At Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok summarizes the findings from a recent large study:
In a large, randomized experiment Bowen et al. found that students enrolled in an online/hybrid statistics course learned just as much as those taking a traditional class (noted earlier by Tyler). Perhaps even more importantly, Bowen et al. found that the online model was significantly less costly than the traditional model, some 36% to 57% less costly to produce than a course using a traditional lecture format. In other words, since outcomes were the same, online education increased productivity by 56% to 133%! Online education trumps the cost disease!
Bowen et al. caution that their results on cost savings are speculative and it is true that they do not include the fixed costs of creating the course (either the online course or the traditional course) so these cost savings should be thought of as annual savings in steady-state equilibrium. The main reason these results are speculative, however, is that Bowen et al. only considered cost savings from faculty compensation. Long-run cost reductions from space savings may be even more significant, as the authors acknowledge.
The university model we’ve known for centuries is long overdue for change. However, remember that just about every new communication technology was touted as being “revolutionary” for education: the printing press, radio, movies, TV, and now online courses. The traditional university model has survived each new technological breakthrough relatively unscathed.
In the Globe and Mail, Barrie McKenna explains why there’s a widening fairness gap between public employees and everyone else:
The seven-month-long dispute [between the Ontario government and public school teachers] has exposed something much more disquieting: the widening fairness gap in the Canadian workplace. Thousands of public sector workers enjoy high salaries, guaranteed pensions and special perks that other Canadians will never get, regardless of how long or hard they work.
Public sector workers argue they’ve earned these gains through decades of tough negotiations with employers. And once promised, governments should not unilaterally revoke them. Fair enough. But it’s not an argument that’s likely to sway many Canadians, who exist in a parallel universe.
The ability to bank and monetize sick days is virtually unheard of in the private sector. Less than 3 per cent of the 1,336 private sector plans in Mercer Canada Ltd.’s client database allow employees to bank sick days, according to figures supplied to The Globe and Mail. That compares to 28 per cent of the 407 government plans tracked by the benefits consultant.
No wonder Ontario teachers chanted “respect teachers, respect collective bargaining,” while they suspended school sports, plays and other extracurricular activities for millions of students in recent months. “Cash for sick days” doesn’t have the same populist appeal.
Elizabeth and I took parenting classes, as neither of us had much experience of dealing with infants or small children before our son was born. Although the instructor was good at being re-assuring that we’d do fine as parents, almost none of the “skills” we were taught were actually of much use after the baby arrived. Since those early-90′s days, parenting courses have become even more common, but as Frank Furedi points out, no more relevant to the actual needs of parents and their newborns:
The parenting programmes promoted by government are based on a mixture of prejudice and the pseudoscience of so-called parenting research. Such ‘research’ is underpinned by a fundamental transformation in the meaning of parenting, which has been turned from a relationship into a skill. The core assumption in the government’s proposal for parenting classes is that childrearing consists of a set of practices that need to be learned by mothers and fathers. These practices are depicted as skills which can be taught by those who have the requisite professional qualifications.
No one could dispute that childrearing is something that is learned by mothers and fathers. Every human relationship involves a continual process of learning and gaining an understanding of the other person. Parents need to learn how to engage with the imagination of their child, how to stimulate her and when and how to restrain her from doing something harmful. Successful parents learn on the job. However, the really useful lessons we are learning have little to do with abstract skills, but rather are about understanding the relationship we have with our children.
The question is not whether parenting has to be learned, but whether it can be taught. Not everything that has to be learned can be taught. Parenting cannot be taught because it is about the forging and managing of an intimate relationship. And it is through the conduct of that relationship that people develop the insights and lessons suitable to their lives and conditions. One reason why professional intervention into family life is unlikely to have beneficial results is because each relationship contains something unique, which is only grasped by those involved in it.
[. . .]
However, the project of transforming parenting into a skill does have negative and potentially harmful consequences. When human relationships are recast as skills to be managed by professional trainers something very important happens in the way we conduct our personal affairs. As I argue in my study Paranoid Parenting such policy interventions cultivate a kind of learned helplessness among parents. Through exaggerating the complexity of child-rearing, parenting experts contribute to the eroding self-reliance of modern mums and dads. Inevitably, the principal outcome of such interventions is to distract parents from learning from their own experience. And yet learning from experience is the key to developing the confidence for making those crucial judgment calls that confronts parents on a daily basis.
Canada recently dropped out of the top ten in a UN beauty contest that we once “won” seven years in a row. At the time, Canadian politicians used that accolade as a regular talking point. Now, a bit to my surprise, the media hasn’t been using the “loss” as a stick to incessantly beat the government with. How unexpectedly mature of them:
Canadians with a penchant for lists will recall that in 1994 we began a record stint of seven straight years atop the United Nations Human Development Index. Meant to provide an international comparison of living standards, our dominance on this global leader board was seen as tangible proof Canada was the best country in the world. The annual report regularly garnered substantial media attention and sparked plenty of national braggadocio. Prime minister Jean Chrétien, in particular, made it a frequent talking point.
No longer. We haven’t topped the rankings since 2000. Current leader Norway now boasts more first-place finishes than we do. (Although our Nordic friends haven’t yet won seven in a row.) In fact this year marks the first time Canada has failed to place in the top 10. The most recent edition, released last week, has us at a humbling 11th — a whisker above South Korea. Ireland beat us.
[. . .]
In 1992 the Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency stripped Canada’s federal foreign debt of its coveted AAA rating, thanks to an endless stream of government deficits. In January 1995 the Wall Street Journal measured Canada for a barrel suit, declaring us to be “an honorary member of the Third World” in its now-legendary “Bankrupt Canada” editorial. Our debt-to-GDP ratio hit a peak of 68 per cent that year. The loonie was worth about US$0.72, and would bottom out at US$0.62 before it was done falling.
Since then, of course, Canada’s financial turnaround has become a totem for countries around the world struggling with the after-effects of the Great Recession. Government finances are in better shape than most and our dollar at par. Canada’s reliance on natural resources, once considered a retrograde habit, has played a large role in allowing our economy to weather the storm. Our banking system is an international paragon of virtue; we’re even exporting central bankers. Plus Canada has adopted a more self-confident stance on foreign policy, replacing our old reputation as a meek and mild peacekeeper with a more authoritative voice.
Arnie Lemaire, who blogs at Blazing Cat Fur is becoming a bother to the great and the good at the Toronto District School Board. After a recent comment on his blog, the TDSB sent police officers to his door:
Can writing a sarcastic but clearly tame blog comment really land two cops at your doorstep?
It happened to Blazingcatfur blogger Arnie Lemaire Wednesday for musing “OISE and the TDSB need to be purged, or burnt to the ground whichever is more effective.”
He’s, quite rightfully, upset about it.
But, often critical of the Toronto District School Board and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, Lemaire said he will not back down from efforts to “intimidate” him.
“Dear TDSB, You Can’t Silence Me,” was a headline on the blazingcatfur.blogspot in response.
But, what they clearly can do, is bring in the police to investigate.
In what can be described as more TDSB theatre of the absurd, an obscure six-week-old blog comment resulted in police visiting his home like one might see back in the day of the Stasi in communist East Germany.
Update: As Mark Steyn puts it “Nobody Expects the Toronto District School Board Inquisition…“
It seems a wee bit over-sensitive for a school board that promotes murderous goons like Che Guevara and cop-killers like the Black Panthers as role models to its young charges to get its knickers in a twist over a blog post. But, of course, for leftie social engineers, the glamor of the revolutionary aesthetic is mostly a useful cover for inculcating a bovine, unquestioning statist compliance from which no deviation is permitted. There was barely any pretense by the cops that there was a legal justification for what happened yesterday; it was just a friendly warning: “Nice blog ya got there. Would be a real shame if something happened to it.“
One of the most disquieting trends in western Europe is the state’s increasingly open intimidation of those who dissent from the official ideology. Sad to see it on this side of the Atlantic.
His participation in the incident was to wrestle the loaded revolver out of the hands of the football player who was threatening to shoot another player:
A 16-year-old Cypress Lake High School student, who wrestled a loaded revolver away from a teen threatening to shoot, is being punished.
The student grappled the gun away from the 15-year-old suspect on the bus ride home Tuesday after witnesses say he aimed the weapon point blank at another student and threatened to shoot him.
The student, who Fox 4 has agreed not to identify and distort his voice because he fears for his safety, says there’s “no doubt” he saved a life by disarming the gunman. And for that he was suspended for three days.
[. . .]
The teen we spoke to and authorities both confirm the Revolver was loaded. According to the arrest report the suspect, who Fox 4 is not naming because he is a minor, was “pointing the gun directly” at another student and “threatening to shoot him.”
That’s when the student we spoke with says he and others tackled the teen and wrestled away the gun. The next day the school slapped him with a three day suspension.
“It’s dumb,” he said. “How they going to suspend me for doing the right thing?”
According to the referral, he was suspended for being part of an “incident” where a weapon was present and given an “emergency suspension.”
“If they wouldn’t've did what they had to do on that bus,” the teen’s mother said, “I think there would have been a lot of fatalities.”
H/T to Charles Oliver for the link.
The FEUQ speeds into the global lead for worst student movement ever:
I’m trying to imagine a worse excuse for a student movement than the one Quebec has at the moment; and I have to say that I’m not sure I can.
I mean, sure, the Canadian Federation of Students has talked some awful crap about how reducing net tuition for poor students is unacceptable, unless richer kids get a break too — really ludicrous stuff, which objectively favours richer students over poorer ones. But so far as I know, they’ve never actively aided and abetted a government that was intent on making universities poorer.
But that’s what FEUQ, and the rest of the Quebec student movement, seem to be doing right now.
[. . .]
FEUQ’s train of thought seems to run something like this: 1) Universities want more money; 2) the provincial government is broke; 3) therefore, new money can only come out of tuition fees; 4) therefore, we’d better oppose this. The problem is, if you concede point 2 you’re more or less screwed in terms of asking something for yourself, like a more generous student aid system (which Quebec certainly needs, at least for dependent students). And you’ve gone and hacked-off one of your most natural allies as far as higher education is concerned.
H/T to Stephen Gordon for the link.
Based on this report in The Economist, we really should strive to be more like Sweden, and not for the reasons most Canadians would expect:
Sweden has reduced public spending as a proportion of GDP from 67% in 1993 to 49% today. It could soon have a smaller state than Britain. It has also cut the top marginal tax rate by 27 percentage points since 1983, to 57%, and scrapped a mare’s nest of taxes on property, gifts, wealth and inheritance. This year it is cutting the corporate-tax rate from 26.3% to 22%.
Sweden has also donned the golden straitjacket of fiscal orthodoxy with its pledge to produce a fiscal surplus over the economic cycle. Its public debt fell from 70% of GDP in 1993 to 37% in 2010, and its budget moved from an 11% deficit to a surplus of 0.3% over the same period. This allowed a country with a small, open economy to recover quickly from the financial storm of 2007-08. Sweden has also put its pension system on a sound foundation, replacing a defined-benefit system with a defined-contribution one and making automatic adjustments for longer life expectancy.
Most daringly, it has introduced a universal system of school vouchers and invited private schools to compete with public ones. Private companies also vie with each other to provide state-funded health services and care for the elderly. Anders Aslund, a Swedish economist who lives in America, hopes that Sweden is pioneering “a new conservative model”; Brian Palmer, an American anthropologist who lives in Sweden, worries that it is turning into “the United States of Swedeamerica”.
[. . .]
This is not to say that the Nordics are shredding their old model. They continue to pride themselves on the generosity of their welfare states. About 30% of their labour force works in the public sector, twice the average in the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation, a rich-country think-tank. They continue to believe in combining open economies with public investment in human capital. But the new Nordic model begins with the individual rather than the state. It begins with fiscal responsibility rather than pump-priming: all four Nordic countries have AAA ratings and debt loads significantly below the euro-zone average. It begins with choice and competition rather than paternalism and planning. The economic-freedom index of the Fraser Institute, a Canadian think-tank, shows Sweden and Finland catching up with the United States (see chart). The leftward lurch has been reversed: rather than extending the state into the market, the Nordics are extending the market into the state.
Why are the Nordic countries doing this? The obvious answer is that they have reached the limits of big government. “The welfare state we have is excellent in most ways,” says Gunnar Viby Mogensen, a Danish historian. “We only have this little problem. We can’t afford it.” The economic storms that shook all the Nordic countries in the early 1990s provided a foretaste of what would happen if they failed to get their affairs in order.
This story is not taken from the pages of The Onion:
The incident occurred Jan. 10 while the girl was waiting in line for a school bus, said Robin Ficker, the Maryland lawyer retained by the girl’s family. He would not identify the girl or her parents, but gave this version of events:
Talking with a friend, the girl said something to the effect “I’m going to shoot you and I will shoot myself” in reference to the device that shoots out bubbles. The girl did not have the bubble gun with her and has never shot a real gun in her life, Ficker said.
Elementary school officials learned of the conversation and questioned the girls the next day, Fickler said. He said the girl did not have a parent present during the 30 minutes of questioning.
The result, he said, was that the student was labeled a “terrorist threat” and suspended for 10 days, Ficker said. The school also required her to be evaluated by a psychologist, Ficker said.
This designated terrorist is five.
H/T to Dan Mitchell for the link.
We also need to protect our kids from being exposed to bureaucrats who are jaw-droppingly stupid.
Actually, WordPress is telling me that “droppingly” isn’t a word. So maybe instead we should take Instapundit’s advice and reward these idiot officials with some tar and feathers.
And I hope the tattle-tale punk from the bus stop who ratted out the little girls is condemned to some sort of grade-school purgatory featuring never-ending wedgies.
On a more serious note, I hope the parents sue the you-know-what out of the school.
Feeling optimistic about the future? Bryan Goldberg is here to slap that silly optimistic grin off your face:
Hey kids, you’ve all read “The Hunger Games,” right? Almost all young people have read the best-selling books or seen the Hollywood movie about Katniss Everdeen, a smart and ambitious young lady whose life prospects are diminished by historical events that predate her. What little hope she has is seemingly reduced to nil when a bunch of old people drop her into an arena and force her to fight with her fellow children in a battle royale to the death.
But that’s just fiction, right? Your loving parents and grandparents would never screw up their world and then throw you kids under the bus…or would they?
Actually, they already have.
Last week, the economics blog Calculated Risk ran a chart that tells a pretty compelling story. To an economist, this chart means that the magnitude and duration of the 2007 recession’s impact on unemployment outpaces that of any prior post-war recession. To young people, it simply means this…
You kids are screwed.
In fact, teenagers today probably aren’t old enough to remember the “Dot Bomb” recession of twelve years ago. But even at its peak, that really bad recession did not reach a level of unemployment that matched the one we are still currently experiencing. With the Federal Reserve losing its appetite for quantitative easing, the last bullet in their holster, and both political parties deciding to half-ass the fiscal policy debate, it’s safe to say that…
You kids are really screwed.
Pay careful attention to Lesson No. 4: it’s even more important than you think it is.
H/T to Jon, my former virtual landlord, for the link.
Ghaffar Hussain reminds us that historically Muslim societies were much more open to scientific thought than they are now:
So why didn’t these ideas take off and integrate into the fabric of mainstream Muslim thought and society? There are a number of reasons.
Firstly, Muslim empires in the past believed in centralising knowledge rather than disseminating it en masse. Centres of learning, such as Baghdad and Cordoba, had their houses of knowledge in which scientists would work, preserving and developing on, primarily, Hellenistic knowledge. There was no printing press, and even when it did arrive it was rejected, thus such knowledge was largely reserved for an elite audience. When centres of learning were conquered and destroyed, as Baghdad was in 1256 by the Mongols, most of the knowledge was lost too.
Secondly, the religious authorities of the time were largely opposed to ideas being put forward by scientists and other rationalist thinkers such as Ibn Rushd, and before him, Ibn Sina. They felt threatened by non-theological attempts to ascertain truths and Muslim leaders often sided with the religious authorities for political reasons.
Thirdly, literalist and dogmatic strands of Islamic theology have been aggressively promoted all around the Muslim world over the past few decades or ever since huge oil deposits were discovered in the Arabian Gulf. The Saudi state, in an attempt at cultural imperialism, has done its best to mainstream Wahabi thinking in Muslim communities everywhere. The result: a retardation and stagnation of thinking in parts of the world that were already very stagnant.
In Gregg Easterbrook‘s weekly NFL column, he often discusses non-football topics like this one:
A decade ago — perhaps as recently as five years ago — analysts and educators feared a “digital divide” in which the affluent have access to advancing electronics and the disadvantaged do not, granting the affluent yet another edge in life’s contest. But what if the reverse has happened?
[. . .]
That made this article striking, with research showing children from disadvantaged families now waste more time with video games and on the Internet than do children from affluent homes. Publicly subsidized programs to provide computers and Internet to the disadvantaged were rationalized as tools for education. How are they actually used? The article quotes Vicky Rideout, author of a study on the subject, saying, “Despite the educational potential of computers, the reality is that their use for education or meaningful content creation is minuscule compared to their use for pure entertainment.”
Video games are a really tempting way to avoid studying. If they had been around when I was a teen, there’s no way I would have read so many books or spent three or four hours after school each day at the high school, doing extracurriculars and sports. I might instead have wasted my time with electronics.
Girls and women are taking over college admissions; 57 percent of undergraduate students at four-year colleges are female. There are many reasons, and surely one is that teen girls waste less time on video games than teen boys do. If disadvantaged teen boys are wasting more time than affluent teen boys, that makes the picture worse.
Conservative commentators often “harrumph” about rising living standards for the disadvantaged, many of whom now have air conditioning, laptops and other items once associated with affluence. It’s good that living standards are rising, and it’s good that the digital divide is disappearing. The spread of computers and Internet service into disadvantaged homes creates equity in access to the information and services available on the Web. But society needs to be aware of the downsides of electronics. Those computer and software gifts being opened this holiday season might, especially for teen boys, backfire.