How to lose two hundred million dollars

After having countless debates with some people who were attacking my belief that families are the most important part of a child’s education, last year I dropped the Billion Dollar Question: What would you do to fix inner city education if you had a billion dollars? Most of my detractors couldn’t come up with an answer, so I attempted to answer it myself. But my views were mostly hypothetical. Mark Zuckerberg, who has more money than me, actually put up lots of money: $100 million. His $100 million gift was contingent on raising an additional $100 million, so altogether $200 million went to help Corey Booker and Chris Christie fix Newark public schools. That’s one-fifth of the billion in my hypothetical. Now the money is all gone.

Hard competition at Success Academy Charter Schools

Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

Photo credit: Nicole Bengiveno/The New York Times

There’s a good article in the Times today about Success Academy Charter Schools. Founded by hedge fund managers, Success Academy schools rely primarily on public funding, with additional fundraising–similar to what charter schools do in my area. They’re killing it.

Though it serves primarily poor, mostly black and Hispanic students, Success is a testing dynamo, outscoring schools in many wealthy suburbs, let alone their urban counterparts. In New York City last year, 29 percent of public school students passed the state reading tests, and 35 percent passed the math tests. At Success schools, the corresponding percentages were 64 and 94 percent.

Why private school teachers work for less pay, and why “throwing money at it” doesn’t always work

Every so often things get heated here, as in a conversation we had over the last few days about private school pay vs. public school pay. Snoopy claimed that private school teachers get paid more, which is why all the “experienced” and supposedly better teachers go to private schools–they head for the money. As a private school kid who eventually grew up to have two private school kids who are now public school kids, I know about teacher pay–in both settings. Furthermore, I’ve spoken with many friends who are teachers, and I’m a former mortgage broker who has seen tons of teacher tax returns. I’m an authority on the subject and can say with authority that public school teachers in general get paid more. If you don’t believe me and feel that a reporter is more reliable than someone who spent all day looking at actual tax returns, check what a reporter (who is actually also a TEACHER) has to say about national statistics (thanks Yun Xu for the link). Check the government data as well. To quote this actual teacher:

Safe spaces vs. dangerous spaces and why it’s sometimes hard to talk to extreme liberals

Illustration credit: Eleanor Taylor from the NY Times

Illustration credit: Eleanor Taylor from the NY Times

There’s a FANTASTIC article in the NY Times today about the notion of safe spaces: In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas. “Safe spaces” are places where people decide not to offend one another. They are conceived with the idea that dangerous ideas can be not only offensive but harmful. We’ve seen this concept on the internet where people issue “trigger warnings” before talking about ideas that supposedly could cause trauma to the reader.

Oklahoma racist chant

CNN has a great video sequence on the latest news with the fraternity that had the racist chant. (I’m not sure why I can’t find the embed code.)

The basic story is that the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon got videotaped singing a song: “There will never be N** at SAE. There will never be a N*** at SAE. You can hang them from a tree, but they’ll never sign with me, there will never be a N** at SAE.” University President David Boren has come out full force in condemning this racist chant. He’s severed ties with the frat, and he’s ordered them to clear out all their stuff from the frat house. The national fraternity SAE has cut ties with the Oklahoma chapter. The football team protested yesterday by marching instead of practicing. There could also be some fallout from future recruits:

When Whitey Blames Chang, and how primary education is failing

We’ve had our share of liberal Kool-Aid commenters on this blog, people who are so liberal that their philosophy can be reduced into four words: “Blame Whitey and Chang.” So if a violent criminal who happens to be Black hassles an Asian shopkeeper and steals from him, you blame Chang. If the same violent criminal tries to go for a cop’s gun and ends up getting shot, you blame Whitey.

But what happens when there’s a conflict between Whitey and Chang? What do the White Liberals do then?

Should football be a college major?

I just saw this article. Two former UNC college athletes are suing their alma mater and the NCAA for not educating them. The column raises the question of whether it makes sense to turn sports into a college major, or whether it makes sense to give college credit for athletics. Many of these athletes spend upward of 60 hours a week in their athletic programs, and they have little time for study. As the first paragraph hints, athletics for college athletes isn’t an extracurricular activity for college athletes–academics is the extracurricular activity. Some professors are making the argument that we let people major in music–so why not let them major in football? Another argument is that lots of companies value athletes for their teamwork, grit, and determination. Why not allow people to major in this, if that’s in fact what companies want?

Are the humanities easier than STEM subjects?

Some of y’all may wonder why bigWOWO tolerates debate and discussion in the comment section, especially when so many people get their feelings hurt from time to time. The reason is and has always been the comments. By having relative freedom of speech, people bounce around new ideas and educate one another. And when something interesting comes up, sometimes I’ll front page it. A good example is this question: Are the humanities easier than STEM subjects? I double majored in Comparative Literature and Chemistry, so I have a background in both. Plus, it’s relevant since we’ve had two podcasts on the issue, here and here. So here’s my opinion, and as usual, feel free to add your own in the comment section.

The importance of rote memory in Asia and everywhere else

The battle over school testing continues. As I’ve said many times, I think that standards are important. I think it’s good to rate students, and I think it’s great to rate teachers so that schools can promote the good ones and fire the bad ones. My oldest is going to undergo some Common Core testing this year, and while I can understand the nervousness that testing can create, it’s the right thing to do for public schools. Every child should have age-appropriate goals. Of course there should be a reasonable amount of testing–kids shouldn’t be tested every day, and schools shouldn’t waste three weeks on a single test because they don’t have computers–but the idea is right. Kids should be able to pass tests.