Sunday, August 01, 2004

Article: Education and Spending

This article from the WSJ says that spending on education and performance are not related. We can spend more without getting any better results.


What Money Can't Buy
July 30, 2004; Page A10

Reg Weaver, President of the National Education Association, took to the podium in Boston this week to say that John Kerry was his man. And why not? Nearly one in 10 of the delegates to this week's Democratic convention belongs to a teachers union. (See chart below0.)

Mr. Kerry had canceled his appearance at the NEA's own convention at the last minute earlier this month, only to scramble and address it by satellite the next day after Mr. Weaver protested. The little scheduling snafu notwithstanding, if you're a teachers union leader, what's not to like in a candidate who has called for "fully funding education, no questions asked?"

We would have thought that calling for the feds to throw tax dollars at a problem with "no questions asked" was a little much, even for a Senator from Massachusetts. But the call for more spending looks all the more unthinking in the light of a study just-released by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

Though it zeroes in on local rather than state spending, the most obvious point underscored by "K-12 Education: Still Growing Strongly" is that whatever the problem with education, it's not caused by any unwillingness to throw more money at it. Between 1997 and 2002, state and local governments increased K-12 spending by 39%. Even after adjusting for inflation and growth in pupil enrollment, real spending was up nearly 17%. And it went up in every state, even those with strict tax and spending limits.

So what did we get in return? The Rockefeller study didn't say, so we decided to look at test scores for reading because there's probably no skill more fundamental to life-long learning. When we cross-referenced spending increases with the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading scores, we found virtually no link between spending and performance.

The table below tells the story. The states are ranked in order of their real, K-12 education spending increases from 1997-2002. Next to each state we list whether performance on the NAEP reading tests rose, fell or remained largely the same from 1998-2003 -- the period when the spending benefits should have kicked in. It's not as if the states were starting from a high base, either: According to these same tests, fewer than a third of fourth-graders are proficient in reading, math, science or American history.

The results are a direct refutation of the We Need More Spending chorus. Even a quick glance shows that the results are all over the map: Some states show improvements despite lower spending increases while others spend more yet make no dent in their scores. Surely it's telling that, even after jacking up its education spending by 46%, the top-spending District of Columbia improved its scores by no more than Florida, which is at the bottom of the spending chart but has been at the forefront of reforms allowing choice and demanding accountability.

Patrons of the status quo will complain that the Rockefeller numbers pre-date the fiscal crises of the past two years that forced some states to cut education spending. There are two answers to that. First is that we still should have seen some improvement in test scores from the previous spending increases. Second, as Rockefeller notes, these cuts were largely a blip: "over the longer term the rising trend in education spending is likely to continue," the study says -- putting it mildly.

The real problem is that, notwithstanding the $370 billion the states spend each year on K-12 public education, it remains a rare American monopoly. This election year we are going to hear candidates calling for all manner of new education spending. The question so few of them -- Republicans included -- are addressing is this: Is there any other part of American life that would receive tens of billions of more dollars if it kept showing no improvement in performance?


Friday, July 16, 2004

Probability and Odds

Suppose you have a 25 percent chance of getting X. How do we convert a probability to odds?

Let p = 25 percent

Odds is: (1-p) to p

Which is (1-0.25) to 0.25

which is 0.75 to 0.25

which is 3 to 1

In other words, a 25 percent probability is the same as 3 to 1 odds.

Now it is important to note whether these are odds in favor or against.

3 to 1 against means that out of 4 turns, 3 will be something you don't want and 1 will be something you do want.

3 to 1 in favor means that out of 4 turns, 3 will be something you do want and 1 will be something you do not want.

Question: If the odds are 9 to 1 against X occuring (sometimes written 9:1) , then what is the probability (percentage) that X will happen?

Answer: 10 percent

Probability and Odds

Suppose you have a 25 percent chance of getting X. How do we convert a probability to odds?

Let p = 25 percent

Odds is: (1-p) to p

Which is (1-0.25) to 0.25

which is 0.75 to 0.25

which is 3 to 1

In other words, a 25 percent probability is the same as 3 to 1 odds.

Now it is important to note whether these are odds in favor or against.

3 to 1 against means that out of 4 turns, 3 will be something you don't want and 1 will be something you do want.

3 to 1 in favor means that out of 4 turns, 3 will be something you do want and 1 will be something you do not want.

Question: If the odds are 9 to 1 against X occuring (sometimes written 9:1) , then what is the probability (percentage) that X will happen?

Answer: 10 percent

Saturday, July 03, 2004


Here is a sad article about what is happening to children in Nigeria because of the ignorance and stubborness of some adults.

Nigerian children pay the price of polio vaccine ban as polio outbreak hits

An outbreak of polio has hit children in the Nigerian state of Kano. Kano is one of the muslim states that had boycotted the use of the polio vaccine. Many muslim states in Nigeria banned the polio vaccine because those in charge said the Americans were using the vaccines to make their population infertile. Many of them said the vaccine would also be used to spread AIDS in the region. Despite appeals from neighbouring countries to vaccinate its population, the conspiracy theorists in Nigeria got their way.

Now, as expected, polio is beginning to spread among children in the region. Now the local authorities are appealing for urgent assistance.

The World Health Organisation has sent a team to the area. The team has confirmed that the outbreak is polio.

It was only during the month of May this year that officials in Kano decided to resume vaccinations because the new batch came from Indonesia, a muslim country. Unfortunately, this massive delay is going to be paid for by scores of children, who could end up being crippled for life (as well as dying).

Polio is very rare in the world today. Vaccinations, which are done worldwide, have managed to nearly eradicate the disease. If the ‘wise’ men of those regions of Nigeria had decided to see sense a long time ago, polio would most probably not exist in Nigeria today. Why didn’t they ask for batches from muslim countries a year ago? Why did they wait so long? Everyone, the WHO, their neighbours, even their own population was begging them to see sense.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Interesting Facts

1. Standard time (24 time zones) was fixed in 1883.

2. The days of the week are named after ancient gods or astrological planets.

Sunday -- Sun's day
Monday day -- Moon's day
Tuesday -- Tiw's day
Wednesday -- Woden's day
Thursday -- Thor's day
Friday -- Frigg's day
Saturday -- Saterne's day

3. China (by government order) operates as one time zone, although geographically it should operate as five time zones.

4. An acre is 43,560 square feet.

5. There was no World Series in baseball in 1904.

6. The first team to win the World Series (in 1903) was the Boston Red Sox.

7. A truck in England is called a lorry.

8. In the US a person stands in a line; in England a person stands in a queue.

9. If you talk to a person you are doing the talking and the other person is listening. if you talk with a person both you and the other person are talking.

10. Toward/Towards. Toward is the word used in the US and towards is the word used in England.


Article by Thomas Sowell.

July 2, 2004

Ever wonder why some people hate America so?

This is not a new phenomenon nor one confined to foreigners. More than 20 years ago, Eric Hoffer said: "Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America."

Note that it is not the downtrodden masses but the pampered Ph.D.s who most vent their spleen at the country that protects and indulges them. When a friend who teaches at Harvard put an American flag sticker on his car, his astonished colleagues demanded to know: "What is that?!"

An American flag on a car or a home would have brought a similar outcry of amazement and disgust at Berkeley -- and on elite campuses in between, all across the country.

Nor is such a posture confined to academia. Movie-maker Michael Moore is going around the world saying that the United States is "a crappy country" and its people "stupid" -- while his movie "Fahrenheit 911" is being praised to the skies in the press and among the intelligentsia, as it puts its anti-American message on the screen.

What is there about America that sets off such venom -- among Americans, of all people? One answer might be to look at the kinds of countries praised, defended, or "understood" by the intelligentsia.

For many years, the Soviet Union was such a country. After too many bitter facts about the Soviet Union came to light over the years to permit its rosy image to continue, much of the intelligentsia simply shifted their allegiance or sympathies to other collectivist countries, such as China, Cuba, or Vietnam in the Communist bloc or India, Tanzania and other collectivist regimes outside it.

It did not make a dent on intellectuals that people were fleeing the countries they praised, often at the risk of their lives, to try to reach the countries they were condemning -- especially the United States of America.

What is wrong with America, in the eyes of the intelligentsia? The same things that are right with America in the eyes of others.

If one word rings out, and echoes around the world, when America is mentioned, that word is Freedom. But what does freedom mean?

It means that hundreds of millions of ordinary human beings live their lives as they see fit -- regardless of what their betters think. That is fine, unless you see yourself as one of their betters, as so many intellectuals do.

The more the American vision of individual freedom prevails, the more the vision of the anointed fails. The more ordinary people spend the money they have earned for whatever they want, the less is available to the government as taxes to spend for "the common good" as Hillary Clinton recently put it.

The more people who raise their own children by their own values, the less is there a place for the collectivist notion that "it takes a village to raise a child," as Hillary has said elsewhere. Too many of our schools are convinced that they are that village.

Cars and guns are both instruments and symbols of personal independence -- and both are targets of hostility and even hatred by those who are convinced that they can run other people's lives better than those people can run their own lives. All sorts of claims are made against cars and guns, without the slightest interest in checking those claims against readily available facts.

When America frees ordinary people from the domination of their betters, and prevents them for being used as guinea pigs for the vision of the anointed, the more America insults the very presumptions that enable the anointed to think of themselves as special, as one-up on the rest of us.

Countries that impose a collectivist vision from the top down will be forgiven many atrocities, while a country like the United States that lets individuals go their own way will not even be forgiven its successes, much less its shortcomings.

As we celebrate both our country's independence and our individual independence on the Fourth of July, we should never forget that this independence is galling to those who want us to be dependent on them.

Thursday, July 01, 2004


Article by Thomas Sowell.

When you have seen scenes of poverty and squalor in many Third World countries, either in person or in pictures, have you ever wondered why we in America have been spared such a fate?

When you have learned of the bitter oppressions that so many people have suffered under, in despotic countries around the world, have you ever wondered why Americans have been spared?

Have scenes of government-sponsored carnage and lethal mob violence in countries like Rwanda or in the Balkans ever made you wonder why such horrifying scenes are not found on the streets of America?

Nothing is easier than to take for granted what we are used to, and to imagine that it is more or less natural, so that it requires no explanation. Instead, many Americans demand explanations of why things are not even better and express indignation that they are not.

Some people think the issue is whether the glass is half empty or half full. More fundamentally, the question is whether the glass started out empty or started out full.

Those who are constantly looking for the "root causes" of poverty, of crime, and of other national and international problems act as if prosperity and law-abiding behavior were so natural that it is their absence that has to be explained. But a casual glance around the world today, or back through history, would dispel any notion that good things just happen naturally, much less inevitably.

The United States of America is the exception, not the rule. Our national birthday on the Fourth of July is an appropriate time to ask what has made American society one to which people are fleeing from other societies around the world.

Once we realize that America is an exception, we might even have a sense of gratitude for having been born here, even if gratitude has become un-cool in many quarters. At the very least, we might develop some concern for seeing that whatever has made this country better off is not lost or discarded.

Those among us who are constantly rhapsodizing about "change" in vague and general terms seem to have no fear that a blank check for change can be a huge risk in a world where so many other countries that are different are also far worse off.

Chirping about "change" may produce a giddy sense of excitement or of personal exaltation but, as usual, the devil is in the details. Even despotic countries that have embraced sweeping changes have often found that these were changes for the worse.

The czars in Russia, the shah of Iran, the Batista regime in Cuba, were all despotic. But they look like sweethearts compared to the regimes that followed. For example, the czars never executed as many people in half a century as Stalin did in one day.

Even the best countries must make changes and the United States has made many economic, social, and political changes for the better. But that is wholly different from making "change" a mantra.

To be for or against "change" in general is childish. Everything depends on the specifics. To be for generic "change" is to say that what we have is so bad that any change is likely to be for the better.

Such a pose may make some people feel superior to others who find much that is worth preserving in our values, traditions and institutions. The status quo is never sacrosanct but its very existence proves that it is viable, as seductive theoretical alternatives may not turn out to be.

Most Americans take our values, traditions and institutions so much for granted that they find it hard to realize how much all these things are under constant attack in our schools, our colleges, and in much of the press, the movies and literature.

There is a culture war going on within the United States -- and in fact, within Western civilization as a whole -- which may ultimately have as much to do with our survival, or failure to survive, as the war on terrorism.

There are all sorts of financial, ideological, and psychic rewards for undermining American society and its values. Unless some of us realize the existence of this culture war, and the high stakes in it, we can lose what cost those Americans before us so much to win and preserve.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004


Here is a great site for vocabulary words and quizzes.


Place the right word in the blank. Answers at the bottom. Also, at the bottom you will find a pargraph that uses all the words. Study it after you have learned the words.


1. Jack's brother had such an ________ for cars that he subscribes to four automotive magazines!

2. Since Don was such an ________ bore he had few friends and was rarely invited to dinner.

3. Authorities watched the ________ carefully to be sure there would be no violence on the streets.

4. The nurse worried that if Emily continued to live such a ________ life, she would gain a lot more weight.

5. Craig was an astute politician and managed the meeting with great ________.

6. Margaret will ________ with her friends to see when everyone can gather for the picnic.

7. Martha asked the children to lower their ________ voices so she could hear her sister on the telephone.

8. The senator was treated with ________ respect since she had earned admiration from others.

9. The ________ gossip spread rapidly until Jim discovered the truth and stopped the rumors.

10. Matt got a ________ answer to his question about the restaurant's reservation system.

11. Even thought there was just an ________ spot on the window, Grandma saw it and wiped it off.

12. Parents really appreciated the teacher's concern and ________ approach to her teaching and to their children.

1. affinity -- if you have an affinity for something, you like it. You might have an affinity for baseball.

2. insufferable -- if a person is insufferable, he cannot be tolerated. Rembmer "in" means not, so this means not sufferable, not capable of being suffered.

3. dissident

4. sedentary -- if you are sedentary, you don't get up and have an active life; you sit down on the couch a lot.

5. finesse -- if you handle things with finesse, you handle things well, and delicately.

6. confer

7. vociferous -- means loud

8. deferential -- if you are deferential, you defer to someone; sometimes parents say that children should be deferential to their parents.

9. insidiuous -- hurtful, malicious, intended to hurt

10. definitive -- final and factual

11. infinitesmial -- small

12. assiduous -- marked by care and attention

Ken certainly has no AFFINITY towards that INSUFFERABLE DISSIDENT who leads a SEDENTARY life and has absolutely no FINESSE. On the one occasion that they had CONFERRED, the VOCIFEROUS DISSIDENT was not at all DEFERENTIAL and made INSIDUOUS remarks that were cause for concern. While he was DEFINITIVE in all his statements, he had only an INFINITESIMAL knowledge of the facts. Ken, on the other hand, had made an ASSIDUOUS study of all the details! Ken had little respect for anyone so unprepared!


Go here and click on #10 and read.


The first new SAT I test will be given in March 2005. The first new PSAT test will be given fall 2004 (although this test will not ask students to write an essay).

Go here to read a few essays and to see their scores. Read the annotations too.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Interesting News Item

In 1949 a newspaper reporter contacted the FBI asking about some of the most dangerous fugitives it was searching for. The reporter wrote about the top 10 most wanted persons. The public found the article fascinating and J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, then decided to regularly release a Top 10 Most Wanted list. Go here to see who is on the list today.