Tag Archives: education

What if NFL Players Were Paid Like Teachers?

I’m not a big fan of football analogies in politics (think of former Sen. George Allen absurdly carrying a football wherever he went), but Fran Tarkenton has a good one:

Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

This would incentivize mediocrity, not excellence. It is also almost exactly how government-run K-12 schools are structured. Reform ideas that ignore those incentive problems are doomed to fail. Adding some competition to the existing near-monoply would do much to give teachers the same incentive to make the most of their talent that athletes currently enjoy.

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Standardized Test Scores Continue to Disappoint

Today’s Wall Street Journal reports that “Fewer than a quarter of American 12th-graders knew China was North Korea’s ally during the Korean War, and only 35% of fourth-graders knew the purpose of the Declaration of Independence, according to national history-test scores released Tuesday.”

Results like these show precisely why education is too important to trust to free markets. Children would be far better served if government were to take a leading role in K-12 education… oh, wait.

Nevermind.

Regulation of the Day 150: Toy Guns

Samuel Burgos is 8 years old. One day he brought a toy gun to school in his backpack. That got him expelled from his Miami school for two years. Toy guns violate his school district’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons.

The district offered to place Sam in a correctional school; his parents opted to home-school him instead. His father told the local NBC affiliate, “I can’t sit here and allow them to send my kid to a school where students have committed actual crimes,” Burgos said. “He hasn’t committed a crime.”

Sam misses his friends. And he may have to repeat the second grade. All because common sense has gone missing from Broward County’s schools. That’s what makes the school board’s response especially galling:

The school board says it’s common sense to know that this kind of item can’t be allowed on school campus and that responsibility also falls on parents to know what their children have in their backpacks.

The Burgos family has suffered enough. Toy guns are not weapons. They are toys. The school board should exercise a bit of common sense and reinstate Sam immediately.

Mixed Message

Guns and schools don’t mix. State and local jurisdictions have all kinds of gun-free school legislation. There’s even, redundantly, federal legislation.

So why is the Department of Education buying 27 shotguns?

Happy Birthday, Carl Sagan

I’m a bit late on this, but Carl Sagan would have turned 75 on November 9. The Skeptic Society’s Michael Shermer has set up a nice tribute to him.

The thing I admire most about Carl Sagan isn’t his academic credentials, impressive though they were. It’s that he wasn’t afraid to be a popularizer. In fact, he embraced it. He has been an inspiration for what I hope to accomplish in my own professional life.

Will Durant’s book The Story of Philosophy is credited with introducing more people to its subject than any other book. What Will Durant did for philosophy (and later, with his wife Ariel Durant, history), Carl Sagan did for astronomy.

Some pointy-nosed academics looked down on Sagan for pandering to the masses. But Sagan did more in his too-short life to actually educate people than the lot of them combined. How many of those same disdainful academics were inspired to forge a career in science because of Carl Sagan? For a subject as esoteric as cosmology, this is no small achievement.

People who work in economics or public policy would do well to pay attention not just to what Carl Sagan did, but to how he did it. Intellectuals from all disciplines should follow the sterling example set by Carl Sagan.

Regulation of the Day 58: Banning Children from Playgrounds

A new regulation in Kensington, Maryland bans children over five years old from using a local playground between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm.

Officials are upset that children from a nearby private school were using the public playground during recess.

(Hat tip: Drudge)