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.

Sarah Lacy has a post on TechCrunch that’s supposed to be terribly outrageous and upsetting because Libertarian ideologue Peter Thiel thinks higher education is a bubble.

So let’s look at the arguments.

The only problem with thinking behind the post is that it focuses on Thiel’s misguided reality-show style experiment of choosing a group of young people and paying them not to go to college, but instead start businesses.

It would unfortunately seem that the game show style of research is what holds the peoples attention.

Putting that aside, there’s a real issue behind Thiel’s thinking, summarized by Lacy here:

“He thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for a society to pin people’s best hope for a better life on something that is by definition exclusionary. “If Harvard were really the best education, if it makes that much of a difference, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” he says. “It’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing. Whenever Darwinism is invoked it’s usually a justification for doing something mean. It’s a way to ignore that people are falling through the cracks, because you pretend that if they could just go to Harvard, they’d be fine. Maybe that’s not true.”

The question is, why doesn’t Thiel make it possible for anyone who wants to go to Harvard to be able to do it? After all, Thiel has made his fortune disrupting other hidebound institutions. Making it possible for motivated individuals to get the same quality of education that exists at the nation’s best universities without having to attend them would be the kind of disruption that would fit into Thiel’s social views and his economic ones.

We know from past history that highly motivated persons exposed to a quality education system will self-select for success. New York’s fabled City College is only one example.

Wouldn’t it be possible given the backing of the right kind of successful and smart people to make a superb education both more affordable and effective? Even if there isn’t a whopping business opportunity here (and I’m pretty sure there actually is one,) wouldn’t gathering the best lectures, course materials, testing protocols and turning them into a cloud-based learning platform that focused on educating individuals and being able to measure their progress be a profound alternative to traditional schools?

Simply because education is another example of a State monopoly, and one with insidious reasons underlying.

In the Mercantilist times, Trade Guilds were the way monopolies were granted: there were Guilds for everything that had an economic consequence. If you could not gain admittance to the Guild, possibly via heredity favour, you were barred from that trade or profession.

Today, we still have Guilds, only they are not called Guilds anymore: Doctors, Lawyers, Engineers, Teachers, Chemists and a hundred others, are all members of a Guild. Admittance to the Guild is dependent upon obtaining the necessary basic qualifications, a Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited University, and usually further exams/training within/from the Profession.

Who sets the standards to these degrees? Why the government, who thereby create for the Professions their Professional Guild, which controls who can be a Doctor, Lawyer, etc. These Guilds have extensive rules/regulations/code of ethics etc that provide a very tight control of exactly how you can practice your profession. Should you ever become too outrageous, you are easily sanctioned and the threat of removal of your livelihood is always a potent threat.

As to the general populace, in my day we had 11+, “O” levels, “A” levels and “S” levels, which concluded your school education [if you got that far] next stop University for a BSc etc. Again, it is the government that set all these standards that comprised these various exam standards. Government under the big lie of improving educational standards, and delivery to a greater number of children, have had their finger in the standards pie.

Standards have been on a trajectory solidly downward. Basic literacy and numeracy, once taken for granted in children of about 7yrs of age, still eludes many University level students today. That’s progress for you.

The purpose, of course, is to dumb down your electorate. Having an electorate understand the governments theft via their money monopoly simply cannot be countenanced, never mind all their other expropriations.

No education will never receive the governments sanction to go free market in any meaningful way, as that is a monopoly breaker, and would reverse the trend of the last 50yrs, educating the proletariat who would then rise up against them.

As many have realised, I’m British, living in exile here in NZ. I have been having this conversation with numerous people over the months with regards to the falling standards of education. Now this problem is not particular to NZ, it exists in England, the US and likely France and Europe generally, wherever in fact you have government that calls itself democratic.

It just seems that more pernicious here in NZ and because we have an empowered indigenous population in the Maori. Now in NZ Maori is the official second language. All well and good if you happen to interact with Maori, but if you don’t, hardly a language of international business now is it?

Anyway I digress slightly. When I was at school, see previous post history was one of the subjects that I studied, and I’ve always enjoyed it, finding it valuable through the years.

Here in NZ Western history, from the Greeks through to the present, simply doesn’t exist. What does exist is NZ history, which is predominantly tied up to Maori history. The problem is not in Maori history per se, rather in the undue focus on Maori history, as essentially they are tribe based, and their culture never progressed past single story log cabins.

They, like many other indigenous peoples, are examples of failures of adaptation and evolution. Now whether you argue that ethically this is a good or bad thing is certainly a valid line of inquiry, but, the reality is, industrialization happened, the division of labour happened, globalisation is increasingly happening, and the study of history, amongst many other subjects, is vital.

Within economics, the history of money, what it is, how it came into being, its uses etc are all vital components to understanding governmental incursions against your individual liberty. The current generations are simply not being educated, as, of course, if they could see and understand the truth of the matter, they would do something about it via the ballot box or public outcry.

Instead the schools comply with government mandates that require cultural sensitivity to a culture that quite honestly failed and has no real relevance in the conditions of today. What it succeeds admirably in, is diverting the gaze away from the real structural problems, from Natural Law and the Property Rights of individuals which encompass everybody…Maori included.

An interesting article that I will comment on after some thought.

On Wednesday, Slate ran an article defending several media outlets in New York that want to publish, with the support of Mayor Bloomberg’s education department, value-added assessment data of the city’s teachers. The outlets would be following the lead of the Los Angeles Times, which published such data last year. As Slate notes, this “data ranks fourth through eighth grade math and English teachers, purportedly based on how much progress their students have made on standardized tests from year to year.”

Value-added is a controversial way of evaluating teachers because the results are just estimations; in reality, a teacher’s rank falls within a percentile range that is often very large. Slate notes that, according to a study by the Annenberg Institute at Brown, an “average teacher—say, one who should fall in the 63rd percentile based on three years of performance—might actually show up anywhere between the 46th and the 80th percentile.” That’s a wide margin, particularly to the teacher in question. But the Slate writer, Kyle Spencer, who is also a New York City parent, is just fine with “some teachers” being “unfairly tagged” because “it is better than the alternative”: wildly inflated teacher assessments on which 99 percent of educators across the nation are ranked as satisfactory.

Spencer is right about the need to reform teacher evaluations—and, more broadly, the need to assess teachers based on how their students are doing in the classroom, including on their tests. But publishing value-added data for all to read and analyze isn’t the best course of action.

For starters, value-added evaluations are based on state and local tests that studies have shown often produce flawed data on student achievement. Just last year, New York adjusted its exams to reflect these problems (the tests had become too easy to pass, officials said)—and student success suddenly appeared far less substantial than it had before. More importantly, though, even with better exams in place, a teacher shouldn’t be judged on test scores alone. Information about student achievement gathered from classroom observations, portfolios, and other avenues ought to count as well. (New York has agreed to institute more complex evaluations, of which value-added data will only be a part, but so recently—last summer—that it won’t matter for the rankings that the media outlets want to publish soon.)

But, even when better evaluation methods exist, is it really a good idea to publish, en masse, the ratings of every public school teacher? I’m not convinced. Yes, the information should be available to those in the public who want it—namely parents. But schools or school districts, not newspapers, should share it with parents in a constructive manner, so that they are able to ask questions and understand fully what the information means. Teachers’ unions and districts should also use it to remove underperforming instructors from their jobs, and to ensure that no school has a high concentration of ineffective teachers, such that its student are getting the short end of the stick. And teachers should use it either to ask for additional training resources—or to gain recognition of the good, hard work that they’ve done.

I’m all for transparency. But a wide-open view of incomplete information isn’t what we need to improve education. What’s more, broadly publicizing even the most thorough of information isn’t always productive; complexities and nuances are often best conveyed in smaller settings, with the stakeholders who matter most.

The media shouldn’t focus on shaming individual teachers, because there are bigger fish to fry. Indeed, across the country, they should focus on shaming the entrenched bodies, structures, and policies that allow poor teaching to continue unchecked, fail to reward good teaching, and don’t provide enough support for teachers who want to improve their skills.

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