JS-Kit/Echo comments for article at http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2008/06/and-where-are-they-going-to-come-from.html (24 comments)

  Tentative mapping of comments to original article, corrections solicited.

jsid-1212978153-592757  Mastiff at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 02:22:33 +0000

Mr. C. Judson King needs to face up to his school's inadequacy. If he wants more liberal arts, all he has to do is make them a requirement.

My father attended Harvey Mudd College, one of the three top engineering schools in the country. It also has a surprisingly large general ed requirement in liberal arts; about 1/3 of your classes had to be in LA.

The students worked very, very, very hard. And at the end of it they were excellent engineers and also well grounded in the liberal arts.

You only need to choose between them if you are willing to accept mediocrity.

jsid-1212982550-592759  Sarah at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 03:35:50 +0000

Re: Williams' point, one thing to keep in mind with the high performance stats for Finnish students is that it's partially a self-selection effect. High school in many European countries is not mandatory. After the ninth grade, students in Finland (and many other countries) must opt to: 1) quit; 2) go on to vocational/trade school; 3) go on to high school. Only highly-motivated and (usually) university-bound students opt for #3. In other words, the low-scoring students weed themselves out. But that doesn't account for all of the disparity. My Finnish husband describes high school there as being much more like what the first two years of university used to be like in the U.S.

But if anyone wants to see for himself that education is not about money, look at homeschoolers. They tend to perform at least as well, and usually better, than their public-schooled peers. The difference? Motivated instructors with a real stake in the outcome.

jsid-1212986724-592760  Britt at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 04:45:24 +0000

Rereading LF, and I took a break to browse through my blogs. Interestingly enough, the Berkley educrat is echoing a common Progressive era idea that people trained in civil engineering (Hoover) would also be great at social engineering, that those who remove the obstacles to the progress of technology would be equally adept at removing obstacles to progress of society.

Interesting how the same...stuff...keeps coming up the drains of history.

jsid-1212990397-592763  Saladman at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 05:46:37 +0000

I'd be slightly more sympathetic to a Democratic presidential candidate talking about paying teachers what they're worth if teachers' unions hadn't fought merit-based pay tooth and nail from the first time it was proposed. The only way I see to square that circle is to pay all teachers more (or raise the pay for seniority).

The thing no-one wants to be the one to say is that many teachers are already overpaid for the work they do. I know they're not getting rich, but after benefits and pensions, and for the work year they have its not bad money.

The lawyer comparison Obama uses is just a variation on a theme the teachers' unions have used for a long time, the idea that because teachers have bachelor's and master's degrees in education they should make the same as other professionals with bachelor's or master's degrees. But that doesn't follow. First, because their program isn't as demanding as law or engineering.

And second, the bachelor's and master's degrees aren't objectively necessary in the first place. Homeschooling parents pull it off. Other countries use teachers with degrees in the subject they teach and just a short course on teaching. Requirements for an education degree and teaching certificate are creations of law that favor union members. Even college professors can't legally teach a high school course in their field in most US jurisdictions, but an education major with four years study of educational methods, only a passing familiarity with a subject and a course guide can.

jsid-1213019511-592773  j-man at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 13:51:51 +0000

I know two teachers in the area, different experience with a masters degree. They may 50 to 70K per year. If you factor that to the whole year(which is what I and most other engineers work) it works out to be 66 to 93K per year. That is not bad pay for a teacher. Especially if they are allowed to pass undeserving students on to the next grade.

On major issue from this post that was addressed in the uberpost is that the administrators would also want better pay without doing anything else(like they do anything now anyway). It was stated in the video from the uberpost that the Charter school operates on its own, maybe one administrator on site, but he felt it was important to pay the teachers and let them also deal with the minimal amount of administrating.

My problem with teaching and one of the problems my friend has with it is that it has become a daycare. No student responsibility, no student discipline, no student accountability, no parent participation.

A great education can still be had in America as long as the students all come from homes where the parents are actively involved in the students education, the parents understand that education is everything and that it can't be taken away, and the parents hold their children accountable for the grades they get.

jsid-1213021225-592777  geekWithA.45 at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 14:20:25 +0000

In my wife's district, the teacher salaries have a complex 2 dimensional linear scale whose primary factors are time served and educational credits. (COLA is built in)

If you max your education credits, which tops out around Ph.D level ( Masters + 45, or Bachelor's + 90), I seem to remember it being $90k ish, I'll have to get the tables to look at them later.

Interestingly, Bachelor's level teaching licenses are *provisional* in PA. You've got 5 years to get a Master's or equivalent to make it permanent, or you'll eventually get booted, once your extensions and appeals are exhausted.

jsid-1213022194-592779  Kevin Baker at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 14:36:34 +0000

My sister, who has been teaching now for 28 years, got her MS about three or four years ago.

Pay still sucks pretty hard. People say that "teachers only work nine months," but in her case it's nine months of 12+ hour days, plus weekends, and until she got her Master's her summers were spent doing continuing education towards her Master's. People shouldn't kid themselves - good teachers work.

jsid-1213025680-592783  Midget Launcher at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 15:34:40 +0000

"There's no reason we can't..." usually really means "There's no reason I can think of, provided I don't think".

jsid-1213025868-592784  Unix-Jedi at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 15:37:48 +0000

People shouldn't kid themselves - good teachers work.


I don't think anybody here is saying that good teachers don't work hard - harder than they should have to.

The problem is that the system rewards the marginal teachers for not working - putting more of a burden on the good teachers.

And more and more, they're bailing. None of the exceptional teachers I had in my high school "stuck with it". They finally almost all got tired of it - except for 2 that went into administration to try and fix it (and that's wearing them down more) - and retired as soon as possible.

Several went on to teach at private schools after that.

No, you'll never hear me badmouth good teachers. But you'll hear me loudly proclaim that the system we have rewards mindless drone behavior, penalizes caring and excellence.

The MA issue for instance. Get a masters, get an immediate pay raise.

Why? Did your teaching change? Are you teaching any differently?

Maybe, but it doesn't matter. Get the MA, get a pay raise. Instant. Immediate. Needless to say, this has created quite a market for Masters in Education. But not for a *hard* Master's in Education, mind you.

Additionally, teachers do work their ass off, even the not-good-ones. Because the system is set up by people who apparently were promoted into policymakers at the TSA - and it's makework. Busybody makework.

jsid-1213026444-592786  Unix-Jedi at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 15:47:24 +0000

Oh, and by the way, I showed up at college with no idea what to do.

Picked Polymer Engineering almost out of the blue.

You can see where it led me. :)

jsid-1213026621-592787  Kevin Baker at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 15:50:21 +0000

No Unix, I don't think you would, but I have heard a lot of people say that "teachers only work nine months!"

Some might, but many work a lot more than that, and during those nine months it's not an 8-hour day.

You're right, though - the system is set up to penalize the achievers and benefit the slackers. I've had that argument with my sister before.

jsid-1213028377-592790  rocinante at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:19:37 +0000

"The problem is that the system rewards the marginal teachers for not working - putting more of a burden on the good teachers."

Yeah, and in 12 years of publik educayshun, I probably had seven or eight "good" teachers (by the time I reached sixth grade every class was taught by a different instructor). *And*, despite a stellar GPA and SAT score was woefully unprepared for college-level math and science. In fact, the only thing I didn't have to completely relearn at the college level was English. (Kudos, Mrs. Longman!)

Shorter version: There will always be exceptions; there will always be jewels in the pile of sh!t, but the fact that there are a "few good teachers" and that "good teachers work hard" is not a defense of an educational system that is failing. We're spending plenty of money; we're spending it on the wrong things, buying truckloads of aspirin and vitamins while wondering why the cancer gets worse and worse...

Speaking of public school "teachers" (shudder), where's Markadelphia?

jsid-1213028727-592791  rocinante at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:25:27 +0000

"And, as Dr. (Robert) Langer points out, the declining support for basic research has a direct impact on the number of young people going into math, science, and engineering - which helps explain why China is graduating eight times as many engineers as the U.S. every year."

God but you can't make this stuff up. Does it even occur to him that part of the reason China graduates eight times as many engineers is that they have more than four times as many people? Does the Messiah really think that all those scientists and engineers *chose* so study science or engineering? Or that many of those who *do* choose, do so because they're taught 1) Chinese culture/society is worth defending and promoting, 2) China needs scientists and engineers to prosper, and 3) scientists and engineers make good money ? (Here in the Land of Opportunity, 1) and 2) are probably not taught and 3) is suspect....)

jsid-1213028875-592792  DJ at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:27:55 +0000

"The difference? Motivated instructors with a real stake in the outcome."

A classroom environment that does not proceed below the pace of the slowest, least-capable student present. Oh, to have had such a classroom, even if only one time, ...

And, congratulations, Doctor!

jsid-1213028979-592793  DJ at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:29:39 +0000

"But that doesn't follow. First, because their program isn't as demanding as law or engineering."

Third, because the law of supply and demand doesn't work that way. A person who is (or wishes to be) employed is in direct competition with everyone else who can do the work. The ratio of demand / supply is large for engineers and small for teachers, hence engineers earn higher salaries than teachers. If Obama's logic is carried further (oh, how I love reductio ad absurdum!), then a burger flipper should earn the same as an engineer, provided he has at least an undergraduate degree.

My sister-in-law is a teacher who has had tremendous difficulty finding work in her field over the years. Demand is high, but supply is huge.

jsid-1213029312-592794  DJ at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 16:35:12 +0000

"Greetings: You are hereby directed to present yourself to (insert college or university here) to begin your education in:"

I worked for 22 years as an engineer at a privately-owned company (and a damned good one, too). When I started, it was still run by its founder and owner, who started the company in 1946. He was a mechanical engineer with a degree from a very good, very prestigious school. He was wealthy, too, both from birth and from the success of his business. So, he endowed a professorship at the engineering school of his alma mater.

He discussed this with me, stating that part of the charter of this endowed professor was to investigate how to identify those engineering students who were capable of "synthesis". As he explained it, analysis is easy, meaning most anyone can figure out what something is and how it works, but synthesis is difficult, meaning not everyone can dream up something new and useful. His questions to me wer, as near as I can remember it, "How can you tell who can synthesize and who can't without just throwing them in the pool to sink or swim? How do you teach synthesis?"

My answer was, "It beats the hell out of me," and, "You can't teach synthesis." Synthesis requires what amounts to a stroke of genius, as it were, and one cannot be trained to execute a stroke of genius any more than one can schedule it to happen. Synthesists are not created, they are born. Education provides them with tools, not abilities.

Obama thus approaches the problem as a lawyer, not as a synthesist, and not as an engineer. Why, all that is needed is more money, more management, and someone with a high salary and a prestigious title to make yet more rules. Dilbert would be so proud.

jsid-1213031666-592798  Ed "What the" Heckman at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 17:14:26 +0000

IMHO, the big problem with the idea of throwing more money at the schools is that doing so will do nothing to fix the fundamental problems, as in what is being (or not being) taught.

Think of it this way. I refuse to go to McDonalds, in large part, because their food is just low quality. So why should I get excited if they promise "new, larger portions"? More of the same crap is still just crap. Or put another way, a shit sandwich is still a shit sandwich, no matter how big it gets.

Now if that extra money made it possible to replace the crap with top grade beef, then we would have something to get excited about.

jsid-1213037792-592805  Stormy Dragon at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 18:56:32 +0000

In some ways, our society is reverting to an almost pre-historic model where most of the population is complete incapable of understanding how the world works and depending on an increasingly powerful 'priesthood caste' to explain and control it for them. The only difference is that the dwindling number of hard scientists and engineers will be replacing shamans as the occupiers of that caste.

jsid-1213039612-592806  LabRat at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 19:26:52 +0000

Requiring a broad liberal-arts base for science and engineering students is not necessarily a bad idea; that was the way my alma mater operated, and I was definitely better off for it. Then again, Tulane has a very traditional idea of what constitutes a good liberal arts base- Western Civ is a specific requirement, you can't satisfy it by taking underwater basketweaving or race/gender studies. You need history, you need classics, you need philosophy, and nuts to you if you don't want to study- they're not warm-body courses.

Of course, it all comes down to that "actually require students and teachers to work" thing. When I graduated, the freshman retention rate was still a miserable twenty-five percent- most of the students showed up unprepared for the level demanded of them and quickly drowned.

jsid-1213045152-592810  Unix-Jedi at Mon, 09 Jun 2008 20:59:12 +0000

Speaking of public school "teachers" (shudder), where's Markadelphia?


Last we saw him, he was standing on a soapbox yelling at Kevin (who's actually a Right Wing, Republican briefed on the Deep Dark VRWC plans) for repeating that Obama's plan is the "Do it again, only HARDER", insisting that was utter bullshit. Instead, he corrected us, That wasn't Obama's plan. Obama's plan was to do it *right* this time.

jsid-1213074455-592842  Sarah at Tue, 10 Jun 2008 05:07:35 +0000

And, congratulations, Doctor!

Thanks, DJ. :-)

jsid-1213098966-592851  Dana at Tue, 10 Jun 2008 11:56:06 +0000

I read the comment the lawyer made about engineers experiencing the true feeling of ‘knowing’ something. The wife and I were at a dinner party with several of her liberal friends having a discussion. The wife and I are engineers (petroleum and electrical respectively) and everyone else had liberal arts or soft science (biology, geology, etc) degrees. Several topics touched on hard science and we gave the facts as they existed, or as they are ‘known’, yet everyone else insisted they had to be flexible. They could not fathom that some things were tangible and could not be negotiated or perceived in any manner except for how they existed. In this manner it is true that engineers can look around and know how things in the world work in both a narrow and broad scope.

As for the Berkeley individual that feels (isn’t that a wonderful word on the left…feels…what a pleasant word….I feel you should pay more taxes….I feel your kind should just get on the train….I feel…what a shame the nature doesn’t have feelings) engineers need a dulling in education I have but one question. Do you want to go to the observation deck of a 1000 foot skyscraper built by someone that has a more rounded education? Or by someone who spent years learning how to build skyscrapers? My education was just fine thank you very much and I do quite well in the real world with the skills I learned on my own as well as within the narrow halls of academe.

jsid-1213127863-592891  George at Tue, 10 Jun 2008 19:57:43 +0000

Great post for design process engineers everywhere, thanks.

jsid-1213168667-592913  Mastiff at Wed, 11 Jun 2008 07:17:47 +0000


Nothing wrong with rounded education per se, so long as the science isn't skimped.

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