Category Archives: Education

Talk about that “education bubble”

Its bad enough finishing college with a huge debt burden but to drop out with one. Whoa!

Half of all college drop-outs have borrowed some money for tuition. And consider this depressing statistic: One in five students who drop out of college leave only after accumulating $20,000 or more in debt. These are the folks most unable to pay back their loans; the rhetoric of “college for all” simply does not match the reality of their lives.

Education bubble?

I frequently suggest my readers go to Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish which has switched its affiliation recently from the Atlantic Magazine’s website to the Daily Beast’s site.

Today ( as of 9 am) there are a half dozen fascinating posts. I’ve followed the Ayn Rand posts for a couple days and there is one on an XBox video game send up of Rand that has been interesting. Rand, someone I was only dimly aware of during the Age of Aquarius, has developed a new following. My son knew more about her books than I did and had already formed a healthy skepticism of her cartoonish super man slant.

I found this link on another Dish thread and I found this analysis very interesting and perhaps prescient:

Instead, for Thiel, the bubble that has taken the place of housing is the higher education bubble. “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” he says. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”

I think this is the sort of mania that herded Dixon’s cats into their Red Plan frenzy. Now they have bricks instead of teachers to pay off for the next two decades.

I think Thiel has the right idea. He honors the student not the student’s credentials.

Hindsight is 20 20

I caught the bygones a couple days ago and recalled this incident from 20 years ago:

Bygones for March 14, 2011
News Tribune:

Minnesota Commissioner of Education Gene Mammenga yesterday announced cuts to the Duluth school district’s desegregation program including …

Deseg funds have been under threat for many years and since its a lot of money for Duluth it would be a big dea to finally lose theml. It is probably what’s keeping Dr. Dixon’s vaunted Integration Specialists in the saddle.

So, I wonder, when is the Trib will get around to reporing the anticipated elimination of deseg funding? They got the story from twenty years ago right but they’ve missed the latest imminent blow to the Duluth School District’s finances. When they get around to telling us remember that you read it here first.

From the Past

Sent to me by an email friend:

News Tribune

Feb. 23, 1971

* Members of the Duluth School Board were asked yesterday to support legislation to increase the state sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. The request came from Duluth Councilman Leo McDonnell, president of the League of Minnesota Municipalities, which is recommending the proposal.

* Duluth city and school officials agreed last night to delay construction of a pedestrian overpass on Central Entrance to serve the new Central High School. They decided more study is needed to determine whether it is the best solution.

Forty years ago today

From the DNT’s “bygone” section:

News Tribune, Feb. 19, 1971

Negotiators for Duluth teachers told the School Board last night they are giving top priority this year to reduction of class sizes. Salaries were not discussed at the meeting, the first to discuss 1971-72 contracts.

I wonder if Frank Wanner helped set the priorities?

The courage to brown nose

One of my old political heroes was Rep. Pete McCloskey who took on Richard Nixon in the 1972 nomination process. He got exactly one vote at that year’s Republican National Convention. Years later I heard Pete give a speech on NPR where he pointed out that the word politician derives from politic which means, among other things, to give no offense. In other words we elect people to represent us who will bend over till their head is stuck where the sun won’t shine to avoid telling us anything we don’t want to hear.

In Tim Pawlenty’s case he vowed not to raise taxes when he got the GOP nomination for Governor in 2002 despite a looming deficit. When he waffled on that pledge after his election he was promptly beat up by Grover Norquist for attempting to raise “fees” as an alternative to taxes. So Pawlenty backed off, raised no taxes so he could keep his no new taxes bonifides as he pursued a GOP presidential nomination to challenge Obama in 2012. Lucky Minnesota now has an even more killing deficit to endure than the record setting red ink faced by Pawlenty in 2003.

Nevermind that the Republican deity, Ronald Reagan, who helped turn the no new taxes idea into a virtual religious commandment raised taxes as President and before that raised California’s taxes an unprecedented billion dollars back when a billion dollars was real money.

Real Courage today would be for a Republican to point out that all the borrowing we are doing to avoid taxes simply places a great burden on our children and grandchildren. Ah, but such an admissions could cost a GOP candidate a primary election so our GOP candidates are all busy courageously brown nosing no nothing, anti-tax fanatics at the expense of the next generation.

All this is prologue to thank Rep. Kerry Gauthier for courageously offering to defend Duluth from a mean old Republican Representative from Farmington, Minnesota who is threatening to take money from Duluth’s school children.

Last time I checked, Duluth schools were facing a massive $7.3 million deficit and planning on laying off dozens of teachers. The School Board is considering increasing class sizes, making kids walk two miles to and from school and even moving to a four-day school week.

I can’t prove it but I’m pretty willing to bet that the lion’s share of our District’s financial problem are pretty much self inflicted. Oh the economy hasn’t helped and the Pawlenty Administration has played it part but Duluth City Councilor Gauthier stuck his head in the sand when the Red Plan was pushed through. His excuse? The School District wasn’t his turf.

Well, the evil Education Chair that Kerry brags that he will fight represents Farmington, Minnesota a city where the City Council wasn’t afraid to tackle its school board over a controversial school building project. I don’t know all the details but the Farmington City Council set a much less supine example than Councilor Kerry Gauthier did in Duluth. Had Kerry been willing to challenge the unions that were hell bent on building the Red Plan, whether it was needed or not, our Duluth Schools would be in considerably less financial distress.

But that would have taken courage and all Rep. Gauthier is willing to offer us after-the-fact is the same sort of courage Governor Pawlenty gave us when he bowed to Grover Norquist and let our deficit balloon. Thanks Kerry. Thanks $293 million! And good luck fighting the Chair of the Education Committee in your position as a minority member of the House of Representatives.

Spelling Bee

I was the pronouncer for the City Spelling Bee this morning. I’ve done it most years since 1997 and have done all the larger Regional Spelling Bees since about that time. We’ve been losing participants because of tough times and the growing charges levied against participating schools.

Your world is “insolvency.” Because of fiscal imprudence the school district is facing almost certain insolvency. Insolvency.

Brazil could teach us a few things

I just read this fascinating NYT article. Brazil (and about 40 other nations pay the poorest of the poor) Its working. Its keeping corruption down. The cycle of poverty is breaking.

From the article:

For skeptics who believe that social programs never work in poor countries and that most of what’s spent on them gets stolen, conditional cash transfer programs offer a convincing rebuttal. Here are programs that help the people who most need help, and do so with very little waste, corruption or political interference. Even tiny, one-village programs that succeed this well are cause for celebration. To do this on the scale that Mexico and Brazil have achieved is astounding.

Reading this put me in mind of Richard Nixon who once proposed a negative income tax whereby the poorest people would get money back from the Government. Not quite the same thing but similar.

US politics today (Read the GOP) is too beholden to the businesses (payday loans etc.) which leach money from the poor and desperate. We’re trying to undo the damage with the incredibly wrong headed No Child Left Behind.

Middle Schools phenomenon

I just heard about this site on NPR this morning. When I saw an example of its use I decided to try it myself. I wondered how often the term “middle schools” was found in all the English language books that google has turned into data. As I suspected Middle Schools are going out of fashion. Except in Duluth.

middle school term use

Take that!

Here’s a fascinating video of a very rare thing. An outspoken non-idiot Republican. I’ve paid little attention to regional politics around the US lately but this guy, Christie, is the new Governor of New Jersey. I saw another video of him making it clear without dissing her that Sarah Palin’s success is a little like an alien invasion. Here he is addressing a teacher who has accused him of killing public education in the Garden state. No contest.
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We could use him in Duluth.

Thank you, thank you, thank you

I paid no attention to tonight’s school board meeting as my wife and I had been invited out to dine with old friends. We had gotten home and I was reading a book to my wife, In Tasmania” to help us prepare for our trip next year to Australia. Its an odd history. The first third very funny as it relates the odd coincidences surrounding the author and his connection with the “Father of Tasmania” a man who can hardly be described as anything other than a rascal. I had just ventured into a darker section about the “annihilation” of the original Tasmanian descendents when Jana Hollingsworth called with the news that Dr. Dixon had just announced his retirement. She wanted my thoughts. I joshed around much like the author of my book did as he described the Father of Tasmania. I said nothing flattering.

I asked if anyone was handcuffed and was told that no this had not happened. Loren Martell was permitted to speak and did so without interruption. I asked if Mr. Martell had said anything more inflammatory than I had in describing my thoughts about Dr. Dixon. No, in the reporter’s opinion, he had not. I told her it was just as well I had not spoken at the meeting for I might not have fared as well.

I’m not surprised at the announcement. I had to watch the news to learn it was not effective immediately but would end with Dr. Dixon’s contract after the conclusion of the school year. Standard procedure. Since Dr. Dixon would be a major issue in the election taking place at that time and since he has all but guaranteed that his Red Plan will be completed it makes sense to plan a departure before a potentially hostile school board takes over. He might even apply for another job even though he has achieved the age of retirement. If he does I’m sure the contents of this blog will make any potential employees he would supervise wary of him. Sadly his Faribault detractors were so eager to see the back of him that they zipped their lips when the Duluth School Board came sniffing around to interview the last remaining superintendent candidate available to them. The others all got other jobs or telegraphed their disinterest in Duluth’s superintendency.

I suspect the employee who penned the poisonous critique of Gary Glass and Art Johnston today for the Trib was part of an elaborate plot to pass on the good word concerning Dixon and the Red Plan. One of the emails I received from a witness to the meeting told me that a number of Dixon fans showed up to thank him for his leadership. Apparently most of them bestowed their thanks in the form of a trinity, “thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Another email from up north commented that it was amazing how the two Superintendents who had done so much for JCI’s bottom line resigned simultaneously after having fattened up the investments of JCI stockholders.

I think Dr. Dixon would have fit in very comfortably with the founders of Tasmania.