A problem that needs to be addressed. You always want an educated workforce/population.

I’ve commented on the woeful state of education today. This cartoon certainly goes someway in explaining the degeneration in educational standards, but misses the essential point. The really dangerous aspect of the slide in education is the increased involvement of the State in standards and curriculum constituents.

As a medical practitioner, I can certainly remember the study habits that I put in. This research rather validates what I thought.

It is of interest to me in that I am contemplating a late in life career change. As some of you are aware I recently undertook two employment cases as the advocate. I won one, and lost the other, although I believe the decision to be outrageous. All that litigating rather fueled my interest in pursuing Law in some litigating manner. Therefore, I may well, and this is the plan, enroll in Law School. I have already sat the LSAT for admission.

Hence my interest in the study habits. Law School is competitive. Only 300 students can progress into the remainder of the degree, only the top 30 are invited to undertake the [Hons] component, so, what would my competition be up to?

Education has been one of those topics that I have sounded out on before. Recently I have had some discussion with RhodyTrader with regard to PhD’s. This rant is a little more general. First off, from Mish:

A weak labor market already has left half of young college graduates either jobless or underemployed in positions that don’t fully use their skills and knowledge.

Young adults with bachelor’s degrees are increasingly scraping by in lower-wage jobs — waiter or waitress, bartender, retail clerk or receptionist, for example — and that’s confounding their hopes a degree would pay off despite higher tuition and mounting student loans.

Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.

Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade. “I don’t even know what I’m looking for,” says Michael Bledsoe, who described months of fruitless job searches as he served customers at a Seattle coffeehouse. The 23-year-old graduated in 2010 with a creative writing degree.

About 1.5 million, or 53.6%, of bachelor’s degree-holders under the age of 25 last year were jobless or underemployed, the highest share in at least 11 years. In 2000, the share was at a low of 41%, before the dot-com bust erased job gains for college graduates in the telecommunications and IT fields.

Out of the 1.5 million who languished in the job market, about half were underemployed, an increase from the previous year. Broken down by occupation, young college graduates were heavily represented in jobs that require a high school diploma or less. In the last year, they were more likely to be employed as waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined (100,000 versus 90,000). There were more working in office-related jobs such as receptionist or payroll clerk than in all computer professional jobs (163,000 versus 100,000). More also were employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers (125,000 versus 80,000).

According to government projections released last month, only three of the 30 occupations with the largest projected number of job openings by 2020 will require a bachelor’s degree or higher to fill the position — teachers, college professors and accountants. Most job openings are in professions such as retail sales, fast food and truck driving, jobs which aren’t easily replaced by computers.

My missus works online. I will on occasion browse through the various online work sites that she looks at. The one that jumps out at me in relation to this post, is the volume of academic writing sites that offer to students an anonymous writer, to write their various essays, do their research projects etc.

In other words, these graduates are not even doing their own work. They are having their papers etc ghostwritten. It is no wonder that they are not getting hired, they simply cannot produce what there worthless bit of paper claims that they can produce.

My second gripe about education is this: with all the various degrees awarded, there are soft degrees, social sciences of all stripes: history, sociology, psychology, to name a few, that really don’t have a natural free market demand that involves production. The result is a pseudo-intellectual, who cannot really produce anything, but smart and articulate, who wanders into government bureaucracy, because the pay is good, and they don’t actually need to produce anything.

The result is a breeding ground for highly educated, but useless government employee’s who have a chip on their shoulder with regard to the free market, which, they then lump in to a rant against capitalism, without really knowing anything about capitalism or the free market.

If they rise through the bureaucratic ranks, their opinions start to carry more weight, and god forbid that these chap’s actually get to form or influence policy. Many do. Their policies invariably are socialistic. They adhere to the teachings of Plato, who was a Socialist through and through.

America needs to get a grip. Their educational system, is a failure. Massive failure. The model needs to be trashed, and government removed from the mix. Same in England, same problem. This chap has some ideas.

I’m not sure what the actual answer is, personally, I just read widely, you can educate yourself, and at a fraction of the cost, but you have to be taught how to teach yourself, and of course, then you have to produce, create value.

The trend that I see developing is the working online. We both now work 100% online. We can live anywhere that has internet connections. Increasingly, larger Corporations will contract individuals to provide an increasing array of services that support their core functions. We see this trend already, but I think it’s picking up the pace, soon, many jobs that currently exist as a salaried position will disappear, and you’ll have to compete directly in the market place, every day, for your daily value. The educational system, is really not far along enough to prepare individuals for this.

Just in case you have been following the comments section with RhodyTrader, and were wondering what his PhD was actually going to involve, here it is.

Over the last couple of years I have been researching PhD programs with an eye toward taking that final step in my academic career (having already done an MBA). I’ve had a former professor of mine pushing me in this direction just about ever since I finished my undergraduate studies oh so many years ago. I resisted for many reasons, but a couple years back it occurred to me that one of my major excuses – lack of shareable experience to bring into the classroom – wasn’t really valid any longer. That started the process.

This rather cuts to the question that I have just asked: most, well, I thought most PhD candidates actually did a bit of lecturing, I remember at Med. school when I was an undergraduate we had a couple of PhD’s each year that came in and used us a guinea pigs for their research in the guise of a lecture.

This situation changed in the early 19th century through the educational reforms in Germany, most strongly embodied in the model of the Humboldt University. The arts faculty, which in Germany was labelled the faculty of philosophy, started demanding contributions to research, attested by a dissertation, for the award of their final degree, which was labelled Doctor of Philosophy (abbreviated as Ph.D.) – originally this was just the German equivalent of the Master of Arts degree. Whereas in the Middle Ages, the arts faculty had a set curriculum, based upon the trivium and the quadrivium, by the 19th century it had come to house all the courses of study in subjects now commonly referred to as sciences and humanities.[5]

As can be seen, PhD’s were not always ‘original research’ based studies.

This week I was offered a PhD studentship by the business school at the University of Exeter in England and have accepted. I still have to be offered and accept admission by the university proper, but that is just a formality and should happen shortly. The business school wouldn’t offer me the funding if they weren’t going to accept me, after all.

Exeter, never actually lived there, London boy me, but it’s supposed to be nice. I had a little look at the University link, watch out for the fucking miserable weather.

That means I’ll be leaving my current position as a professional analyst, but it most certainly doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving the markets or trading.

I know you work for Reuters, I didn’t think you were actually allowed to trade your own account based on your analyst position? Bit of a pay cut returning to academia, you’ll definitely have to trade your own account now.

In fact, that will be the focus of my dissertation. My research proposal for admission was on the subject of individual retail forex trader profitability and performance. It fits into the general area of Behavioral Finance, which is basically the counter-point field to classic efficient markets theory.

Surely no-one actually buys into the classic efficient market clap-trap today? Retail traders in the FOREX markets. Hmmmm. Probably the worst possible market for retail traders to enter. If they do trade it, I would suggest the only rational way is via futures, which I’m willing to bet is the last way most of them trade it.

I’m really looking forward to delving into the data (I’ll be using a big set of trader transactional and performance data for my studies) and the sort of results that come from it. As much as this will be academically oriented work, I see lots of opportunity for it to be applied in the practical arena.

Hmmmm. Before I disagree, partly because I’m an argumentative fucker, I suppose I should try and find out how you envisage this to be the case?

Do you like Doctor of Trading or Trading Doctor better?

Hey stay in touch as you progress this, I’m for all my scepticism actually very interested.

On the Economics 101 walkout

“HOW do you feel about the walkout?”

I have been asked that question repeatedly over the last several weeks, and I think that I should answer it.

First, a bit of background.

I have been a professor of economics at Harvard for more than a quarter-century. Since 2005, one of my assignments has been to run Economics 10, the yearlong introductory course. About 750 undergraduates enroll every year, often making it the largest course on campus. I give some lectures, invite a few of my colleagues to do so as guests and oversee an army of graduate-student teaching fellows who run small sections.

On Nov. 2, a group of students staged a walkout of one of my lectures. In an open letter to me, the organizers said the action was meant “to join a Boston-wide march protesting the corporatization of higher education as part of the global Occupy movement.” They said that “the biased nature of Economics 10 contributes to and symbolizes the increasing economic inequality in America.”

The university administration, which had heard about the planned protest, sent several police officers to sit in my class for the day as a precautionary measure. Luckily, they weren’t needed.

Eight minutes into the lecture, about 5 to 10 percent of the class stood up and quietly left. Some other students who had taken the class in previous years then walked into the room as a counterprotest. I have been told that at least one of the students who walked out sneaked back in later: he wanted to support the protest but didn’t want to miss the lecture. After a few minutes, I resumed the class as usual.

So how do I feel about it?

My first reaction was nostalgia. I went to college in the late 1970s, when the memory of the Vietnam War was still fresh and student activism was more common. Today’s college students tend to be more focused on polishing their résumés than on campaigning for social reform. I applaud the protesters for thinking beyond their own parochial concerns and trying to make society a better place for everyone.

But my second reaction was sadness at how poorly informed the Harvard protesters seemed to be. As with much of the Occupy movement across the country, their complaints seemed to me to be a grab bag of anti-establishment platitudes without much hard-headed analysis or clear policy prescriptions. Ironically, the topic of the lecture that the protesters chose to boycott was economic inequality, including a discussion of recent trends and their causes.

The course I teach is a broad survey of mainstream economics. It includes ideas of many greats in the field, like Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Arthur Pigou, John Maynard Keynes and Milton Friedman. The material is similar to what you’d learn at most other universities.

Many Harvard students recognize this. An editorial in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, said: “The truth is that Ec 10, a requirement for economics concentrators, provides a necessary academic grounding for the study of economics as a social science. Professor Mankiw’s curriculum sticks to the basics of economic theory without straying into partisan debate.”

Perhaps the protesters were motivated by an inchoate feeling that standard economic theory is inherently slanted toward a conservative world view. If so, they would be following a long tradition.

As a student, I took my first economics course using Paul Samuelson’s famous textbook. For the second half of the 20th century, it was a leading text for introductory economics. It offered many millions of students around the world their first and often only look at the subject.

Professor Samuelson’s own politics were decidedly left of center, but that did not prevent him from being attacked by those even further left. A two-volume critique of his book, called “Anti-Samuelson,” was published in 1977. (It was condensed from the original four-volume German edition.) Written by Marc Linder, now a professor of labor law at the University of Iowa, it aimed to provide a Marxian counterpoint to the standard economics of the day. Professor Linder focused on the Samuelson book not because he thought it was particularly egregious but because it was a prominent representation of mainstream economic thought.

I don’t claim to be an economist of Paul Samuelson’s stature. (Probably no one alive can.) But like him, I have written a textbook that has introduced millions of students to the mainstream economics of today. If my profession is slanted toward any particular world view, I am as guilty as anyone for perpetuating the problem.

Yet, like most economists, I don’t view the study of economics as laden with ideology. Most of us agree with Keynes, who said: “The theory of economics does not furnish a body of settled conclusions immediately applicable to policy. It is a method rather than a doctrine, an apparatus of the mind, a technique for thinking, which helps the possessor to draw correct conclusions.”

That is not to say that economists understand everything. The recent financial crisis, economic downturn and meager recovery are vivid reminders that we still have much to learn. Widening economic inequality is a real and troubling phenomenon, albeit one without an obvious explanation or easy solution. A prerequisite for being a good economist is an ample dose of humility.

My fervent hope is that any students who are still protesting the class will return — and that, while recognizing our limitations, they will learn from us what they can. A few might choose to become economic researchers themselves. Their contributions will surely be welcome. They might even improve the next generation of textbooks.

N. Gregory Mankiw is a professor of economics at Harvard. He is advising Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, in the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination.

Herein lies our problem. Generally speaking, education is failing, and failing increasingly as time passes. To correct this problem will take time, recognition, much effort. The problem, apart from the collapse in education, is the seemingly total lack of recognition. Without admitting that there is a problem, of course nothing at all can. or will be done.

My wife experienced first hand one of the outcomes of this problem, this inability to think critically, when she served on her jury. The chap was found guilty, by a majority verdict after a 9hr deliberation. My wife was the 1 that voted not guilty. Why did she vote not guilty? Simple really, there was zero evidence. Zero evidence should, one would think, provide the basis of a reasonable doubt? Not a bar of it.

Let me sum up the entire trial in a couple of sentences. The plaintiffs, two girls, alleged rape and sexual assault. The defendant, denied that it ever happened. That was all the evidence presented, testimony. I won’t even go into why there was no physical evidence, or corroboratory evidence, suffice to say the charges were laid some 5yrs after the event.

So who is telling the truth? Once you decide, how do you know? If you can’t tell, or don’t know, is that reasonable doubt? If so, the verdict, under law, has to be not guilty.

Well, the jury proceeded on the basis of “I think the girls are telling the truth” “I believe the girls” “the girls wouldn’t lie about such a thing”. Notice the trend, think, feel, believe, on what basis does this constitute evidence? Do the girls for example have a motive to lie? In NZ, yes they do, approximately $10 thousand reasons each. And on and on and on.

The inability of the jury to reason, to critically think about what they actually had, as opposed to what they thought they had, may, have resulted in an innocent man going to gaol. How do I know he’s innocent? I don’t. But based on zero evidence I have serious doubts to his guilt. That is all that is required under common law, which was designed to prevent vindictive, spurious charges resulting in punishment under the Court system.

The thin edge of the wedge.

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