How Bad is a Vocational Education?

Especially compared with a formal college education?  Oren Cass, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, had some thoughts on that in a recent Wall Street Journal piece.

Elevating vocational education, and prioritizing its students, must begin with a substantial reshaping of American high schools. Vocational education will not succeed so long as culture and public policy consign it to second-class status—a dumping ground for students who interfere with what school districts consider their real mission, college prep.

Get Rid of Calculus in High School?

James Makarian, SnapLogic CTO, thinks high school calculus is overrated; he’d rather see statistics and computer science get the emphasis.

I agree: don’t teach calculus in senior high school.  Push it down into freshman/late junior high classes.  Then do computer science and statistics in close sequence behind the calc course.  It’s not possible to do more than (badly) cookbook statistics without the underlying arithmetic.  And cookbooking something as serious as statistics means the related research will be badly done more often than not or badly understood by those reading the research.

An Education Failure

A Miami-Dade police officer’s 14-year-old daughter dissed her teacher at Pinecrest Cove Preparatory Academy charter school, and her father was called to the school.  The video at the link shows the ensuing abuse: the “father” whipped his daughter with his belt, slugged her, yanked her hair.  Fortunately, no serious physical damage appears to have been done, but I have to wonder about the emotional damage, I have to wonder about the quality of her home life, and I have to wonder whether that life might have been a factor in her relationship with her teacher.

Academic Preparedness

New York City has a program, Expanded Success Initiative, that was intended to improve the city’s K-12 “black and Latino males'” (apparently, the girls just don’t matter in New York City) performance.  It’s failing; although, the piece at the link is more optimistic than that.

Students…reported better school relationships and more fair treatment than peers in comparable schools outside the program.[]

Socialization does matter in a child’s development; however….

[A]cademic outcomes and suspension rates remained roughly similar to those in the comparison schools.

Academics are the primary purpose of schools.  ESI improved nothing important.

Teachers Unions

…and their strikes’ impacts.  Look at the Arizona teachers union strikes, for instance.

Arizona parents scrambled to find alternative arrangements for their children as the state braced for a third day of teacher walkouts.

It’s estimated that at least 800,000 Arizona students have been affected by the strike that started Thursday, with some school districts in the state closed until further notice.

It isn’t only the children that these strikers are holding hostage for their demands.  It’s the parents, too, who must take time off from work to take care of their children with those kids denied access to schools and education.

A Lesson About Discrimination

A few days ago, The Wall Street Journal ran a piece about a teacher and a principal who taught a 1968 lesson about racial tolerance, using the equally arbritrary blue eyes-brown eyes discriminant as the teaching prop.

A Letter to the Editor response decried both the lesson and the pride in it that was conveyed in that article.

…one of the most disturbing and emotional things I had ever experienced. Teachers whom I once looked up to were subjecting me to irrational and arbitrary treatment based on my eye color. … My father … called my school’s leadership and received a complete apology.

Somebody Else

Blue Mountain School District Superintendent David Helsel, who had originally intended to arm his students with river rocks so they could throw them at intruders and thereby resist a mass shooting, has altered the plan.  He’s decided to add armed—that is, with firearms—security to his district’s protection technique.  Helsel claimed that the publicity driven by social media and the resultant NLMSM’s attention drove him to the change.

This unfortunate circumstance has increased our concern regarding the possibility that something may happen because of the media attention.

An Example

This is part of what’s wrong with today’s American higher education.  The numbers appear in a Wall Street Journal article about the possibility of ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson becoming chancellor of the University of Texas system.

The system has an enrollment of more than 230,000 students, an $18 billion annual budget, and more than 100,000 employees.

That’s ridiculous.  There’s no reason for having an employee for every two students.  How much better would the students’ education be were some of those $18 billion redirected toward books and lab equipment and classroom facilities and away from excess payroll?  How much more opportunity would there be were some of those $18 billion redirected toward lower tuition and housing fees and away from excess payroll?

The 529 Plan Expansion

Recall that the tax reform enacted last December expanded the usability of 529 Plans to include expenses for K-12 education.  Now some are worried that this will harm State tax collections.  It’s a bogus beef on a number of fronts.

In December, as part of a broad tax overhaul, Congress expanded the accounts to cover up to $10,000 a year in expenses for kindergarten through 12th grade.

State budget officials are now concerned that a large number of parents will use 529 accounts to pay private-school tuition, giving them a new write-off for their state taxes.

A Presidential Library

Ex-President Barack Obama (D) plans to build a Presidential library in Chicago, and he’s looking at a non-standard concept for his library.  The folks on the Left don’t like it, as exemplified by the Chicago Tribune‘s Ron Grossman.

It seems the proposed library has a test kitchen in it, in which FLOTUS’ views of proper nutrition can be explored.  There’s also supposedly room for a yoga center; although, that’s not defined in the architectural plans.  The horror.  How unpresidential.  How unlibraryish.  Grossman bleated

President Obama, is that how you want to be remembered? As the healthy-eating and meditation-advocating president?