Liam Julian

This week's Economist contains a special report on "digital nomadism," the ability to work, and to connect to family or friends, from just about anywhere. When Coburn Ventures, a consulting firm, first started up, its to-do list was as follows: 1) get BlackBerries, 2) start contacting clients, and 3) find office space at some point. Eight months later, the seven-employee firm decided that it didn't actually need office space; everyone enjoyed the freedom and autonomy of nomadic work.

Twenty years ago, few people would have guessed that businesses could be successfully run without offices. Nonetheless, evermore companies, such as Coburn Ventures, are doing just that.

One can assume that education will go this route, especially private providers that are actively competing against one another for students. Who wouldn't want their kids to attend a virtual school that saved tons of money on facilities and reinvested those dollars into hiring the best teachers and giving students a lot of personal attention?

Education Sector's Bill Tucker penned for The Gadfly several weeks ago a nice overview of how virtual education is aiding high-school reform. (Bill based his article on a report he wrote last summer.) Virtual education is expanding, and as it does, it's taking sundry different shapes. Twenty years from today, will we perhaps have entered an age of educational nomadism?...

Liam Julian

"Carney releases education plan for Del."

Step right up and get??your new??education plan! Public schools, private schools--everyone's a winner!

Liam Julian

Check out this, from The Corner, on Mexico's corrupt teachers' union.

Gadfly has not ignored Mexico's union venality: see here and here. And neither have we failed to note that if education south of the border was stronger, there would be far fewer reasons for Mexicans to attempt illegal entry into the U.S.

Over at CATO, Andrew Coulson blogs about our Catholic schools report, and says:

It's hard to compete when the other??guy (read:??state-run schools) spends about twice as much per pupil but gives his service away for "free."

It's hard but not impossible. Andrew should check out our chapter on Wichita, which explains how that diocese has made Catholic schools free, too, for all Catholics. They did it by asking all parishioners to tithe a significant portion of their salaries; the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic. You might say that Church members agreed to pay a voluntary tax. I wonder what the libertarians at CATO would think about that.

Mike has a fair point that schools can't do everything. He might have added that it's hard to picture most high school teachers being able to confidently explain variable interest rates or balloon payments, or any students bothering to listen. But Liam reaches from that to imply that Bernanke is suggesting teaching financial literacy to 12 year olds--that wasn't what he said (he was talking about high school).

But more to the point, it's just wrong, and contradicts the Gadfly piece Liam refers to, to flatly dismiss the idea that financial literacy wouldn't have prevented the current financial crisis. It might very well have. If more people had basic financial knowledge, they would be far smarter about buying homes they could actually afford, about taking loans they could pay back, and about accepting terms that were not "predatory" or overly dependent on variable interest rates. How to help people get that education is the key policy problem. Mike is probably right (as is Liam) that it's not in high schools--so where, and how?

I'm not quite sure I understand Liam's objection to my earlier post on the economics of poverty. He says

KIPP and its ilk work for lots of reasons, but it's safe to say that they wouldn't be nearly so successful without committed parents and students and staffs--advantages that most urban schools don't have.

Well, that was my point. Many KIPP schools are better than most urban schools because they alleviate more of the burdens of poverty. There should be more such schools. There are several reasons most urban public schools lack these advantages, but foremost among them is that governments have a near-monopoly on education, and they make all kinds of rules to maintain the status quo, making it difficult for schools like KIPP to peddle their innovative wares in many cities.

As always, I sympathize to some degree with Liam's concerns that schools who "try to do more than they're capable of doing, more than they're designed to do... risk ignoring their most basic function, which is to teach kids."

But ultimately, I'd argue, the level of paternalism a school offers its students should be left to the school to decide, and parents can decide whether or not to send their kids there....

Liam Julian

Why is it necessary to measure student behavior by race? Test scores are in this way disaggregated to prevent schools from ignoring struggling low-income and minority students, who in the past were often written-off as beyond hope. (Monitoring test scores by race is still problematic, I think, for lots of reasons, but at least its basic justification is strong.)

But what is the justification for observing in a study that black youngsters do worse with "Essential Life Skills"? Should teachers put extra effort into, I dunno, making sure that their minority pupils are suspended less frequently, making sure that their poor pupils don't act out in class?

Liam Julian

Fordham's new Catholic schools report, released today, is here. USA Today covers it here.

Liam Julian

Coby writes:

Many KIPP schools are better than most urban schools because they alleviate more of the burdens of poverty. There should be more such schools.

But KIPP is able to alleviate many of poverty's burdens in large part precisely because it has the support of, as I wrote, committed parents, students, and staffs. Sure, we want more schools like KIPP. But we have to realize that there are, for example, only so many teachers who will work 12-hour days, be on-call until 9 p.m., and willingly accept a measly salary for their efforts. KIPP's brand of paternalism is the right kind--one that surrounds students with a high-achieving culture--and other schools would do well to adopt parts of it. But to embrace educational paternalism, history suggests, is to embrace the creation and spread of lousy programs (e.g., Head Start) that are a waste. At the national level, the concept will be corrupted and money wasted.

Coby's last point is right, but only on a small scale:

But ultimately, I'd argue, the level of paternalism a school offers its students should be left to the school to decide, and parents can decide whether or not to send their kids there.

Update: Another, perhaps simpler way of saying this is that KIPP doesn't buff out poverty's deepest dents and doesn't try to. Students who come to KIPP already have those dents buffed out; they and their parents are already in a positition that allows KIPP's incentives...