Sunday, July 30, 2006

Government in your child's head. Is it 1984 already?

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"What's in your head, in your head
Zombie"
from Zombie by The Cranberries


It appears it's the government ... well, they want to be in your child's head at the very least.

Who knows best, the parent or the bureaucrats and elected officials?

The push to have universal mental health screenings of all teens in the US is increasing. The opinions of the screener become the permanent record of the child. Consider signing a petition to let Congress know that there are limits to government interventionism. In addition, call or write you representatives and tell them to stop this nonsense.

Old English common law guaranteed that "a man's home is his castle." Pressure groups via government interventions crossed that threshold years ago, and now they are looking to enter the cranial cavity. Enough already. It's time to reread the Declaration of Independence and Constitution one more time.

As a parent, you have the legal right to request a preview of any survey your child will be asked to take at school. Exercise that right.

Voting with Our Feet? Local Government "Services" and the Supposed Tiebout Effect

Posted at EducationNews.com

Since Paul Samuelson defined the term some fifty odd years ago, public goods has entered the popular lexicon and become an established belief. From the simple technical definition as a good that is non-excludable and non-rivalrous, thus subject to free riders, and therefore can only be produced by government or through governmental action, public goods now encompass almost any good that a statist desires, whether neo-con or liberal. To question the concept of public goods is to attack mom and apple pie.

In 1956 Charles Tiebout extended the concept of public goods to the local level and created a model of a pseudo market for local government services (police, fire, schools, parks, etc.) whereby individuals sort themselves in such a manner that their preferences for government services match the services provided by the local government where they chose to reside. And just like Samuelson's public goods, Tiebout's local public goods plays a major role in how taxpayers view government expenditures.

The Tiebout Effect, the sorting of services and taxpayers, is supposed to provide a market solution that leads to a Pareto-Optimal equilibrium, guiding local governments toward providing only those services and quality of services that their respective residents want at a price they are willing to pay. Residents who don't like the mix of service, quality, and tax rate, "vote with their feet" and move to areas that better provide a mix that meets their preference rank. As residents either plant "for sale" signs and purchase homes elsewhere, or as prospective residents build new homes or buy existing homes, local governments recognize these activities as signals to either increase or reduce their service levels, depending on the perceived desires of the voting majority of community.

On the surface, the Tiebout model makes for a great justification for devolving a centralized government that can't provide for preference differentiation into many smaller local ones that can market themselves to individuals. Local governments are able to be as lean and mean as any private sector firm, at least according to Tiebout's model. But models are not reality.

Decentralized governments do compete with regard to tax incentives and public financing when trying to entice businesses to move into their area. But governments do not compete with each other by offering services in the same manner as entrepreneurs in the market place.

The easiest way to dispense with Tiebout is to recognize that the Austrian School has demolished the concept of public goods. Public goods simply do not exist. Sorry mom and apple pie. I am not going to address this here since there are many excellent articles and papers on the fallacy of public goods in general available at Mises.org .

The Rothbardian argument that a majority of voters does not speak for everyone also dispels the belief that the mix of so-called public goods, and local public goods, is a reflection of anyone's preference rank. No market in any sense exists where the majority plus one of those who chose to vote dictate the expenditures - through taxation - of all other. This is not a market, it as a coerced redistribution of wealth. Those in the voting majority simply become the net tax consumers while all others become the net taxpayers.

Despite the Austrian refutation, mainstream economists still cling to the public goods fallacy. In particular, many papers are written that cite the Tiebout Effect, especially in reference to local public schools and property values. Economist use Tiebout models in attempt to show that individuals voting with their feet drive improved school performance and increase property values.

While it may be true that individuals on initial draw seek communities that best match their preference mix of services and tax rate, individual preferences change as does the local government's mix of services and tax rate. Since the taxpayer is unable to simply move without incurring expense and the local government is a area-wide monopoly, local governments are under no pressure to satisfy changing preferences [1]. Entrepreneurs in the market, on the other hand, must quickly respond to any change in preference or suffer financial loss or ruin. Governments as monopolies are immune to such market pressures.

For sake of argument, let's agree that there is such a beast as public goods and that government is the entity most capable of supplying such services. The question I want to address is: Does the concept of local public goods provide a market that is driven to efficiency through the movements and sorting of individuals?

Like the often used example of the frog that blissfully allows itself to be boiled if the water temperature is slowing increased from lukewarm to boiling, taxpayers can also be boiled under rising tax rates simply because the marginal cost of moving exceeds the marginal cost of almost any new property tax. This has a piecemeal effect as taxes are increased every so often but each new step in tax rate does not warrant a move. Slowly the tax rate brings the homeowner to the boiling point, boiling under the collar anyway.

People tend to fall on the sword of collectivism and believe that a community is based on homogenous preferences. Nothing could be farther from the truth. School districts like to create the ideal-type resident and then assign attributes. Districts say that, "Our residents want program x." Does their community -- an aggregation of individual acting residents -- really want program x offered at the local schools? No, some parents want program x offered because they would rather not pay the full cost themselves but favor having their neighbors forced to split the bill. Districts like having program x simply because they now have a dependent constituency that will support additional tax increases.

Assume that you are offended by this machination of democracy or recognize yourself to be a net taxpayer for someone else's wants, what do you do? Is moving to another school district that has a better mix of service and tax rate the efficient and rational response. Not usually since the likely closing costs, moving expenses, and other real estate fees, drain about 10% off of the paper value of a house. The cost, real and assumed, to the owner of a $250,000 house is close to $25,000 with each move. It becomes obvious that it make sense to let the tax temperature rise just a few more degrees, even though the boiling point is rapidly approaching.

What about improved efficiency and performance of the local public school system due to the Tiebout Effect? From a market standpoint, the consumer must be able to operate in an free, unhampered market in order to guide the economy. The public school market is neither. Given that my singular vote has no impact on a tax levy and that I can't simply cross district lines without incurring a large cost, I am captured by the school market. If I am a regular at Burger King and the service or price changes in a manner I do not like, I can easily cross the street to McDonald's, Wendy's, etc., without having to bear any additional cost. In fact, the managers of the other restaurants will welcome me with open arms. There is no system of local public goods ready to serve me in the manner of the fast food market since I can't really "vote with my feet." The school system recognizes this and therefore sees no need for improvements in services relative to costs.

Oh, sure there are studies that show the occasional Tiebout Effect in the housing market, but here are also many studies showing no effect whatsoever. Certainly acting individuals sort themselves on any matter in question, but we can never know what the true reason for the sorting is. When econometricians use models that are based on the idea-type community member and then make assumptions about preference rankings, they are operating without a solid epistemology.

The above analysis shows that no free market for supposed public goods exists, local and otherwise. But if you require empirical data, just look around. Have you ever seen school districts, or any other local political entity, embrace improvements in order to capture a better market share? What you will see is school districts spin any change in outcome, whether positive or negative, as improved academic performance, and any additional cost as improved service. You will also see school districts claim that the school market is such that any reduction in funding or salaries will hurt student outcomes even though government expenditures and quality outcomes are inversely related.

School districts do not fear rising costs the same as the local businessman. Districts show no concern when their tax rates begin to exceed neighboring districts, in fact they will sell their need for operating levies on the basis that they spend less then neighboring districts -- cost equal service.

Imagine if McDonalds refused to acknowledge the hamburger price at Wendy's across the street. Imagine if consumers of computers could be led to believe that quality cannot go up even as prices go down. That would make for a strange market, but it is the market for supposed local public goods.

In addition, as Rothbard showed, taxation reduces the value of the item taxed. There you have it, schools don't improve, but taxes rise and potential property values fall.

A Tiebout Effect? Local public goods? No, you have been convinced by the fallacies and captured like the soon-to-be-boiled frog. It's not you choosing the mix of service and tax rate, it's the school system, or other governmental entity, making the choice for you.

Note:

[1] Due to government being an area-wide monopoly, school districts, and individual schools for that matter, typically cannot be switched without a move. This creates an issue that is not a concern where area-wide monopolies do not exist, namely the issue of switching suppliers requiring the selling of one's home. I can switch between McDonalds and Burger King as often as I like and not incur moving expenses. If McDonalds was granted an area-wide monopoly which forced me to buy Big Macs based on my current address, I would end up in the same situation as that with public schools. Unlike the standard neoclassical transaction cost, the cost of moving is the result of a government-imposed monopoly. End the area-wide monopoly and the moving cost issue disappears.

Jim Fedako, a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Research? Are you kidding?

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Phi Delta Kappa International, the self-proclaimed professional association in education, is an influential voice in the current education debates. The organization's mission is "to promote quality education as essential to the development and maintenance of a democratic way of life by providing innovative programs, relevant research, visionary leadership, and dedicated service." OK, let's see what they consider to be the promotion of quality education and relevant research.

An article in the current issue of their noted magazine, Phi Delta Kappan, claims to provide enlightened insight on what is wrong with public schools.

The findings: Of the 13 middle school students surveyed, all agreed that having personal responsibility for critiquing each book they read improved their reading skills more than being in a traditional classroom. This sounds like wonderful data, but is absolutely devoid of meaning and value.

First off, a qualitative study [1] of 13 students has no statistical merit, it is simply someone's story. As a study, it is simply a waste of time and effort. How in the world can students honestly state that a certain program improved their performance relative to some other program - a program in which they were not currently participating? They can because they were simply answering an invalid question on someone's survey.

Another finding: 10 of the 13 said that their overall social skills improved as a result of a curriculum integration experience. Again, how would they know for certain? The reality is they can't. So why the research and why the findings?

One section of the report is entitled, "Curricular Decisions Belong to Students." Not the parents, not even the teachers, but the students. Since we have all been through the middle school period of life, we know for certain that this statement is absolute nonsense. But it is the agenda that is driving so-called middle school reforms.

You can plainly see this agenda when a teacher decides that the child should moderate a child/parent conference in lieu of the standard parent/teacher setup. Yes, the child critiques his work in front of his own parents in a classroom surrounded by other children doing the same. The teacher floats around the room proud to have implemented this "new experience." And it's the King that has no clothes?

So, there you have it. The responses from 13 students confirm that Progressive Education is the way to go. Don't buy this nonsense. Ask questions at school curriculum nights and conferences. You can be certain that your concerns about your school's low academic performance are correct, regardless of what those 13 students felt on survey day. You have to take the lead in your child's education, otherwise your child will be subject to this foolishness.

Notes:

[1] Qualitative research asks those studied to provide their feelings or beliefs regarding the effectiveness of a program. These type of studies do not even consider improvements in test scores, they simply collate and report responses to questions such as, "Do you think this method improved you abilities?"

Contrast that with quantitative research that employs the methods used by the typical medical study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine - double-blind studies, etc. Qualitative research has it's place in science but not when testing educational interventions.

The feelings and beliefs of the 13 students do not prove increased performance. It is just as likely that their performance is less even though they report that it has improved. In instances such as this, qualitative research is devoid of scientific meaning, but full of agenda-related meaning.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Kindergarten Economics

A cute saying is, “Everything I know, I learned in Kindergarten.” That may indeed be the case for some, but learning doesn't always imply useful knowledge. Sometimes the item learned becomes an axiom of errant logic and false conclusions. These conclusions then drive economic policy toward the -isms of socialism, egalitarianism, utilitarianism, environmentalism, etc., the often-prized third way. But in actuality, Ludwig von Mises showed that the direction provide by these conclusions leads down the one-way street to the socialist cul-de-sac.

The classroom poster reads, “There are no wrong ideas here.” Is this apodictically true? If it is not, where does this false statement lead? What conclusions and actions result from a saying so apparently innocuous? You might be surprised.

Future educators are being indoctrinated by college professors adhering to progressive and socialist educational utopian ideals – just as current educators were indoctrinated during their college years. Mises in Human Action noted that Charles Fourier, the French utopian socialist, believed that man could create a world where the seas are made from lemonade. Mises also quotes Trotsky’s belief that the world in the 1920’s was about to witness the birth of the ideal super human as “the average human type will rise to the heights of an Aristotle, a Goethe, or a Marx. And above this ridge new peaks will rise.”

These Utopian ideals are certainly powerful statements, but they are a too outrageous for the typical education major. Keep the utopian ideal, but spin the rhetoric into the less offensive Kindergarten concept that no ideas can be wrong and you've hooked the teachers, parents and school board. And, more importantly, you've inculcated a new generation. Gramsci was right, why fight in the streets when patience and time will bring about socialism through lectures and textbooks as each subsequent generation is taught party-line thoughts and ideas at state-run schools.

There are many in my generation who believe that all ideas are good. Failure is not the product of a bad idea; failure is instead the product of market flaws and the sign that government intervention is required.

In reality most ideas are not worthy of consideration; they're inefficient, wasteful and just plain wrong. In Kindergarten and throughout the public K-12 system that statement is politically incorrect.

A little history is in order. Otto von Bismarck’s dream of state socialism was given birth decades before his rise to power when the calls for compulsory public education were heard soon after Napoleon defeated the Prussian army at Jena. The Prussian system supposedly began producing the best and the brightest, at least that’s what Horace Mann, the father of public education in the US, believed. Later, John Dewey, the father of the current pedagogy, was enthralled by what he saw during a 1928 visit to the Soviet Union. Trotsky’s Utopian man was envisioned by the Progressives as the product of public education.

This has left us with a free and compulsory school system that is convinced that five 7th graders sitting around a table can construct the concepts that required the brightest intellects hundreds of years to conceive. It took the likes of Carl Menger and the passage of a century to overthrow Adam Smith’s Classical School and institute the Marginalist Revolution. The discovery of marginal utility, considered the mark of a genius, is now supposed to be replicated by less-than-eager adolescents within a 40-minute class period. The utopian man has arrived.

“No wrong ideas here.” Every thought uttered by any child or adult has to be given equal standing. Consensus, an ideal adhered to by the education monopoly, is the blending of these ideas into an Hegelian synthesis [1] that becomes truth. Synthesis can then be tested using the latest tools of the econometrician. That this new truth stands outside a priori logic is of no consequence. Without a system built on a priori logic to test ideas, anything can be deemed possible. Polylogism is certainly alive and well.

The empiricist’s test of the statement, “No wrong ideas here,” is a view of two snapshots of a local strip mall taken one year apart. Most of the stores open in year one are gone in year two; bad ideas.

Weren't these ideas entrepreneurial dreams? Certainly, but not all dreams lead to viable concerns. Mises considered the consumer a heartless taskmaster. The statement in the Kindergarten classroom fails the empirical test and thus must be concluded as false.

Not so fast. Wasn't the test the result of a flawed system? Didn't the statistical noise from the market cause a false reading of the results? Aren’t we confounding correlation with causation since the market caused the failures? Such ideas are hard to refute since they spin faster than anyone can apply logic to them.

Unlike the Kindergarten teachers who may truly believe that all ideas – dreams – should be allowed to germinate and bloom, the consumer does not see the dream, only the product. We see Wal Mart but we don't see the thousand other stores that opened in the 1950’s that, while being the dreams of entrepreneurs, did not provide for the most urgent wants of the customers. These businesses failed. Their business model was incorrect and inefficient.

But, wait. Failure means that an idea was wrong. We have been taught that ideas are correct; it is the market that fails. Your snapshots from above shows different store fronts because the free market suffers the inherent flaw that the passing fancies of consumers trump the dreams of the child, now entrepreneur. This conclusion is what we were taught in Kindergarten as impressionable and malleable children. It’s the evils of the market that steal the dreams of the Utopian man.

The market didn't steal the dreams, the dreams still exist. But consumers – you and I – shouldn't have to pay for another man’s dream. The dream must simply remain one man’s dream. Under a system of interventionism, the dreams of the entrepreneur are exchanged for the dreams of the elected official or bureaucrat. The entrepreneur that dreamed of building a store on the premise of “always high prices” is now sitting behind an agency desk commanding the economy. Instead of fully stocked Wal Marts carrying fresh foods from all around the globe, the consumer is stuck with the drab, dirty Soviet-quality stores stocked with Vodka, cookies and little else.

Saying an idea is wrong does not mean that ideas shouldn't be tested. IBM thought Gates was off the mark trying to peddle computers for home use. Other examples abound where ideas considered crazy brought innovation to the market and eased the urgent wants of the consumers.

Unlike a lab where all conditions must be controlled for an experiment to work, the market allows someone with an idea, enthusiasm and some financial backing to test that idea at the local strip mall. Should the concept align with the needs of the consumer, the next Subway-style success will begin opening franchises in strip malls throughout the US.

Better the foot-long turkey on wheat served with a smile than the slice of salami on stale bread coming from the scowling apparachik wearing a faded Babushka. The more productive an idea, the more efficient the economy will run. We all benefit when ideas that are wrong are allowed to be discarded in the waste pile.

I will contend that all truths I know about the market I learned through studying Human Action and Murray Rothbard’s classic, Man, Economy and State. Since these books reconstruct economics around solid a priori logic, they are irrefutable. These books deliver conclusions will challenge all that was learned in Kindergarten and beyond, but those very conclusions must be understood as the guiding lights to a brighter future for all.


Jim Fedako

[1] The common usage is Hegelian while this usage is more along the lines of Fichte's system, the predecessor of Hegel.

Friday, July 21, 2006

First they have to get a clue.

Latest Mises.org blog post
http://blog.mises.org/archives/005360.asp

The Brookings Institution Press has a new offering, Antitrust Policy and Vertical Restraints. The description of the book includes this sage advice, "In order to formulate economically efficient policies, they (policymakers) must be able to identify and limit those practices that are likely to do more harm than good." Why make this hard? The simple solution is for policymakers to end their interventions in the market and let consumers and entrepreneurs solve - to the benefit of both parties - issues that may arise in exchange. It's either the participants in an exchange solving their own conflicts, or it's the policymaker via their henchmen - the bureaucrats - forcing a less-optimal exchange.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Another comment deserving a response

It would be my best guess that the following comments regarding my previous post came from someone on the district's staff.

"I mean you seriously researched where the post came from?"

This is the information age. I would bet that most bloggers take advantage of the host of free blog-related services. Using the free service provided by Sitemeter.com, which is one of many that provide similar services, bloggers get a report of the number of visitors, along with their ISP addresses (AOL, Verizon, TRECA, etc.), page views, etc. This is important data for any serious blogger who wants to know what's being read; what is of interest to visitors and what is not. No serious research required, just a couple of mouse clicks and it's all readily available.

"I am also amazed how you cannot even have the audacity to research the use of young adult literature and its use within a classroom. Students everyday are dealing with a tougher issues than perhaps you dealt with in your day. And, rape is one of those issues. Statistics show that 1 out of 4 women will be raped between the ages of 15-19. Is this not a relevant topic? Do teens who face this violence not have a voice?

So if rape isn't a relevant topic or a relevant "narrator, than would you also state that "Beloved" is not a classic book that speaks towards this issue? Perhaps you should talk to Toni Morrison about its purpose in literature history. Have you read "Beloved"? Rape is an act of violence and unfortunately, it is often without a voice for the victim. Shouldn't all students have an opportunity to hear that voice?"


Olentangy's curriculum - the course of study - is contained in the board-approved maps. The maps define the outcomes and list the associated performance benchmarks. When I say board-approved, I really mean community-approved since the board acts on behalf of the community. The topics listed above are not part of the community-approved curriculum. They are what is commonly referred to as the hidden curriculum; the personal curriculum of those who believe that they know better than parents. Neither the board nor the community approved the learning objectives that Anonymous advocates.

"If teens to not have an opportunity to face these conflicts, “the adolescent will sink into confusion, unable to make decisions and choices, especially about vocation, sexual orientation, and his role in general.” That is why in (Eric) Erikson’s stage “Identity vs. Role” confusion stage of young adults, ages 12-18, is where teenager must achieve a sense of identity in occupation, sex roles, politics, and religion and the most important even is peer relationships."

OK, now you're scaring me.

The topics listed here are extremely sensitive. Who best to help a child make sense of the world; the English teacher or the child's parents? I say it's the parents, but some staff members believe that they are the ones who should be guiding children to adulthood, whether parents approve or not. This from staff members who say the reason they do not like parental notification is that "parents who would say no to these topics are the ones whose children need to be taught the very same topics." Sounds more like indoctrination than education.

Let me leave you with this excerpt:

"Is it better to keep our kids on a bubble to protect them from the "evil world" or to enlighten them and equip them with their own thoughts/ideas and help them to deal with them now versus sending them off to college to deal with such as SERIOUS issues later when their parents are not as aware???"

A very strange form of enlightenment; create false teen issues - crises - so that you can imprint your worldview on unsuspecting minds. As I have written previously, there are those who truly believe that without a unionized workforce inculcating children, nothing of value will ever be learned. Doesn't say much about the role of parents in raising children, but the enlightened few always believe they know better.

The three R's have been replaced with a form of enlightenment that should cause us all a lot of concern. Oh, and we pay teachers to indoctrinate district children into this world of Progressive, pop psycho-garbage.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A challenge and a response (with new info)

"And I would like for you to post the Delaware Gazette letter you submited. Along with the letter, please submit your data stating the number of Olentangy students having to take "remedial English" in college. With the data, I'd like to see its origination, how it was compiled, etc. Such a strong statement should really have statistical proof so it doesn't just seem like psychotic ramblings." Blog comment left by Anonymous

You just have to love people who make such statements under the cover of Anonymous. What is very interesting is that the comment came from TRECA's ISP - TRECA is the internet provider for the Olentangy Local School District. This means that there are staff members who know little about our data and performance but are all fired-up about a reading list. They would rather spend your tax dollars commenting on this blog than reviewing performance data and working for improvements. Humm ... Could this explain the district's lagging performance? Anyway... to the data ...

You can get the data from either the Olentangy Annual Report on Academic Achievement or the Ohio Board of Regents' high school transition report.

The Olentangy report shows a 36% combined remediation rate for district students who were freshmen in 2002 at one of Ohio's colleges and universities reporting to the Board of Regents - including OSU, Miami, etc. Thirty-six percent. The Board of Regents report shows that the percentage increased to 37% for 2003 freshmen. I pushed to have this indicator added to the annual report so I know the data well. These data should be of utmost concern for the district's staff, yet they are not. Why?

It's beginning to sound less like psychotic ramblings and more like a true concern for our future generation. It is a sad refection of the tens, and now hundreds, of millions in tax dollars that the district spends every year.

It would appear that college-prep and district performance are not correlated. Folks, this level of performance is the result of choices made by the staff. Sure, some staff and students may have fun reading the books in question, but the Board of Regents is not looking for fun as an indicator of a potentially successful college student. Allow the English department to push fun as the objective and watch college seats get filled with students from other districts.

Next, Anonymous needs to challenge the staff and have them explain such poor performance. Though I'm certain that Anonymous will remain thusly and keep quiet. It always stings when the data doesn't go your way.

Notes: The Olentangy report annual report on achievement is produced with your tax dollars, but some district staff obviously don't bother reading it. If you don't know your level of performance, or just don't care, how in the world can you ever improve?

In a previous post, I challenged any staff member who agreed with what appears to be a majority of the community to speak out on the inappropriateness of the required reading list. Not only has the challenge gone unanswered, this appears to be a representative response from the staff. Disappointing, and disheartening.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Dewey and Destruction

Response to the Mises.org article, The Welfare State's Attack on the Family.


In addition to the destruction caused by welfare programs, government, through the public school system, has also contributed to the break-up of the family. This has been done by pushing the Progressive ideals of John Dewey, the noted father of the modern American education system and believer in collectivism and socialism.

Dewey, and the other Progressives, adhered, and still adhere, to Trotsky's vision of the ideal superhuman who will arise from the socialist state and it's system of public education. The following quote from Dewey was made soon after his 1928 trip to Soviet Russia: "I have never seen anywhere in the world such a large proportion of intelligent, happy, and intelligently occupied children." Impressions of Soviet Russia, by John Dewey. If you want to learn more, head to the web magazine, TCRecord, published by Columbia University's Teachers College. There you will read that Dewey is still considered a hero of the education establishment.

Public schools, which teach the ideal of a state that has freed man from the burdens of traditional institutions, push a vision of the child untethered from any social norm and unconcerned about family and heritage.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Listserve Response on Exactness

Note: Running commentary regarding whether some math terms are too rigorous for practical users of math elicited this response:

The reason that India might overtake the US in technology is that they teach strict adherence to the language of math, as they also do with the languages of philosophy and technology.

There are two fields where one might hear the following, "Next we instantiate an new instance of the entity." The fields, philosophy and technology. Search for the definitions of the supposed esoteric words of philosophy and you will likely find the companion definition from an online technical dictionary. The terms in their contexts have exact meanings, there is no room for interpretations from the "practical user" of philosophy, nor the "practical user" of technology. Fail to correctly understand those terms and watch your job get shipped offshore while holding your pink slip.

Also, try discovery-learning your own set of arithmetic order of operations and see how MS Excel processes them. The rules and esoteric language of math have exact meanings, they are beyond debate. Tom Loveless of the Brookings Institute edited an enlightening book, The Great Curriculum Debate, where a contributor lamented the lack of exactness in US math books. The contributor, Richard Askey, noted the incorrect use of the term exponential in a discussion of population growth, the correct term being polynomial. A researcher who casually substitutes one word for another will have results that are unpredictable at best. Certainly the "practical math user" is happy with the use of exponential, but it is absolutely wrong in the context of the discussion. The author of the math book in question was fine with his lazy use of the term exponential and refused to make a change.

A quick note on logic: The strict rules of logic are embedded in computer software. The computer does not care what one's intent was when substituting an and for an or in a logic gate. "Practical users" of internet search engines will find very odd results if they use these terms interchangeably. Sure we can create a gentlemen's agreement that such rigor is too demanding, but we will fall on our faces as we present our results for review.

Of course, law and legal documents rely on exact definitions. Maybe this is the next area of offshoring to the rising giants in the East.

The division of math knowledge into that which is used by "mathematicians" and that which is used by "practical users of math" is a error arising from the Progressive Movement. No wonder education in the US has falling into such a malaise.

Jim Fedako

Standards, Choice, and Scientific Research

Consider Consumer Reports: The magazine reviews consumer goods based on a proprietary set of standards. They test, analyze, test, analyze, etc., until they are satisfied as to the quality of the products under review. CR then assigns individual product ratings and notes one product as a best buy. Though most Americans accept CR's results as being of excellent quality, the noted best buy is not usually the market best-seller. Yes, I will occasionally look at CR prior to purchasing a good, but I almost never buy the best buy. I agree that the CR standard is scientifically valid, but that doesn't mean I am in the market for the scientifically valid, CR best buy product.

What would happen if Consumer Reports had legislative and regulatory authority akin to government? We would all be forced to purchase the best buy and we would all spend our lives unsatisfied. On the surface it sounds great to have a leading research organization setting the market for "the general good and welfare," but consider your own actions vis-a-vis CR's best buys. The same holds for a government-run education system. Some level of government mandates a set of standards that may be scientifically valid according to a certain set of outcomes, but the set of standards and outcomes are not the standards and outcomes all Americans would choose as acting individuals.

Scientific research can create goods that are bigger, smaller, faster, slower, etc. But just because research can create the good doesn't mean that there is a market for it. No one wants a hypodermic needle that is rougher, wider, longer, etc. The superlatives associated with improvements and innovations from scientific research are not always desired.

A free market system of education would create for those who seek different options a system that encourages the implementation of the spectrum of educational choices -- best viewed as experiments, just as each new product, service, store, etc, is a market experiment. The successful experiments become the market standard that new entrepreneurs seek to surpass.

These choices would involve all aspects of education - including pedagogies, methods, etc. - which would afford those who seek scientific research for guidance a system of scientific research needed to support the spectrum of choices.

Parents would choose their standard of results and they would seek out entrepreneurs who would then hire teachers and administrators that share the parents' vision. The entrepreneurs would purchase products to implement the vision and the science community would be engaged to improve old products and innovate new ones - all due to the market pressures of freely acting consumers, the parents. This is the proper direction of improvements and innovations, from the consumer back to the scientist, engineer, researcher, etc.

The standard set by the consumer, the parent, would end up driving the research that would deliver the product, not the reverse. Currently we have a system where the standards are set by a myriad of governments and agencies which no one really agrees with, and we have a spectrum of research whose real goal is to drive the standards.

There are scientific winners in the field of the delivery of quality, basic education [1], such as Direct Instructions, etc., but we know a significant number of parents, staff, and administrators don't give a hoot about reading, writing, and arithmetic. They want affective education and long for the dream of the ideal child, the product of latest version of Progressive thinking.

I disagree with them, but their solutions may actually end up being correct, or they will fail like Enron, etc. Only a market can show whether they are right or wrong.

That said, we have to keep in mind that Consumer Reports creates valid ratings that we mostly ignore, and we are all better off making our own choices. Our individual wants drive improvements and innovations to provide for our greater satisfaction. Why should education be any different?


note:

[1] "Basic" is not to be taking as simple, non-challenging, etc., it is meant to describe the education that is opposite of the ends sought by the Progressive Movement. Basic is best defined by E. D. Hirsch's Cultural Literacy.

[2] The free market is the only economic system where we can disagree yet live peacefully. My wife likes Coke while I prefer Pepsi. In fact, I'd rather drink a glass of baking soda than a glass of Coke (Ok, a little hyperbole for effect). Due to the free market in soft drinks, my wife and I can live happily ever after. Under a hampered economy, or plain socialism, the fight becomes which flavor will be served by the scowling apparachik wearing a faded Babushka? Choose freedom every time.

Jim Fedako

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Response to Columbus Dispatch Editorial

Letters Editor:

The Dispatch normally hits the mark with its editorials but its editors went wide with their editorial on the Olentangy Libery High School's required summer reading list in the paper's July 6, 2006 editorial, "Offer a choice."

Oh, come one now. There were over 170,000 books published in 2005 alone, nearly a million books published since the year The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time hit the shelves. Choices abound in the US book market. No books were banned, they are still available in district libraries, Delaware County libraries, and at Wal-Mart, Barnes and Nobles, etc.

No one removed any choice from any parent or child in the district. These books can be borrowed, bought, or exchanged in any manner desired. The issue is simply this: Out of the tens of millions of books published over time, which ones are best suited to challenge children in preparation for college and beyond?

Any book that makes it on a required reading list had better be the best of the plentitude available. This means that there has to be a good reason to select a book. None of the books in question are on any college recommended reading list that I have ever seen. In short, they are not college-prep reading material.

The books are popular, but they are not appropriate. In fact county libraries place these books in the adult section, not the teen section. A 14-year-old's description of her own rape is never appropriate for any required reading list. With many classics to choose, not to mention the other millions of books available, the Dispatch should be asking why an Olentangy English department chairwoman believes this book needed to be read; non-college material in a college-prep course nonetheless.

Jim Fedako
Member, Olentangy Board of Education

Friday, July 07, 2006

This time it's just has to work

Latest Mises.org post
http://blog.mises.org/archives/005294.asp

CNN is reporting that July 1 was the effective date for a host of new state laws, with more laws about to become effective. Not to worry, this latest mix of statist controls will finally order society in the correct manner. You can disregard the prior failed interventions, the capital chefs have finally got the recipe just right. You can sleep easy my friends. Thank goodness, it's about time ...

Read New laws target bird flu, bullies and taxes at CNN.com ...

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Interventions are always loser

Latest Mises.org blog post
http://blog.mises.org/archives/005277.asp


One truism has never been successfully challenged: Government interventions lead to a less efficient, less well-ordered society.

In his important book, Basic Principles of Economic Value, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk develops, among other important concepts, his basic law of prices and includes a footnote that is both intriguing and worthy of exploration.

In the narrative associated with the footnote (p. 119), Böhm-Bawerk develops his law of prices (pp.107-129) by using the now-standard chart of subjective values of a group of horse buyers and sellers. Chart 1 (reproduced below), shows that five horses will be bought and sold at a market price somewhere between $210 and $215.

Notice that in the market range of $210 to $215, not all horses are sold since some sellers value their horse more than the established market price (sellers 6, 7, and 8). In the footnote, Böhm-Bawerk reorders the values so that the sellers’ valuations are in descending order similar to the buyers’ set of values (chart 2 below). He then notes that if the buyers and sellers sought out each other in this manner, all available horses would have been sold. This intriguing situation is worthy of further exploration since it is always important to investigate the possibilities of a government helping-hand with regard to the market.

A question arises: If government intervened to coercively pair buyers with sellers in the manner that the chart in the footnote details (chart 2 below) and forced exchanges based solely on the pair at hand’s valuations (e.g. Buyer 1 and Seller 8, Buyer 2 and Seller 7, etc.), ignoring an aggregate market price, would the society of horse buyers and sellers be better off?

First, we have to look at how value is increased through voluntary exchange and then apply that knowledge to the intervention.

Value has a subjective magnitude. Individuals participate in voluntary exchanges if and only if they expect ex ante an increase in subjective value ex post due to the exchange.

Based on the market established in chart 1, Buyer 1 will exchange with Seller 1 at some price between $100 and $300. Regardless of the price, an increase of $200 is recorded to subjective valuations of this two-person society since the buyer values the horse $200 more than the seller; while the buyer and seller simply split the cash based on the agreed upon price.

The pre-exchange valuations show the buyer holding $300 in cash with the seller holding a $100 horse. Should the price have been $200 for the exchange, the buyer now has a $300 horse and $100 in cash while the seller has $200 in cash. This shows a $200 increase in subjective valuation.

Any other price for the horse simply moves cash from one holder’s account to the other; buyer's to seller's, or visa versa. The money price has no effect on the increase in the subjective valuation to the buyer over the seller of the exchanged horse. The money price only affects the decision to exchange or hold, money prices do not change valuations subjective to the individual actors.

The aggregate valuation increase for the larger society as detailed in chart 1 is calculated by summing the valuations of the more-capable buyers – those able to purchase a horse on the market – and subtracting from that total the summed valuations of the associated sellers. In the example, the aggregate increase due to the exchanges is $570.

What would be the aggregate increase to society due to a government intervention that coercively paired buyers with sellers?

Using chart 2, sum the valuations of capable buyers and subtract the sum of the valuations of the associated sellers. In this instance, there are eight buyers and sellers. The result, an increase of $435, shows that the coerced exchange reduced the aggregate subjective valuation gain.

More horses were sold but less value was created. This intervention, like all government interventions, is a net loser.

Moreover, and more importantly, the losses due to the coerced exchanges are not found only in the hypothetical market created by Böhm-Bawerk, the loss of subjective valuation occurs regardless of the make-up of the market. In addition, this can be extended to show that government cannot tax valuation "left on the table" [1] and increase the aggregate subjective valuation since all government would be doing is reducing cash-holdings through taxation. The subjective valuations remain what they are regardless of the exchange price.

Additionally, if government would then use the cash generated through taxation to subsidize exchanges that would not have occurred naturally in the market, the aggregate net valuation would suffer a loss – just as it did under a coerced exchange – and the cash-holdings would be reduced by the inefficiencies of government.

Based on a superficial analysis, coerced exchanges appear to lead to greater satisfaction. Aren’t more horses traded? Isn’t more cash passed between buyer and seller? The answer is yes to both. However, the unseen is as important as the seen. On the surface, government appears to be a market catalyst for good, while the hidden results proves that interventions lead to a loss of value and cash-holdings.

Governments opt for the seen as their continued power is based on trumpeting their interventions of the obvious; governments then blame the final results, lost values and cash-holdings, on someone or something else altogether.

Yet, this is exactly what government does when it alters the normal actions of individuals through taxation or other coercive forces, such as subsidies, etc. Nothing good results simply because nothing good can result from coerced changes to the free market.

Footnote:

[1] Valuation “left on the table” is value external to the exchange, viz. the subjective value Buyer 1 assigns to the horse, $300, that is that is greater that the market price, between $210 and $215 in this instance. Some suggest that government should levy a tax of either $90 or $85 respectively so that the value the buyer attributed to the horse is paid in a combination of market price and taxation. The belief is that this combination would capture all value generated by the exchange. As noted above, government simply decreases the aggregate valuation and cash-holdings of society through such interventions.



Jim Fedako [send him mail], a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.


Appendix

Chart 1




Chart 2

note: refer to Mises.org blog posting for chart 2.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A 2006 Modern Minuteman

Many thanks to Peyton Wolcott for selecting me as a 2006 Modern Minuteman in education. Peyton, Your vote of confidence is greatly appreciated.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Comments heard along the way (with responses)

"Lovely Bones is a work of literature." The supporter of some of the books on Olentangy Liberty's mandatory reading lists claim that the books are true works of literature. If those books are works of literature, so is this blog, along with every keystroke and pencil scratch that I have every made.

"They are on the New York Times Best-Seller List!" So what, they are not on any college's list of expected readings for in-coming freshmen - at least not any list that I have every seen.

"It's censorship." No, it's selecting a list of appropriate books. As the woman in the June 30, 2006 Dispatch article notes, she is making Lovely Bones available to her family members. That is still her right and privilege. You can still borrow the book at district libraries and all county libraries, and the book is available at Wal-Mart and Barnes and Nobles, etc. That's a very strange application of the concept of government censorship, and a very weak understanding of the First Amendment - as written and intended, not as applied by activist courts.

"A few pushy parents are getting too involved in the schools." State law in Ohio states that parents are stakeholders and thus equal partners in the school system, though some staff see otherwise. Some parents who complained in the past were harangued and insulted when they wanted less-offensive selections added to required reading lists. Now parents have banded together and are demanding to be heard; that is their right.

"Stop being such a religious fanatic and get a life." Not a very nice way to greet your customers, but it is a very powerful way to get parents to back-off from demanding to be involved in their children's education. Keep in mind that a government-run monopoly will never accept its community as an equal partner.

"Our staff knows best." Really, and this is the reading list they created? Aren't students supposed to be reading the books that will prepare them for college? It would appear from the mandatory list that students are supposed to be reading the top ten list from Oprah and NYT. As one commentator noted, "It is as if some teachers and librarians are working to ban the classics."

"Kids should read these books as they are very interesting." Ok, go ahead and borrow or buy the books and give them to your own children, just don't force them on other's children.

Remember, the flip-side of censorship is indoctrination. The supporters of this list can have their own children read the books, but that is never enough. They DEMAND that your children read them also. In fact, staff has stated that the reason they don't like parental permission slips for controversial - vile - materials and presentations is that "the parents who say no are the ones whose children really need to see the materials." Huh? What makes a unionized labor force, and tax-supported administration, believe they have the right to overrule you in such personal matters? The cry of "censorship" always follows the drive to stop indoctrination.

(If you want to see the heart of the indoctrination efforts, check back later for updates of the platform debates from the NEA annual convention courtesy of Mike Antonucci of the The Education Intelligence Agency.)

Besides the error correction noted in the July 1, 2006 edition of the Dispatch, another error is the claim that this is simply an issue for one Christian parent. In fact, this is an issue for the 70 to 100 parents initially involved, a true cross-section of our community, whose children were effected by the list. The list of concerned parents continues to grow.

Who knows what is best for your children? You, the parent, or someone else? I believe it's you, others do not. They are not concerned about their own children's minds, they are concerned about your child's mind. And that concerns me.

Jim Fedako

note: Some say I'm too critical of all teachers. I would agree if only a few would stand up to this nonsense and be heard. As none have now or in the past, I have no option other than to consider these issues fully supported by the staff. Please, somebody, prove me wrong!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Believe in government, believe in me

New LewRockwell.com article:

If you believe that Government provides the solutions, then you have to believe in me. As a member of an elected board of education I have been granted the power to mandate solutions to local education and health issues, real or perceived. My qualifications: I was elected to my position by receiving sufficient votes to beat enough of the other candidates. I was not elected by a majority, more like a plurality of the 25% or so residents who chose to vote in that election. Not much of a mandate, but I will take what I can get.

You see, once ensconced on the board, the fact that close to 85% of the residents in my district of voting age either voted against me, or decided my election was not worth their time, carries no weight. The power vested in my position, and now in me, by Ohio state law does not depend on unanimity of support. It does not even depend on majority support. All I needed was to be the marginal vote-getter in an off-year election and the board seat was mine.

Interestingly, the same folks who would never accept my omniscience as a friend, neighbor, or community member, accept my omniscience as an elected official. Of course these folks don't consciously acknowledge my omniscience, but they do subscribe to the omniscience of the governmental body, the school board in this instance. It is as if the board as a whole attains a higher plane of reason where the whole is multiples of the sum of the parts. In reality, most board members are simply parents trying to make the best decisions for their own children. Certainly they pray that they are right, but they do not subscribe to their omniscience at home, just in the board room.

Based on lots of research and agonizing internal reasoning, or simply the result of my then-current whim and fancy, I get to make decisions that affect the lives and future of other’s children. All it takes is for an article in an education periodical or posting on a web site to catch my attention and I could be advocating the next nuttiness in your life. Should someone suggest that children today are overfed and under-exercised, I could be writing the new policies, procedures, and guidelines that mandate each child eat nothing but organic carrots at lunch and perform sets of jumping-jacks at their desks on the hour, every hour.

Sound far-fetched? Well, it’s not. Every crazy idea has both advocates and enablers. The advocates push the issue while the enablers nod their collective heads in approval. It really does not matter if the enablers truly agree with the advocates since the enablers will never call the advocates into question. The lovers of Liberty try to make a stand but find their voices lost in the sea of feel-good, collective consensus-building. The crazy idea then ends up before the board and I get to decide. Will whim and fancy, or research and reason, be my guide? You never can really tell.

So I get to decide on the issue while you get to fear the results as the occasional band of roaming morons spray paint SUVs, demand that KFC play Mozart in their slaughterhouses – yes, the chicken we eat must be slaughtered somewhere, and protest McDonalds and Wal-Mart as evil incarnate. These are products of a system that I get to run based on my world-view, or the world-view that piques my interest at any given time.

And I get to change with the winds, not so much based on political pressures, but based on the ideas or ideals that I believe today that all children must believe tomorrow. As my views flutter in the wind, new advocates arrive on the scene and the increase of crazy ideas reaches hurricane speeds while the enablers bob their heads in accelerating unison.

The problem is that local government is simply comprised of friends, neighbors, community members, who you generally appreciate but whose views on very personal matters, such as parenting, are not always the same as yours; just as you do not always agree with the parental decisions of those closest to you – your parents and siblings. In fact, one of the easiest ways to end a family reunion in anger is to begin telling siblings how to raise their children.

In addition, even if I possessed the latest research on education and had advanced reasoning skills, as an elected official, a member of government, the best I can offer is my opinions and beliefs, and I am wrong more often than right. Education research is based on standards that can never match consumer desires, and all opinions and beliefs of that research are nothing more than an individual’s bias. Without a free market and real consumers driving the education system, expect waste and inefficiencies; failures. But give us, your school boards, power and we will decide; we will indoctrinate as we see fit, based on our own biases or those biases fed to us by educationist organizations.

But society must allow parents to raise and indoctrinate their children as they see fit, not as the unionized wing of government sees fit. Thomas Jefferson believed that it was far better to suffer the occasional fool than to create a school system that offends fathers, and mothers. I assume that the majority of parents would opt for their own decision-making skills if pushed to decide, but I may be wrong.

Why do so many people have such little faith in their own parenting, and their neighbors' parenting, that they truly believe that without a unionized labor force inculcating children, nothing of value will ever be learned? Are we really at the point where the future of civilization is in the hands of the public school education monopoly? Maybe preschool should start right after birth so that parents have no adverse influence on their children. And, why do residents feel that I can make the decisions for their children that they would not allow to be made by members of their own family?

The answer is that they have accepted collectivism in the form of government as the solution. Whereas our forebears rebelled against such paternalism – or do-gooder nanny-ism – the current generations have come to accept government in all facets of their lives. We allow the schools to dictate our children’s future and simply assume that the schools are always rights. We allow the local health department and schools to decide what goes in our children’s lunch boxes and accept that mandate as correct.

How in the world did my election to the board cloak me in the cape of omniscience and allow me to be more enlightened than regular folks? Karl Marx and the other socialists and communists saw little need for the family and other institutions; they believed that they knew better. Gramsci, the Italian socialist, believed that socialism would win in the end if it based its means on a strategy of long-term goals; a Fabian approach. Why fight in the streets when the damage can be done by destroying families and institutions?

In many ways, we have allowed socialist collectivism to be the main outcome of public education. The schools create the environment that nurtures the advocate and encourages the complacency of the enabler. It is really no wonder that the collective body, the school board, is assumed to be omniscient while the individual board member, in his non-board role, is simply considered one in the crowd.

Don't simply sit back and be a silent enabler, stand for freedom against the aggressions of the advocator. And remember, if this is so, that the schools and all other local governments are always right, that simply means that I am always right. And even I do not agree with that.

June 30, 2006

Jim Fedako [send him mail], a former professional cyclist who lives in Lewis Center, OH, is a member of the Olentangy Local School District and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com