Get politically uninvolved!

The great P.J. O’Rourke:

All politics stink. Even democracy stinks. Imagine if our clothes were selected
by the majority of shoppers, which would be teenage girls. I’d be standing here
with my bellybutton exposed. Imagine deciding the dinner menu by family secret
ballot. I’ve got three kids and three dogs in my family. We’d be eating Froot
Loops and rotten meat.

But let me make a distinction between politics and
politicians. Some people are under the misapprehension that all politicians
stink. Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a
DUI, and the nation’s problems will be solved.

But the problem isn’t
politicians — it’s politics. Politics won’t allow for the truth. And we can’t
blame the politicians for that. Imagine what even a little truth would sound
like on today’s campaign trail:

"No, I can’t fix public education. The
problem isn’t the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or
more computer equipment The problem is your kids!"

Hat tip to Newmark’s Door.


Ah, but kinds aren't problems. They are opportunities!

Hard not to take issue with this:
"No, I can't fix public education. The problem isn't the teachers unions or a lack of funding for salaries, vouchers or more computer equipment. The problem is your kids!"
The problem is all of the above. Progress can be made focusing on the teachers, kids, and parents. Politicians need to halt the funding until structural changes are in place.

I found his advices a bit weird. Besides the political one, there's 4 times "greed is good" based on the "pizzas can get bigger" argument.

That's all fine, but then his one example of getting rich is a corporate lawyer, which is probably the one job most concerned with dividing a given pizza.

The next time two corporations get in a dispute, they should try his arguments: "forget about fairness" "Don't be jealous" "Stop bothering me, get rich on your own" "Your just a bully"

"Impeach George W. Bush, and everything will be fine. Nab Ted Kennedy on a DUI, and the nation's problems will be solved."

A Quantum solution would be to get the impeachment and the DUI at exactly the same time, so we can smooth out both sides of the landing zone.


Surely you realize that allocating resources according to need is a recipe for disaster? If not, you may want to read Atlas Shrugged. If no one has an incentive to be productive, no one will be, and everyone will be worse off.

Get politically uninvolved? And that improves the situation? If you can see the problems you are the very people who SHOULD be politically involved. Yes politicians are not the problem, it is the people who vote for them who are. You get what you deserve.

O'Rourke is backed up by the chapter on education in Freakonomics. Steve Sailer has a new column on the nonsense involved in public discourse on education. As Arnold Kling said, we have a preference for ignorance in that area.

As a data point,

I am a teacher. I would flee in droves. ;)

Assuming a state-run system as a given, a simple solution to the "teachers can chose where they want to teach" thing would be differential payment (e.g., teaching in the inner city earns you twice as much as teaching in the nice suburb). No coercion involved.

For Josh: Teaching is not for everybody i.e. The law states a free and appropriate education for ALL, not just those I want to teach!

For Jay: This is not communism, this is how democracy is suposed to work. If not then show me in the declaration of independence or in the constitution where it is stated as you imnply.


for TGGP: I visited Steve Sailor's page that you provided a link to. His ideas go back to the very begining of the history of organized public education back in the 19th century when a system of testing was conducted and children were placed into program "A" Liberal Education, or Program "B" Vocational Education based on testing results. We have come a long way since then and I don't think that there is any single acceptable instument that Pshchologists can agree on to measure intelligence. I believe that by the time students reach middle school they should be offered vocational tracks of education to full the blue collar needs of our society, i.e. Air Conditioning and refridgeration; welding; small engine repair; auto mechanics; fire fighting and public security jobs, public works jobs, transportation jobs etc., and another track that would be geared toward careers that require college degrees to be qualified i.e mechanical engineering, bioengineering; higher level medical careers (nurses, doctors, psychologists etc.). I notice this is happening in more and more High Schools, but my feeling is that middle school is the time to make these decisions so that the student will be more successful. More emphasis needs to be place on Elementary educaiton grades pre-K through grade 5 to give all children the opportunity to show their potentials. The blank slate theory of learning is no longer accepted, but neither are intelligence tests given at a very early age. Cultural literacy must be a strong part of early education in order for children to have equal starting knowledge. If cultural literacy is an integral part of early education we might see a higher level of success in all children. Each school system has built in program for children that are above or below proficiency levels i.e. magnet schools, gifted programs, honors classes etc..

Another issue and problem with education today, IMO is that many teachers do not follow the process that they were taught while earning their teaching degrees. First of all what should a child know by the end of 1st grade; 3rd grade; 5th grade etc. The current method of determining this criteria is that the criterion objectives are created at the state and then local county level, and a list of criterion objectives (bits of knowledge) are provided for each grade level. From this list each teacher is suposed to develop their scope and sequence, i.e. which bits of knowlege requied by the state do I teach when. Then from their scope and sequence they develop individual lesson plans to meet all of those objectives. If this is done correctly, the child will not learn the test, the child will learn the knowledge that he or she will be tested on, because the testing should come directly from the criterion objectives that are given to teachers by the state. Now how many teachers follow this to the letter? You tell me! I bet very few. This is where the process breaks down and we end up with children that are not learning what they need to learn to succeed in life.


"What if corporations followed the same logic,allowing their highest quality people to work where ever they wanted and then fill the gaps with mostly low quality, unskilled workers? Do you think that would be successful. How about resources, if they allocated the company's best resources to only certain departments would the the company see overall success or would their be higher success in those areas that had the attention, and a low level of success or no success at all in the others."

I am of the opinion that the best corporations run in exactly this fashion.

One of the keys to a great company is getting everyone's incentive structure well aligned into their highest value activity. Typically through a well-designed compensation structure.

As an investor I want employees of my firms to be working in exactly the areas they want. And I want them to be extremely well compensated for work that add to the bottom line. If I cannot figure out a way to get people to enjoy their jobs and be motivated to work hard to make money for me and for themselves, then you need to radically re-think how the firm is structured.

The key is allocating resources and time to those activites which are going to add most to the operating profitability of the company, and to create an incentive structure that makes people extremely happy and motivated to work in those activities.

LemmusLemmus has the best solution to the problem yet when in his post "Assuming a state-run system as a given, a simple solution to the "teachers can chose where they want to teach" thing would be differential payment (e.g., teaching in the inner city earns you twice as much as teaching in the nice suburb). No coercion involved"

I also believe teachers should be rewarded based on merit, as well as the difficulty level of their assignments. A teacher that is highly qualified could be rewarded with higher pay for working with at-risk kids who may live in the poorest areas of the community. This policy would make sense and would give teachers a way to increase their pay without having to wait for a vote.


Huh, vivid imagery here, but seeing as we deny the vote to minors and non-humans, this statement isn't particularly relevant to democracy. Unless of course, he's constructing an analogy where some of his fellow citizens are dogs or children.

In a Nanny State, all citizens are children. The logic of social democracy is that in a modern world people are "too stupid" to take care of themselves and need state experts to do it for them... yet we expect the people deemed "too stupid" to essentially exercise ultimate authority on the experts.

If people are smart enough to centrally plan the lives of everyone through democracy, then chances are they are smart enough to run their own lives without government help. If people are too stupid to run their own lives, then how do we expect them to make national policies that control everyone and everything?

Rex Rhino,

you may be forgetting that in democracies, people opt for governments that do quite a bit of planning/regulating for them. I would like to see less of it, but people seem to like it.


it is an unalloyed loss for you, I think (unless undereducation would lead to riots affecting your neighbourhood or some such thing). I don't have any children, but if I did, boy, my view would be f*** fairness, and the best for my children!

I was just trying to point out how Bill's goal could be achieved.

"Basic organization skills teach us that we must take care of basic needs first, and government is the way that we do that in developed nations like America. To think that each person could take care of their own needs for food, safety, shelter, and security would bring us back to the days of the wild west! Is this what you would propose?"

Taking care of those basic needs for all people is communism not what we have today. Taking care of them for nobody is anarchy (anarcho-capitalism). What we have is in-between the two.

Metaphors only get us so far, but your description of how schools should be run sounds a lot more like socialism than libertarianism.

Most people here probably think we should depend on the market more not less: move more toward the libertarian solution than the socialist one.


"I was just trying to point out how Bill's goal could be achieved."

Fair enough. I suppose my response would be that the loss would be concentrated in groups (i.e. suburban parents) that tend to have more of an impact on policy than average, via a number of different mechanisms. This implies, to me, that it isn't really achievable in the world-as-it-is.

"If this process was used in K-5 (elementary schools) for the core subjects I believe that public education would work quite well. What do you think?"

It sounds very authoritarian to me. I actually went to a hippie elementary school where we drew pictures, made sculpture, danced, learned very different subjects depending on the teacher (one specialized in history, one in English, etc), and had mixed grades in each class (2-3-4 was one class, 4-5 were a couple, it depended on your teacher). We called our teacher by the first name and loved them. I still have very fond memories.

We also learned well; I had an eighth grade math level by grade 5, according to the standardized test (wonder what happened to that! I suck at math now!)

So, no, I don't agree with you, sorry.

I certainly don't blame anything on minorities. My school was also well stocked with minority kids. I "suck" at math now in the sense that I find higher calculus less intuitive than algebra and things like that. Maybe I just compared with other programmers and economists. Whatever, that was a side note.

Anyway, I am no artist either! The art was just part of the program. Several kids in the class had very high scores on the standardized tests, and our averages were generally very high. A good part of this was, of course, parental involvement.

I don't like the very standardized route that you propose because I think it misses the problem. You might improve things that way, somewhat, but I think the core issues are more about giving kids a good learning environment - making them feel involved. That was really what set my school apart.

We had some good advantages-- while many parents were not involved at all, enough were that it helped all the kids. We had teachers that were very involved. We did not have small class sizes (40+), but we had multiple teachers in each, because we had TAs when needed, sometimes parents or other volunteers, and because we had mixed classes so that the older kids helped the younger kids.

But I think the real strength was that the kids felt really involved in the learning; and the teachers knew the kids - they cared and put out the special effort when it was required.

All the standardization in the world won't get you that.

Every success is based on continuous efforts. It is not possible be done over nigh.

Is it realistic?

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