Archives for category: Economy

One of the central narratives of the faux “reform” movement is that poverty is just an excuse for bad teachers. In my book “Reign of Error,” I documented many reformers claiming that poverty can be overcome by high expectations and great teachers. The fact that test scores reflect family income, they say, demonstrates that poor kids are not getting great teachers.

But social science research has demonstrated for decades that poverty hurts children and families. It means less access to medical care, good nutrition, and good housing. It means that families lack economic security, a decent home, and the many advantages that middle-income and upper-income families take for granted.

Now, new studies of brain development are showing that poverty has even deeper effects on children’s health and well-being than previously suspected. The effects of living without the basic necessities of life can damage children’s life prospects. In this age of affluence and austerity, it seems wildly radical to say it, but I will: education will improve if we reduce poverty. Poverty will decrease if the federal government creates real jobs. Real jobs will be created if the federal government invests in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

The problems of our society should be addressed by action. Demonizing teachers does not help children or improve education.

To learn more, read Bob Herbert’s powerful book, Losing Our Way.

 

International test scores have been used by reformers like Arne Duncan, Jeb Bush, Joel Klein, and Michelle Rhee as a fear tactic. During the 2016 presidential campaign, you will surely hear much wailing and gnashing of the teeth about how our scores on international tests are undermining our global competitiveness and economic growth.

 

Horsefeathers!

 

Here is a post that I wrote in 2013; I updated it. It explains why those international test scores don’t matter, except to tell us that if we really wanted to raise them, we would reduce poverty. Let me say that again: if we reduced poverty, we would have higher scores on international tests.

 

“The news reports say that the test scores of American students on the latest PISA test are “stagnant,” “lagging,” “flat,” etc.

 

The U.S. Department of Education would have us believe–yet again–that we are in an unprecedented crisis and that we must double down on the test-and-punish strategies of the past dozen years.

 

The myth persists that once our nation led the world on international tests, but we have fallen from that exalted position in recent years.

 

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

 

Here is the background history that you need to know to interpret the PISA score release, as well as Secretary Duncan’s calculated effort to whip up national hysteria about our standing in the international league tables.

 

The U.S. has NEVER been first in the world, nor even near the top, on international tests.

 

Over the past half century, our students have typically scored at or near the median, or even in the bottom quartile. And yet during this same period, we grew to be one of the most powerful economies in the world. How could that be?

 

International testing began in the mid-1960s with a test of mathematics. The First International Mathematics Study tested 13-year-olds and high-school seniors in 12 nations. American 13-year-olds scored significantly lower than students in nine other countries and ahead of students in only one. On a test given only to students currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students scored last, behind those in the 11 other nations. On a test given to seniors not currently enrolled in a math class, the U.S. students again scored last.

 

The First International Science Study was given in the late 1960s and early 1970s to 10-year-olds, 14-year-olds, and seniors. The 10-year-olds did well, scoring behind only the Japanese; the 14-year-olds were about average. Among students in the senior year of high school, Americans scored last of eleven school systems.

 

In the Second International Mathematics Study (1981-82), students in 15 systems were tested. The students were 13-year-olds and seniors. The younger group of U.S. students placed at or near the median on most tests. The American seniors placed at or near the bottom on almost every test. The “average Japanese students achieved higher than the top 5% of the U.S. students in college preparatory mathematics” and “the algebra achievement of our most able students (the top 1%) was lower than that of the top 1% of any other country.” (The quote is from Curtis C. McKnight and others, The Underachieving Curriculum: Assessing U.S. Mathematics from an International Perspective, pp. 17, 26-27). I summarized the international assessments from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s in a book called National Standards in American Education: A Citizen’s Guide (Brookings, 1995).

 

The point worth noting here is that U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.

 

Does it matter?

 

In my last book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964. He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.” He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores. Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.

 

Baker wrote that a certain level of educational achievement may be “a platform for launching national success, but once that platform is reached, other factors become more important than further gains in test scores. Indeed, once the platform is reached, it may be bad policy to pursue further gains in test scores because focusing on the scores diverts attention, effort, and resources away from other factors that are more important determinants of national success.” What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”

 

Baker’s conclusion was that “standings in the league tables of international tests are worthless.”

 

I agree with Baker. The more we focus on tests, the more we kill creativity, ingenuity, and the ability to think differently. Students who think differently get lower scores. The more we focus on tests, the more we reward conformity and compliance, getting the right answer.

 

Thirty-two years ago, a federal report called “A Nation at Risk” warned that we were in desperate trouble because of the poor academic performance of our students. The report was written by a distinguished commission, appointed by the Secretary of Education. The commission pointed to those dreadful international test scores and complained that “on 19 academic tests American students were never first or second and, in comparison with other industrialized nations, were last seven times.” With such terrible outcomes, the commission said, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.” Yet we are still here, apparently the world’s most dominant economy. We still are a “Nation and a people.” What were they thinking? Go figure.

 

Despite having been proved wrong for the past half century, the Bad News Industry is in full cry, armed with the PISA scores, expressing alarm, fright, fear, and warnings of imminent economic decline and collapse.

 

Never do they explain how it was possible for the U.S. to score so poorly on international tests again and again over the past half century and yet still emerge as the world’s leading economy, with the world’s most vibrant culture, and a highly productive workforce.

 

From my vantage point as a historian, here is my takeaway from the PISA scores:

 

Lesson 1: If they mean anything at all, the PISA scores show the failure of the past thirteen years of public policy in the United States. The billions invested in testing, test prep, and accountability have not raised test scores or our nation’s relative standing on the league tables. No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are manifest failures at accomplishing their singular goal of higher test scores.

 

Lesson 2: The PISA scores burst the bubble of the alleged “Florida miracle” touted by Jeb Bush. Florida was one of three states–Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida–that participated in the PISA testing. Massachusetts did very well, typically scoring above the OECD average and the US average, as you might expect of the nation’s highest performing state on NAEP. Connecticut also did well. But Florida did not do well at all. It turns out that the highly touted “Florida model” of testing, accountability, and choice was not competitive, if you are inclined to take the scores seriously. In math, Florida performed below the OECD average and below the U.S. average. In science, Florida performed below the OECD average and at the U.S. average. In reading, Massachusetts and Connecticut performed above both the OECD and U.S. average, but Florida performed at average for both.

 

Lesson 3: Improving the quality of life for the nearly one-quarter of students who live in poverty–and the 51% who live in low-income families– would improve their academic performance. If we had less poverty, we would have higher test scores.

 

Lesson 4: We measure only what can be measured. We measure whether students can pick the right answer to a test question. But what we cannot measure matters more. The scores tell us nothing about students’ imagination, their drive, their ability to ask good questions, their insight, their inventiveness, their creativity. If we continue the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in education, we will not only NOT get higher scores (the Asian nations are so much better at this than we are), but we will crush the very qualities that have given our nation its edge as a cultivator of new talent and new ideas for many years.

 

The fact is that during the past 13 years of high-stakes testing, American scores on the PISA exam have not budged at all. If anything, they have slipped a few points. Test and punish failed! No Child Left Behind failed! Race to the Top failed! Who shall we hold accountable? George W. Bush? His advisor Sandy Kress? Secretary of Education Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings? Barack Obama? Arne Duncan? Congress? They forced states and districts to spend billions of dollars on testing, and all of this testing didn’t move the needle on the PISA tests. What if those billions had been spent instead to reduce class sizes? To provide health clinics for schools in poor communities? To create jobs? We need a new approach, and sadly, our policymakers continue to push the same failed ideas. The fact is that we have intolerably high levels of child poverty, and children who are poor register the lowest test scores. There is a simple but obvious formula: Reducing poverty will lift test scores.

 

Higher test scores should not be our national goal. Healthy, imaginative, curious children should be. Rather than focusing on test scores, I prefer to bet on the creative, can-do spirit of the American people, on its character, persistence, ambition, hard work, and big dreams, none of which are ever measured or can be measured by standardized tests like PISA.

Read this article in the Boston Globe and ask yourself: “What’s the point of a college degree?”

The article assumes that one gets a degree to get a better job and make more money. It describes a program that is cheap and enables low-income students to get a degree, in large extent through online learning.

A couple of liberal arts professors complain that this bargain basement approach is not really a college education. Because they are poor, the students have no exposure to real education.

““The whole premise of College for America is bargain education,” says Amy Slaton, a Drexel University history professor who has been a vocal critic of the model. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re going to help everyone reach the best of the best,’ we’re saying, ‘Here’s the generic, no-frills version for you.’ It pegs the value of the education to what you’re able to pay, instead of helping everyone to achieve the richest, most varied education they can. Why aren’t we asking about how we can bring more classroom time, more expert teaching to everyone?”

Or another question:

Why aren’t we bringing down the cost of higher education with greater student aid? Why trick poor and minority students with a cheap substitute for a real college education? If having a degree matters most, just give out a generic degree that means nothing except you can say you have one. That’s cheaper still. There are so many fake universities these days, who will know the difference?

If we really cared about students and education, higher education would be free, at least in the public sector.

Peter Greene recently read a blog debate in the “Néw York Times” on the topic of how to improve teaching. He reacted strongly to the contribution by Eric Hanushek, an economist at the Hoover Institution. Hanushek is well known for his belief that the best way to tell which teachers are best is to see which ones get the highest test score gains; that raising scores will eventually produce trillions of dollars in economic growth; and that teachers who can’t produce higher scores should be “deselected.” That is, fired.

Here is the beginning of Greene’s critique of the economists’ contribution to education policy;

“When you want a bunch of legit-sounding baloney about education, call up an economist. I can’t think of a single card-carrying economist who has produced useful insights about education, schools and teaching, but from Brookings to the Hoover Institute, economists can be counted on to provide a regular stream of fecund fertilizer about schools.

“So here comes Eric Hanushek in the New York Times (staging one of their op-ed debates, which tend to resemble a soccer game played on the side of a mountain) to offer yet another rehash of his ideas about teaching. The Room for Debate pieces are always brief, but Hansuhek impressively gets a whole ton of wrong squeezed into a tiny space. Here’s his opening paragaph:

“Despite decades of study and enormous effort, we know little about how to train or select high quality teachers. We do know, however, that there are huge differences in the effectiveness of classroom teachers and that these differences can be observed.”

“This is a research puzzler of epic proportions. Hansuhek is saying, “We do not know how to tell the difference between a green apple and a red apple, but we have conclusive proof that a red apple tastes better.” Exactly what would that experimental design look like? Exactly how do you compare the red and green apples if you can’t tell them apart?

“The research gets around this issue by using a circular design. We first define high quality teachers as those whose students get high test scores. Then we study these high quality teachers and discover that they get students to score well on tests. It’s amazing!

“Economists have been at the front of the parade declaring that teachers cannot be judged on qualifications or anything else except results. Here’s a typical quote, this time from a Rand economist: “The best way to assess teachers’ effectiveness is to look at their on-the-job performance, including what they do in the classroom and how much progress their students make on achievement tests.”

“It’s economists who have given us the widely debunked shell game that is Valued Added Measuring of teachers, and they’ve been peddling that snake oil for a while (here’s a research summary from 2005). It captures all the wrong thinking of economists in one destructive ball– all that matters about teachers is the test scores they produce, and every other factor that affects a student’s test score can be worked out in a fancy equation.”

A few years ago, I engaged in an Internet debate with Rick Hanushek on the Eduwonk website. Here is the exchange:
Hanushek
My Response
Hanushek
My response

I agree with Peter Greene that economists have had far too much influence on educational policy. The attempt to quantify teaching and learning is ruinous to education and buries any consideration of the purpose of education. Children are not widgets. Learning is far too complex to be measured by standardized multiple-choice tests. Education includes many goals other than test scores. Teachers are professionals and should not be treated as interchangeable low-wage workers.

Laura H. Chapman, arts educator, has taught from pre-school through college. In this comment, she responds to the pressure on little children to be “college-and-career-ready.”

 

 

 

Arizona has a checklist for this purpose. It is offered up as graphic and “balloon questions” that should be answered as if proof that the kindergartner is on track for college AND a career. (Meanwhile Congress wants to reframe NCLB as “Every Child Ready for College OR Career).”

 

Arizona’s State Department of Education offers a graphic that also functions as a checklist for college and career readiness. There in no picture of a train on a track, just comic-like bubbles filled with text, organized around a car. The car is facing left (a visual convention that has long been used to imply “go west)”

 

You can see this graphic and some grade by grade versions of the college/career questions here http://www.azed.gov/azccrs/files/2013/10/k-12collegeandcareerchecklist.pdf

 

This kind of checklist is migrating to other states via the promoters of “personalized learning” and on-line programs where dashboard versions update information and post “recommendations” for specific colleges or for career certificates that match up with student interests, family budgets, and so on. Some of these programs are designed to by-pass the need for face-to-face guidance from middle and high school guidance counselors.

 

The permitted “vocational interest” classifications in these assessments typically match up with 16 “career clusters” and occupational pathways linked to O’Net, an online resource designed for job-seekers. The O’Net system in turn, is connected to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that offers projections of labor markets by industry and occupations, the most recent from 2012 to 2022. These projections are updated every 2 years.

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics labor projections show the fastest growing occupations, those with a rise or drop in average salary, those with educational requirements such as on the job training, high school diploma, and more.

 

You will not find Achieve, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the promoters of the Common Core, STEM, and technical education publicizing many of these projections. Why not?

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projections take into account outsourcing, the shifting of professional work to paraprofessionals and automated technologies, the expansion of services for the aging baby-boomers, and so on. The jobs and trend lines show that many jobs are not destined to be “drivers of the global economy.” Neither will many produce a fast turn-around in the U.S. economy. The job projections do not match much of the career hype.

 

Almost all of the business and economic reasoning from the late 1990s—prompting talk about a nation at risk from global competition, higher standards as a panacea, and implied promises of unbridled growth in high tech careers—persists, along with claims that every student must have post-secondary education, preferably college. No doubt college helps on life-long income, but that has been true for a long time.

 

The career promoters who want to reach into kindergarten with assessments and year to year tracking are doing the equivalent of killing the seed corn. The seed corn is PLAY…unleashed from any clear purpose, unencumbered by what it is good for, untethered to CEO expectations for a 21st workforce.

 

It is as if…nothing changed after 9/11—just go shopping and get your little ones prepared for that and making marketable goodies.

 

It is as if…the world economy did not tank in 2007-2008, or if so, it was the fault of low standards, not enough testing, lazy teachers, too much play in school, especially Kindergarten.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 51 percent of K-12 students today live in poverty.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that 30 states provide less funding per student in 2014-15 than they did before the 2008 recession.

 

It is as if…it is perfectly OK that the price tag of K-12 education has increased since 2008, due to rising costs of supplies and tests—more tests from an unregulated industry, and and dubious investments in technology for tests and data-mining.

 

It is as if…all of those teacher salaries were outrageous. Fact check: Between 1999 and 2013 the average salary decreased by 1.3 percent (adjusted dollars), National Center for Education Statistics.

 

I hope that the teachers and parents of Kindergarten children in Arizona will download and shred this ugly graphic filled with questions about careers.

 

It is time for some civil disobedience to stop careerism, especially in Kindergarten and the early grades. This must become as important as stopping the endless testing…for the sake of children who need to experience childhood for the joy of that and as the greatest way to learn stuff that matters to them. That “stuff” may, by a circuitous path, matter more to the future of a great nation than all of the rigors and angst created by today’s strictly academic regime.”

While policymakers tell the public that the Common Core standards will prepare all students for “college and careers,” while journalists like David Brooks assert that education will reduce poverty and inequality, economists predict that 47% of jobs will disappear in the U.S. due to robots and other new technology. Not all jobs will disappear: as one of the papers below says, there will still be a need for maids to make beds in hotels.

“At The WorldPost’s Future of Work Conference, a partnership of The Huffington Post and Berggruen Institute taking place in London this week, a similar anxiety has begun to emerge — if not with workers, then with the economists who study them.

“According to our research, 47 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at risk from technology over the next 20 years,” Michael Osborne, a co-director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment, told me. The group’s research combined U.S. Bureau of Statistics data with a complex machine-learning algorithm of its own to draw its conclusions….”

“There are some recent trends experts are sharing which show how this new world might look like, when the small percentage of individuals or corporations that own machines (the means of production) are the only ones able to make money, and as the rest of us (the middle class) lose our jobs for the simple fact that #RobotsDoItBetter.

“Take the most-talked-about slide of the day (seen below), courtesy of Anthony McAfee, associate director of the Center for Digital Business at the MIT Sloan School of Management. The line that has been going up since about 2002 represents total gross domestic product in the U.S. The line that is going down represents wages paid as a percentage of that GDP…”

“Open the link to see the graph. It shows a large increase in productivity coupled with a declining share of income going to wages.

Here is more about the conference in London:

Weekend Roundup: Preparing to Be Disrupted

By: Nathan Gardels, Editor-in-chief

This week, The WorldPost conference on “The Future of Work” took place at Lancaster House in London. Discussion around the theme “prepare to be disrupted” ranged from how the emergent sharing economy, along with 3D desktop manufacturing, would take work back into the home to worries that automation could eliminate as much as 47 percent of current jobs in the United States.

Participants included Google’s Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman, economists Laura Tyson, Nouriel Roubini and Mohamed El-Erian, Steve Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson, Japanese robot creator Tomotaka Takahashi and Arianna Huffington among others. Jordan’s Queen Rania spoke about how social media is fostering small business startups in the Arab world and offering a different narrative than that of the fanatics. She also called for dropping the “I” from ISIS since “there’s nothing Islamic about them.”

In The WorldPost, Ian Goldin of the Oxford Martin School writes that technological advance can lead to greater inequality or inclusive prosperity depending on how we govern ourselves. In an interview, futurist Jeremy Rifkin outlines the zero-marginal cost economy he sees coming. XPrize founder Peter Diamandis discusses his new book “Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World” and how exponential technologies such as 3D manufacturing and synthetic biology are transforming all of our lives for the better. This week’s series from Singularity University looks at Germany’s advanced robotic metal sculpting machines. WorldPost Associate Editor Peter Mellgard reports that, “artificial intelligence is breaking out of the box,” according to a panel of experts who recently gathered in New York at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Amy Rosen writes that the skill most needed in the future is an entrepreneurial mindset to navigate the ever-changing innovation economy. Virgin Unite’s Jean Oelwang writes that businesses of the future are looking beyond the bottom line and are becoming people and purpose oriented. Reflecting from Tokyo on a recent visit by Thomas Piketty, Yuriko Koike explains “why Japan does not have America’s super-rich problem.”

Speaking at the London conference, MIT’s Andrew McAfee argues that digital technology is “the best economic news in human history” but says that it poses many challenges to job creation in the future. David Gergen, the long-time presidential adviser now at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, proposes that the best way to adapt to tech disruption is “from the bottom up” instead of waiting for government policy. Other topics reported on from the conference included: how jobs are at risk because of advancing technologies, why women are winners when it comes to successful petitions, how the myths around meditation and business have been busted and why, according to Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com, none of her peers in the House of Lords understands the Internet.

As the National People’s Congress got underway in China this week, legal scholar He Jiahong writes from Beijing that establishing the rule of law in China must challenge “guanxi,” or personal connections, in business and politics. WorldPost China Correspondent Matt Sheehan gives us an inside look at dissident artist Ai Weiwei’s exhibit on Alcatraz island in San Francisco Bay. He also writes about an anti-pollution documentary that went viral in China.

Writing from Moscow, Georgy Bovt says Russia is headed down a “dark path” after the murder of Boris Nemtsov. French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy says Nemtsov’s example will live long after his murder at the doorstep of the Kremlin. Writing from Athens, Kyriakos Mitskotakis looks at how European realities have deeply constrained the radical plans of the new Greek government.

In this week’s “Forgotten Fact,” The WorldPost looks at Russia’s investigation of opposition leaders and why it does not bode well for the Nemtsov case.

Mia Bloom discusses “how ISIS is using marriage as a trap” to lure young women from the West and elsewhere to join with its fighters in Syria and Iraq. WorldPost Middle East Correspondent Sophia Jones reports from Istanbul this week on the merciless humor of Middle East comics directed at ISIS. She also writes about NFL stars who have traveled to Turkey to teach women football. Writing from Berlin following Bibi’s visit to Washington, German parliamentarian Philipp Missfelderargues that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is right about Iran and that “no deal is better than a bad deal.”

Finally, in light of the death of Turkey’s famed novelist Yasar Kemal, an ethnic Kurd, Behlül Özkan writes that, “in this time of great darkness in the Middle East, the Kurdish movement has reason to be hopeful about the future.”

WHO WE ARE

EDITORS: Nathan Gardels, Senior Advisor to the Berggruen Institute and the long-time editor of NPQ and the Global Viewpoint Network of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate/Tribune Media, is the Editor-in-Chief of The WorldPost. Farah Mohamed is the Managing Editor of The WorldPost. Kathleen Miles is the Senior Editor of the WorldPost. Alex Gardels is the Associate Editor of The WorldPost. Katie Nelson is the National Editor at the Huffington Post, overseeing The WorldPost and HuffPost’s editorial coverage. Eline Gordts is HuffPost’s Senior World Editor. Charlotte Alfred and Nick Robins-Early are Associate World Editors.

CORRESPONDENTS: Sophia Jones in Istanbul; Matt Sheehan in Beijing.

EDITORIAL BOARD: Nicolas Berggruen, Nathan Gardels, Arianna Huffington, Eric Schmidt (Google Inc.), Pierre Omidyar (First Look Media) Juan Luis Cebrian (El Pais/PRISA), Walter Isaacson (Aspen Institute/TIME-CNN), John Elkann (Corriere della Sera, La Stampa), Wadah Khanfar (Al Jazeera), Dileep Padgaonkar (Times of India) and Yoichi Funabashi (Asahi Shimbun).

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Moises Naim (former editor of Foreign Policy) and Nayan Chanda (Yale/Global; Far Eastern Economic Review). Katherine Keating (One-On-One), Sergio Munoz Bata and Parag Khanna are contributing editors.

The Asia Society and its ChinaFile, edited by Orville Schell, is our primary partner on Asia coverage. Eric X. Li and the Chunqiu Institute/Fudan University in Shanghai and Guancha.cn also provide first person voices from China. We also draw on the content of China Digital Times. Seung-yoon Lee is The WorldPost link in South Korea.

Jared Cohen of Google Ideas provides regular commentary from young thinkers, leaders and activists around the globe. Bruce Mau provides regular columns from
MassiveChangeNetwork.com on the “whole mind” way of thinking. Patrick Soon-Shiong is Contributing Editor for Health and Medicine.

ADVISORY COUNCIL: Members of the Berggruen Institute’s 21st Century Council and Council for the Future of Europe serve as the Advisory Council — as well as regular contributors — to the site. These include, Jacques Attali, Shaukat Aziz, Gordon Brown, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Juan Luis Cebrian, Jack Dorsey, Mohamed El-Erian, Francis Fukuyama, Felipe Gonzalez, John Gray, Reid Hoffman, Fred Hu, Mo Ibrahim, Alexei Kudrin, Pascal Lamy, Kishore Mahbubani, Alain Minc, Dambisa Moyo,Laura Tyson, Elon Musk, Pierre Omidyar, Raghuram Rajan, Nouriel Roubini, Nicolas Sarkozy, Eric Schmidt, Gerhard Schroeder, Peter Schwartz, Amartya Sen, Jeff Skoll, Michael Spence, Joe Stiglitz, Larry Summers, Wu Jianmin, George Yeo, Fareed Zakaria, Ernesto Zedillo, Ahmed Zewail, and Zheng Bijian.

From the Europe group, these include: Marek Belka, Tony Blair, Jacques Delors, Niall Ferguson, Anthony Giddens, Otmar Issing, Mario Monti, Robert Mundell, Peter Sutherland and Guy Verhofstadt.

MISSION STATEMENT

The WorldPost is a global media bridge that seeks to connect the world and connect the dots. Gathering together top editors and first person contributors from all corners of the planet, we aspire to be the one publication where the whole world meets.

We not only deliver breaking news from the best sources with original reportage on the ground and user-generated content; we bring the best minds and most authoritative as well as fresh and new voices together to make sense of events from a global perspective looking around, not a national perspective looking out.

Berggruen Institute | 100 Wilshire Boulevard | Santa Monica | CA | 90401

Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist who writes a column for the Néw York Times, demolishes the “reformers'” claim that bad education is at the root of inequality and economic issues.

He flunks the talking heads and pundits (and by implication, the Néw York Times editorial board, which employs the arguments he debunks) for asserting that schools and teachers are to blame for inequality.

Among other things, he critiques laments about the “skills gap.” If employers want certain skills, they would pay higher wages for those skills.

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education commissioned a study comparing MCAS, the 20-year-old state assessment system, and PARCC, the federally funded Common Core test. It concluded that PARCC is superior to MCAS in preparing students to be workforce and college ready.

This is a surprising conclusion, since MCAS has been in use for two decades and PARCC is not only untried but very controversial. When Arne Duncan handed out $360 million to create two consortia to develop tests for the Common Core, PARCC enlisted 24 states and DC. Now, only 10 states and DC are sticking with PARCC.

Even more surprising are the reports about a lack of well-prepared workers. Massachusetts is by far the most successful state in the nation, as judged by NAEP test scores. Maybe test scores don’t translate into the skills, behaviors, and habits that employers seek. But how do these business people know that PARCC will be better?

The Economist published a fascinating and disturbing article about the hardening of class lines in the U.S. most of us grew up believing that anyone could grow up to be President. Maybe it was never true, although the examples of Abraham Lincoln and Harry S Truman encouraged us to believe it was true. But now?

“WHEN the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination line up on stage for their first debate in August, there may be three contenders whose fathers also ran for president. Whoever wins may face the wife of a former president next year. It is odd that a country founded on the principle of hostility to inherited status should be so tolerant of dynasties. Because America never had kings or lords, it sometimes seems less inclined to worry about signs that its elite is calcifying.

“Thomas Jefferson drew a distinction between a natural aristocracy of the virtuous and talented, which was a blessing to a nation, and an artificial aristocracy founded on wealth and birth, which would slowly strangle it. Jefferson himself was a hybrid of these two types—a brilliant lawyer who inherited 11,000 acres and 135 slaves from his father-in-law—but the distinction proved durable. When the robber barons accumulated fortunes that made European princes envious, the combination of their own philanthropy, their children’s extravagance and federal trust-busting meant that Americans never discovered what it would be like to live in a country where the elite could reliably reproduce themselves.

“Now they are beginning to find out, (see article), because today’s rich increasingly pass on to their children an asset that cannot be frittered away in a few nights at a casino. It is far more useful than wealth, and invulnerable to inheritance tax. It is brains.
Matches made in New Haven
Intellectual capital drives the knowledge economy, so those who have lots of it get a fat slice of the pie. And it is increasingly heritable. Far more than in previous generations, clever, successful men marry clever, successful women. Such “assortative mating” increases inequality by 25%, by one estimate, since two-degree households typically enjoy two large incomes. Power couples conceive bright children and bring them up in stable homes—only 9% of college-educated mothers who give birth each year are unmarried, compared with 61% of high-school dropouts. They stimulate them relentlessly: children of professionals hear 32m more words by the age of four than those of parents on welfare. They move to pricey neighbourhoods with good schools, spend a packet on flute lessons and pull strings to get junior into a top-notch college….

“None of this is peculiar to America, but the trend is most visible there. This is partly because the gap between rich and poor is bigger than anywhere else in the rich world—a problem Barack Obama alluded to repeatedly in his state-of-the-union address on January 20th (see article). It is also because its education system favours the well-off more than anywhere else in the rich world. Thanks to hyperlocal funding, America is one of only three advanced countries where the government spends more on schools in rich areas than in poor ones.”

An economist recently predicted trillions of dollars of increased productivity if schools raised test scores and thus eliminated poverty.

This teacher has a different view, grounded in reality, not speculation.

“As a teacher in a high poverty urban school, I would like to weigh in here. My school is not set up to eliminate poverty. That argument is rubbish. Would any of these economists like to put a price on the psychological toll of poverty? My kids are worried about getting shot. It is a common occurrence in the neighborhood. They eat the school breakfast totally lacking in nutrition as if it were mana from heaven. Some wear the same clothes day after day. The vast majority are not focused on their studies due to shouldering the unrelenting burdens of poverty.”

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