North Carolina's State Board of Education is scheduled to vote on nine applications for new charter schools in the state. This is of course not without opposition. Two applicants are in the Triangle area and both are facing opposition, which puzzles me. Well, it doesn't puzzle me when you consider that the opponents are government school teachers and bureaucrats. Whose interests are being served?
From a letter in today's Raleigh News & Observer, Fredrick A. Davis and Leigh Bordley, members of the Durham's Board of Education, state the following as one of three reasons for rejecting a STEM charter school in Durham.
We believe that strong, diverse schools best prepare our children for the world. Currently Durham's charter schools serve an average of only 37 percent high-poverty students while DPS serves 63 percent. Why? Barriers permit the exclusion of students with high needs. Of eight charter schools in Durham, only two provide transportation and only four provide lunch. The proposed Research Triangle High School application contains exclusionary barriers and will not serve a diverse student population.
Of all the arguments for public schooling, diversity is the most insidious and destructive. What these writers are advocating is that students who are above average should be cut down at the knees so that they don't advance too far ahead of their lower performing peers. What social goals are served by such a policy? I remember Kurt Vonnegut wrote a short story about that once.
The principle of natural rights is that governments do not confer rights onto people; rights are derived from nature and are inherent in our being human. We are born with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are not grants of governments. A natural right transcends politics, policians and government.
To many, especially on the Left, this is an outdated philosophy that interferes with good-meaning policies passed by well-intentioned politicians. Lawrence Lindsey does an excellent job of rebuffing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's view that people earning more are obligated to pay an increasingly greater share of their income in taxes to the government because they have benefitted far more from being an American than those who have not taken advantage of this basic political philosophy.
One can always argue that this ratio should be 10-to-1, that the "privilege" of being governed is worth 10 times as much per dollar of income to someone who is rich than to someone who is middle-class. Once we give up our moral compass of government deriving its powers from the people. we must also give up any empirical compass of how much we must surrender to government. When you begin the argument that being a citizen is a "privilege" for which one should pay ever more, you very quickly find yourself on Friedrich Hayek's "Road to Serfdom."
As Ed Hughes, president and CEO of Gateway Community and Technical College in Kentucky, accurately described the trend, "In the 1980s, U.S. manufacturing was "80% brawn and 20% brains, " but now it's "10% brawn and 90% brains." This new trend, widely known as "advanced manufacturing," leans heavily on computation and software, sensing, networking and automation, and the use of emerging capabilities from the physical and biological sciences.
The problem isn't too little spent on post-secondary education; it's both a misallocation of talent in K-12, killing any drive and/or interest for schooling in the vast majority of school-age children.
There is no reason that every student is put in a black box and follow a college prep curriculum. Vocational education in the past was where low functioning and problem kids were placed and taught largely worthless skills. There is a wanting for effective vocational secondary education. I'm not talking about making a cutting board or throwing a pot in ceramics, but developing problem solving skills, learning computer technology and operating other high tech equipment, and entrepreneurship, which involves more than putting together a business plan and learning what is a balance sheet.
This won't succeed in a public school because, like math and sciences, you need to attract more skilled people and the current pay structure in the public school system doesn't permit differential pay based on opportunity cost. This is something Raleigh businessman and education proponent Bob Luddy wants to do. I hope he's successful.
I've always liked Dee Dee Myers. I didn't always agree with her, but there was something credible about her, and her rise to prominence in the Clinton administration at such a young age was admirable. But she certainly showed some ignorance on ABC's This Week this morning.
TAPPER: But, Dee Dee, you think this was a good week for the president, in terms of his economic message?
MYERS: I do. I think that it's sort of the third act in the economic play. First, we saw the president's jobs bill proposal. Then we had the State of the Union and we had the budget. And he's on a consistent theme, which is we're going to build an economy that's built to that that will make sure that people who work hard and play by the rules have the opportunity to succeed. It's opportunity and responsibility. Where have we heard that before?
WILL: And what is the antecedent of the pronoun "we"? "We are going to build this"? It's the government. That's his constant message, is we in Washington know best, we know how much manufacturing there ought to be, we know how much of this there ought to be, we're going to pick the winners and losers. Their record at this is appalling.
MYERS: I think it's different than that, actually, George, you'll be shocked to know. I think it's saying that, you know what, there are some inequities built into the system. Why is it that the rich keep getting richer? The well-to-do have seen their income and their wealth grow by unprecedented amounts.
There's only a couple explanations for that. Either the rich people are really a lot smarter than the rest of us -- and I don't think any of us at that table would stipulate...
TAPPER: Lou might.
MYERS: ... or there might be something in the rules that's rigged and the government actually can do something about that, to try to level the playing field so that ordinary folks can get ahead again. One of the reasons we're seeing the reactions that we're seeing in the country is because people feel like the rules are rigged, the playing field is no longer level, and if you work hard and you play by the rules, you can no longer be sure that you're going to do well.
Capitalism is a system of rules and contracts that enable people to specialize in production and enter into voluntary exchanges with one another. Choose your own path, and if in the process you create value for others who then want to trade with you, you in turn make yourself better off.
Why would anyone ever call for more government to correct this? It's as if NFL or NBA officials were totally rigging games for personal profit and in response the owners called for more rules and more officials to oversee those rules. Government legislation and enforcement (or lack thereof) impact market capitalism and the personal freedom it brings about, but that has in may respects skewed the playing field, not made it level.
Dee Dee, Ronald Reagan was right: Government is not the solution. Government is the problem masquerading as the solution.
It's not the tack I would have used, nor the message I would have espoused, but it's both entertaining and sad to watch Peter Schiff grill, and get grilled by, the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
At just beyond the 15:15 mark, someone asks why it is the one percent have seen such dramatic gains in their incomes while the median household has seen their's decline. (This is largely an abuse of data.) Schiff argues that it's the government's fault. Don't the comments made by the protesters in the video have some explanatory power for why wages for some - especially the protesters - might be falling?
I would only make the distinction one of democracy and a federalist republic. We live in the latter, not the former. The beauty of the United States is that we are free to petition our government, criticize what it is doing, devolve powers to create more competition (though that is becoming somewhat moot), and act to improve our selves without much interference from the state (again, somewhat disappearing). It's not that we can go to a booth and pull levers as a means of instilling someone in a position of power (notice I said power rather than authority) that makes the U.S. a free and prosperous nation.