Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Money For Nothing

Lefties love the "Head Start" pre-kindergarten Health and Human Services-driven pre-school. We've pumped over $ 100 billion into the program, and the Obama Administration "stimulated" funding by further billions.

Only problem: Head Start doesn't work. If you don't believe me, read the just-released study by HHS itself (at xvi, xxxviii):
[T]he advantages children gained during their Head Start and age 4 years yielded only a few statistically significant differences in outcomes at the end of 1st grade for the sample as a whole. . .

[T]his report finds that providing access to Head Start has benefits for both 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds in the cognitive, health, and parenting domains, and for 3-year-olds in the social-emotional domain. However, the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.
And even such small positives might be overstated. Head Start's simply not cost effective. Not that the mainstream media's noticed.

The Administration's reaction? 1) Hide the ball. 2) Expand the program:
"These results make it clear that we need to build a more coordinated system of early care and education, and to focus on key improvements to teaching and learning in the early grades," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Proving you can't kill a government subsidy, no matter how wasteful.

(via Instapundit)


suek said...

I'd say it indicates that they want cradle to the grave control...

So. Do these results indicate that we have a certain segment of the population that is ineducable, or have we just not found the key?

OBloodyHell said...

> Proving you can't kill a government subsidy, no matter how wasteful.

Oh, come now, Carl -- given that you can't kill something as insanely stupid as "Wool and Mohair Price Supports", how could you possibly by any wildly fanciful stretch of preposterously wishful thinking actually imagine you could kill a subsidy tied to education?

P.S. -- If you play the lottery, you won't win, either...


Carl said...


I do not believe in an uneducable population. The best review of options is here. I seem to recall, but can't find, some evidence that individual bonuses for successful teachers works.


What's worse is that we killed that subsidy, and it "came back.

suek said...

I disagree that there is not the possibility of an ineducable population. The cause is what needs to be deciphered before it can be addressed. If we have such a population today, I think it's due to the break down of families, and the fact that children are not raised in an environment that focuses on bringing them up to become mature responsible adults in society. I'm deliberately excluding those with disabilities - that's a separate issue.

The article you linked is good as far as it goes ... it doesn't address the problems with discipline in schools, and the inability of schools to deal with it due to legal actions of parents. It's considered a legal right to have an education, and schools may not deny a child that right. That means they can't expel children that are not amenable to discipline.

This article has some interesting views on the topic - and some very interesting comments. I have to say - it's the first time I've seen multiple "over 350 words" comments on AT! Obviously a topic many feel strongly about.

OBloodyHell said...

> What's worse is that we killed that subsidy, and it "came back".

Yes, I realized that, it's kind of my point, actually. It didn't really die, it just went into hiding.

Next time around, we need to have a mechanism for public challenges to funding legislation. Something involving getting enough people to sign off on an investigation into it, then a trial-by-jury or something to justify it... preferably with something like permanent expulsion/exclusion from ALL public office of any kind (yes, that means "no dog catcher, either. Nothing on the public teat in any form, including consulting jobs) if any legislator has his name on more than five rejected fundings within a term... Just an idea of how we could inject some responsibility (which is the missing problem, really) into legislators.

OBloodyHell said...

> It's considered a legal right to have an education, and schools may not deny a child that right. That means they can't expel children that are not amenable to discipline.

Sue, the problem lies with the concept of public education as a whole. Private schools don't have this problem, and, if you make finding a school that will take your child a problem of the parents, then the parents may well have a bit less of an attitude about their precious darling after he/she gets tossed from the third school and they have to pay money out of pocket to get the @#%#$^# to behave him/her self in some school willing to put up with his/her bad attitude.

I disagree with the concept of a child who cannot be educated at all, though I do agree with you that sometimes the barrier isn't the child themself (i.e., they may be the problem, but there IS a solution, if it gets applied properly)

OBloodyHell said...

Sue, from your link...
> There is also the time-consuming, instruction-distracting problem of renegotiating thousands of union contracts regarding pay and assignments, let alone deciding who is a "star" teacher. Perhaps today's ideologically-driven, uplifting-of-the-bottom mentality among professional educators pushes hard-nosed cost accounting off the agenda. Who wants to risk bad news?

Wait. Hold on.

Ummm, aren't we not supposed to have such things in schools? Are we not in the process of not identifying "winners" vs. "losers"? Doesn't every child succeed like a toothless parrot these days?

How, then, are we to be so hypocritical as to identify some teachers> as "winners" of the "education lottery"? Why should some teachers be gifted with more largess than others, just because someone waved a wand and decided that they were better than others? Isn't it, after all, just the luck of getting better students that makes a "great" teacher? If we are to have true egalitarianism, must we not start in schools?


suek said...

Public schools weren't _always_ the problem. They became a problem when various mechanisms - teacher's unions, right to education, suit happy parents - made discipline impossible. If you don't have discipline, you aren't going to have learning in the classroom. Yes private schools of whatever sort are more successful - for two reasons, I think: first, parents are an active part of the decision. This alone is a plus for the child. Second, the parents _want_ the child in that school, and will apply discipline at home if necessary in order to keep the child in the school.

I thought the article was interesting - it clearly points out that waving a magic wand isn't going to work. It doesn't matter how skilled the teacher is, if the school is a disaster most teachers will look for other employment before yielding to a command to teach there. And also - teachers are only half the equation. While I agree that part of a teacher's "outstanding" quality, if children aren't willing students, education isn't going to happen. You can't pour knowledge into brains, much as we'd like to. Mere exposure doesn't do the trick, either.

And the hypocrite part...agreed. Just try to talk to teachers about 'merit' pay! Hah.
I've also suggested that the best way to get all students to make good grades is to just average them all up and give every student the same grade. Bet we'd find out who the "capitalist" parents and students were...PDQ!

By the thinking about the "ineducable" part. IQ is part of it, of course, but assuming average IQ, the other part is self-discipline, ability to focus and willingness to postpone reward. Children whose parents and culture don't develop those characteristics are going to have problems achieving scholastic goals. It isn't that they can't - it's just that they don't see anything in it for them, so they don't.

OBloodyHell said...

> Public schools weren't _always_ the problem.

Actually, sue, I think they have, it's just become far more acute since the early days:

First, God made idiots... This was for practice. Then he made school boards.
- Mark Twain

Clearly, incompetence in public schooling is not a recent concept.

> if children aren't willing students, education isn't going to happen. You can't pour knowledge into brains, much as we'd like to. Mere exposure doesn't do the trick, either.

a) True, but part of the issue isn't students who won't be taught, it's those students then preventing other students who could be, who are far, far more numerous. The failure to ack self-discipline as an important educational construct lies at the feet of postmodern libs and the PS system in general. You can no longer segregate the disruptive, problem students into a separate classroom, much less school. "you might cause them long-term emotional trauma by singling them out" Indeed, that WAS one of the benefits of such an idea.

b) I think most children -- even the moderately bad ones -- are as much a product of poor discipline -- both parental and in the direct educational context -- as they are of any sort of resistance on their part. If there is a social context for discipline, then there is a much, much better chance that a good teacher will find a way to reach them... If you can teach Helen Keller, there have got to be few children on this planet who can't be reached at all.


In most children there is a natural sense of wonder and magic which the universe around them enthralls. A good teacher can find ways to put learning in a manner which appeals to that, but learning isn't trivially easy beyond the first grade, so you have to have the ability to discipline and counterbalance that work needed with a counterveiling discipline.

Working out is no fun, but it's good for your body. If you fail to have the self-discipline to do it, however, that is your choice -- you are an adult and are expected to be able to balance the various needs of life.

Children lack that self-discipline to focus on the long-term goal. I believe that one of the strongest distinctions between maturity and childhood is when you really, truly start to automatically apply the notions behind time-binding on the individual level -- you, essentially, gain the ability to defer gratification.

When mature, you see yourself in a larger, longer context -- you no longer live in the eternal now.

Children don't have this capacity -- it's one of the reasons why you punish a dog immediately, not later. It's why you don't say to a child "wait until your father gets home!" -- they don't properly connect the punishment with the error. As we mature, we gain the ability to connect cause with more distant effects, to see actions now having effects hours, days, weeks, months, and even years after the fact.

Children lack the self-discipline needed for deferred gratification. The socialization process necessarily includes teaching it to children, and part of that is done by actually teaching them in general, first the essential skills needed to do basic worthwhile social actions (reading, 'riting, 'rithmatic), then the more advanced skills and social functions that allow self-teaching and learning -- critical thinking and self-directed inquiry.

OBloodyHell said...

The problem with public education isn't, strictly speaking, the idea that it's public, it's the nature of All Things Public, which is that it is usually a form of bureaucratic mechanism for distributing and burying responsibility and power. Distributing power is usually a good function, it reduces mistakes often as not. Distributing responsibility, though, is rarely good.

It's the key problem with government as a whole -- you can't fire the stupid SOB who screwed things up, because there isn't a single SOB or group of stupid SOBs identifiable. Even if you succeeded in identifying a group who could have done something to prevent the problem, there's always someone else who could have, too... and you can't punish one without punishing the others (after all, that's not fair!), so no one gets punished at all.

No upper management at NASA got sacked after the Challenger or Columbia disasters. Billions of dollars lost, lives lost, due to someone making a stupid mistake, someone ignoring a problem that they had been warned about for years -- But hey, "no one's at fault!"

And the same thing is happening with National Security. 911 was a major screw-up, but, even so, it required a mental shift which was hard to follow, and thus sort of didn't need "blame" -- you had to accept that there WERE people who were willing to die just to kill others, and would go to great lengths to do it (War doesn't count. You don't expect to die, you accept that it's possible. And you don't choose to die in order to kill, you just wind up with no better option in a momentary situation... Jihad is another level of self-destructive mindset entirely, though). But NOW we can see something coming -- a nuke on the USA or Israel -- but there isn't going to be a lynch mob or heads rolling when it happens. The bureaucracy will distribute the responsibility enough that "no one will be at fault"... at least not enough that anyone will be charged with that failure, criminal negligence though it would certainly be if a company or person did it.

Thousands will die. But hey, "Oops. We messed up.... Ummm -- can we have more money?"

OBloodyHell said...

That same lack of responsibility and accountability is central to "Public Education", too.

The problems with modern education have been there for DECADES now.

Everyone KNOWS about them, yet the only solution is to get your kids OUT of public schools.

So, do we, perhaps, work on a system which does that?

Vouchers, maybe? Those have the advantages of public schools, without he disadvantages, for the most part.

Oh, f*** no!

We instead do everything possible to STOP that -- we make people who put their kids in private school pay twice -- both for a public school "slot" and the private slot they actually use.

We put HUGE barriers in the way of home-schooling, and constantly attempt to outlaw it.

The end result is, and will remain -- the destruction of our society as a whole. The socialists and psychologists of The Next Society are going to have a Field Day with this socially suicidal postmodernist crap.

Public School IS a major problem, sue. "No ifs, no ands, no buts..."

It fails to teach basic skills, the focus instead on teaching children to be Good, Obedient Little Sheep. And that IS the underlying central goal --

When I was very young (ca. 6), someone in the school asked my mother if I was allowed to pick my own clothes. My mother asked, "Why, was I doing something wrong?" The response was, "No, nothing wrong -- he's just too independent. He needs to learn to obey commands from authority. He needs to learn to be a follower."

Capisce? Believe me, I was an easy student to teach, I did stuff on my own to learn.

But that wasn't what was important. It was that I wasn't a follower... THAT is what they really, really cared about.

The net result is a society of dullards, unable to think for themselves, unable to act without a leader, unable to function without detailed instructions for how to proceed.

That might have been an ideal citizen for an Industrial economy -- the perfect factory worker -- but it's rather blatantly not the ideal citizen of an IP & Services economy -- the knowledge worker.

But you can bet your ass it's an ideal citizen from the government's point of view.

And there was a Budweiser beer commercial over a decade ago which drove home the point:

Why ask why? Bud Dry.

Let me rephrase that: Don't argue with us, don't ask questions -- Buy the product!!

"Good consumer! Good boy! Sit. Roll over! Use the product! Gooooooood boy!!!!"

The government likes that kind of citizen too...

"Good citizen! Good boy! Sit. Roll over! Support this policy!! Vote this way! Pay taxes! Gooooooood boy!"

Things are headed to hell and gone. Probably not in my lifetime, but around the end of it. Despite this, I've always resisted where I could, but you can't do much by yourself. It's almost impossible to change anything when the first cardinal rule of social behavior is to not make waves by daring to challenge authority