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Once upon a time…

12:25 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

(image: wildlifebiologyguy, flickr)

(image: wildlifebiologyguy, flickr)

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Once upon a time not so very long ago and a place right close by, there was a land conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal. Now, reality is, this land was never really the shining city upon a hill as some folks liked to claim but even with all of its problems, it still managed to make the phrases “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free” enough substance to be a bit more than a slogan on a statue.

Now? Eh, not so much.

Back just a few decades ago, the US had the reputation for Social Mobility, helped greatly after WWII by the GI Bill. The basic access to a public education also helped this mobility (contrary to Rick Santorum’s belief.) Nowadays, this has “turned on its head” (via the New York Times):

WASHINGTON — Benjamin Franklin did it. Henry Ford did it. And American life is built on the faith that others can do it, too: rise from humble origins to economic heights. “Movin’ on up,” George Jefferson-style, is not only a sitcom song but a civil religion.

But many researchers have reached a conclusion that turns conventional wisdom on its head: Americans enjoy less economic mobility than their peers in Canada and much of Western Europe. The mobility gap has been widely discussed in academic circles, but a sour season of mass unemployment and street protests has moved the discussion toward center stage.

It is not just education and Social Mobility where the US has problems nowadays. The World Health Organization ranks the US Healthcare system 37th just behind Costa Rica and Dominica and just ahead of Cuba and Slovenia.

The US also has a much larger income inequality than most of hte rest of the so-called developed countries (via CNN): Read the rest of this entry →

Santorum steps in it

6:09 pm in Uncategorized by dakine01

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As you may know, I read a lot of news articles. While I don’t often write about the participants in the GOP Clown Car, when I saw this article at the LA Times this afternoon, I was moved to respond:

In the nation’s past, he said, “Most presidents homeschooled their children in the White House.… Parents educated their children because it was their responsibility.” 

“Yes, the government can help,” he continued, “but the idea that the federal government should be running schools, frankly much less that the state government should be running schools, is anachronistic.”

He said it is an artifact of the Industrial Revolution, “when people came off the farms where they did homeschool or had a little neighborhood school, and into these big factories … called public schools.”

Let me state for the record that my mother was an English teacher and a librarian. She taught in both public and private schools. Her sister was an elementary school teacher. My father’s sister taught math at the local high school in my hometown. I have numerous cousins on both sides of my family who were and are teachers. All of this is irrelevant to Little Ricky’s Revisionist history.

A quick check of der Google for “literacy rates in the US over time” brought these results with the very first item being a “National Assessment of Adult Literacy” report from the National Center for Education Statistics. This link goes to a section on Illiteracy from 1870 to 1979 including a table broken out at least partially by race.

The data in this table for the years 1870 to 1930 come from direct questions from the decennial censuses of 1870 to 1930, and are therefore self-reported results. The data for 1947, 1952, 1959, 1969, and 1979 were obtained from sample surveys; they exclude the Armed Forces and inmates of institutions. The statistics for the census years 1940 and 1950 were derived by estimating procedures. 

According to that table, in 1870, 20 percent of the overall population was illiterate (11.5 per cent of Whites and 79.9 percent of Blacks and other races). In 1952 (the year I was born) the figures were 2.5 percent overall with 1.8 percent of Whites and 10.2 percent of Blacks and other races. In 1979, those figures were .6 percent of the total population with .4 percent of Whites and 1.6 percent of Blacks and other races. It is directly because of public school education that those figures improved so dramatically over the years.

About a year ago, I wrote a post titled Teachers Are Not the Enemy. In reality, neither are public schools. But public schools are being used as scapegoats for the failings of politicians who refuse to raise taxes for any reasons and who try to force teachers to become miracle workers.

Oh and Ricky? If you dislike public education so very much, you might want to refund the school fees you scammed out of the public school district in Pennsylvania while you were “homeschooling” your children in Virginia.

And because I can:

Cross posted from Just A Small Town Country Boy by Richard Taylor

Jobs, Salaries, Careers

9:35 am in Economy, Jobs by dakine01

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I’m thinking this must be the week for education related news stories. Sunday, I wrote this post on how Education issues were being spun in the TradMed. Today, there are a few articles related to how an undergrad major reflects earnings. The first I saw was this one from the AP (via MSNBC) then saw that the Washington Post also had coverage:

Over a lifetime, the earnings of workers who have majored in engineering, computer science or business are as much as 50 percent higher than the earnings of those who major in the humanities, the arts, education and psychology, according to an analysis by researchers at Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.

“I don’t want to slight Shakespeare,” said Anthony Carnevale, one of the report’s authors. “But this study slights Shakespeare.”

The report is based on previously unreported census data that definitively links college majors to career earnings. Earlier studies have looked at salaries immediately after graduation, but the new report covers earnings across a person’s working life and is based on a much larger survey.

Bloomberg’s article on the study though offers a little bit more perspective:

As a group, engineering majors of all disciplines reported the highest median earnings at $75,000, the study showed. The lowest pay, at $42,000, came from two groups — education and psychology and social work, which includes such categories as clinical psychology and communications disorders.


Race and gender play a role in salary, according to the report. African-Americans who graduated with finance majors earned an average of $47,000 per year, less than Hispanics and Asians at $56,000 and whites at $70,000, it showed.

While women hold the majority of degrees in many lower- paying fields, even those with specialties that command the highest pay, such as chemical engineering, earned $20,000 less per year on average than men with the same education, according to the study.


About 41 percent of undergraduates with humanities and liberal arts majors — including history, English language and literature and foreign languages — went on to earn a graduate degree, the study showed.

All this leads me to one major question – which came first? Are the higher engineering salaries due to the preponderance of men in the field or are the lower salaries for fields such as Social Work and Education due to the preponderance of women in the field? Contrary to the beliefs of some people, jobs in Social Work fields and Education are not easy nor are they stress free. In fact, both fields can be among the more stressful jobs going. Last year I wrote this post on how I consider Child Welfare work as the Most Thankless Job and one of the most stressful jobs around. They work long hours for low pay and are demonized from all sides. These jobs also require skills albeit skills that are often categorized as “soft skills” – defined as skills that require the ability to deal with humanity, often in the worst possible moments. Skills that a lot of engineers have no hope of ever acquiring.

Even within fields and career choices that are considered upper level, there are more and more two tier wage systems coming into play. This is not limited to unions, although we all know the stories now of businesses trying to break the unions via this ploy. No, today’s (Tuesday May 24) NY Times had an article on how law firms were setting up “non-partner track” niches:

Spinning Education

12:39 pm in Culture, Economy, Government, Jobs, Media by dakine01

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I’m not going to act like an economist and claim to be “surprised” that folks are spinning various education pieces today. No, I am not at all surprised that it is happening, but I am a little frustrated when I see something like this from today’s (Sunday May 22) NY Times where the headline uses “grassroots” and “Bill Gates” together. The idea of anything funded from the coffers of a billionaire being considered “grass roots” is beyond ludicrous. But then, we are talking about a TradMed that willfully overlooks the funding of folks like the Koch Brothers and Dick Armey to proclaim various astro-turf organizations as “grass roots.”

To be fair, the Times article does point out a few of the problems:

INDIANAPOLIS — A handful of outspoken teachers helped persuade state lawmakers this spring to eliminate seniority-based layoff policies. They testified before the legislature, wrote briefing papers and published an op-ed article in The Indianapolis Star.

They described themselves simply as local teachers who favored school reform — one sympathetic state representative, Mary Ann Sullivan, said, “They seemed like genuine, real people versus the teachers’ union lobbyists.” They were, but they were also recruits in a national organization, Teach Plus, financed significantly by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Read the rest of this entry →