Are we ruining Education?

EDIT: Since people seem to have some issues with my profanity, I'm changing my TL;DR to look more like an actual essay I'd want to publish. Oh and also for those of you who can't get past the rhetoric and can't get the actual message, I'm kindly adding annotations for ya.

Good education (K-12, College, and trade schools) is the most fundamental factor that impacts not only the success of a nation but true equality of opportunity. Most of us on WSO probably can't relate since we're either all smart enough to get into targets/semi-targets or are ambitious and driven enough to get ahead in life.

The sad truth is that education in the US has been disproportionate and unfair for quite some time - world class for the smart and ones who can afford it, but complete dog shit no better than that of a 3rd world country for the poor and the not-so-brights. What can I say? This makes me so F***ING MAD and I'm gonna rant while trying to offer some perspectives.

What really drives me F***ING NUTS is that there are bunch of people out there who call themselves "AcTiViStS" and "PoLiTiCiAnS" who care about "MaKiNg ThInGs BeTtEr fOr AvEraGe AmEriCaNs" or whatever nice-sounding BS they come up with. But you know what the truth is? Most of them are bunch of ideologues, sycophants, opportunists, and dumbasses who don't know jack shit. [Main Argument: It's senseless to discuss Voucher vs. NAtionalized Education System]

[Supporting Point 1: Standardized test scores are not good metrics to measure effectiveness of an education system] Bunch of "LiBeRaLs" talk about how they want to "ban charter schools" or whatever. Well guess what? Your metrics are FUCKING dumb. Standardized tests scores don't mean jack shit if your students can't think for themselves and can't be creative. I remember Obama praising Korean students for being so smart and some shit like that. Dude could not have been more WRONG.

[Example 1: Nationalized Education Can Fail] Korean students pull banker work hours studying for bunch of nonsense exams from K-12 and I ain't exaggerating. Every year bunch of Korean students die from studying too much or commit suicide due to immense pressure. You know how many Nobel prizes that Korea has? It only has 1 and it was a god damn Nobel peace prize. Why do you think Samsung is nothing but a copy-cat (really good one though)? You ever hear about some cool start-up based in Korea? K-Pop is sooo big and they must be bunch of creative geniuses right? NO FUCKING WAY. The entire K-pop industry runs on bunch of desperate kids. There is a whole system to find bunch of potentially talented kids, train them 24/7 like dogs for years, and only the top of the top actually gets to debut and be successful. The rest become borderline prostitutes, bartenders, or backup dancers at best.

[Supporting Point 2 + Example 2: Voucher Systems can Succeed] How about Sweden? Sweden went with the school voucher system. LiBeRaLs want to criticize how their standardized test scores are so low now or whatever (hypocritical considering how they want Sweden like welfare state?). But I don't see any problems. Swedish students actually seem to focus on learning what they enjoy and can thrive on. I once worked with bunch with Swedish guys and they all seem to love it. Economic specialization at its best. In fact, Sweden's welfare DEPENDS on the free market and deregulation of its most promising industries + its free education that allows for choices.

[Supporting Point 3 + Example 3: Voucher Systems can Fail] But then do I like the school voucher program? I like the idea of having choices, but I FUCKING HATE how it's done in America. It clearly seems to work in Sweden, but why not in America? The answer is, it's run by bunch of ideologues who think 1+1=3 but have strong faith in it so "it's okay". FUCK DeVos and her stubborn ideological BS. What kind of backward nonsense of an idea is it to create charter schools and just have most of them be super selective? Then, they have to cut funding for public schools even though bunch of kids are still enrolling in public schools since they can't get into these fancy schmancy charter schools. I mean WTF? Milton Friedman and everyone who actually understood the voucher program are crying in their graves. Oh shit I guess some are still alive. Also, does DeVos not realize that it's the 21st century? Online learning can clearly work, especially in colleges. What kind of a government is it to threaten schools?

Since I know someone is gonna be all like " You're just angry that you didn't get into target (I did get into a target jackass and I make the same money bankers do working 40~60hrs a week)". Or some shit like "This is boring. So what's your idea?". I'm gonna offer my ideas for you naggers. "It's choice of curriculum, stupid!". Liberal ideologues who want to nationalize education are wrong. School voucher supporting ideologues are wrong. Ideologues are ruining everything. Public school or charter school, they can BOTH work.

[New Proposal: It's better to shift the debate on how to bring "Choice of Curriculum"]
[Supporting Point for the New Proposal: Different students have different educational needs, so let them customize their education]

As long as kids can get quality education and can choose what and how they can study, things are gonna be magical. Humans are naturally curious. Let us fucking explore our curiosity in the best way possible, letting us choose while providing good guidance. Besides the minimum education requirement, let kids choose their curriculum. We already have advanced classes and AP programs, which are good ideas by the way. But I know just too many kids who hate math because they think math is just bunch of numbers. Once they realize that real math is all about logic and abstract thinking, they love it. But it's too late by then... You know that Einstein failed at math? It wasn't til he learned some OG MATH that he got into that shit. What about kids who hate history because it's all memorization? Truth is history can be very much of a science based on data analysis and critical thinking. Sadly, kids don't know that.

If kids want to take fundamentals of music theory, they should be allowed to. If kids want to learn how to make electronic music, they should be allowed to. If kids want to learn how to fly a plane, they should be allowed to. If kids want to do some cool independent research, they should be allowed to. Btw, all the classes I just mentioned are classes that actually existed at my fancy boarding school. Why shouldn't regular kids be allowed to have the same choices I did?

[Final Remarks: Good Education is a fundamental solution to many of problems in the US.] While half the Americans are so worried about the "evil billionaires paying people starvation wages" and the other half about "immigrants and globalization taking away their jobs", America is shooting itself in the foot. Wait, let me fix that: America is shooting itself in the FUCKING head, not fixing this mess of an education system. Until we fix this education system paramount to a 100 year-old grandma with dementia who paints the wall with her own poops, there ain't gonna be racial justice, there ain't gonna be income and wealth equality, there ain't gonna be more American jobs. Need I go on?

Sorry for the harsh language and thanks for reading this crap.

TL;DR: In the US, the debate around school voucher system vs. nationalized education is senseless. The fact is they both can work, they both can fail. 3 reasons - 1) Anti-voucher people argue against it using decrease in standardized test scores. However, test scores are incomplete metrics that fails to capture other essential objectives of education - creativity, critical thinking ability, etc... Korea is a good example of this where maximizing test scores has led to a draconian system that punishes creativity and independent thinking. 2) School voucher supporters in the US have failed because their views have been distorted, which disregards the most important aspect of the voucher system, funding goes to where people choose. They have become so focused on their ideologies of charter schools > public schools, that they are implementing policies that are very likely to incur self-fulfilling prophecies. 3) Sweden's school voucher system has clearly worked - allowing students to focus on what they can be good at. Hence, it's much more constructive to discuss how to bring about choice of curriculum, which allows students to customize their own education.

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Comments (46)

Jul 12, 2020 - 10:48pm
Milton Friedchickenman:

TL;DR: Education is one of THE MOST IMPORTANT success factor in a country. US sucks at providing it for the poor and the disadvantaged. That's because bunch of ideologues and dumbasses (ban charter schools vs voucher programs) are busy competing in a pissing contest, while ignoring something very fundamental about education - How human curiosity works. Charter school or not, just let kids choose their curriculum while providing good guidance (In addition to the minimum requirements that is). Inequality, racial injustice, and people hurt by globalization aren't gonna magically disappear because you put some duct tape on it. Fix the disease, don't just treat the symptoms and pretend everything will be okay.

Uh... Are you you blind?
Jul 22, 2020 - 2:39pm

+SB - I lol'ed

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Jul 12, 2020 - 11:48pm

Making change at that level is very difficult. It's always so easy to assign a faceless bureaucrat or politician bad intentions but when you meet those people and see how hard they work to make change happen you grow up a bit. Nobody thinks our system is perfect but this rant is childish and ridiculous. Just a bunch of sky is falling we are fucked bullshit while you sit here enjoying the benefits of a pretty damn good education system.

Haha what a little wanker rant this is:

"US edu. sucks!"
"Standardized testing sucksreet!"
"Humans are curious, math is creativereet"
insert obligatory Nordic country comparison
"The people in charge are dumb!!"

You think if you were Betsy DeVos, Arne Duncan, or the superintendent of your local district you would do better? You think these people are actively trying to ruin America's education system? You think if you were in their position there wouldn't be any whiny ass twinks bitching about the system on the internet? Get the fuck outta here.

Jul 13, 2020 - 12:25am

Great. So you focused on the rhetoric and not the contents.

If you actually paid attention and saw through the profanity, you'd see that I'm following a very common logical structure - Argue a point (School voucher system vs nationalized schools is senseless debate because both can work or both can fail), provide examples (Korea: where nationalized education failed in 1 aspect, Sweden: where school voucher system worked, US: where school voucher system seems to be failing at its intended purpose), offer a new proposal (It's better usage of time to focus on choice of curriculum, not choice of schools), and argue for that new proposal (Curriculum choice works under any education systems and is more natural to how human curiosity works, hence has better chance of working)

If you want to criticize the profanity, go ahead.

Just know that your whole point about "They are working hard, so what do you know?" is a sign of complacency IMO. Frankly that's what people who don't want any real change say. "Oh it's so difficult", "They are working so hard", "Try to put yourself in their shoes". If you ask me, it's nothing but an excuse.

Jul 13, 2020 - 12:45am

Honestly was about to comment 'no1 asked'

But dude you make a ton of a good points and I completely agree and have held these beliefs for a while now.

Humanity got to where it is today through creativity, not by copying each other (which is just a trashy survival instinct)

Nothing is wrong with working long hours (Elon Musk mentioned that nobody changed the world working 40 hours a week), but the big difference is that you need to be working towards something you care about...

Jul 13, 2020 - 12:49am

It's a very unfortunate situation. Wealthy people in America essentially have school choice - they live in highly ranked public school districts, yet send their children to 30k/year private schools anyway. Even middle class families, who perhaps may not want to shell out that kind of money for their children, sometimes choose to move to different neighborhoods with better public schools. In the end, the poorest children get fucked over the most, as their families have virtually zero school choice (unless they're lucky enough to get into a charter school, which is literally a lottery).

So of course, the inherent question becomes, why is there such a disparity in the quality of education and outcomes amongst these schools? More importantly, how can we provide better opportunities for the poorest/most vulnerable?

To me, a system wide school choice system sounds the most rational. Certain states have already began to implement voucher type systems. I believe that some in the Trump administration have floated the idea of attaching money spent per student to the actual student, not towards their school district/zip code. (ex: school district x receives $y per student.. automatically receiving $(y * n students) per year.. instead, tie the $y back to the student and give the family the option of spending that at a private school). Of course, this is a drastic change to the current system, but I think the ultimate idea is make all schools compete with each other for students. No family would send their children to failing schools, if they had the option.

So why isn't this being done?? Like stated, this is a huge, drastic change. But there's also a lot of politics and structural issues involved. Education happens to be a local issue, and unfortunately, most (if not all?) of the largest cities (which happen to have high rates of poverty) have been under one party rule for literally decades. So yeah, people love to shit on Betsy DeVos but DOE plays a relatively minimal role in K-12 education (sure, there's some funding from them here and there but not really where change will come from). This same political party that has been running most large city public school systems also happens to be beholden to teachers unions. Teachers certainly have a crucially important job and should be treated/paid well FOR SURE, but teachers unions in their current state are incredibly corrupt and always prioritize teachers and $$ over STUDENTS. Like it is incredibly difficult to fire a bad teacher. Also, large city public schools tend to have huuuuge bureaucracies with literally useless (yet expensive) administrators. Many of these administrators have never step foot in a classroom, yet they're telling these (often overworked/underpaid) teachers what to do. It's just an incredibly disheartening and frustrating situation all around, and it seems that it's never about the actual students.

President Trump said it himself - education/school choice is one of the biggest civil rights issues of our time. Every American child should have guaranteed access to a quality education. Unfortunately, a lot of this starts with local government, which I believe the recent riots and covid-19 issues have revealed how utterly useless all these mayors/governors are in protecting their citizens.

But oh yeah, ORANGE MAN BAD

Jul 16, 2020 - 8:33am

DeVos has been behind the school choice program in Michigan for years. At first sight, I thought it would've worked but now that I looked into how it actually works - school choices but charter schools are selective and most people actually don't get school choices - I'm disillusioned. People are given the illusion of choice but the reality is only the smart and rich kids are given choices. That just perpetuates the issue of inequality - the smarter and rich stay that way while average person or below (of intellect and wealth) fall behind. In economic terms, that creates a bimodal distribution in the competency/value/income of an American where the two modes are getting farther apart.

This administration talks a big game about attributing $ to the students, which is the original vision of Friedman. But it hasn't done shit to actually push more in that direction. Thanks to the mismatch in what minimum regulations ought to be and what they actually are, school voucher program is getting a bad rep.

Hence my point is that free public schools or voucher programs, they can both work if implemented correctly. They can both fail if not implemented correctly.

Jul 13, 2020 - 5:52am

I would like to point out that widespread higher education (especially university level) very often happens as a consequence of a country's success rather than as a cause. This is almost universally true in the West and the Far East where industrialization and developement preceeded generations with higher percentages of university grads.

Never discuss with idiots, first they drag you at their level, then they beat you with experience.

  • 1
Jul 16, 2020 - 8:39am

Good point.

I was generalizing a bit here. But I'd say it's fair to say that future growth depends on the sustained or improved quality of the education. For instance, if the higher education in the US wasn't so great, would we be able to take the lead in things like biotech and AI amongst others?

Higher education becomes more widespread as the result of a nation successfully industrializing or putting its economy on track some other way. But then the continued growth and prosperity would depend on how well that education works.

Incidentally, the US is one of the few places where the average quality of education is considered bad, despite the US being a first world country. Bimodal distribution of quality of education -> Bimodal distribution of basic competency/value per person -> Bimodal distribution of of income and wealth. The further away the two modes become, the worse, leading to instability and the rise of populism, socialism, and the likes.

Jul 20, 2020 - 11:25am

I think being told what is or isn't important by bureaucratic people is the issue. They don't know what's valuable or not. Teachers don't know either, they haven't worked in the real world.

99% of the time you can figure out what you need to know when you need to know it. Different for doctors engineers etc. who need a strong foundation. Algebra? I mean you're telling me you couldn't just be like 'oh yeah' after looking at it for 5 minutes? Why do you need to solve trig functions now? Wtf? Thanks, helping me wait tables much better. My college education has gotten me into the waiting tables at two jobs instead of one now- thanks middle school!

Learning how to learn is the most important thing. Being able to PROVIDE VALUE and learning how to go BEYOND or PAST what you're asked is really important just as much as doing what you're told. Our system sucks because it's a formal day care center. The rich can afford the expensive day care center, and actual value add learning on top of it. The problem is kids will choose a toy over learning most of the time, or the candy over broccoli (so will most adults). Who's teaching them differently? Should be parents.

If kids had a strong foundation of values at home and brought them to school I think we'd have a different conversation. The thing about freedom is that the framework you have and see in the world will entirely shape your outcomes almost more than anything. That's what wealthy people or rich people understand that poor kids aren't being taught, probably. Some poor kids get very rich cultural and life lessons that they use as a framework to work hard and get ahead. But seeing how well people follow directions on purely societally arbitrary things (your GPA is based on useless subjects that you didn't even learn properly) is actually valuable in and of itself, and is a good framework for learning actual things that add actual value. E.g. you do the right thing with useless information and when you get useful info it becomes useful.

I had one teacher who was really good at getting people to come to their own conclusions first, then affirming the way things really are or aren't. That was one class and probably couldn't be replicated because it takes too many resources to do (e.g. effort, because yes teachers are mostly stupid and lazy and will work hard to avoid working smart most of the time because of state mandated requirements). But honestly this 100% an allocation issue, an issue of framework (core values), and idiots (people who don't know what's valuable teaching you what to learn). This sets up the framework for good critical thinking individuals.

Jul 20, 2020 - 3:48pm

Summer months off, cushy union support, low hours to start? Being only ever in an academic setting?

Edit: And as a funny aside, I've seen a teacher comment on some article about IB/PE saying how it pisses him off that people in their early 20s are making so much more than him even though he believed he worked much harder.

If that doesn't tell you they don't know about the real world, I dunno what does

Jul 21, 2020 - 3:15am

Rant on teachers: they haven't been in a place where they see the application their ideas, and have no understanding whether something is or isn't useful. Teaching a kid calculus because 'hey those people at nasa sent people to the moon' is a poor link that's not tangible to most people. We need more plumbers, electricians, home builders, etc. not people who hate algebra because it has no value in the real world. How about framing an entire year of learning to 'by the end the semester, you will need to apply this in a field you're interested in':

1) if you want to build a home or be in construction one day, calculate how thick the concrete must be to withstand 100 people standing on it (random example)

2) if you want to be a mechanic, how much air you can fit in a tire mathematically? How does oil in a car engine improve the viscosity of the engine (making shit up).

3) what chemicals did you find in your water in your tap and what does that mean?

How about being a bit more creative and letting kids do something to apply what they learn, that way they HAVE to actually UNDERSTAND what is going on. OTHERWISE THEY KNOW THEY DIDNT LEARN ANYTHING. How are teachers even assessed, off of bullshit testing and abstract problems. How about giving people real issues to solve, that have been solved, letting kids think about the solution critically, what info they need to solve the problem, then guiding their own interest and motivation and intelligence into how it works?

I absolutely guarantee I'd be better than 99% of teachers because I and most people on this site are 100x more hardworking smarter etc. etc. etc. You're telling me a wizard hedge fund analyst who's making $1mm a year by figuring out how to be good at something that exists in abstract won't be able to BECOME competent at being a teacher if he so focused? A S&T analyst who works with millions of dollars and has to work with so many different people to convey their ideas effectively? An IB analyst monkey has to really, really learn how to be concise and value add. Gimme a break with this bow down to teachers BS- most of them were stupid growing up, and I secretly roll my eyes at when I see any of the attractive female friends in my high school friend group who now say they want to or are becoming teachers. You were a fucking idiot during school, and have an OK GPA at an extremely easy college. Wtf are you gonna teach? How not to be successful?

  • Developer in RE - Comm
Jul 20, 2020 - 2:19pm
My opinion is that poor and middle class people should feel grateful they receive any education at all, let alone one as good as we provide them.

Thank you so much for the opportunities you have provided me, "NYC Boy Abroad."

Jul 20, 2020 - 4:08pm

My opinion is that

That's great, no one asked. Go back to listening to the 2010s as the "best decade of music" and leave grown folk talk for the grown folk. Talking "we" like you mean something to anyone.

Jul 20, 2020 - 3:52pm

US education has always been bad. The level of variance is insane. I remember a few years ago one of the southern states wanted to remove Native American history from US history cuz it made the US look bad. If you have money in the US, your education will be great.

Jul 20, 2020 - 4:12pm

I remember a few years ago one of the southern states wanted to remove Native American history from US history cuz it made the US look bad.

This is a larger problem than just being able to afford a quality education. Rewriting history? Come on, Mississippi.

Jul 20, 2020 - 10:28pm

If you have money in the US, your education will be great.

This is what's broken about education in the US. If you're smart or rich, you're covered. Otherwise, good luck getting a decent job or even having common sense. Ridiculously strong teacher's unions, terribly designed and inadequate minimum schooling requirements, not enough money going to actually improving education, etc... Problems are very obvious and easy to resolve, but the political costs are way too high. Thanks to that we have bunch of ideologues and opportunists running our school systems.

Stupidity of an average American is crazy. Ask any foreigner or an immigrant.

Jul 21, 2020 - 3:29am

What if most teachers and people are just stupid, and it just costs money to get higher quality?

I hope that embracing online education will allow for fewer teachers and more of a 'learn on your own' system where the good teachers of yesterday are the ones designing ways to measure progress and give better ways of testing etc. Maybe the best teachers can come in and do tutoring sessions instead of outright lectures, etc. and there is no longer a need for so many warm bodies, but highly competent ones that can be paid what they're worth.

But the infrastructure and bureaucratic costs and 'social element' of school are going to be big vacuums in this country. Another commenter posted maybe we should double down on more government power, making private school tuition 3x more, etc. and comparing this system to healthcare.

I actually agree. We have the worst of capitalism and socialism in our education system and would be better off going in either direction. Need to destroy public unions or at least dismantle the governments inability to source directly from top talent. I obviously lean capitalist, that way we can embrace online learning much better. For the social aspect, let kids play in community built parks or outdoor conservatories, etc. etc. or join city commissioned sports teams for each grade for example. So many backwards bureaucratic justifications and you'll never know what's what at a distance unless you allow for radical meritocratic change to be an extreme motivator. I just feel bad that kids are wasting 8 hours at school when they could have learned more in 1 hour on their own if they were taught how, and if they are ACTUALLY curious they have to spend HOURS OUTSIDE of school actually learning because it was a waste of time to begin with.

So instead of top state school graduates going into cushy computer science or corporate roles, maybe it'd be in their interest to get 40-60k out of school with all benefits and some variable compensation based on hours logged or their rating given to them by students anonymously etc. So yeah definitely an ideal system out there in a capitalist system that works well.

Jul 22, 2020 - 3:18pm

This is generally true, but if you look overseas, public education is not always better or it can deceptively look that way. In countries like Korea or Japan, students' public education is generally strong but it comes at a certain price. In Korea, hagwons work students all day long from the early morning until nighttime and students can't hardly get a break, and a lot of times, kids' learning is rote memorization for tests and they lack the critical thinking skills of Americans. This is one of the reasons why parents always try to get their kids in at international schools, which are prohibitively expensive for most.

I agree entirely that we have a bunch of ideologues running the country's education system. They can talk all day long about systemic inequality and preferred pronouns, but they aren't effective at getting students to where they need to be academically.

Jul 20, 2020 - 11:08pm

idk. I feel like the antithesis of school choice might actually be the way to go.

I believe the education system and the insurance system in the US have similar issues. You have to create buy-in from the 'healthy people', in this case, the richer families. in the same way that we have death spirals, a shitty school can also experience the same fate. People pulling their kids out of these poor performing schools, less funding, less money for teachers/upgrades, more people pulling their kids out of these schools - then there's a spillover effect of these children going all over the map to get an education, thus diluting any economies of scale these schools could have.

Idk if I was Betsy Devos, I might risk any creditability I might have and force everyone to go to their neighbourhood schools and slam a bucket load of federal funding into each school district. Allow principals to fire teachers and significantly weaken teachers unions and allow for performance bonuses for high performing teachers. Make private schools raise their tuition 3x so people are disincentivized to leave. I think change in education is very grassroots based, so I'd just give the schools the resources and cross my fingers

Jul 20, 2020 - 11:32pm

This is a great post. Great counterexample to Korea's school system is Finland which deemphasized standardized testing and seemingly has a much less strenuous school culture (though their performance has slipped a bit recently). They did have a notable tech hub though (Nokia was the most prominent that came to mind). This may now be dated, I'm not sure how they did in the recent PISA or whatever rankings.

Quant (ˈkwänt) n: An expert, someone who knows more and more about less and less until they know everything about nothing.

Jul 22, 2020 - 4:46pm

I think associate degrees should be done online. The last two years of bachelors should be done in person. The relationships we make in college is invaluable.

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