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Investing in Human Capital



January 17, 2009 – Comments (11)

As an educator I do go on about the importance of education.  I have worked on temporary assignments that were so difficult it kept me working from morning to night 7 days per week and when I calculated what I was actually making per hour, well, my students were getting about the same at the their part time after school jobs.  And then parents that do not discipline their kids dump all over you.  Their undisciplined kids are part of the reason the work load has grown so much.

This kind of working condition is why about 40% of north american teachers leave the profession in the first 5 years.  In Britain the working conditions are even worse, you can work those kind of hours and feel like the only thing you do is try to deal with behaviour issues.  This article says that 40% are leaving in the first two years

More importantly it is showing that young people are no longer escaping their socioeconomic class.  I went over there to teach and left after 4 months and I lasted longer then the other 67% in the group I started with.  One was in a school that was considered a good school and parents would pay an extra 100k pounds for a home on that side of town to get their kids in that school and other other was in a job that had no marking or prep.  The school was so bad, he was an extra teacher that out of control students were delivered to.  His job was to just keep them there so perhaps some education could happen in the class they had been removed from.

What I know about the  British education system is that a number of beginning teachers from Canada have gone to teach there and have left the occupation.  It seemed to me that relative funding was about 30% less then Canada and I know that Canada is now in a place that if you take much more away and it seems hopeless, then teachers stop putting in all the unpaid hours they currently give.  Teachers give a lot of free time when they can see the rewards of their efforts in their students.  Make it impossible and teachers no longer try and basically say screw it to working for free, and students fall through the cracks, more and more and eventually you have the mess like you have in Britain.  It was so bad living there I'd be humming "In the ghetto," on my walk to school and I kept thinking about the decline of social norms as written in the book "Lord of the Flies."

The wall street bailouts of the wealthy would pay for an awful lot of education.

This quote just drives me crazy...

"One British study found that out of a group of 50 teachers, a child taught by one of the best ten will learn at twice the speed as one taught by one of the worst ten.

The Government's Training and Development Agency for Schools says the best-qualified teachers are less likely to work in schools in the worst areas"

How well kids learn is highly dependent on good parenting skills and the lifestyle that surrounds them.  I was in a bad school in and the most successful teacher in my department used techniques that you'd be thrown out of teaching here.  When the truant kids came to disrupt his classroom he swore them, "get the hell out of here you f*** bas***."  They replied they were going to tell the head master and he'd ring out a string of profanity "go ahead you %$&!!"  They never did and he didn't have problems with truant kids disrupting his classroom.  I had them come into my room and climb over desks and throw books and papers off the shelves, kind of like a zoo.  Pick on the new teachers was sport for them.  He also used methods that would get you kicked out within the class, including swearing at them.  The kids all called him a bas*** behind his back, but they also learned.  

Another teacher that was new there said the advice to just wait for the students to quiet down so you could start teaching wasn't working.  He said he'd just stood "at the front of his class for a week now..."  I'd have to agree that that just doesn't work in these socio economic classes.

So, for any meaningful results move the "bad" teachers in the difficult teaching environments to the where the "good" teachers teach in the easier teaching environment and then compare results.

11 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On January 17, 2009 at 10:43 PM, Jimmy2008 (< 20) wrote:



Are you Canadian or American? Is the education system worse in UK than in Canada?

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#2) On January 18, 2009 at 12:51 AM, nuf2bdangrus (< 20) wrote:

Western culture is doomed to fail because we fail to raise, educate, discipline, and teach our children.  We promote on age and not merit.  Thus, they grow to become functioning illiterates, who may be able to answer poll questions but can't find the Pacific Ocean on a map.  They dress like thugs, have children of their own whilst they are children themselves. They consume resources from a government that becomes the default father, who provides with no rules....the worst of all circumstances.   They speak with profane toungue, and have no respect for their elders.  The are overloaded with technology that they know how to use to isolate themselves further from reality in neverland (MySpace etc), but have no idea or skills on how that technology is formulated or how to use its applications to solve problems.


The baby boomers have turned out to be the worst parents in recorded history, absolving their children of all judgment of right vs wrong, chasing money, debt, and things, rather than rightesnouss.  How hollow it is.


And we scratch our heads and wonder where we went wrong.

 We told Johnny deadlines really aren't deadlines.  We told him that morality is relative.  Grades don't really matter. We sell him music that is filth.  We mix his classrooms with thugs, and fail to discipline them.We strip God from class, literature, discussion, and then wonder why He leaves us.  We can't understand why kids engage in violence never before seen in the young, when all we glorify in our art and culture is violence.


All the whilst, the Ivory Tower education establishment fails to understand basic human nature, the kids need love and discipline.  If you strip those things away, their souls become empty, and their minds idle.  Fill that emptiness with perverse Television, and filthy music that depraves and degrades.


I have long said a Central Bank can't cure what's really wrong, because at the bottom is a culture that has decayed in rightesnouss, knowledge,education, and discipline.  Increasing the money supply or creating construction jobs won't cure that.  Only a culture that values its past, respects its elders, and acknowledges that there is something larger than all of us, and a real good and a real evil.


God help us all.


PS   I have always wanted to semi retire and be a teacher.  Private, not public school mind you, where I would have the power to teach what needs to be taught, and discipline without the NEA and all the PC crowd raising kids with Dr Spock.




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#3) On January 18, 2009 at 2:05 AM, HansHauge (42.46) wrote:

nuf2 - While I read as much of your work as I have time for, and have a great respect for the additions you make (especially the insight into the banking industry), and I agree with you that we are witnessing a generation of fools... I have two points of contention with your reply.

1. Being lost in a virtual world is become more of a real experience all the time. I don't work for Berkshire Hathaway, but I am addicted to CAPS like a crack fiend. And we can hardly deny the implications that online communities will have on us and on the future.

2. Please don't blame a lack of religion (or God as you say) for our social problems. As the philosoher Alan Watts so eloquently states "The fully mechanical model has become to much for western man to bear, and so we got rid of it in exchange for something else." The only problem is that we are searching for something else that fits that paradigm and simultaneously we are undergoing the largest changes in the way humans live which will ever take place. Some growing pains are to be expected.

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#4) On January 18, 2009 at 3:42 AM, Donnernv (< 20) wrote:


I surely can't begin to solve the problem, but I can toss in a couple of supporting observations.  When my kids were young teens, they began to come home with "...ya know", "he goes", "like she went...", etc.

I asked them where they had ever heard that language construction.  "Everyone talks this way" was the reply.  I labeled it "kiddy-speak".  This was long enough ago that they truly understood the difference.  My youngest son even said that he spoke two languages.  Their kids learned correct English from them, however.

But sadly, most kids didn't.  This was their everyday language.  Today, those kids have grown up and become parents.  Many are our current friends.  And it is their everyday language.  Now their kids are growing up never having heard proper English.

Many of the posters on this forum (a relatively select group, IQ-wise) cannot spell cat with the "c" as a starter.  It is clear that the dumbing down of America is in full flow.  And they don't even care!

Another topic.  Last summer, I seized the chance to home school two kids whose (two different sets) of parents were abject druggies.  Two hours per day, five days every week.  Both were "failures" in school.

By the end of the summer, after drills in spelling, arithmetic, grammar, science, history and civics (softened by one hour every couple of days learning about the solar system on the Discovery and History channels) they learned, and developed real pride in their accomplishments on my daily written tests.

They have re-entered the traditional school system in Las Vegas, and they are creaming it.  They are the top kids in their classes.  The other kids are "stupid".  It can be done, but if it takes one guy working with two kids for a summer, how can we amplify it to deal with millions of kids?  I surely don't know the answer, but it can be done.

But what I see around me now is a lot of kids who cannot speak the English language as we learned it, cannot spell "refrigerator", cannot multiply 37x41 in their heads, and cannot even imagine why any of that is important.

Well, they can always get another credit card.

And Deb, if you have never seen the movie "To Sir With Love", you would love it.


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#5) On January 18, 2009 at 3:46 AM, letitgrow100 (85.80) wrote:

My response is short however I believe it to be on point. The answer lay on the shoulders of the parents…solely

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#6) On January 18, 2009 at 8:26 PM, Bupp (28.00) wrote:


 Classroom management strategies have to be adjusted based upon the kids you are working with.

 Any beginning teachers in schools with bad behaviour problems all you need to do is:

1) Get a key to the school gym

2) Offer to supervise the gym during lunch so that students can use the facilities (good time to get some marking done/hold office hours for students)

3) If students act up/disrespect you during class, lock the gym during lunch

4) Wait for peer pressure to kick in

Your classroom will be as quiet as a church on sunday morning.

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#7) On January 19, 2009 at 2:00 AM, SnoopyDancing (< 20) wrote:

rwilso01, you're right on track. My community's school demanded a new gym and got one. The fact that many students don't speak English as their primary language and virtually NONE can pass their grade-level exams in language or math does not surprise me. More gym time for kids who do not read. Parents allowing online time and entertainment instead of homework. Sheesh! Removing school board members does not seem to work to change the reward structure in the school. Any ideas, anyone?

Likewise, a friend of mine was a hard-nosed teacher and only survived her career choice in the U.S. by alternating work years and child-raising years with her husband. Her story was that parents do not value education and do not communicate the value of it. Worse, the lack of discipline of children at home leaves teachers fighting irate parents who believe their kid's story over the teacher's experience.

Yeah, everybody's kid is special...until their resume lands in hands like mine for a job and, gee, suddenly they have to compete. Schools do not teach the "bottom line:" the risks of not having an education.

With so many better-paying jobs now the second wave going offshore after a fair portion of manufacturing jobs, these kids are already the tipping point for the economy. There just is not money available to hand out to every low achiever -- whether due to ability or choice -- for food, housing, healthcare and education. It all will boil down to population, demographic and social unrest blog threads I've seen lately on other posts by our wonderfully thought-provoking dwot. (Please continue and thank you!)

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#8) On January 20, 2009 at 10:13 AM, paintjockey (< 20) wrote:

It is easy to blame someone else for the problems. Education reflects what we the voters told it and our government we wanted. I sub-teach and I have students from across the economic range. Many are good kids and will make it. When I was in HS, I was the reason teachers ran off to join the Tibetan Monastaries. I made it and given half a chance so will they. After all, George Putman said my generation was the one that would destroy us. That was way, way back then-Four Track tapes, vacumn tubes, etc.

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#9) On January 20, 2009 at 10:13 PM, FleaBagger (27.46) wrote:

Donner - I'm no slouch at arithmetic, but I can't do 37x41 in my head. Some of us just need to be able to write stuff down.

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#10) On January 21, 2009 at 4:37 AM, DaretothREdux (53.06) wrote:

As a member of the younger generation (gen Y or X or somewhere inbetween) I have a few thoughts.

1. Education is what you make of it.

You want to make education better? Quit throwing government funds at it. Bring it back to a local level and let locally elected school boards make descisions again. Also, I don't believe making education complusary every did anyone any good. Some people are not destined to graduate from high school.

2. Don't tell me about the good ol' days...

Seriously? This seems to always be the cycle of things. I can guarantee that your generation was no better than mine at anything (morality, education, anything). The world may change but people do not.

3. The English language.

I am tired of hearing about the degeneration of the English language. I have a degree in English and it is by far the most flexible language ever. You know what I mean, dude? You hear me, man? Groovy. Sweet. That's tight dawg. You are one cool kat. You got beef with me?

Too bad. Learn to text. Language evolves and complaining about it is stupid. Language is tool for communication and as long as it continues to serve that purpose, bring on the slang.

Would you have told E. A. Poe not to use the word tintinnabulation because it wasn't in his dictionary? It's in yours btw.

4. Parents should be held responsible.

This I can agree with. It's not the teachers fault that kids don't want to learn. The most successful teachers seek out those that do though. But what to do about it?

We made education "required" even for those who will never in their lives have to know who the 20th president of the united states was because they will be sweeping floors or selling McDonalds and that's fine (we need hard working people as well as great thinkers).

What needs to be done, is education needs to have value again. This can only be done by getting the government out of the way and allow schools and their teachers to compete against each other. No one can argue that private schools or home school kids do not do better than public schools.

Education is a commodity, not a right, and it shouldn't be free for all because that simply makes it worthless. I am not saying that we should deny education to the poor either (so don't paint me that way) because private charities/churches/scholarship programs would take care of those who are willing to learn that could not afford it. But at least then, the schools would be filled with mostly with those "willing to learn" who valued their education.

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#11) On January 22, 2009 at 7:27 PM, Donnernv (< 20) wrote:


It's kind of a trick.  37x41 goes as follows:  37x2=74.  74x2=148.  Add a zero=1480.  Add 1x37=37.  1480+37=1517.  Each individual step can easily be done in your head, and you need only one memory "register" to hold intermediate results.


I can guarantee you my generation was better educated than yours, on average.  In my high school, not everyone went to college, nor were all expected to.  But the lowest strata, the "greasers", earned C or C- (or better) in virtually every course.

They earned it, not had it handed to them.  They valued education because it was seen as the way up.  Sure, they were rebels in the mode of that day.  But they went on to start flooring businesses, became plumbers or electricians or HVAC techs, or  went to work at Curtiss-Wright.

In my class of 370, not one dropped out before graduation.  And to the best of my knowledge, not one ever went on welfare or food stamps.

English has deteriorated dramatically among some of the (relatively) young.  Listen to any news broadcast.  You will not hear "dude" or similar trash words.  You will not hear "he goes" or similar abortions.

Nor will you hear these verbal perversions from high-ranked executives at serious industrial enterprises.  You are, unfortunately?, judged on your English construction and spelling by those whom you wish to impress (say for job purposes).

English is a rich and ever-changing language.  But that need not imply deterioration to the argot of the lowest.

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