Category Archives: Education Reform

Email Doug Stephens. On his government email. “In a confidential way…”

Utah could break the back of the teachers’ union,” a friend told me over lunch. “They could do it tomorrow, if [legislators] wanted to. All they would have to do is look into the corruption, fraud and waste in the school .”

Well, now. That’s a bold statement. And it’s exactly the over-the-top type thing that a couple of guys say over lunch when it doesn’t matter and no one is listening (and no one has to back anything up with facts, those pesky little things).

On the other hand, what is it with unions, especially teachers’ union? If the (unions, generally) are really so fantastic, why do judges feel the need to prohibit unions from throwing feces?

I can’t help but wonder at the underlying threat of violence that seems to follow them.

Back to Utah and over-the-top statements and backbreaking and such.

A few months back (meaning last year), the Ogden School District decided it had had enough of unions breaking its back. Specifically, the Ogden Education Union (“OEA”), the local version of the Utah Education Association. The recession is still on, people are still having babies, and the number of students signing up for school is growing.

It gave Ogden teachers a choice: sign the contract we send you, or hasta la vista. Oh, and we’ll give you a 3% raise, almost double the Utah Consumer Price Index (CPI) and a third greater than the national CPI. In other words, inflation has only increased the cost of stuff by 1.7%, but we’ll pay you 3% more.

All you gotta do is sign the contract.

The OEA balked. It told the teachers to stick it to the man, and force the school district to negotiate with the union on the teachers behalf. Don’t sign those contracts with the 3% salary increase…

All but one teacher signed. See, they’re teachers. They can do the math. They know a good deal when they see one.

The upshot?

While several other school districts are passing new tax increases this year, including Alpine and Davis, the Ogden School District has not raised taxes. They were also able to give raises to their teachers without collective bargaining – imagine. They have not cut the school year, or reduced staff.

But unions aren’t interested in the general welfare of their clients–the children and parents and teachers of the district–they’re interested in themselves.

And so, on August 15, Doug Stephens, President of the OEA, sent an email to all those recently rehired teachers with the 3% salary increases. He wanted just one thing: money. (Well, not exactly. He also asked teachers to sign up for another year of ineffective collective bargaining, to join a protest, to exert peer pressure on “fellow teachers who are not O.E.A. members,” and to read a really bad poetry analysis, and but that’s beside the point…or is it?)

Courtesy of Holly “on the Hill” Richardson:

Our political battles will take large amounts of O.E.A/U.E.A.- P.A.C. dollars. We are asking each member to give at least $30.00 to our P.A.C. fund this year. That is less than $5.00 a month between now and when school ends in May 2012. All the money we raise this year in our P.A.C. will stay with us. To be able to give a candidate, that we select, for a school board race, thousands of dollars and hundreds of volunteers to help in a campaign is unbeatable in a local election.

That’s right. In other words, Doug is say that “We couldn’t help you last year, we’re in a state that loathes us, and we’re losing ground…all while you’re getting a raise higher than the rest of the population and ahead of inflation. But please: by all means, keep sending us your money!”

Seriously. Teachers would get a better return in the stock market than sending $30 to the OEA this year. Heck, they might get a better return in a lemonade stand.

To return to my friend’s comment over lunch: perhaps Utah legislators could break the back of the UEA and its mini-me local unions just by looking into the fraud and waste that goes on in the school system. I don’t know. I haven’t looked into if there is that much.

The reality is, however, that it may not matter. Utahns care about their kids and they care about their schools, and they are willing to pay what they can to prove it. In a baby rich, cash poor state like Utah, that Ogden was able to provide a 3% raise in the midst of a recession is proof positive.

But don’t tell that to Doug Stephens. Unless you want to. His email address, if you want to communicate with him “in a confidential way,” as he asked in his email, is . (What is he doing giving out a government email for union promotion in what is clearly political work, anyway?)

(H/T to Holly Richardson for Ogden School District vs the union at

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In California, anything is possible…maybe even “Fat History Month.”

Sometimes, laws don’t make sense. They’re the result of an agenda forced on the majority by a loud and influential minority. The law doesn’t reflect good public policy, just a successful lobbying effort.

California‘s recent dictate to schools to teach the benefits of gays and lesbians to history is one such law. If people thought the Utah legislature’s micromanagement of civics lessons was a little myopic and, well, unnecessary, then this is even more so.

The state has become the first in the nation to require textbooks and history classes to cover the contributions of gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans.

A good friend of mine, known to the world by her nom de plume Salt H2O, put it sarcastically well:

As a former four eyes who was bullied for her glasses I would like to push for ‘eyesight impaired’ history. I don’t want a whole month. I’d just like it to be pointed out in text books the great people of this nation who wore corrective lenses.

Another group that should be up in arms over SB 48 are the obese. Fat kids get teased at an earlier age than homosexuals, and there are exponentially more fat people than homosexuals in our country.  We need Fat History Month to appreciate the metabolically challenged that contributed to this great country so that our fat children will not get bullied because they have a hankering for a Twinkie.

via My Soapbox: Fat History Month.

Maybe she has a point. Certainly President William Howard Taft might get a page or two in the fat metabolically challenged history book. Weighing in at well over 300 pounds when he left office, there is no doubt that he would qualify to “fit” the requirements.

But wait, you say. He’s already well reported in history. He served as President of the United States, an Ohio Supreme Court justice, a US Circuit Court judge, as Governor of the Philippines, and Secretary of War under Theodore Roosevelt, not to mention Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the only former President to administer the oath of office to another President. He was a very accomplished man.

And he was, at 5’11” and 290 pounds when he took office, very much in the obese category.

Why must history be revised and taught according to the gender, sexuality, race, or, for that matter, weight categorization? Why not just teach the history that matters, the history that affects us, and leave it at that? Leave out the classifications that label people, and let them be what they are: humans being humans, for better or for worse.

It should not matter if that human was white, black, gay or straight, skinny or fat, male or female. If that person has affected history, teach it.

And, in the meantime, spend more time in schools focusing on the skills that actually matter and that are being forgetting in the culture wars and agendas pushed by minority groups. I’m talking math, reading, writing, and science. It won’t really matter what people think about sexual orientation if they get to college and can’t write, or read, a complete sentence…if they can get in, at all.

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Do you really need all that education?

And now for something completely different, let’s ask ourselves the question: DO YOU REALLY NEED ALL THAT EDUCATION?

Arnold Kling doesn’t necessarily think so. Rather, education just separates the “wheat from the chaff. ”

There’s a great debate going on between a some economists over at  Their question? Does more education endows more benefit, or is it just “signaling” to employers to select the smarter, harder working workers. It’s called “signal theory” and Bryan Caplan explains it like this:

If you haven’t heard, the signaling theory says that to a significant extent, education does not increase workers’ productivity. Instead, the fact that you obtain an education shows that you were more productive all along, which makes employers want to hire you.

Here’s a simple thought experiment to illustrate the distinction. Which would do more for your career: A Princeton education, but no diploma, or a Princeton diploma, but no education?

Does that mean we all take standardized tests in seventh grade and call it good? Enter the workforce at our level of IQ or productivity?  Not necessarily (though there are those who would say that standardized tests already do that):

Even firm believers in the signaling model like myself grant that schools teach some useful skills. But more importantly, this objection only works against specific kinds of signaling. Yes, if all that school signals is IQ, then a test is a cheap substitute. But what if school signals conscientiousness and/orconformism? Think about it this way: Would you want to hire a high school drop-out with a 150 IQ? Probably not, because you’d immediately think “This guy had the brains to do anything. Why didn’t he finish high school? What’s wrong with him?!”

But what about college? That graduate degree?  Necessary. Because it’s part of what differentiates the dumb from the smart, the lazy from the industrious. Academia may be so many hoops to jump through, result in a lot of social waste, but still provide the utility of helping employers find the best workers. It’s a conundrum, but not a contradiction.

You can believe that IQ matters quite a lot for earnings, but still think that education teaches nothing but bona fide job market skills. If this is so, then comparing the earnings of college graduates to high school graduates overstates the private benefit of education. Why? College graduates were smarter to begin with, so they would have earned more money than the typical high school graduate even if they didn’t go to college. Labor economists call this “ability bias.”

Similarly, you can believe that a lot of education is mere signaling, without thinking that IQ by itself puts money in your pocket. Suppose that the world is rigidly credentialist, so that no one will even consider a person without a degree for anything beyond a low-skilled job. If this is so, then comparing the earnings of college graduates to high school graduates overstates the social benefit of education. Why? Because part of the effect of education is just to make yourself look better compared to other people without increasing production.

As a high school drop out with less than a full five years of k-12 public education under my belt, I tend to lean towards the theory that much of public education is time wasted. Even as a high school dropout, I managed to earn a bachelors and a law degree. Neither degree came from Ivy League institutions, but nor were they bottom feeders, either. Quite the contrary. All without the full thirteen years of public education.

I don’t say this to toot my horn, but rather to note that it may not be necessary to attend the full gamut of public education to succeed. On the contrary, it is innate ability (aka IQ) and work ethic that is a greater indicator of success.

That said, I love learning, and I would never have turned down my years of study at Brigham Young or at the University of Utah’s College of Law for anything. Both were very enriching experiences, albeit a bit expensive, and I found them to be personally valuable.

High school, though, I could have done without. Even the year and a half I did attend. Waste. Of. Time.

Check out Bryan Caplan’s posts on the topic here and here.

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Liberals cruising Easy St. in higher ed.

I’ve heard it asked about the ’60s: where did all the hippies go?

To the universities, that’s where. If you can’t change the world in protests (or by blowing up a government building), go into education and change it slowly instead, teaching the young and impressionable.

Oh, and pull down a nice salary at the tax payers expense, too. And did I mention the benefits? Continue reading

Victim 1, Bully 0

Common sense revolts against the machine in a post entitled:” If Tomorrow I Tell The Press That, Like, A Fat Kid Will Get Humiliated, Or A Nerd Will Be Slapped, Nobody Panics, Because It’s All “Part Of The Plan.” But When I Say That One Little Bully Will Get His Ankle Broken, Well Then Everyone Loses Their Minds!

Don’t miss the video, at Popehat, in case YouTube has taken it down. In it we see “fat” kid taunted and then slapped by a bully. Suddenly, the fat kid appears to snap, responding with force. The bully gets what was coming to him. I doubt he’ll be pushing people around anytime soon.

The video was posted on Facebook, where the response was overwhelmingly in support of the victim’s response. On the other hand, the “experts” expressed surprise at the support for victim’s self defense. Patrick, at Popehat, asks if we have all lost our minds.

We’ve built a society in which, under the doctrine of zero tolerance, seasoned experts and school administrators have lost all perspective: They have autistic children arrested for wearing a hoodie. Kids are prosecuted for denouncing scientologyGirls are strip-searched by the ibuprofen police. Boys are suspended for opening the door to help a lady whose hands are full. “Good students” and “nice children” are arrested for carrying nerf guns to class. If our schools are an asylum, the inmates are truly running it.

Check out some of those links. It’s a pretty embarrassing list of mis-deeds by teachers and administrators. Are we really that backwards that we are losing perspective?

Further, what does it say about our culture if we punish the victim for acting in self-defense? What does that say to bullies and the victims of abuse?

APROPOS: the stats on how often a teacher is dismissed for incompetance are less than staggering…

APROPOS II: Maybe we ought to give more consideration to making it easier to fire teachers. Good arguments exist for why it’ll be better for students, better for schools, and, yes, better for teachers, too.

(I’ll post this one under “Education Reform,” just because…)

via If Tomorrow I Tell The Press That, Like, A Fat Kid Will Get Humiliated, Or A Nerd Will Be Slapped, Nobody Panics, Because It’s All “Part Of The Plan.” But When I Say That One Little Bully Will Get His Ankle Broken, Well Then Everyone Loses Their Minds! | Popehat.

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