in all middle schools and Black/Hispanic student representation at selective schools was higher. That history supports the belief that ability grouping helps strong students at poor schools, regardless of race, to be successful.

  33. Cassandra – interesting the dichotomy of your and my posts. BITD, who knew from poor. I think I understood my friend David’s family had more $$ than my friend Marty’s. But who cared? We mostly cared who was better at the sport of the season. Perhaps all the poor kids were tracked to the lower groups and the better off kids to the upper groups, but the kids didn’t know that.

  34. none of the kids from the poor elementary school got put into the advanced math

    Given the high heritability of cognitive ability and executive function and how that correlates to income, that’s to be expected.

    I see kids get thrown by the wayside every year and denied opportunity every year.

    Thrown by the wayside as in not being on the advanced math track? That’s hardly the end of the world. Maybe being a Chico State business major is the best fit for them.

  35. Fred, your all white school may not have been tracking based on race, but what about kids with ADHD or depression or who were simply immature and annoying?

  36. “Maybe being a Chico State business major is the best fit for them.”
    That is just about the most classist thing I have heard in a long time. How would you even know? I bet there are some kids with ability at even the poorest elementary school.

  37. “none of the kids from the poor elementary school got put into the advanced math

    Given the high heritability of cognitive ability and executive function and how that correlates to income, that’s to be expected.”

    Poverty is also correlated with growing up in a sh!thole country that doesn’t educate girls, which is the family background of some of those kids. And not all of the kids at the poor school are from poor families. I know at least one totebagger (dad an engineer, mom is an entrepreneur) kid who was initially kept out of the high math class.

    Thrown by the wayside as in not being on the advanced math track? That’s hardly the end of the world. Maybe being a Chico State business major is the best fit for them.

    “If the kids don’t take the right classes, they can’t get into Chico State”.

    I’ve known a few who found out too late that they weren’t on the college track. And besides, what’s all the hating on Chico State? I know a number of multi millionaires who were Chico State business majors, and they had a lot of fun at school.

  38. . How would you even know?

    Because being a Chico State business major put you well into the top 20% of cognitive ability and executive function and is nothing to be ashamed of. Classist? Hello pot? This is kettle.

  39. I know a number of multi millionaires who were Chico State business majors, and they had a lot of fun at school.

    Exactly so why all the worry about being on the right math track?

  40. Yeah, back off of Chico! The B-school kids there do fine. Pick on some college in Massachusetts.

  41. I agree that tracking can be implemented in ways that are problematic and counterproductive, especially if done at very young ages. One of my son’s elementary school classmates was very smart, but a trouble-maker. He went to our zoned middle school and was accepted into the 6th grade honors program based on his grades and test scores. Within one month, he was kicked out of honors due to a relatively minor disciplinary infraction. It is horror stories like this that convinced me to avoid our zoned middle school for my son, who also has honors-level grades/scores, but a history of acting out in class. (Sidebar — do they think this kid’s behavior is going to improve now that he is bored to death in a slower class? How stupid are these people?)

    On the other hand, if the alternative to tracking is the elimination of advanced level classes from middle-schools, loads of smart kids will never have the chance to be college-ready. That is what is happening at many NYC schools, as WCE points out.

    Why can’t we manage to do this properly?

  42. “I know a number of multi millionaires who were Chico State business majors, and they had a lot of fun at school.

    Exactly so why all the worry about being on the right math track?”

    Because getting into Chico State isn’t a given. It’s not a sure thing, even for kids in the catchment area. If you don’t get the right classes, you don’t get in.

  43. ” (Sidebar — do they think this kid’s behavior is going to improve now that he is bored to death in a slower class? How stupid are these people?)”

    +1000

  44. “I know a number of multi millionaires who were Chico State business majors, and they had a lot of fun at school.”

    Including my one friend from high school with whom I keep in touch. His bachelors in business was clearly checking a box for him.

  45. “Why can’t we manage to do this properly?”

    Here’s my $0.02: like a lot of things, people who have very bright kids can be split into two groups – those who can and will advocate for their kid and those who cannot/will not. Among those who can/will, some (maybe many) will figure out the zoned school isn’t going to do it for their kid(s), so the kids get put into school someplace that will. From the school’s perspective, now there’s one less problem. For the kids whose parents do not advocate, well, they’re the silent majority and not causing any problems for the school administration, so the solution to just lump everyone in together becomes the right one.

  46. I am against being shut out of advanced opportunities too early. My DH, brother and cousin were examples of students who would have been excluded based on 3rd and 6th grade results but by 10th grade they had matured enough. They were in the population Mooshi mentioned and all went into STEM.

  47. We had tracking in my elementary school for reading and math. I liked it because I wasn’t as bored. I know there are lots of ways that kids get left behind with tracking, and it might not be the right solution. However, now we send kids to college who aren’t prepared and they take on student loan debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy and often don’t graduate. That seems more unfair than tracking.

    Rhett’s comment about Chico State made me look up acceptance rates. Google says Chico State had a 63.5% acceptance rate in 2015-2016. I looked up acceptance rates of schools in MN and Saint Cloud State University is 85% and University of St. Thomas is 83%. Both schools have very strong alumni networks at companies in town. I work with a lot of people who graduated from these schools, and they are doing just fine. From the kids I graduated high school with who went to St. Cloud State, most of them did not take honors classes or calculus.

  48. “Here’s my $0.02: like a lot of things, people who have very bright kids can be split into two groups – those who can and will advocate for their kid and those who cannot/will not. Among those who can/will, some (maybe many) will figure out the zoned school isn’t going to do it for their kid(s), so the kids get put into school someplace that will. From the school’s perspective, now there’s one less problem. For the kids whose parents do not advocate, well, they’re the silent majority and not causing any problems for the school administration, so the solution to just lump everyone in together becomes the right one.”

    Also, if the kids are all lumped together then the school can tell all the parents that their kids is one of the high ones in the class.

  49. My comment on Chico State was really the “good enough for the likes of ya” tone of the statement. Business majors from lots of schools do very well because business ability doesn’t necessarily track perfectly with academic orientation – that is why someone who excels at physics may be terrible in business.
    My objection is really the idea of consigning everyone from poor schools to a particular outcome. Some of the kids in the bad school may be far better suited for PhDs in physics than for business careers, if only given the chance.

  50. Rhett — This is a personal question, so feel free to not answer. You have shared before that you did not have a great upbringing (to say the least). And yet you have become very successful. It would seem to me that you are Exhibit A for the idea that you can have less-than-successful parents, but become very successful yourself. Yet you seem to be one of the biggest proponents on this board of the idea that the ability to succeed is largely genetic — you either get it from your parents, or you don’t. I’m just curious about the apparent dichotomy between your general world view and your personal experience (if I understand your experience correctly).

  51. Sidebar — do they think this kid’s behavior is going to improve now that he is bored to death in a slower class? How stupid are these people?)

    He’ll amuse himself the way smart slackers have done since time immemorial – see how little he can do and still get his desired grade.

  52. Within one month, he was kicked out of honors due to a relatively minor disciplinary infraction.

    Then maybe he’s not a dutiful, earnest, rule following, goody goody totebagger to be. Maybe he likes to have a good time and would be better at a school where he can do well while still enjoying a very active social life. Just because he’s smart doesn’t mean the calculus/STEM track is the best fit for him.

  53. NoB,

    Yet you seem to be one of the biggest proponents on this board of the idea that the ability to succeed is largely genetic — you either get it from your parents, or you don’t.

    While my dad was a violent alcaholic sociopath – he wasn’t stupid.

    Experts have long noted that both autism and antisocial personality disorder are marked by problems with empathy, yet the differences between the two conditions couldn’t be starker.

    I figure the sociopath gene manifested itself as Aspergers in my case, which was definitely for the best.

  54. I share Rhett’s opinion that academic aptitude is roughly as heritable as height, because that’s what the statistics tell me, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t lots of exceptions to the general rule. Globally, the top reason that kids improve dramatically in height/academic aptitude over a generation is improved nutrition, though that isn’t applicable in the U.S since at least WW I.

    Figuring out how to both recognize the heritability of attributes like academic aptitude and height while treating people as individuals is hard, and it complicates things like studies of Head Start efficacy because parental IQ is more predictive of adult IQ than preschool IQ. (It’s fairly hard to accurately and repeatably measure a preschooler’s IQ.)

  55. “Within one month, he was kicked out of honors due to a relatively minor disciplinary infraction.”

    “Then maybe he’s not a dutiful, earnest, rule following, goody goody totebagger to be. Maybe he likes to have a good time and would be better at a school where he can do well while still enjoying a very active social life. Just because he’s smart doesn’t mean the calculus/STEM track is the best fit for him.”

    Here’s the thing — he’s 11 years old! He may be acting out because he’s bored. He may be struggling emotionally because his parents had a messy divorce. He may just be a vigorous, active, curious child who is hard for teachers to handle. None of that means he is not suited for the STEM track. And I won’t even get into the implication (which might offend some on this board) that STEM students are constitutionally incapable of having a good time. Maybe he’s STEM material, maybe not, but up to this point, he’s proven his ability to handle honor’s level math. Why should he be placed in a slower class? Tracking should not be used as a punishment.

    Truthfully, I think there is a real risk that the school’s decision to label him a bad kid and demote him could have long-term effects on his self-esteem. If you tell kids they are unworthy, they believe it. His bad behavior could become a self-fulfilling prophesy. I hope that doesn’t happen, because I like the kid, and he has a ton of potential.

  56. but up to this point, he’s proven his ability to handle honor’s level math.

    He most certainly has not. He’s a discipline problem.

    You and I agree on how the world should work. It should be about learning. But that’s not how the world works. It’s not about learning, it’s about sorting. And the sorting group “honors level” has a very significant goody goody hoop jumper component. And that’s fine because hoop jumpers get routed to college and careers that suit them and those who aren’t hoop jumpers get routed to jobs and careers that suit them as well.

  57. “Then maybe he’s not a dutiful, earnest, rule following, goody goody totebagger to be. Maybe he likes to have a good time and would be better at a school where he can do well while still enjoying a very active social life. ”
    So being smartalecky in middle school determines your entire life’s outcome?? You don’t think it is possible that a bored smartalek in 7th grade might not turn out to be Mr Uber-Calculus-guy by 12th? You seem to have this idea that fates are written in stone at an early age.

  58. “Truthfully, I think there is a real risk that the school’s decision to label him a bad kid and demote him could have long-term effects on his self-esteem. ”

    This actually happened to a close friend of my middle kid. He got tracked out in 7th and 8th grade, and his parents didn’t realize they had to fight. They are kind of laid back. His friends all went into the honors track and he didn’t. He is dying of boredom, thinks he is stupid, and hates the kids in his classes. He is now on antidepressent meds. His mother, who is a good friend of mine, is very worried. She finally started fighting for him, and got him into AP English which he is really enjoying. My middle kid also got him interested in the academic quiz-bowl club and brought him into his D&D group, which is mainly kids who love to talk political theory and arcane theology. I think he is happier this year, but he should never have been tracked out like that. He just wasn’t mature enough in 7th grade.

  59. “And that’s fine because hoop jumpers get routed to college and careers that suit them and those who aren’t hoop jumpers get routed to jobs and careers that suit them as well.”
    This is where I have a fundamental disagreement with you. Most people I know who have really strong STEM or research careers, the people who are really creative and ground breaking, are those very people who were not hoop jumpers. And the people who party in school and go into middle tier careers are actually the hoop jumpers, conventional people who follow society;s rules.

  60. You seem to have this idea that fates are written in stone at an early age.

    Because they are. I also think “he’s acting out because he’s bored” is total bullshit.

    Most people I know who have really strong STEM or research careers, the people who are really creative and ground breaking, are those very people who were not hoop jumpers.

    Did they do their undergrad at Caltech and MIT or more modest schools?

  61. I don’t know, Rhett. I was a trouble maker in middle school and high school. Hung out with the wrong crowd, partied and all that. Got finger-wagged by teachers. I still took calculus in high school, and went to a HSS for college and law school. I don’t have a STEM Ph.d, but I did pretty well. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now if I had been shunted onto the slow track as a punishment for failing to conform.

  62. This actually happened to a close friend of my middle kid. He got tracked out in 7th and 8th grade, and his parents didn’t realize they had to fight. They are kind of laid back. His friends all went into the honors track and he didn’t. He is dying of boredom, thinks he is stupid, and hates the kids in his classes. He is now on antidepressent meds.

    Do you ever watch the Goldbergs? Beverly tells these stories, “You didn’t brush your teeth? Well Bubbi’s son Noah didn’t brush his teeth and he got gingivitis that spread to his bloodstream and he died of sepsis.”

    That’s only slightly less plausible than your theory that all his problems are due to him not getting on the honors track.

  63. I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now if I had been shunted onto the slow track as a punishment for failing to conform.

    How do you know? The data says you might have done better as the smartest person at Chico State vs. being not the smartest person at your HSS.

  64. Rhett, I think you are confusing genetic manesfestation with genetic potential. The average height in. The u.s. before ww2 was significantly less than average u.s. height afterwards. This wasn’t because the genetic stock changed but rather that nutrition changed. Given better nutrition people were able to fulfill more of their genetic height potential.

    Clearly a huge part of a person’s maximum intellectual capacity, executive function etc is genetic. The question is can you determine a persons genetic potential by looking at their parents genetic manifestation?

    Perhaps , sometimes. But you and I both cam from families where for whatever reason, genetic potential and genetic manifestation diverged. My dad had untreated PTSD that wrecked havoc in his life and my childhood. My family were poor white trash who clearly had no potential. And yet, my least successful sibling has had a successful career, have found a lovely partner and is having a good life. The others are doing “better”…we have kids.

    There are many reasons why a persons parents are poor, that have little to do with their innate capabilities. My housekeepers father thought girls didn’t need to be educated; She left school in third grade. Three of her kids have graduated college and the youngest will in about a year.

    And silly, knot head, ridiculous boys who grow up to be serious, successful men are so commonplace that it is barely worth noting.

  65. And yet, my least successful sibling has had a successful career, have found a lovely partner and is having a good life. The others are doing “better”…we have kids.

    That’s my point. People end up where they are destined to end up. That’s what the adoption studies say. You’re who you are because of the genes your dad gave you and the PTSD (while very traumatic) did very little to change that outcome.

  66. The PTSD changed my dad’s outcome.

    Whatever caused the PTSD is not equivalent to missing the cutoff for the calculus track. Huge traumas – death, cancer, rape, head trauma, starvation can move the needle. But the idea that just missing the cutoff (for whatever reason) is going to result in certain terrible lifelong repercussions just isn’t anywhere close to being true.

  67. And unless you went to U C Davis, you don’t get to bag on Chico State.

    LOL.

  68. “Huge traumas – death, cancer, rape, head trauma, starvation can move the needle. “

    I agree with Rhett, and it’s consistent with what I’ve read and observed.

    ‘My family were poor white trash who clearly had no potential. And yet, my least successful sibling has had a successful career, have found a lovely partner and is having a good life. The others are doing “better”’

    My humble opinion is that your family had great potential. It’s hard to believe that a random group of individuals in similar circumstances would typically achieve so much. I come from similar circumstances, and I don’t believe our success is random but rather based mostly on our potential.

    I support tracking, but with flexibility. Exactly how it’s implemented can be a problem, as is every good idea in education. I benefited from tracking and my children were probably harmed by lack of tracking. It could be said that because of tracking my success relied less on parental support while because of not tracking my kids’ success relied more on parental support. They needed more outside supplementation.

  69. I suspect Cassandra meant that others thought her family had no potential.

    I also benefited from tracking. But InMyDay you could move in and out of tracked programs. It wasn’t a life sentence. You could go to the guidance counselor and make a pitch for a higher or lower track, and they’d move you. If you couldn’t hack the higher track, they’d shift you to the lower one. It was fluid, and I think that’s the right way.

  70. From an outside perspective my observation is that the strength of the American education system is the curriculum choices available. Each student ends up with classes tailor made to their particular strengths. It’s a customized education to the degree that it can be. I admire this. Growing up, I had nothing close to this, in spite of going to a very good private school. This type of “American education” is now available in the home country but is very expensive. My own school expanded their offering but it is now phenomenally expensive.
    To me rigid tracking and shutting the door too early goes against the openess. I don’t care for school systems that put some students on a University bound track in gleaming schools while other students are second tier and have little chance of getting into decent colleges and the better jobs.

  71. I support tracking, but with flexibility. Exactly how it’s implemented can be a problem, as is every good idea in education.
    …..
    I also benefited from tracking. But InMyDay you could move in and out of tracked programs. It wasn’t a life sentence. You could go to the guidance counselor and make a pitch for a higher or lower track, and they’d move you. If you couldn’t hack the higher track, they’d shift you to the lower one. It was fluid, and I think that’s the right way.

    +1000. I think tracking is great, but there has to be the flexibility to allow late bloomers to move up. Keeping kids out of higher math classes in HS because of a decision made in 5th grade is absurd.

  72. Agreed, RMS and Denver! I really could have benefited from more flexible tracking (moving between grades, even).

  73. I saw this story over the weekend and it relates to this discussion. Those with behavioral issues and low cognitive ability, and don’t have family support, are not taught how to handle life skills in trades, let alone college. https://www.freep.com/story/entertainment/dining/mark-kurlyandchik/2018/11/24/rising-stars-academy-special-needs-culinary-jobs/2066818002/. Free tuition isn’t going to help those in greatest danger, but life skill programs could help. I hate the free tuition wave that the Democratic Party has been harking on the last few years and would love to see it disappear from their platform.

  74. “I support tracking, but with flexibility.”

    ITA. I also support homogeneous grouping, with flexibility.

    That’s pretty much what my kids’ school offers. Given the type of school and the type of kids and parents it attracts, kids tend to get pushed to push themselves and try to get into the most challenging track they can handle. There are multiple avenues onto the honors/AP/calculus tracks, and multiple ways out.

    DD described the initial avenue onto the honors science track. Near the end of 8th grade, their science teacher asked the class who wanted to take an honors science class the next year.

  75. My kids’ preschool used the Montessori method, which was pretty organic, flexible tracking and homogeneous grouping by subject.

  76. “I hate the free tuition wave that the Democratic Party has been harking on the last few years and would love to see it disappear from their platform.”

    The second post on this thread suggests you may be getting your wish.

  77. the free tuition wave that the Democratic Party has been harking on

    Let me preface this by saying I don’t know how the Small Business Administration loan system works.

    I know a few guys who made their money as entrepreneurs and have provided startup funding for their kids’ business (in addition to paying for college). If the government is going to provide loans with few questions asked to get a degree in art history, shouldn’t they also be willing to lend money for a kid to buy a backhoe to start a pool digging company or the equipment needed to do flood remediation, etc?

  78. “Near the end of 8th grade, their science teacher asked the class who wanted to take an honors science class the next year.”
    And that is exactly how it should be.
    Back in my day, I went to the only school in KY that had AP calculus. The way you got into the class was simple – you selected it on your course request form. At that time, I did not think I was the mathy type, and my grades in trig certainly did not indicate that. But all my friends were signing up for it, so I did too. That course completely changed my view of my mathiness.

    Yes, people can change. We aren’t set in stone. Geez, when I was in 7th grade I was hanging out in back of the school with the stoners. From that to AP calculus….

  79. If the government is going to provide loans with few questions asked to get a degree in art history, shouldn’t they also be willing to lend money for a kid to buy a backhoe to start a pool digging company or the equipment needed to do flood remediation, etc?

    I have to post and run…..flood remediation is an engineer’s job, no one even gets in the door on that sort of work without some sort of environmental degree. The equipment needed for excavation costs significantly more than a four year degree. But realistically, the cognitive ability and executive function needed to run the businesses you mention are a lot more than is needed for a four year degree.

    If you are talking about subsidizing kids to go to trade school, or gasp bringing back the tech education to high school, we can talk. But some of this goes back to the tracking conversation.

    FWIW, I am in favor of ability grouping, as long as the grouping is done on ability rather than parental income, skin color, gender, energy level, or annoyingness.

  80. And the government isn’t providing loans for a college education. They are providing the lending institutions with the surety that the 18 year old kid who took at the loan will be an indentured servant until the loan is paid off, since, unlike every other kind of debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy.

  81. Mooshi, that’s another datum in support of my theory that putting your kids in positions to have good peer groups is one of the most important parental roles.

  82. And the government isn’t providing loans for a college education.

    IIRC Obama ended private banks involvement in federal student loan lending 10 years ago.

  83. But realistically, the cognitive ability and executive function needed to run the businesses you mention are a lot more than is needed for a four year degree.

    I have anecdotal examples of that not being true at all. i.e. flunked out first semester and now runs a success construction business. As MM mentioned above business skills and academic stills aren’t the same thing.

  84. Rhett, I think that’s a great question.

    I wonder if other countries do something like that. Could it be a competitive advantage for our economy?

  85. “And the government isn’t providing loans for a college education.
    IIRC Obama ended private banks involvement in federal student loan lending 10 years ago.”

    DS1 has loans for his ongoing higher ed adventure. The process is simple: fill out FAFSA, include your college on it. When the college gets it the Finacial Aid office will tell you how much loan money you’re offered for the upcoming academic year. You accept or reject it. If you accept they’ll credit 1/2 the amount to your first semester’s bill. No bank involved.

  86. flood remediation is an engineer’s job, no one even gets in the door on that sort of work without some sort of environmental degree.

    The Serve Pro franchisee who comes when your master bathroom toilet overflows and floods your kitchen needs an environmental degree to pull down the drywall and set up those special fans?

  87. But realistically, the cognitive ability and executive function needed to run the businesses you mention are a lot more than is needed for a four year degree.

    I think there’s a big difference between inclination and ability. Someone can have the ability to do something but not the inclination.

  88. I think there’s a big difference between inclination and ability. Someone can have the ability to do something but not the inclination.

    But that’s everyone’s point about schoolwork! Put kids in the wrong school environment, and they’ll fail to live up to their potential.

  89. Put kids in the wrong school environment, and they’ll fail to live up to their potential.

    That seems like a very totebaggy school centered view of the world. Their potential could have very little to do with schoo/academicsl beyond the reading, writing and math skills most people have learned by the 6th grade.

  90. I would say lots of people as they grow up and their exposure to the world around them increases discover something they like doing or importantly avoid jobs they don’t want to do. Some guys I know worked jobs like construction and moving in the summers in high school and decided that manual labor was not for them. That motivated them to get good enough grades and major in a marketable degree. Prior to that they were drifting along.
    Both my mother and father ended up in their successful careers following a path with twists and turns.

  91. Some guys I know worked jobs like construction and moving in the summers in high school and decided that manual labor was not for them.

    On the other hand there are people who end up enjoying the manual labor or perhaps a better term might be that they enjoy the hands on nature of it. One of the boat guys I know owns a dozen gas stations. He started working in one in high school and the owner saw some potential, took him under his wing and helped him buy his first gas station at 25. Now he’s in his 60s with a very nice house and a very nice boat. That’s fairly common.

    Which reminds me of the owner of the world’s fastest super yacht.

    Staluppi has accumulated his estimated net worth when he worked primarily as a mechanic for Chevrolet at the age of sixteen. After proving his worth as a mechanic, his father helped him out with a loan to open his first Sunoco station. With his creative marketing, he was able to succeed in his venture and went on to manage and own several Sunoco stations.

    His successes and practical experiences encouraged him to take a risk on a venture called Honda, an unknown name during that time. Staluppi used the profits from his gas station business to invest in the fledgling company. He was able to see the potential opened a Honda motorcycle shop in the early 70’s. After a decade of hard work, he owned around 20 dealerships and the name Honda became popular in the United States. His next venture was with Hyundai and it proved to be another success.

    Mr. Staluppi’s company is now known as the Atlantic Automotive Group, one of the top 15 dealerships in the country which has the annual revenue of more than $1 billion.

  92. “On the other hand there are people who end up enjoying the manual labor or perhaps a better term might be that they enjoy the hands on nature of it. ”

    This reminds me of my brother who I know I have mentioned before. He diligently went to college and got an CS degree because that is what you do, but he hated every minute of working in an office. When his wife went to grad school, he fell into working in a restaurant in her college town and loved it. Found mentors, moved into good programs, and ended up going to culinary school paid for by his employer. Is doing quite well. Not super yacht well – but he likes his job more than most people I know & his family is not starving by any means.

    He always did well inc school (more like 85th percentile well, not 99th), and never showed any interest in cooking. But you never know.

    I’m not sure that it was a waste for him to get a degree though.

  93. He diligently went to college and got an CS degree because that is what you do, but he hated every minute of working in an office.

    Kind of like MMM in a way. I’ve always thought he didn’t want to be retired so much as he wanted to be self employed.

  94. “Now he’s in his 60s with a very nice house and a very nice boat. That’s fairly common.”

    It’s not common. Most people do not have that level of success. It’s not easy, and not common at all.

  95. Houston,

    You are of course correct. I should have said, “fairly common at that income level.” The Totebag idea is that all people making a totebag level income are college educated professionals. While that’s a sizeable percentage, there are other groups including non-degree holding successful small businessmen.

  96. “While that’s a sizeable percentage, there are other groups including non-degree holding successful small businessmen.”

    I agree with you, Rhett. The “millionaire next door” model continues to allow less education people to climb up the ladder and be financially successful.

  97. This is a really good article from the Weekly Standard: What Conservatives Can Learn From the Left
    https://www.weeklystandard.com/nicholas-phillips/what-my-fellow-conservatives-can-learn-from-the-left
    The author makes the point that voters don’t want Reagan style policies any more, but they don’t want big government either. They want protection from the effects of globalism.

    The key things he says conservatives can learn.
    Equality of Opportunity is Elusive
    Be Suspicious of Power
    Question What is “Normal”

    From that last bullet
    “The Jim Crow South was filled with conservative Christians, but very few managed to demonstrate moral leadership on the evils of segregation. When the Civil Rights movement arrived, most Southern conservatives deferred to their fear of change instead of subjecting their instincts to harsh review. They couldn’t answer what we now know to have been an easy question. Instead, they had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the right answer through outside intervention: court orders, Freedom Riders, and the National Guard.
    Conservatism can often devolve into knee-jerk anger at change that feels painful or threatening. That response can prevent conservatives from rigorously analyzing moral questions that in retrospect had clear answers and contributes to conservatives too often finding themselves on the “wrong side of history.”

    There is also another article on the Weekly Standard site which is worth reading, on the uselessness of political narratives

  98. Related to the ideology/science post:

    Maybe the best part is:
    We conclude with the irony that our evolved psychology may interfere with the scientific understanding of our evolved psychology.

    Abstract
    SCIENTIFIC In this paper, we argue that four interlocking barriers beset psychologists seeking to develop a proper science of social psychology. The first is the ideological orientation characteristic of most social psychologists—heavily skewed on the left side of the political spectrum. The second is the adoption of a view of human nature that social psychologists believe to be most conducive to that ideology—a blank slate that is corrupted solely by the ills of bad environments. The third is a rejection of theories and findings believed to contravene that view of human nature—those coming from evolutionary approaches to human behavior. The fourth is a suite of evolved psychological adaptations that actively impede an understanding of evolutionary psychology—adaptations for social persuasion rather than truth-seeking, adaptations for prestige maintenance, and adaptations for forming and maintaining in-group coalitions and for punishing competing coalitions. We examine these scientific impediments with empirical data based on a survey of 335 established social psychologists from the premier scientific society, The Society for Experimental Social Psychology (SESP). We conclude with the irony that our evolved psychology may interfere with the scientific understanding of our evolved psychology.

  99. The second is the adoption of a view of human nature that social psychologists believe to be most conducive to that ideology—a blank slate that is corrupted solely by the ills of bad environments.

    Isn’t that also what conservatives also believe?

  100. Not typically, Rhett. It depends on the conservative, and it depends what you mean by “conservative”. One traditional conservative view is a (not the) Christian one, which is that we are all fallen and steeped in sin, and therefore need structure and authority to control our worst impulses.

  101. One traditional conservative view is a (not the) Christian one, which is that we are all fallen and steeped in sin, and therefore need structure and authority to control our worst impulses.

    But that’s still a blank slate in the sense that people have a default setting. As such people need to be controlled by society and success and failure in life is largely the result of a person’s willingness to abide by society’s rules.

    Genetic determinism seems weak on both sides.

  102. You’re really distorting the notion of “blank slate”, then. It’s a slate that’s already written on. And you can’t change it infinitely, whereas with the blank slate theory, you can.

  103. In middle school they taught me that human nature is “infinitely malleable”. It isn’t. I’m kind of annoyed that they taught me that because it screwed up my thinking in certain ways.

  104. It’s a slate that’s already written on.

    I’d say its more about the nature of the material. Slate has a certain nature even before it’s written on.

  105. More than a half-dozen students interviewed said they had witnessed Mr. Landry choking their schoolmates, and three students observed him slam others on desks. Another three students said they saw Mr. Landry place a child with autism in a closet.

    Well! Here’s hoping the Landrys spend lots of years in prison.

  106. You weren’t taking that school as representative of anything other than fraud, were you?

  107. Well, fraud and the desire to create products that fill a market. It rather reminds me of some global quality issues I’m dealing with at work.

  108. Unfortunately the products in this case were actual kids, and I feel sorry for them and angry on their behalf.

  109. “Isn’t that also what conservatives also believe?”

    We had a similar discussion a month or two ago. Indeed it’s nuanced and goes both ways. In the case of sex differences, this study and others have shown that liberals tend to embrace blank slate theory while conservatives do not. In another example conservatives seem resistant to the belief that societal/governmental forces can change the “innate” character and life outcome for a person, while liberals are more likely believe that government services like college for all or similar can even out outcomes because humans are so malleable. It’s probably true that among both conservatives and liberals, ideology often comes before scientific evidence in forming our opinions, as noted in the abstract. “the irony that our evolved psychology may interfere with the scientific understanding of our evolved psychology”.

  110. Selective colleges are said to be knowledgeable about high schools so they can ascertain if an A at one school equals a B or C at another, but clearly they’re not perfect in this process. In the Landry case they seemed to particularly gullible, considering there were some red flags that they should have noticed.

Comments are closed.