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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

School Lunches in Japan

A fascinating look at school lunches in Japan.

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I have been vocal about my opposition to raising of the minimum wage in these pages. Type “Minimum Wage” in the search box above for more links.

Here is an example from the real world. I happen to work in the subsidized childcare business. In California, as cited in this example, and all around the country, low-income families receive assistance for their childcare costs if their income is below a given threshold as it relates to family size. These programs have been in place since welfare reform under the Clinton administration in the mid 1990s. Overall, the programs have been very successful, as they benefit the children, who are not at fault that their parents are poor, or irresponsible, or didn’t plan well. Money put into education is many times more effective than money put into the correctional system later – if education failed. But that is a subject for another article.

We have a system in place where low-income people get assistance with their childcare. If such a low-income worker gets an “artificial raise” due to an increased minimum wage, that raise can easily move the person out of the current income threshold for free childcare and now the parent has to contribute to the childcare cost.

This could mean that in the end, the parent may actually end up with less money in her pocket than before. The only difference is: The state does not pay anymore, it’s the employer that does. The state saves the expense, and in pretty much all cases the money will be used to sponsor another needy family and child, one that was on the waiting list for funds and care slots.

Artificial tinkering with a balanced system does not work in nature, and usually it does not work in economics, and the side-effects of artificially inflating somebody’s pay go much further and have more ripple-effect than meets the eye. This was just one example.

P.S:

The article has some inaccuracies, one of which I thought I should point out:

Alerna Capiro is now paying the child care fee. She hires her mother, Etelvina Capiro, to babysit her 2-year-old. The state pays Etelvina a nominal amount for that care. Why does grandma do it? She said because it is her granddaughter.

The grandmother that takes care of the child is considered by the state a “license-exempt provider.” In some states those providers are also called “informal providers.” There is a regional market rate at which the state reimburses such providers, and it is not at all “nominal.” It can be significant. There is an entire sizable childcare provider community based on informal providers around the country, and in some states more funds go to informals than formal providers.

 

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A Well-Deserved Spanking

I saw this today in my Facebook feed.

Well Deserved Spanking

Yes, some of us grew up in environments where spanking was practiced. I received a spanking or two when I was a child. But I must say that I always thought they were ridiculous. My parents did not score points when they spanked me. They looked progressively weaker. Fortunately, I can’t remember more than three of four occasions. On one, it was my grandfather. But all that is anecdotal.

My question to those who agree with this slogan and share it: Who decides what a well-deserved spanking is? The child? The parent? Who decides?

And who protects the children?

Having been around social workers, childcare providers, educators and child advocates for most of my career, I believe that there are too many stark raving batshit crazy parents out there beating up their helpless children because they — well, they deserved a good spanking.

If a parent has to resort to beating, that parent likely has never learned how to properly educate, and the well-deserved spanking today just needs to be followed up by another one tomorrow — because the damn kid never learns.

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In 2013, the average Pizza Hut restaurant had revenue of $861,000. I just went to a Pizza Hut restaurant in New York State a few weeks ago, and my bill was about $24, tip not included. So if that restaurant served 100 people like me a day, it would add up to about $861,000 for the year. It all sounds reasonable.

A Pizza Hut restaurant is not much different from a McDonalds, or a Subway, or any other fast food restaurant. If they do more than a million dollars a year, it’s phenomenal. Most are struggling along. Many barely make it.

Having government raise the minimum wage from say $8 to $15, almost doubling the payroll, will surely put many restaurants out of business. Many are starting to add kiosks now so customers can order on a screen, without a human assisting. I have seen kiosks on tables at Olive Garden, I have ordered at a kiosk at Panera, and I recently saw that McDonalds is adding kiosks for customers.

Raising the minimum wage on restaurants for low-skilled or unskilled laborers is not solving the problem. We like to talk about everyone “deserving a living wage.” Those rich employers just have to make it work. Tell that to the owner of the Pizza Hut, who barely makes ends meet, and sometimes has loss years because he can’t get enough customers every day (remember, he needs a 100 every day of the year).

There are people with college degrees working as paramedics, firemen, teachers and yes, soldiers, who start out making $16 an hour. That’s what these jobs pay at the entry level. Compare that to the skill you need to flip a burger – something you can learn in a few days, and tell me again that everyone “deserves” $15 an hour.

It just does not work that way.

Forcing employers to pay higher wages to low-skilled employees inflates their costs and ends up with one of two results:

  1. They go out of business since they can’t make ends meet.
  2. They lay off staff or shorten their hours and bring in kiosks or other automation.

Both result in job loss. Fewer service jobs. More unemployment for low-skilled workers. More dependency on government handouts. Fewer jobs in the country. Higher prices for basic goods and services.

Raising the minimum wage for low-skilled workers sounds like a noble thing. After all, everyone “deserves a living wage.”

Nonsense.

Those that obtain an education and plan a career where workers are needed and therefore the pay is high will get that higher pay.

We have a terrible shortage of doctors, nurses, engineers, computer programmers, and many other professional careers that pay six figures each. Nobody deserves a living wage. The economy, the collective “all of us” are willing to pay doctors, nurses, engineers and computer programmers a lot of money because those jobs are hard, they are stressful, they have long hours, and they require many years of education.

The solution to our economic problems are not government subsidies, or regulatory interference. That never works. The solution to our problems is education.

But education is hard work.

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Last week I had the good fortune and honor to be in the audience when the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Mathews Burwell, addressed a roomful of early education professionals. It was refreshing to hear a cabinet-level person talk about the federal government’s commitment to early education.

Early education in the United States has been a stepchild program for many decades. Many people view it as babysitting. This has kept salaries for preschool teachers and daycare workers low, and it has kept adequate funding both at the state and federal level to a minimum. This has been a very misguided strategy and it has helped lead to the decline of our educational system in general, and an erosion of our competitiveness with the rest of the world. If we don’t teach our kids when they are little, they never learn how to learn, they perform poorer in high school, they don’t go to college, and all too often they end up in prison.

Brain research has shown that an infant forms about 700 neural connections a second. In a ten-hour day, that makes over 25 million new connections. So if you drop your baby off at daycare at 7:00 in the morning and pick him up at 5:00 in the afternoon, you are carrying 25 million more connections home than you dropped off.

Have those connections been formed by cognitive stimulation that a professional educator can provide? Or did your baby sit in some room all day, staring at the compelling distractions and commercials on a television screen?

Research also has found that educational level and income of parents are mirrored by their children’s performance in school. Children growing up in poorer households tend to do more poorly in school. Children of richer parents do better.

This is a powerful reason why our nation should be investing heavily in its human infrastructure. The children born today will be our CEOs, our politicians, and our teacher in 40 years. Will they be competitive with those in China? It costs some $8,000 a year to pay for a child in preschool. It costs society $50,000 a year to support a single prisoner. What is the better investment?

I often hear the conservative argument that we should not subsidize early education because it just encourages deadbeat people to “breed” more at the expense of the rest of us. To this I ask the question: Is it the child’s fault that the parent was a deadbeat, or a single teen mother, or a drug addict? Of course not. The child was simply not lucky enough to be born as the child of a rich or educated person.

If you count the 25% of the brightest and most successful children in China, the number is larger than all the children we have. If we want to be competitive with China in this century, we cannot “waste” a single child, a single brain, a single day of 25 million more neural connections.

Early education is not just babysitting. It’s the foundation of the health of our nation, the basis upon which our economy will rest 20 years hence, and the prerequisite for the tax base that will support us when we are old. Early education is really important.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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41% of Americans believe that definitely or probably humans and dinosaurs coexisted. Source.

A sitting congressman, Paul Broun, a medical doctor no less, told a crowd that evolution and the Big Bang were “lies straight from the pit of hell.” Source.

The chairman of the Senate environmental panel brought a snowball to the floor as evidence that climate change is a hoax. Source.

Congressman Todd Akin said it was his understanding from doctors that it’s rare for someone to become pregnant from rape.  He said, “The female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down.” Source.

By our public promotion of anti-intellectualism, this country is losing out to economic and cultural forces overseas. Our manufacturing jobs are moving overseas.

However, the world’s top brains are still coming to the United States to “make it here.”

Last week I attended an introductory meeting by a company that specializes in being a sales broker for software companies – Corum.  In the room were about 40 or so founders or CEOs of local San Diego software companies. In the beginning, each of us stood up to introduce ourselves, our companies and our products in a 30-second elevator speech. I didn’t keep an exact tally, but about 75% of the executives were foreign-born. Of all the people introducing themselves, there were no more than ten who were obviously born and raised in the United States – the rest had some kind of accent – ironically – including myself.

This is admittedly a very small sample, and it’s anecdotal, but it was a striking realization to me: Foreigners come to the United States, start software companies, and then grow them and make them successful.

Where are the American born software business superstars?

They are apparently a minority.

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I think we lack basic first grade math skills in this country. No wonder the Chinese outperform us.

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When I Went to School…

…I had to walk at seven o’clock in the morning, in the snow, uphill, both ways!

Just kidding.

But, when I went to school, at age 11, I had to learn Latin. I had to memorize Latin vocabulary, 20 words a day, and do translations from German into Latin and back. After about 4 years of that, we had to read Ovid‘s poems in the original Latin.

For tests, we had to read classic Roman texts and translate them into German. Or we had to translate German content into grammatically correct Latin. You got points deducted for grammar mistakes, like mismatched adjective endings.

I am grateful, because it taught me how to think. They didn’t use multiple choice tests or standardized tests. I am sure it was a challenge for the teachers to grade because they had to read two page poem translations for every student. In the end, the students knew the material, and the teachers knew that the students knew.

I think we should stop using standardized tests, multiple choice tests, and start teaching kids how to think. I think we should spend more effort on teaching art, and music, and poetry, and wood shop, and metal shop, and robotics.

I know, because when I was a kid, I had to walk at seven o’clock in the morning, in the snow, uphill, both ways!

 

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stadium univ of phoenixThe University of Phoenix San Diego campus has taken more G.I. Bill money since 2009 than every school in the entire University of California system combined. Yet, its graduation rate is only 10%, its student loan default rate is higher than its graduation rate at over 26%, according to this USA Today study. While the average American community college spends more than $3,000 per student on instruction, the University of Phoenix spent fewer than $900 per student on instruction in 2010.

So they do good marketing, attracting veterans to get degrees after leave the military. The Arizona Cardinals Stadium in Glendale carries  the name University of Phoenix Stadium. The New York Times reports that the university pays $7.7 million a year for that contract, locked in for 20 years. That’s more than $154 million.

That kind of money buys a lot of publicity this week at the Super Bowl, apparently short-changing education.

Here is an article where the University of Phoenix defends itself against a wave of negative publicity.

 

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The Obama Administration is planning on creating a college rating system, which can be used to funnel financial aid to better performing schools. Read more about it in this article in Politico.

The Republicans are already in uproar: How dare we put a single rating on a college! It can’t be done! Different students will value different features of an education!

Well, okay, but just because it’s difficult does not mean we should not TRY to do this. We use rating systems all the time. We rate restaurants, movies, hotels, cars, airlines – we rate everything. Why not colleges?

And why make it complicated? Let the people do the rating! Yelp works great – it’s kept me out of many a bad restaurant experience. I say open the rating system up to consumers, and it will be so accurate, it’ll be scary. Then we’ll know quickly if Harvard and Stanford are worth the money.

I have a problem when government dimwits stop initiatives for improvements just because they don’t understand the issues, or don’t like the possible outcomes.

They can’t deal with the truth or reality.

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Michio Kaku is a world-renowned scientist with a knack for educating the general, non-scientific public. This video is a great introduction to physics.  Yes, there are inaccuracies here, he glosses over much, but he is an excellent educator with a passion for his field. One of the best there is. I spent 42 minutes watching this, and I am grateful that I did.

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Students were asked on the 100th day of school: If they could have 100 of anything, what would it be and why?

100 Years

After reading this heartbreaking plea from this little girl, all I could think is that she is apparently living in a healthy-looking middle class home, yet she is suffering so much emotional pain already!

This shows clearly what educators and engaged parents already know: We need to spend time with our children. We don’t need to buy them much. We just need to spend time with them. Take them with us. Read books to them.

We need to —

— teach our children well.

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Today I came across a ranking of the 1000 best universities in the world at the site for the Center for the World University Ranking (CWUR). Their data is copyrighted, of course, so I did not copy anything. Their methodologies are well explained. When I reviewed the tables, it struck me that a large percentage of the very best universities was in the United States. For instance, you can see in one glance at the table that 15 out of the first 20 universities in the world are in the United States.

That got me interested in analyzing the numbers further. When I counted all 1000 and ranked them, I came up with 60 countries. I listed them in order of number of appearances in the chart below.

As you can see, out of 1000 of the best universities in the world, 229 are in the United States, 84 are in China, 74 in Japan, and so forth.

Please scroll down below this chart now.

Top 1000

Count

USA

229

China

84

Japan

74

United Kingdom

64

Germany

55

France

50

Italy

47

Spain

41

South Korea

34

Canada

32

Australia

27

Taiwan

25

Brazil

18

India

15

Netherlands

13

Austria

12

Sweden

11

Belgium

10

Turkey

10

Finland

9

Poland

9

Switzerland

9

Iran

8

Ireland

8

Greece

7

Israel

7

Portugal

7

Hong Kong

6

Hungary

6

New Zealand

6

Czech Republic

5

Denmark

5

Norway

5

South Africa

5

Argentina

4

Chile

4

Egypt

4

Saudi Arabia

4

Malaysia

3

Russia

3

Thailand

3

Colombia

2

Mexico

2

Singapore

2

Slovenia

2

Bulgaria

1

Croatia

1

Cyprus

1

Estonia

1

Iceland

1

Lebanon

1

Lithuania

1

Puerto Rico

1

Romania

1

Serbia

1

Slovak Republic

1

Uganda

1

United Arab Emirates

1

Uruguay

1

When I put this data in a chart format, it looks like this:

Of course, since 15 of the top 20 universities are in the United States, there are indications that the U.S. is heavier at the top, and just counting numbers does not do it justice.

So I counted the top 100 only and came up with this table:

Country

Count

USA

53

Japan

8

United Kingdom

7

Switzerland

4

Canada

4

France

4

Germany

4

Israel

3

China

2

Sweden

2

Netherlands

2

South Korea

1

Russia

1

Taiwan

1

Singapore

1

Denmark

1

Italy

1

Belgium

1

Over half of all the universities in the top 100 in the world are in the United States.

And here is the chart for that:

I was actually surprised how low Germany scored in this. Looking back in the original table, sorted in rank order, the first time Germany shows up is in slot 82.

I have often criticized the educational system of the United States. Mostly I referred to our elementary and secondary schools. Clearly, we still have, by far, the best university system in the world. We are head and shoulders above everyone else. It is no wonder that so many foreign students come to the United States for their education.

This is a very critical edge that is vital to our social and economic welfare and health. Our university system keeps us competitive and energized. We should be proud of it.

Now, if our American students could only afford to go to college!

 

 

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In the mid 1990s, when I was an active member of Toastmasters International, I participated in a number of speech contests. It’s very challenging when you compete against accomplished Toastmasters, many of whom have years of experience. It’s like going into a sparring ring with a bunch of black belts. In the end, out of over 25,000 contestants worldwide, one will be the World Champion of Public Speaking. There is only one per year. It’s like winning a gold medal in the Olympics – the sport being public speaking.

Each year, the Toastmasters International Convention culminates in the International Speech Contest, the final speech contest which crowns the World Champion of Public Speaking. A panel of experienced Toastmasters judges evaluate nine contestants from different parts of the world, all of whom have advanced to the finals following a year-long process of elimination through club, area, district and semifinal competitions. Criteria used in judging includes speech content, organization, voice quality and gestures.

Toastmasters International

For a list of all the World Champions since 1938, click on the link in the above quote. Let me point out three of them:

  • 1995 – Mark Brown
  • 2001 – Darren LaCroix
  • 2005 – Lance Miller

These three World Champions put on a training workshop today in San Diego that we attended. When we arrived, there was a basket where they collected business cards, presumably for a drawing of a set of CDs. Trisha dropped her business card for good measure. There were some 200 people there, so what would be the odds?

Since we had arrived a few minutes late, she did not know that the real purpose of the basket of cards was to draw “volunteers” to go on stage and start giving a speech that the masters would then critique. They picked three unlucky subjects. The third one was Trisha, who had no idea what was coming. She had no speech prepared.

Before she had time to get nervous, she found herself on stage, starting a speech she was making up on the spot, being critiqued brutally by not one, not two, but three World Champions of Public Speaking and all veteran professional speech coaches.

World Champions 1

[click to enlarge]

The picture above is fuzzy because I was way in the back of a poorly lit room snapping away with my iPhone. But you can see that she had a good time sparring with the masters.

World Champions 2

[click to enlarge]

Here you can see how lively it got, all three of them clamoring to make suggestions, gestures flying.

She held her own and I am proud of her.

I know there is a speech in here somewhere. One day it will start:

So I went to a speech training by three World Champions and I misread the situation and put my business card in a basket…

 

 

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