Thursday, June 03, 2010

Why Leftists Want to Control the Schools ... and Why We Shouldn't Let Them

The Los Angeles Unified School District has become infamous for violence, low test scores, a high drop out rate, and, like all of California, massive budget shortfalls. So what is the foremost priority amongst the LAUSD's leadership? Why, condemning Arizona's recent immigration law!

The Los Angeles Unified School District school board wants all public school students in the city to be taught that Arizona's new immigration law is un-American.

The school board president made the announcement Tuesday night after the district's Board of Education passed a resolution to oppose the controversial law, which gives law enforcement officials in Arizona the power to question and detain people they suspect are in the U.S. illegally when they are stopped in relation to a crime or infraction.

Critics of the law say it will result in racial profiling.

But the LAUSD's board was just getting started.

The school district resolution also opposed another new Arizona law that bans schools from teaching classes that promote the overthrow of the government or advocate ethnic solidarity.

The school board called on Arizona's leaders to reverse both of these “misguided” new laws, the press release said.

The board said the laws “effectively sanction and promote unconstitutional racial profiling and harassment,” and “blatantly violate the civil rights of both Arizona residents and all visitors to the State.”

They said Arizona’s new laws also “severely restrict the education of all children in Arizona by refusing to incorporate vital sections of history that incorporate the contributions of this country’s many diverse groups.”

The superintendent was also asked to investigate ways to curtail contracts with Arizona-based businesses and district travel to the state.

And why would the LAUSD's board take these positions? Aside from the general leftism of public school officials and Californian public officials in general, it might have something to do with the fact that the district is more than 70 percent Latino and less than 10 percent white.

Leftist like to howl cries of "BIAS!" whenever some hapless public school administrator of teacher is caught saying something that even comes close to being a conservative opinion, but when the ruling leftists want to indoctrinate their students by advocating a particular political view, the bias and fairness argument disappears completely.

LAUSD's decision should serve as a reminder of two unquestionable facts: 1) leftist control of public education means that children will be indocrinated with leftist ideals and philosophy; and 2) that when large numbers of Latinos immigrate the America they will use the power of their numbers to influence public policy to advance their own racial goals, at the expense of the racial interests of non-Latinos.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Misplaced Values, Bad Advice, a Bleak Future...

Cortney Munna wanted to graduate from a top-ranked university. She managed to do so, but as the New York Times explains, it's going to cost her much, much more than she bargained for:

Like many middle-class families, Cortney Munna and her mother began the college selection process with a grim determination. They would do whatever they could to get Cortney into the best possible college, and they maintained a blind faith that the investment would be worth it.

Citibank gave Cortney Munna $40,000 in loans, though she had already amassed debt well into the five figures. It was like the “no doc” loans that home buyers used to get in over their heads.

Today, however, Ms. Munna, a 26-year-old graduate of New York University, has nearly $100,000 in student loan debt from her four years in college, and affording the full monthly payments would be a struggle. For much of the time since her 2005 graduation, she’s been enrolled in night school, which allows her to defer loan payments.

This is not a long-term solution, because the interest on the loans continues to pile up. So in an eerie echo of the mortgage crisis, tens of thousands of people like Ms. Munna are facing a reckoning. They and their families made borrowing decisions based more on emotion than reason, much as subprime borrowers assumed the value of their houses would always go up.

After reading that, you might wonder what field of study Ms. Munna pursued at NYU. Did she graduate with a degree in medicine, molecular chemistry, accounting, finance, or pre-law? In short, did she invest $100,000+ in a degree that would place her into a field in which she had the potential to earn a salary sufficient to repay her debts?

Alas, no.

She recently received a raise and now makes $22 an hour working for a photographer. It’s the highest salary she’s earned since graduating with an interdisciplinary degree in religious and women’s studies. After taxes, she takes home about $2,300 a month. Rent runs $750, and the full monthly payments on her student loans would be about $700 if they weren’t being deferred, which would not leave a lot left over.

The Times notes that no one at NYU warned her of the escalating debt she was accumulating.

“Had somebody called me and said, ‘Do you have a clue where this is all headed?’, it would have been a slap in the face, but a slap in the face that I needed,” said Cathryn Munna. “When financial aid told her that they could get her $2,000 more in loans, they should have been saying ‘You are in deep doo-doo, little girl.’ ”

That’s not a role that the university wants to take on, though. “I think that would be completely inappropriate,” said Randall Deike, the vice president of enrollment management for N.Y.U., who oversees admissions and financial aid. “Some families will do whatever it takes for their son or daughter to be not just at N.Y.U., but any first-choice college. I’m not sure that’s always the best decision, but it’s one that they really have to make themselves.”

Well, naturally NYU wasn't going to point out Ms. Munna's own foolishness to her; NYU is in the business of making money, not sending it elsewhere, no matter what they claim. Nor, very probably, could any financial adviser point out to Ms. Munna that spending $100k+ on women's studies degree was idiocy. To admit that would be to concede the underlying worthlessness of the women's studies program. And that sort of unacceptable political incorrectness (read: truth), if it got back to the right ears, would end the financial adviser's employment very quickly.

But NYU is hardly the worst offender in Ms. Munna's jermiad. Rising indebtedness amongst college students and the astronomical escalation in college tuition is the direct result of the US government's student loan program. It is a perfect example of good intentions producing malign results. Politicians claimed that providing low interest loans (guaranteed by the government) would permit more worthy students to afford college. What happened in practice is that it handed colleges and universities carte blanche to raise tuition since students could now borrow endlessly to pay whatever the colleges demanded. Worse, it placed college within the financial reach of most high school graduates. Unfortunately, most high school graduates are simply not suited for genuine college work. In order to get around that hundreds third rate institutions and endless numbers of "community colleges" sprung up to handle the students that no reputable college would accept at any price. But even at the best ranked schools the combination of political correctness and greed produced a panopoly of academic departments whose intellectual credibility borders on the laughable, but who provide watered-down, non-rigorous, but ideologically tainted, study material for people who really shouldn't have been at the university in the first place. Women's studies, ethnic studies, increasingly large swaths of the humanities, queer studies, religious studies, and - the absolute worst offenders - colleges of education, places where credulous and thoughtless people (mostly female) are inculcated in the latest politically correct swill, drilled until they can repeat it verbatim, and then gleefully dispatched to ruin the next generation of school children.

In many ways, the student loan program has done to US higher education, what Freddy Mac and Fanny Mae did to the US real estate market. And with stories like Ms. Munna's beginning to appear in the news, the education bubble may not be far from bursting.

Of course, Ms. Munna deserves the lion's share of the blame for failing to understand her own finances and the likely outcome of her decisions, but if the US government hadn't made it possible for her to borrow the money neccessary to earn a degree that has little financial value, she wouldn't be in so much debt. Note that the article also reveals that Ms. Munna's mother has her own student loans. Also note that there is no mention of Ms. Munna's father in the article.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

The Frog in the Boiling Pot...

Once upon a time, oh, about thirty years ago, the US had unquestioned supremacy in high-technology, especially computers. Three decades of free trade later, American dominance in technology is as dead as a doornail. Now the Chinese are advancing swiftly on the one area where American firms still have a slight lead.

A Chinese supercomputer has been ranked as the world’s second-fastest machine, surpassing European and Japanese systems and underscoring China’s aggressive commitment to science and technology.


The Chinese machine is actually now ranked as the world’s fastest in terms of theoretical peak performance, but that is considered a less significant measure than the actual computing speed achieved on a standardized computing test.

The world’s fastest computer remains the Cray Jaguar supercomputer, based at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. Last November it was measured at 1.75 petaflops.

Supercomputers represent a somewhat rarefied niche of high technology. Only advanced research and development projects (like, say, nuclear weapons research) require the computational power supercomputers can provide. However, the ability to create such machines requires first rate resources and technical know-how. Countries that build supercomputers are, almost by definition, first tier nations.

The United States continues to be the dominant maker of supercomputers, and is the nation with the most machines in the top 500. The United States has 282 of the world’s fastest 500 computers on the new list, an increase from 277 when the rankings were compiled in November.

Unfortunately, America's current dominance is slipping fast, and the Chinese aren't simply bootstrapping on American technology:

But China appears intent on challenging American dominance. There had been some expectation that China would make an effort to complete a system based on Chinese-designed components in time for the June ranking. The Nebulae is based on chips from Intel and Nvidia.

The new system, which is based on a microprocessor that has been designed and manufactured in China, is now expected later this year. A number of supercomputing industry scientists and engineers said that it was possible that the new machine would claim the title of world’s fastest.

When the US began outsourcing its manufacturing to Asia, the advocates of such "free trade" arrangements assured Americans that only low tech manufacturing was being lost. But after steel and textiles went overseas, auto manufacturing and consumer electronics joined them. By the 1990's lots of high tech manufacturing was being relocated from the US to Asia, including computer chips. By the 2000's, not only was the manufacturing of such devices done in Asia, so too was much of the design. Indeed, the situation is now such that major American brands like HP, Apple, Dell and other high tech leaders, don't actually manufacture anything at all, or manufacture very little themselves. Instead, they design the products and farm out all the manufacturing to Chinese and Tiawanese factories (which they don't own). This has caused Apple some recent bad press.

Asia nations have quickly worked themselves up the technology ladder, mastering basic manufacturing skills (steel), then consumer electronics and now cutting edge computer technology. Having learned how to manufacture these things they are now applying that knowledge to learn how to build other things. Once upon a time, Asia copied the US. Now they know enough to innovate on their own. They haven't completely overtaken American designers yet, but they are closing in fast. Meanwhile, the US is increasingly reliant on Asia - particularly China - for vital computer components and the manufacture of most of its consumer products. And, make no mistake, loss of high tech manufacturing means loss of high tech knowledge. Try building a computer chip factory from scratch without technicians and engineers who have hands-on experience.

Strangely, few American political commentators seem to notice that nothing in their upscale homes is made in the US, or understand the implication of that "Made in China" stamp on their iPad, iPhone, iMac, or virtually any other computer related device. The Right can't admit that free trade has been a disaster and the Left has abandoned meaningful economic policy for useless and counterproductive social engineering.