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Monday Message Board

January 16th, 2012

It’s time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language. Lengthy side discussions to the sandpits, please.

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  1. Troy Prideaux
    January 16th, 2012 at 14:38 | #1

    Did anyone else watch David Letterman a couple of nights ago with the interview with John McCain?
    I wasn’t surprised by the questions over the (in)adequacy of the Republican Candidates, but I was somewhat surprised by the questioning of whether capitalism has run its course in the US.

  2. Jim Birch
    January 16th, 2012 at 14:57 | #2

    Interesting/funny article on US comedian Stephen Colbert in the NYT. I’d seen him a little incidentally but couldn’t figure him out.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/stephen-colbert.html?ref=todayspaper&pagewanted=all

    This is real truth is stranger than fiction stuff:

    In October, Colbert offered the Republican Party in South Carolina $400,000 to defray the cost of the presidential primary there in January in return for naming rights — he wanted the ballots, the lanyards, the press credentials to say “The Stephen Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Primary” — and for a nonbinding referendum question that asked the voters to decide whether “corporations are people” or “only people are people.” This issue has been Colbert’s hobbyhorse since August, when Mitt Romney told a heckler that “corporations are people, my friend,” and needless to say, Colbert too is on the side of corporate personhood. “Just because someone was born in a lawyer’s office and is incorporeal doesn’t mean he should have no rights,” he likes to say.

    “I figured that if they’d sell me the naming rights, they’d probably be willing to sell me a referendum,” Colbert told me. “I always assume that anything that could be for sale probably is.”

    Amazingly, the South Carolina Republicans were on the point of agreeing to Colbert’s proposal, and ballots were printed that included the referendum question, when the state Supreme Court ruled that the counties, not the party, had to pay for the primary and that the ballot could not include referendum questions.

    If you haven’t seen it (I hadn’t) you might also like to watch this bizarre video of Colbert ridiculing George W Bush from four feet away a the White House Correspondents Dinner that he was invited to host under the false belief that he was a pro-conservative politician.

    http://neurobonkers.com/2012/01/14/when-satire-becomes-reality/

  3. Mandarina
    January 16th, 2012 at 16:00 | #3

    The Review of School Funding must be coming out soon, and I’ve been trying to tease out some my own, entangled positions – hoping readers might help.

    For me the central question is how we reconcile the equity / meritocracy objectives of school education with a desire to provide all kids with an education maximally beneficial to them?

    What type of school system do we want?

    An educated citizenry
    - One that ensures every child’s education prepares them for adulthood. (Adequate resourcing to meet minimum standards at every school, recognising that this may require different levels of resourcing for different schools and for different students, depending on the non-school resources available to students and communities meet this objective).

    Equality of opportunity / meritocracy
    - One that ensures every child has access to academic (and other) opportunities commensurate with their academic (and other) potential (fostering genuine equality of opportunity); recognising that
    - academic (and other) potential and progress can be masked by various forms of disadvantage, and that where such disadvantage exists, applies extra effort to the task of identifying potential and supporting its development.
    - differences in academic (and other) potential achievement / attainment are not *solely* attributable to differences in (dis)advantage, and consequently that a one-size-fits-all offering (even absent the difficult political problem of how to get there from here) is unlikely to be optimal for all kids.

    Efiicient distribution of funds, without a priori discrimination against any sector would:
    - Recognise and fund fixed costs faced by the public sector in providing for universal public education (eg local facilities, DET infrastructure etc). If private sector wants to duplicate this, it should be on their own dime (this may also encourage the development of shared infrastructure etc for groups of private schools)
    - Recognise parental co-payments (voluntary or compulsory fees up to a point) represent a source of cost savings to the taxpayer.
    - Recognise that selection and self-selection into particular schools or systems may result in externalities imposed on other schools or systems (eg by concentrating advantage / disadvantage) and (a) ensuring that such externalities are not exacerbated by the system of funding or resource allocation (eg coupling of funding of students in one system from the funding of students in another (b) ensuring that such externalities are addressed also through means other than funding (eg the provision of additional programs etc) to avoid positive feedback exacerbating such disadvantage.

    Public Benefit
    - Providing for funding differentials on the basis of demonstrable public benefit – eg evidence of attention to accessibility (eg Catholic systemic schools, breadth of fee-assistance / scholarships provision); making facilities, pedagogical IP, or other assets available for public use; addressing educational need for groups not catered for within the public system.

    What have I missed?

  4. Dan
    January 16th, 2012 at 16:16 | #4

    @Mandarina

    Hi!

    I think what you’ve missed is that you don’t need to choose between equity and impressive performance/getting the best out of the kids:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/

    Your thoughts?

  5. Chris Warren
    January 17th, 2012 at 07:27 | #5

    Personally I would like to see a lot more emphasis on school-to-work transition and less on education that allows some in society to rise above others.

    When all the clerks in the public service have tertiary degrees, you know something has gone wrong. In fact in recent times, it has become almost impossible to get a job in the public service (or promotion within) unless you have a degree.

    The Graduate Careers Council data shows that graduate unemployment is over 8% and under-employment at 15%, but the GCA does not appear to have examined whether those that are employed are specifically employed in areas relevant to their qualification. So we get PhD’s driving taxi’s, nurses staffing childcare centres and geology and zoology graduates selling real estate and doing events management etc.

    The real need is to boost the wages and job security for those who exit at school and high school levels – retail workers, building workers, welders and nurses and so on. We need to ensure that education opportunities, and wage heights, are not just grabbed by a strata of snide yuppies.

    The TAFE system is almost derelict and (as happened with teachers colleges and CAE’s) is increasingly being morphed into a mere pathway into higher education.

  6. Mandarina
    January 17th, 2012 at 10:15 | #6

    Couldn’t agree more Chris, – the educational qualification arms race seems stupidly wasteful for society – but I think (notwithstanding recent increases in uni places on offer) that this is largely a consequence of other things (what the labour pool offers up, the natural preference for employers to select the “better qualified” in a group of candidates) rather than an objective per se – so not quite sure how to address it?

    At the individual level, I wouldn’t wany my opportunities (or those of my kids) to be constrained by lack of vocational or professional aspiration (or achievement) at an early age. It took a decade for my degree (a B.A.) to become relevant to my professional work, but it eventually did (and not through a career change either).

    You mention a number of sectors where we need to boost wages and job security and I agree on some (particularly on job security). But I also think there’s something wrong when an unqualified mate of mine can make more sweeping floors on a building site than a double degree qualified architect or a teacher with an MA… even he is discgusted by that state of affairs (prompted perhaps by his eldest being about to start school).

    So here’s the question I have for you – absent other differentiators (eg experience, aptitude etc) should qualifications count for something?

  7. silkworm
    January 17th, 2012 at 12:01 | #7

    @ Troy Prideaux

    I saw Letterman’s interview with McCain. I didn’t pick up on Letterman’s query about capitalism. What I was surprised about was McCain’s politics. He started out by saying that government was too big, and that they needed to cut back on government spending. No surprise there – that is standard Republican-TeaParty-Libertarian schtick. But then he gave as an example how the government was spending too much money on useless fighter jets. That goes right against what the Tea Partiers want. Tea Partiers want less governement spending on health, education and the environment, but want greater expenditure on the military. He played right into the hands of the Ron Paulites and the progressives.

  8. Troy Prideaux
    January 17th, 2012 at 12:22 | #8

    @silkworm
    I wasn’t surprised by the very typical towing-party-lines mainstream republican replies. I just thought it interesting the questions Letterman was asking as they are nearly always very carefully orchestrated to represent a substantial public sentiment in interviews with political figures. For *Letterman* to ask these sorts of questions, to my mind, is a good litmus for general sentiment which I know sounds crazy for the US and their historical blinding pride.

  9. Chris Warren
    January 17th, 2012 at 13:39 | #9

    @Mandarina

    If blue-collar wages were reasonable and skills-based, including qualifications, the issue of excessive qualifications elsewhere will be reduced.

    Currently, tertiary qualifications are being overused as a form of political struggle for higher incomes for the middle class. These high incomes in part then purchase allegiance on the part of recipients.

    Rural workers, fencers, shearers, wranglers etc have the same right to decent wages and financial security as any tertiary qualified newbie.

    Anyone in work needs qualifications relevant to the work. This has nothing specifically to do with tertiary levels. We all want our plumbers to have qualifications.

  10. Troy Prideaux
    January 17th, 2012 at 14:23 | #10

    @Chris Warren
    …and at the complete other extreme is somewhere like Hong Kong where no uni degree or better equates to scum or peasantry that are condemned to jobs (inc skilled trades) that are paid a small fraction of “professional” jobs. There’s a very distinctive class class structure to go with that, but the level of education is paramount to earning reasonable incomes.

  11. Dan
    January 18th, 2012 at 08:52 | #11

    @Mandarina

    Hi – just an fyi to let you know a comment of mine has come out of moderation at #4.

  12. Mandarina
    January 19th, 2012 at 19:01 | #12

    @Dan
    Hi Dan,
    Thanks for the alert – I wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

    I can’t get to the Atlantic without it crashing my browser for some reason, but am somewhat familiar with the Finnish circumstances.

    But some of the reasons, I think, for the equality that PISA finds, are likely to lie still further back, in a relatively equal society (eg contrast their GINI with ours) and other factors associated with education – eg school teaching being a highly-status profession (therefore less variability in teacher quality and competitive hiring for the private sector) and a narrower range in the backgrounds kids bring to school (or collectively, what they bring to their different schools) in the first place.

    There’s a .pdf the Finns put together to try and explain the “quality” to the world, and it notes some of these things http://www.pisa2006.helsinki.fi/files/The_Finnish_education_system_and_PISA.pdf among other things they note quite massive intervention for struggling students (27% of kids have received such interventions) and local auutonomy over

    The reality is that my local (NSW) state school has the same (high) ICSEA as the most august and expensive private institution here, and its P&C cannot identify sufficient expenditure, in some areas, to match the funds raised. Indigenous students, NESB etc students are few. Come to think of it, I can’t think of a single one-parent family there.

    Inequality is a social and a geographical thing here as much as it is a public / private school thing – and I can’t fault parents in a very different suburb for wanting to buy their way into a better cohort if they can…but recognise that that compounds an existing problem.

  13. Chris Warren
    January 20th, 2012 at 10:40 | #13

    Now they want other trillion – crazy ….

    From one report ….

    IMF Seeks More Funds

    It emerged yesterday that the IMF will be seeking up to $500bn in additional resources after announcing that there may be a $1 trillion funding gap globally over the next two years if economic conditions worsen. It is not yet clear how the money will be raised, but it is likely to be in the form of voluntary ad hoc contributions from IMF members rather than a mandatory increase in funding. Some European countries have already pledged €200bn, under their new treaty, leaving the rest to be raised by the rest of the IMF members. If the IMF wishes to lend the full amount the overall increase in funds may need to be raised to $600bn as the IMF is required to maintain a substantial cash buffer.

    The US already distanced itself from increasing its contributions, with the US Treasury saying, “The IMF cannot substitute for a robust euro area firewall…We have told our international partners that we have no intention to seek additional resources for the IMF.” The UK Government has said it is willing to contribute, with its share likely to come close to $30bn in total, but any increase will require a vote in Parliament. Given the substantial rebellion which the Government faced on the previous vote increase IMF contributions, it is not guaranteed to pass.

    The market reaction to the news was mixed. Open Europe’s Raoul Ruparel was quoted in the Telegraph saying, “The muted market response to the IMF announcement highlights that, as things stand, such a large increase just doesn’t look feasible.”

  14. Dan
    January 20th, 2012 at 17:39 | #14

    I went to a public school in an affluent part of Sydney and the student body was populated with the ignorant, uninteresting and intellectually incurious (for which I wholly blame the parents). Not as bad as the private school kids in the same area though.

  15. January 21st, 2012 at 11:17 | #15

    Your Intrade bet on Gingrich has gone gangbusters over the last 12 hours – from ~5% to nearly 80%.

    And the Romney trade has collapsed to ~20% which may be a good buy now .. or bad if Gingrich does actually get it over Romney, which I still struggle to think that’s a possiblility.

  16. January 21st, 2012 at 11:25 | #16

    Opps sorry – disregard my last – I was looking at the betting markets for South Carolina as Intrade http://www.intrade.com/v4/home/ has them listed at the top and my hangover head didn’t register.

    Still there was a spike yesterday evening that I was watching but it has almost returned to previous values – Gingrich now at a little shy of 20%, Romney tad over 70%

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