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When Unpaid Student Loan Bills Mean You Can No Longer Work (nytimes.com)
250 points by SQL2219 12 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 201 comments

The education industry is kind of a racket. The state pays to send children to 13 years of schooling, but at the end they haven't learned much of anything. Someone here at HN had this comment about their experience:

"Really just screw public school in general. The whole place was 95% waste of time followed by a 'congratulatory' piece of paper." -https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14047919

If a politician was courageous, and didn't care about getting re-elected, they'd point out that the system could be fixed by getting rid of Kindergarten, replacing 1st and 2nd grade with structured activities instead of 'classroom time' (prison for children), replacing high school with something more like community college, and allowing the remaining years to be much more flexible - conducted for the learner's benefit, rather than the system's...

But school has been transformed from an important social institution into a jobs project. Children & teachers are both trapped.

Unpopular opinions: let’s not lose the forest for the trees here, macrologically the US is turning out productive and world-competitive minds and workers. The system can have flaws and gaps without it being a total racket in need of ground-up rehauling. We don’t live in a concrete world so if you end up holding opinions at the extremes, you’re probably missing nuance.

There is some nuance missing in your claims too. Those productive world-competitive people more than likely did not go through the public school system in the US. They tend to have had a great deal of socio-economic advantage. The US is the richest global power, so it makes perfect sense that there are a lot of people who have such advantages in the US.

> Those productive world-competitive people more than likely did not go through the public school system in the US.

That is highly unlikely. Even at elite Ivy universities, a majority of students attended public high schools.

Public education is a lot better than people give it credit for. There's wide variation in quality but there are certainly plenty of excellent public schools available.

Public education is good in the areas where the upper middle class live.

Old Greenwich, Cos Cob, and Riverside have great public schools because that's where all the IT professionals, quants, and middle managers move to raise their families. Those districts have access to many adults with an interest and ability to participate in the school community, and so the district ends up with a lot of extra resources.

But the hedge fund upper management send their kids to Brunswick School, Sacred Heart, and the like, and the district on the super rich and the poorer, primarily-Hispanic sides of town, has a poorer reputation.

That correlation seems to exist, but that doesn't mean public education can't be good in economically challenged regions. I went to public school from grade 4–12 in West Virginia (ranked 49th out of 50 states by GDP/capita), and most of our graduating classes of ~250 had 10–20 students get into Ivy league or top 20 universities.

Based on my experience in high school, the opportunities for a good education were there, but not every student took advantage of them (or was able to take advantage of them). While the public school system has its flaws, the problems with education in the US are multi-factorial. We could do better by having more teachers and funding for schools and modifying our system for educating kids, but we'll hit a ceiling unless we also improve the quality of family life for students at home as well as the US' cultural attitudes towards education.

The correlation is there, but I'm not convinced about causality. I know people pay good money to buy properties near a good public school... so, I suspect it's not that "public schools are great where upper middle class live", but that upper middle class moved where great public schools are.

I think it's a feedback loop.

It's a loop. In many areas, schools are funded by property taxes, so higher property value leads to more funding for the school, which leads to perception of better school, which drives more people to want to live there, which produces higher property values, which...

That doesn't fully explain it though. Many of the worst schools also have some of the most funding per student.

Possibly, but in any case the problem isn't that public schools are flawed as a concept, but rather that some of USA public schools are bad. If many of these schools run on the same set of general principles and processes (although often with more funding) but work, the problem is not with the concept or goal but rather with the particular (some) implementations, some of the managers, or (mis)allocation of resources.

And they moved to where there are many other upper middle class families who are very involved in their children's education. As a result, you see schools with good metrics on standardized tests and the like even though the per pupil spend is not uncommonly less than that in urban schools with poorer metrics.

Public school funding in the US is probably the most inequitable in the developed world. Not only does each state decide its funding and taxes, but smaller local areas do too. High home values => high property taxes => more school funding.

Districts like that don't get "extra resources" or any material benefit to kids' education from parental participation. The kids are spending all day sitting in classrooms with public school teachers just like any other district.

"Public" education in upper-class, predominantly white/Asian neighborhoods, with property taxes funnelling in significant money are hardly "public" in the grand scheme of things.

For example: Stuyvesant is a public high school. But is it actually? There's a 3 hour test you take in order to be admitted. 900 or so kids are admitted. How is this "public?"

> There's a 3 hour test you take in order to be admitted. 900 or so kids are admitted.

There is nothing wrong in segregating kids based on their ability. Public universities use tests to take the best kids and this should happen at all levels. A black kid who is smart should not be held back just because he lives in bad neighborhood. He should get into a better school if he can score more.

The black kid who lived in the bad neighbourhood can't make it into Stuy because they already fell behind by going to their local elementary school. So now what, you want to test 4 year olds to see what school they deserve to be in?

> you want to test 4 year olds to see what school they deserve to be in?

Yes. That is how it happens in urban India. Even for nursery admissions schools interview both the kid and parents to see if they have potential.

> A black kid who is smart should not be held back just because he lives in bad neighborhood. He should get into a better school if he can score more.

You are right, he should. But he is statistically very much likely not to based on his upbringing and systemic discrimination.

Okay then he should do something else.

In what way does having an entrance exam make a school non-public? Are state universities not actually public because they have admissions standards?

Yeah, and very few brown children end up being in that 900, wonder how that is?

There also are plenty of good public schools and plenty of successful people who went to public schools.

Schools are not all the same, you know? The only thing you can say without diving into the statistics is that it depends on when and where you went.

First, plenty of people succeed despite public school, not because of it.

Second, how do you define success? If you define success in terms of money, education and intelligence play a very, very small role. The correlation of financial success to who you know and who you are related to is orders of magnitude higher than how smart you are or how much knowledge you have. The vast majority of PHDs are much more intelligent and educated that the vast majority of millionaires.

You could mathematically prove that the return from providing free education in terms of the incoming taxes from an extremely educated and capable working population will outweigh any benefits from effectively strapping people down into indentured servitude. How many jobs are being lost because would be job creators are locked into something less than their full potential to service these kind of exploitation loans? How many more businesses and jobs would be developed if we didn't have Sallie Mae vampiring a huge chunk of productive potential?

Alternatively, education level is just used as a proxy for other forms of discrimination. If X is free they will just require X + 1, so free public education will simply reduce the number of productive years as people spend ever more time being educated.

That's really only true if the multiplier is less than 1/30 per year of school, eg 3.3%. I have no data on this but I'm betting a year of college is higher.

In some cases that is already not true. For example Medicine and law.

Your academic training ends late in life. And therefore you have to charge higher and higher to make up for your investments. And of course, for the student loans too.

So law degree nor medical degree is not a 20x multiplier on productivity of a highschool graduate?

A high school graduate capable of getting a medical degree != a normal high school graduate. Further, doctors are an artificially constrained supply which vastly increases pay vs. other progressions. In many counties they make comparable salaries to US programmers which don't need collage degrees.

A Law degree from a 3rd rate school on the other hand is not so constrained and outside of 'top' schools which again are a limited supply tend to have minimal benefit.

How much lower would the premium for an educated worker be if college became the new high school?

I’d also support free college, but I’d expect all wages to fall accordingly. Or for the loan situation to repeat itself, this time to pay the income taxes on tuition waivers for grad school, as a masters or PhD becomes necessary to set yourself apart in the labor market.

You might find this article interesting [1]. Although free tuition caused enrollment to rise 22%, still German "university graduates earn 40% more than those with a vocational education." And "making tuition free hasn’t led to any noticeable change in the demographics of who goes to college," partly because living expenses aren't free.

[1] Jon Marcus, "Germany proves tuition-free college is not a silver bullet for America’s education woes" https://qz.com/812200/is-free-college-possible-germany-shows...

Are those minds the products of public schools, especially in the era where increased standardized testing has worked to hold back the best teachers from doing their jobs as well as many here will probably remember their favorite instructors doing?

Or are they a product of culture, from their parents and society at large, pushing them to accel independently of public education?

Education has always been mostly about culture and family (and individual interest/motivation) as opposed to any specific role of public education if all of those things are lacking.

IMO, the standardized testing bugbear is at least partly a red herring. An excessive focus on teaching to the test is bad; I'm sure we can all agree. But it's worth remembering that the increased focus on standardized testing grew out of a system where accountability and metrics of any sort were pretty much a four-letter word.

There is a huge difference between parents who feel they are responsible for their children's education and see the public school as an important tool in fulfilling that responsibility and parents who feel the government is responsible for educating their kids.

Communities with a large number of parents who feel that education is their responsibility tend to still do a good job of educating their kids in their public schools. Without that parental mindset, the quality of education goes down.

Oddly enough, I've never met anybody who believes that the government is solely responsible for educating children. I think that's a straw man, but it remains an interesting question as to why it seems to model the present situation well enough to become a widespread belief.

And maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I think the situation is more subtle: There are parents who just aren't capable of taking a more active role in educating their own children and supervising their public schools. They have no idea what a good education looks like, or what their kids are missing out on. They don't have the time or resources to be "involved" in their kids' schools. In short, they have no realistic hope to offer their kids.

And the schools themselves aren't set up to be fully self sufficient without the supervision of "involved" parents (euphemism for "pushy", I'm one of them) and a supply of children who come to school ready to learn.

Might they believe that the government owes them the best possible education anyway? Sure. I believe that too, even though I'm one of those parents who has taken an active role in educating my own kids.

So I think the government is responsible, but as a last resort, not as the best possible arrangement.

> I've never met anybody who believes that the government is solely responsible for educating children.

These parents most definitely exist. They tend to be poor and disinterested in normal parental duties. If you don't have any interaction with them they may as well not exist to you.

> I've never met anybody who believes that the government is solely responsible for educating children

Parents who think it is their responsibility to educate their kids and see the public school as one of the ways to provide that education will do things like show up for parent-teacher conferences, make sure their kids complete their homework, understand what their kids are struggling with, and seek out additional help when it is needed (asking the teacher, using internet resources, etc.). I'm sure there are some teachers who would say that describes everyone in their class, but most of the teachers I've talked to say that such a classroom sounds like a wonderful dream.

> There are parents who just aren't capable of taking a more active role in educating their own children

If someone who didn't graduate adopted a high school age student, then I would see your point. However, kids don't start out in high school. They start out much younger. While I'm sure you can find some very unusual exceptions, a parent should be able to take an active role in their kid's education from the beginning. Maybe by the time the kid gets into high school, some parents aren't going to be able to fully understand the math their kids are doing, but you can still take responsibility for what your kid's education even if you don't fully understand their calculus homework.

Very unusual exceptions? I'd say it's far more common than that - read this story (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/13/us/starbucks-...) and think about how often someone with this schedule is going to make it to parent-teacher meetings. Think about how well the 15% of adult Americans who are functionally illiterate[1] are going to use the internet or help even their elementary school student with homework. To pretend that we're just talking about parents who can't 'fully understand calculus' is just wishing away the problems.

[1] https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/international/reports/2014-piaac..., definition of 'below level 2' at https://nces.ed.gov/surveys/piaac/litproficiencylevel.asp

"Communities with a large number of parents who feel that education is their responsibility tend to still do a good job of educating their kids in their public schools. "

Arguably, many of these parents educate their kids completely independent of the public schools they send their kids to five days a week, and the school's job is just to provide that all-important piece of paper at the end.

That is possible, but in smaller communities where everyone knows each other, I see teachers and parents working together to help their kids succeed. I don't want to discount the value of a good teacher, but I think it is very unfair measure someone's teaching ability based on their ability to overcome poor parenting.

As far as the important piece of paper, I think that is something of a myth as far as college admissions go. I've heard a lot of parents say that they need their kids to graduate from a public school so they can go to college.

All the college admission requirements I've seen are the same for public school graduates and kids who graduated from a non-accredited program. It mostly comes down to your ACT and SAT score.

At least in my locale, the necessity of a high school diploma has been easily overcome. Colleges know how to deal with this. I know at least a couple of families that have home-schooled their kids. One of those kids is now on a full ride scholarship at the state university, studying biochemistry.

Colleges are also full of students from public schools. America has plenty of good public schools (but also bad ones). America tend to be country of large differences and it shows in school results too.

Homeschooling parents love to use worst poorest least performing public school as a norm and best performing home schooled students as a norm.

Definitely true. And I have to disclose that my familiarity with homeschool kids is biased: They are all drawn from a particular demographic (educated parents) and from a particular activity (classical music), because my kids happen to participate in that activity as well.

One must realize that the opinions of HN are not representative of the general population. If you have an IQ > 130 or so, school is going to seem like a redundant waste of time, but those those with average IQs need the 12+ years and find the material challenging at times. But I think there is major room for improvement in the public school system, in that smart children are neglected especially or can get by with less schooling.

Its not about challenge. It is about the practical use of information acquired in public school. Young adults leave high school unable to do their own taxes, unknowing of what laws are, with no usable skills in any industry.

The public school curriculum today was built around a need for literate men who could do arithmetic working in factories from the 1920s and on. That is why the core "skills" of public education are mastery of basic reading and math.

On one hand, reading and math are pretty fundamental to most of the world today. On the other, the original designs of curriculum were to repeat those two concepts for 12 years until everyone who graduated was certainly capable of them to insure any adult was a capable factory drone. Throw in some biased national history in social studies to create some cult patriotism and basic science so they don't blow up half the workplace floor by mixing the wrong chemicals and so they have a basic idea of how things move and that was it.

The average high schooler keeps graduating more and more capable of memorizing words and regurgitating them on fill in the blank tests. They are getting better, on average, at more advanced mathematics like algebra. It turns out generations of kids capable of doing math homework didn't dramatically improve the innovative potential of east Asian countries that focused hugely on that from the 80s and on. Japans school system is one of the most rigorous in the world, you have to pass entrance exams just for high school and getting into any university is itself often a several-year long job. But Japans economy is not seeing huge economic growth for all that laser focus on classical lecture and memorized testing.

And even then the current k-12 system does not serve those who aren't as quick to pickup on these memorization concepts and fundamentals for reading and math. Huge numbers of kids are "forgotten" in the public school system and are pushed through despite being borderline illiterate. Because grades are age based and not ability based, if you are either too fast or too slow at memorizing the material instructed at you public school will be an awful experience.

You're mixing up lots of things, although this part is crucial

> It is about the practical use of information acquired in public school.

Primary and secondary school educations' purpose it not meant to have any practical use; that's specialization.

A productive sytem will have, as post-secondary options, a more academic education (university), and professional schools.

Some countries have hybrid secondary education options, and that's an acceptable alternative.

If a country doesn't give the options above, then there is a serious problem, but to orient public school towards practical matters is missing the point of basic education.

By the way, there are accountants for doing taxes.

> Young adults leave high school unable to do their own taxe

In Illinois there is a business class that is required to graduate that requires you to complete your own taxes. I can't comment if you can truly pass the class with out knowing how to do your taxes but I certainly tell you they taught us how to if you paid attention.

I took a class like this when I was in CO. Taught taxes, compound interest, your obligation in contracts, etc.

Most of my peers decided not to take it.

>Young adults leave high school unable to do their own taxes, unknowing of what laws are, with no usable skills in any industry.

Exactly so. There are some who glide into the industries in our school systems but it may be that either they are "truly exceptional," were under the tutelage of a knowledgeable adult who could steer them towards certain success, or lucked into happiness.

You may also consider social stratification around Ivy Leagues and Public Research Universities as a side-effect of a lack of a Useful School. People cannot rely upon the reputation of a school and instead resort to a set of predatory heuristics about tuition and the age of the institution.

In a world where the public school system prepares, by grade 12, a legally-literate scholar with a set of vocational skills, the University (It helps to think of it as One University, from which emanates the total knowledge of humankind) assumes a role of governance over the high schools (colleges) and grade schools, which are the true preparatory apparatus of the adult mind.

> The public school curriculum today was built around a need for literate men who could do arithmetic working in factories from the 1920s and on. That is why the core "skills" of public education are mastery of basic reading and math.

You are so ignorant about the curriculum that it is embarrassing. I would wager you have nothing to do with a school except drive past one at too high a speed.

Would you care to rebut the assertion that you quoted or are you just here to snark? Because I have been a public school teacher in a school district in Texas, I graduated from a Texas high school (and two public universities in Texas, a small unaffiliated one for my Bachelor's degree and a medium-sized one for my Master's) and I agree with the statement with which you take issue.

The "Public University Core" in Texas is, by and large, the 2nd-level-advanced version of the basic high school graduation requirements. Those requirements aren't much more strenuous than "can do math with variables" and "understand compound sentences" and "pass a test on acid, base, solution, and precipitates." The school district where I taught didn't even have a senior-level financial education course until the year after I left and that was well into the 2000s. (But, by George, you absolutely will take a course in Texas History wherein you learn not to forget the Alamo and how Texans are fiercely independent unlike every other state in the Union and how we were technically an independent country and, depending on the teacher, we just might be one again.)

Yes, it's a gross generalization but it is true, at least in my experience, that the curricula we are teaching our kids isn't dynamic or flexible enough to keep up with modern society.

Indeed, school will also seem like a redundant waste of time if you happen to be in an occupation that lends itself to people who are largely self taught. Disclosure: I'm self taught in programming, with the exception of a high school course in BASIC that I took in ca. 1981.

I don't know my IQ (it's a flawed as hell test at the best of times and I've never bothered), but I'm a tenure-track university professor and I managed to find value from public schooling for the first 12 grades of my life.

>The education industry is kind of a racket.

Going to college is the original "Everyone needs to know how to code" meme. You won't get a good job, they say. You need a degree, they say. When in truth, some people have no interest or business going to college. The result? Masses of debtors pushed into college education who fail out. Graduation rates are now around 52.9% [1]. Those who fail out are in really bad shape when it comes to trying to repay a five or six figure loan on an education they didn't complete.

[1] https://nscresearchcenter.org/signaturereport10/#ExecutiveSu...

Yeah. The argument is more like everyone woyld be better off being the type of person to succeed in college. Which, yeah, being smart is generally good. But is college? How would large attendance to a peer learning center compare to a degree ih terms of skill?

> they'd point out that the system could be fixed by getting rid of Kindergarten

As some who was not taught the alphabet by either parent but instead by the school starting in Kindergarten I hope you aren't serious. The only place I learned to read was in school.

There's evidence kids are being taught to read too early. http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/discussion/school-starting-age...

That's not at all what your link says.

The link is talking about formal vs play-based learning, which is a methodological question that, in the case of reading skills, is mostly orthogonal to what's being learned.

The link mentions learning through play, not "deliberate" play-based learning as I read it. Play is available at any daycare, at home, with grandparents etc.

The assertion was kindergarten was valuable because it taught reading. I was pointing out that if reading was premature, then kindergarten had no educational value.

No, the link never claims that "[learning to read] was pre-mature". In the developmental literature, "play" is a collection of pedagogical approaches and is not synonymous with what we'd call play time at a typical child care.

You fundamentally misunderstand the article. The article isn't advocating not teaching reading. It's advocating a play-based pedagogy for teaching reading.

> Play is available at any daycare, at home, with grandparents etc.

While this is true, that's not the "play" that the article is referring to. Not all "play" has equal educational value; playing pong all day is different from constructing silly stories based on books with Grandma during reading time.

So while this is in principle true, the reality is that educational play is a lot less accessible than your characterization implies.

"An extended period of high quality, play-based pre-school education was of particular advantage to children from disadvantaged households" doesn't describe the typical daycare.

Again, the approach is not "no education". The approach is "play-based pre-school education"

> then kindergarten had no educational value.

Similarly, the article never claims that pre-school/Kindergarten has negative educational value. It claims that formal educational settings focused on instruction sometimes have negative educational value. (Which, BTW, can be found in the involved parent's home as easily as in the typical public classroom.)

The idea that this study implies we should just have kids play "kick the can" all day until first grade is a serious and dangerous mis-reading.

Kids should be learning to read during the Kindergarten age, and prior. This study does not refute that assertion. Rather, it makes a point about which pedagogical approaches are most effective at achieving that goal. Those approaches -- both good and bad -- could be implemented in a day care, but a grandparent, or in a Kindergarten classroom.

The first (couple of) year(s) children enter formal education is primarily an assessment period to determine where they're at developmentally, behaviorally, and educationally.

In theory the sooner that happens the better.

The system cannot easily be fixed. Some students might be able to get by with just 12 years of schooling, for some jobs. Some students may need 18 years of schooling to be able to effectively hold down a minimum-wage job.

Most students who go into skilled trades probably need at least 12 years of schooling. But knowing which 12 years is the hard part. Sure, somebody who knows they want to be an electrician at the age of 10 can probably be competent by 18, but we shouldn't be locking people into that kind of flat job progression.

Even if we accept that simple trade schools are the ideal, I'd still argue we should be encouraging people to study a liberal mix of arts taking 17-20 years (just with liberal arts mixing trades instead of academics.)

Germany has a different model for education, but they had to lose World War 2 and had it imposed upon them by the Allies. https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/why-ger...

> but they had to lose World War 2

A better way of putting it would be to say that "Germany had a different model for education but when they lost World War 2, the standard model of education was imposed upon them by the Allies."

Otherwise it kinda comes off sounding like "if only Germany didn't lose WW2" which most folks agree would have been a poor outcome.

You are reading it wrong.

The GP is saying that they had a pretty conservative system, and could only change it for something that works after losing a war and having change imposed from foreigners.

Thanks, tried too hard to be succinct, and made it slightly ambiguous.

I guess could see a reading of it like that and will leave the original wording so your comment makes sense, and in 2017 we have to be explicit that I don't mean to condone Nazis, genocide, racial hatred, other things we associated with the German policies of WW 2 or for that matter Japanese atrocities on civilians in occupied territories or Allied prisoners.

This type of stuff is hard to figure out but where I currently live there are a lot of people who would be much better off if they were locked into a career progression to become an electrician at age 10.

This is (I'm told by my cousins) what they do in Europe and it terrifies me. When I was 10, I was kind of a shit-head and didn't know what I wanted to do, and wasn't really on a path to go to college. You would have locked me in to a career progression to become an electrician. Instead, I worked part time here and there and went to school on my own time and am now ABD in a PhD program.

Who are you to look at 10 year old me and say "no, let's keep this kid in votech and deny them access to higher ed"?

Your cousins are misrepresenting the situation in Europe at least with respect to Germany.

People in Germany do not generally make binding decisions on their specific career path until they are sixteen and after that career switches do happen.

In your particular case you might have been recommended for a vocational path at age 10 or so and then you could have disregarded that recommendation (possible at least in Germany's most populous State). If you had followed that path, you would have still been able to switch after any semester if your grades were considered sufficient. Or you would have completed that path and started an apprenticeship as an electrician. This would also allow you to enroll at any state university in a related major (e.g. electrical engineering). There are also courses that you can take to obtain the general university entrance qualification necessary for enrolling in any field of your choice.

The point I am making is that there is much more flexibility in Germany than you currently imagine. There are many who still criticize the German system otherwise (me included), because straying from the recommendation that your elementary school teacher gives you does come with some friction. Also, there is some empirical evidence that the recommendations can depend on the social class of the child (i.e. kids with rich parents are put on the academic path) in practice. However nobody is "locked in" to any career progression.

That doesn’t happen in the UK at the moment; specialisation starts (mildly) at 14 at the level of “pick one language, pick one humanity, pick one of art or music”; from 16 to 18, one must either be in full-time education or training; post 18 is 3-5 years as an undergrad at university.

Edit: there are occasional calls to return to the previous system of the “11 plus”, which I don’t understand but which is probably relevant.

The 11 plus separated kids at age 11 (on Sep 1) into either "grammar schools" or "secondary moderns". The idea was those with acedemic aptitude concentrated on those subjects more acedemic (traditionally Latin, classics etc), where those more practical had those skills encouraged (metalwork etc)

The reality of it now is that richer parents spend lots on tuition to get their kids into the grammars, which breaks the system quite significantly.

This only applies in a few areas of the country though.

I think the only UK PMs to be elected that had a state school upbringing went to grammar schools.

> This only applies in a few areas of the country though.

To clarify slightly: this system used to apply throughout the country, but in the '70s local authorities were given the option to get rid of it, and instead have 'comprehensive' schools where everyone goes; almost all did.

Well, sort of. I believe that some authorities make all children sit the exam, and then give high scorers the option of going to grammar school. More authorities give children the option of sitting the exam, again giving high scorers the option of going to grammar school. Most areas don't have the 11+ at all.

On top of that, in the '90s the government gave all schools the option to be partially selective (ie selecting some fraction of pupils somehow, not by 11+), and some took it up; the option was withdrawn soon after, but the schools which had exercised it stayed selective.

Other schools and instead allocate school places by geographic proximity - which in the presence of better and worse schools, results in de facto selection by parental wealth, because houses near good schools are more expensive.

Oh, and there are also faith schools that can select by religion.

No, this doesn't make any sense. This is Britain.

> Oh, and there are also faith schools that can select by religion.

> No, this doesn't make any sense. This is Britain.

This is why my atheist father had me baptised Catholic, even though the state religion of the UK is Church of England.

It is specifically what we do in Germany (I'm not aware of any other country), and even here it has been seen quite critical for decades. Keep in mind that it has always been possible to switch between tracks and go to university even if you only made it into the "manual laborer" track - but then you really have to want it and work very hard for it.

wasn't making that possible forced by the EU

As a rule, if you hear something is "enforced by the eu", it's probably nothing of the sort.

TUPE is though some eu countries didn't implement the spirit of the Law cough spain

It Might have been part of the Bologna Process though

Clearly they should’ve enforced English education. Spain is at the bottom when it comes to that, as parent shows.

We do the career thing in my part of Europe. Not at 10 but at 14 when it’s tine to decide what kind of high school you can go to.

There are ways out if it later on. You can do another 2 years on top of a 3 year vocational school to get the right type of final exam to apply for college. You can take extra classes to switch from a just-a-college to a uni degree. Then you’re free to go do masters and phds just like anyone who went to the right type of high school at 14.

Except now you’re older and more mature and probably likelier to graduate than all us shitheads who got in the normal way.

Trade school route doesn't mean you're denied access to university for life. But you'll have to put in some extra effort to get in there.

On the other hand, if shitheads-at-10yo stay on university route, they don't get good enough grades to get into university anyway. They'd probably be better off becoming electricians. Once they'd realise they do want education after all, then they could put in extra effort.

As a side effect, electrician-headed shitheads don't stop education-oriented kids from making progress. Which is nice too.

They really need better counseling, not better education.

People talk about administration as if it were a waste of money, but really most counselor's offices are glorified registrars and can't do any actual counseling (which is really one of the bigger problems.)

There's no magic bullet, and at a high level there's no substitute for more 1-on-1 instruction (and counseling is just a little more explicitly 1-on-1 targeted at kids that need it.)

The problem I see in the area I grew up is that no one thinks about anything related to their career or future until they're graduating high school. The sole focus seemed to be drinking and getting high and school was considered a place to socialize and get into fights by the average student. I think a lot of places in the US are like this to be honest. The concept of a school that fits everyone does not make sense past grammar school in my opinion. It's led to masses of aimless adults who seem to have no purpose or goals in life.


In my country (which is not Germany), the big jump is at ~15. While elementary (1-4) and middle schools (5-8) are +/- the same, gymnasiums/high schools (9-12 or 9-10) do differ. For smart kids, 15 is the age to try to get into the elite profile schools in science or art. Or jump to an overall better school. And shitheads are encouraged to go to "main" 9-10 schools which are straight way to trade schools. Although majority of kids stay in mainstream schools and do what you described. But the system offers a way out for both smart kids troublemakers. Which is nice.

Personally I wish kids were more encouraged to aim for a better school at that age. I'm still salty I didn't even try to get into the elite schools since commute seemed too long. Although I did jump to a wee better (and closer) school to escape the overall attitude.

There is no such thing as "they do in Europe". There are really big differences between countries and even schools within the same city.

I live in Europe. Yes, closing options too early is bad. But, a lifetime of debt slavery chasing an academic dream is worse. The big problem is cost. We havs part of the cost answer in moocs - khan academy is great. The rest of the flipped classroom must come from p2p learning and tutor networks.

> But school has been transformed from an important social institution into a jobs project. Children & teachers are both trapped.

One purpose of mass public education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was to get kids out of the job market because we couldn't produce enough jobs for the adults. Schools were a way of getting kids out of the coal mines and factories to open up jobs for adults. Another purpose of mass public education was to indoctrinate and prepare them to be good unquestionin worker bees.

Now, education system and its bureaucracy has become so entrenched, a new purpose has formed - to protect teachers' and administrators' jobs. That's the major gooal of the education system.

As for colleges, since we aren't creating enough jobs, we have been trying to push young adults out of the job market by encouraging them to go to college. The loans young people are saddled with are an extra bonus - a chain around the young people so that they will work and give their prime years to corporations by being good worker bees.

My mom was a public school teacher. My parents sent me to a Jesuit school after K-5. Best decision they could have made, and says a _lot_ about public education. She always talks about how they teach for tests and nothing else.

> My parents sent me to a Jesuit school after K-5. Best decision they could have made, and says a _lot_ about public education.

But how would you know that? You can't possibly compare what you did to what might have happened. And maybe your mom is just a bad teacher?

>>She always talks about how they teach for tests and nothing else.

That isn't exactly a bad idea, given how much of life is actually a test.

> If a politician was courageous, and didn't care about getting re-elected, they'd point out that the system could be fixed by getting rid of Kindergarten, replacing 1st and 2nd grade with structured activities instead of 'classroom time' (prison for children), replacing high school with something more like community college, and allowing the remaining years to be much more flexible - conducted for the learner's benefit, rather than the system's...

Where are the guarantees that this would actually work? Or just throw out an entire system with no proof.

There are no guarantees in life. But we know that the present system doesn't work especially well - dissatisfaction is widespread.

See this comment for my comments on the NPR show I heard after posting my mildly-inflammatory comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15738275

SO is a chem teacher, so I have a little insight to public education in one US state.

First, lumping all public schools in the US together is not helpful. We don't have a federal system of education, we barely have a state level, and if we are generous we may have a local level. Massachusetts is a really good place to educate your kids, it's on par with Singapore in wold rankings [0]. Alabama is not. Basically, if your local schools suck, go to more PTA meetings and make them better. Bitching on the web is not a good way to do that. Getting out the message to up some tax in your local mill-levy is.

Second, getting rid of kindergarten is insane. Socializing is SUPER important to young kids. Yes, it costs a lot of cash. But so does having a stupid population. I think we all know that a stupid voter base is worse over even a 10 year time scale.

Third, classroom time is not prison for children. If your kid thinks it is, find another school or talk to the teacher and the admin. They aren't soulless bureaucrats. They are massively underpaid humans. Especially in those grades. They deal with a LOT of poop and illnesses.

Fourth, HS as community college would be a great idea for SOME kids. For the majority, you really have to force them to learn algebra and the 'boring but important as hell' stuff. You really can't have a 'major' in HS for most students. Most HN readers are not most students and probably could have a HS major. But public education is for all citizens, not just the smart ones, but the really dumb ones too. We all have a place in this society, even the dumb people, and we all have a right to be educated.

Fifth, the 'system' isn't very well constructed, so tear your's down. I agree that public education is not very well done in the US. But that is YOUR fault. Yes, you, the person reading this. If you think your local school is crappy, go fix it or move. In the US, education is SUPER local (by and large). Talking about US public education like a unified thing is nonsense. The taxes that support your local school are very local and very much something you and a few people can fix. Really, go round up all the patrons in your local bar. That's really all the people it takes to swing an election or get a new tax or measure passed. My SO works at a school that did not exist 6 years ago. The local residents just up and decided to make a new one out of a city park. They built and funded the whole thing. It took maybe 70 people to do this. Now there is a great school. They went out and fixed their local community. Democracy actually fucking works if you do too.

Sixth, no, we are not trapped. We trap ourselves. I mean, yeah, some state laws suck. So go change them. Look at fucking eric Cantor's primary sniping. That took like no money and no people to do. They upset in a primary the house minority whip. Like, come on people, this is OUR country and these are OUR schools. Don't get defeated by the shit you read online. Go make YOUR schools better if you want them to be better.

[0] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/02/15/u-s-students... (source not here, but you can get a start there, hey, it's Sunday, ok?)


I'm sorry if my comment above was too inflammatory - I meant to point out that both teachers & students are put in a difficult situation. The comment was specifically worded to target the 'education industry' (the profiteers who take advantage of student loans, which the submitted link is about), not the country's individual schools. 75 days ago I commented about an excellent teacher I had: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15181176

After I posted my little comment this morning, I took off on a road trip. NPR was rebroadcasting last Friday's show on the Ted Radio Hour. This week's episode was titled Simple Solutions [0]. Part 2 was "Sam Kass: Can Free Breakfast Improve Learning?" [1]. Part 3 was "Wendy Troxel: Does High School Start Too Early?" [2].

Apparently little things like improving the odds that all students are fed and rested can dramatically improve students' school experiences. But that doesn't fix the structural problem, which is...

> For the majority, you really have to force them to learn algebra and the 'boring but important as hell' stuff.

No no no no no. My dad's high school friend taught shop class. Some of his students loved his class, others would have rather been anywhere else ("Baking"), but shop was the only class that fit in their schedule. Forcing children to take "important" classes that they don't care about is a good way to elicit apathy.

I think John Gatto said "nothing of value to the individual happens through force." Gatto has some good insights. See my earlier comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15693047 and https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14425760

> Third, classroom time is not prison for children. If your kid thinks it is, find another school or talk to the teacher and the admin.

School was a prison for me, and I was good at it.

Thanks for your post.

[0] https://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/564577402/simple...

[1] https://www.ted.com/talks/sam_kass_want_to_teach_kids_well_f...

[2] https://www.ted.com/talks/wendy_troxel_why_school_should_sta...

One of my friends who works in Education told me the interesting story of how the American school system is modeled after the German one. And the German system was essentially designed to pump out soldiers for the State. So its not surprising that the system focuses and rewards obedience and conformity rather than individualism.

Teslabox - apologies for digressing, but I did not see any way to contact you, hence this post.

I saw one of your posts mentioning progesterone: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12709510 . What is the source/brand of progesterone that you would recommend ? Email is on my profile : https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=dennis_jeeves

My understanding is that kindergarten radically changes the kids learning. Why eliminate it? Or what is the replacement?

Increased investment in early education is remarkably uncontroversial among economists. There's few better ways to even out outcomes.


> My understanding is that kindergarten radically changes the kids learning. Why eliminate it?

Children are learning machines. I've no doubt that kindergarten radically changes learning, but I don't think this is in a good way.

> Or what is the replacement?

For parents who need kindergarten as day-care (so they can work), some sort of structured activities might be appropriate. I don't have children, so my interest in this topic stems from being punished with boredom for my entire school experience. Some of the alternative education systems might be better, but I've no experience with those. Someone replied to my earlier comment, "Sudbury and Montessori schools offer a model that seems to encourage students to learn at their own pace" [0].

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15693370

To quote myself, "John Gatto says it's better to skip as much of the early years of schooling as possible: some children learn to read when they're 2, some when they're 8, and by the time they're 12 you can't tell the difference. I met a man a few months ago that was traumatized by not being able to "read" on the teacher's schedule when he was in 1st grade. He learned to read eventually, in spite of his school's efforts to force him to read before he was ready." [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15693047

Primary education does serve some basics: reading, writing, and 'rithmetic. It may not be efficient about it, but it's not a complete waste.

But yeah, first and second grade are basically prison, especially for boys. I'd cut 'em back to 3 hours per day.

School, in the US anyway, is daycare. Your typical public school is a terrible environment for learning, and a worse environment for being taught an employable skill set. I say this as someone who went strictly to public school.

Not only that, but undergrad college is slowly turning into what late high school was.

Soon if not already, jobs for once high school graduates are now for college grads for the simple degradation of education.

I see a bunch of edgy posts like this across the web from people who have already benefited from public schooling, but I see very little data backing it up. Can you support these suggestions?

I happen to be somewhat dysfunctional at the present, tyvm.

John Gatto and John Holt have both written extensively on the corrupt nature of compulsory schooling. I linked to some of Gatto's works in this comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14425760

In the end this would be more efficient than the existing system, where it only seems efficient because no one's really keeping track of the qualitative.

>>But school has been transformed from an important social institution into a jobs project.

This is backwards. The school is a jobs project because people have to work to earn money. If that wasn't the case we could let them get busy with creative work full time.

The other part would be ridiculous, do you really want to be spending your entire childhood and teenage doing thing that has 0 return on investment at the end.

People who lament how public schooling sucks often want government to fund higher education without realizing results would be horrible.

Public schools work only for Asians and white because they live in good neighborhoods and take responsibility of their children's academic performance. For Blacks and Hispanics the situation is very very bleak and these people are simply be defrauded by the government.

You can get out of 11/12 grade in Washington state. Community college is really what hs should be though. http://www.k12.wa.us/SecondaryEducation/CareerCollegeReadine...

In Washington State, you don't have to enroll in school until you are 8 years old either. [0]

Washington's constitution states that It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.[1] It is interesting how this manifests in practice.

[0] http://www.k12.wa.us/GATE/Truancy/default.aspx

[1] http://leg.wa.gov/LawsAndAgencyRules/Pages/constitution.aspx

Compared to what is possible at equal or less cost it is quite appalling how bad the system is. The challenge is that most of us are products of it. Homeschoolers sound nuts. Any change to the system feels like a risk. Those who are heavily invested in it feel threatened when we say it has serious problems. It's a special kind of tyranny.

We home/online school, people treat us like we're crazy. My kids are getting a way better education than I or my wife did. Once you are ejected from the Matrix only then can you grasp what a prison it is.


This just seems completely irrational. Do lenders imagine they're more likely to recover their money this way? This article needs more information to explain how something so completely irrational-sounding could arise.

Questions I still have after reading this article:

* Are we specifically talking about loans by the government, or student loans in general?

* If the latter, does the lender have any say in this, or does the government just do this unilaterally?

* How the hell did this happen? Yes, it was part of a bundle of "aggressive collection tactics" but... really, more information is needed here. Is this, like, a case of the government having the wrong incentives, needing more to look tough than to actually recover their money? If this applies to private loans, what did private lenders have to say about this at the time? Etc.

>Do lenders imagine they're more likely to recover their money this way?

When the mob cripples/kills a gambler who can't pay, they're not trying to get the money back. They're sending a message to other gamblers.

Gamblers are under a very autonomous incentive structure: they want to gamble, and they can be scared into not doing so by consequences that would befall them personally.

Student loans don't work like this, I think, because most kids going to college aren't doing so because they want to. Instead, they think they need to, either because their parents demand it, or society demands it.

When you think you need to do something (i.e. there are no other options/routes to not-dying), adding risks to it doesn't have any effect on the math.

They also need to select correct course and actually finish it...

Sure, but that's the mob, and I see two important differences between this case and the mob. (Well, one important difference, and one thing that might be, I'm not sure.) As the article points out, there's any number of other things you could do in case of default, that won't so adversely affect the borrower's ability to later repay. But (difference number one) I suspect those things will largely rely on the courts and so not be available to the mob. (That's the one I'm not sure about; the mob might have other equivalents.)

I mean, yes, the basic reasoning makes sense, but like... were any actual calculations done? Any comparison to alternatives? While it's not impossible this is the best way for the government to get its money back, it seems pretty unlikely.

It particular it seems stupid because, consider -- we're reading a news article about it! What's that mean? It means I didn't already know, you didn't already know, enough people didn't already know that the newspaper thought it would be a good idea for an article. And that's the real kicker; a deterrent -- and this is purely a deterrent, it is in fact giving up direct moneymaking ability to achieve this deterrent -- can only work if people know about it! The mob can scare people into paying up because everyone knows they'll kill or cripple you if you don't pay them back. But the government, apparently, doesn't have the mob's publicity, and without that, the whole scheme falls to pieces, and clearly can't do any good. This started in in 1990, going by the article. That's 30 years of a "deterrent" that hardly anybody knows they have to avoid. (That, obviously, is the difference I'm more certain of. :P )

Doesn't matter to the lenders, they've already written off the loan and reassigned it to government student loan debt collection at SLM.

This licensing thing is something the government can do when the loan gets reassigned to it during collections. They do other stuff, too. If you have property, they can put a tax lien on it. They can seize your tax refunds or any cash benefits disbursed by federal government programs, like Social Security. Pretty much, if there's something "government" can do to screw you over because you can't afford your loans, they do.

"This just seems completely irrational. Do lenders imagine they're more likely to recover their money this way?"

In theory this punishment can increase the total number of loans paid, even if the individuals who default and lose their jobs won't be able to pay their loans back. Why? Perhaps the fear of the punishment incentives loaners to not default.

I mean, yes, I understand that line of reasoning, but like... were any actual calculations done? This just seems like such a bad idea when (as is pointed out in the article) there are plenty of other things you could do in such a case that won't so adversely affect your ability to recover your money.

>Do lenders imagine they're more likely to recover their money this way?

Who knows. But if grad students would act like even half-way decent business men and women then they would pass their costs on to their customer (i.e. their boss).

Just because costs go up doesn't mean your rate of return needs to fall.

Assuming a competitive market you can't pass costs on, you charge what your customer is willing to pay, whether your costs are zero or high. If costs are higher than what customers will pay, you don't have a business.

Why would you assume they'd act rationally?

> This article needs more information to explain how something so completely irrational-sounding could arise.

It's simple: they don't pay their bills, so we have to punish them.

Does the choice of punishment affect their ability to pay? LA LA LA we don't care.

That's what's going on.

It's the same for other debts:



> Is this, like, a case of the government having the wrong incentives, needing more to look tough than to actually recover their money?

The government (to some extent) expresses the will of the people In the US and Canada, most people have expressed strong support for such debtors prisons. Largely in the belief that it will never happen to them.

This is an exceptional case of cruelty - imagine spending years learning a craft (and spending thousands and thousands of dollars for it) and one fine day, not being able to use it anymore. It is even more worse in cases of healthcare professionals, as the aging population needs all the help it can get. No-one benefits at the end. I really wish we put common sense and compassion before commerce.

This isn't even a case of putting commerce first. We're hurting commerce here too.

Well-connected banks and major corporations who make bad decisions and financially crash get bailouts. Citizens who make similar mistakes when they're young get their lives destroyed. Makes it pretty clear who "our" government really serves.

When major banks fail they take out major parts of the economy. I'm sure we all remember the mayhem the big banks caused in the Great Recession.

Secondly, the bailouts the banks received were loans -- they've now been repaid with interest, and the federal government has wound up making a profit.

I'm no banker or Wall Street apologist, the big banks and executives should've faced large punishments for their role in the fraud that triggered the economic crisis.

But we also need to be pragmatic and realize that the Bush and Obama administrations had very limited choices to fix the recession, which was made worse because banks basiclly stopped lending any money.

By all means let's elect politicians who will regulate and break up big banks, but let's not score cheap populism points by deriding economic policy without proposing a viable alternative.

Those banks made bad decisions and instead of paying the cost (in evolutionary capitalism) of being frozen, orderly split up and re-processed among members of the market to re-define their value factor the banks were rewarded.

I had hoped that they would be properly refactored so that the people could benefit from that change instead of the corporations. Maybe if that had happened the correction our house pricing so desperately needs could have happened.

All that rationalization and apologism fails when you consider this simple fact: there has been no one convicted of criminal wrongdoing in the US for bringing about the Great Recession. Much to the contrary, the persons in charge, the persons responsible for great hardship caused to billions of people worldwide for the past decade, they got big fat bonuses that not you or I could ever dream of making, perhaps not even in a lifetime of work. Note I'm not talking about banks as institution, I'm talking about personal responsibility and accountability. That alone shows how much of a farce everything is, how the super-rich and powerful simply play by a different set of rules.

Yeah sure, the government had to step in to prevent an even bigger catastrophe. But if indeed it were the case that the people responsible were even for a moment under any threat of actual punishment for their crimes, it would not have all been swept under the rug, and the people in charge simply finding employment elsewhere.

>When major banks fail they take out major parts of the economy.

When the working class is bankrupt or in debt peonage, it takes out major parts of the economy.

So a viable solution to student debt is for the government to forgive it all?

Realistically, I think that's going to have to be what happens. The horse is out of the barn. We can close the door through reforming student loan programs, but we have to bring the horse back, first.

I say this as somebody who graduated college in 2010 with fairly minimal debt that I've already paid off. I was extremely lucky in my choice of career (and knowing I wanted to do it at the time) and I made better choices than most with regards to picking colleges and what school I attended, and so it kinda pisses me off a little bit--but me being pissed off is distinctly secondary to we have saddled two entire generations with impossible debts in the chase for "employability".

A viable one is to let students default on their debt. Then colleges incentives to survive on tuition will align to the students capacity to increase their income.

There shouldn't be (considerable) debt going into dead-end college studies.

> When major banks fail they take out major parts of the economy.

Sure. So... do the bankers go to jail?

Nope. They get bonuses.

It's a great scam. They play with your money. If they lose, oh well, the government will bail them out. If they win, they keep the money. And either way, the people in charge get large bonuses.

Only Iceland chose to charge the bankers who engaged in predatory / illegal behavior. Every other country pretty gave them a handshake, and a pat on the back.

And it's still ongoing.


Look, if the bank is "too big to fail", by all means bail them out. But nationalize it, fire the idiots in charge, and sell off the assets to people who aren't robber barons.

They let Lehman Brothers die. The results of that were awful. They did more or less what you suggest with the next failure, AIG, which was bought by the government for a song. The government has since sold their shares, making 22 billion dollars profit off that bailout. The government did so well from the deal that the old CEO is trying to sue on the basis that the terms were unfair.

After that, the government offered to buy assets from banks to ensure they had enough cash to keep doing business (TARP). Every bank was asked to participate because the government didn't want to single out the weakest ones. They were concerned the stigma would drive away business and push them over the edge. In the end, the government sold off the TARP assets they bought and made another 15 billion dollars profit off that.

The bailouts were not that expensive. What was tremendously expensive was the impact of businesses all around the world shaking in fear of being short on cash and unable to secure a loan. That caused them to reduce spending, but one person's spending is another's income. That caused a spiral of dropping incomes and cutting costs. That's where layoffs, bankruptcies, and wage freezes came from. Government revenue dropped significantly too as tax money comes from sales and income.

Banks should be smaller. Hell, companies in general should be smaller. We have far too many oligopolies and near-monopolies. Not enough competition.

The problem is finding agreement on the specifics. We got a whole slew of new regulations in Dodd-Frank and Basel III, but nobody outside of financial experts know or understand them. The general public doesn't agree on much more than that they hate bankers.

I know there's a few common things often pointed to, like reinstating Glass-Steagall, but there's plenty of disagreement there too. For one, I don't think it would have made much difference in this crisis. The counterparty risks that dominated this crisis were all in the investment sides of the companies anyways. It seems more like a pet cause than an actual solution.

I guess the problem is that politics is broken. Ideally, smart, well-informed people would discuss these things and the public would listen and support the best ideas. That's not how politics works these days, though. Party ideology is basically religion at this point.

Fix the government and everything else flows from there. But, that's easier said than done. The American government is fractured and broken because American society is fractured and broken. It's not clear how to make it whole again.

I think the point is the following:

There's more people affected negatively by irresponsible banks and student loans than those that who were affected negatively who worked for the banks. For example, I know more than a handful of people who were let go from Lehman and are doing just fine. In fact I literally just met someone who today is making a $500k salary. We still have people digging themselves out of debt because they lost everything (tangible and intangibles) due to the 2008 crisis.

> The American government is fractured and broken because American society is fractured and broken.

There's a great theory which is that federal politics is all rooted in local politics. In other words, the reason the federal government is full of assholes is because people let these people get elected at the local level and their natural progression is simply to move up through system to the federal level (usually passing it off as "well it just affects that one town, so what").

> the federal government is full of assholes is because people let these people get elected at the local level

I feel that politics in general is a field where sociopaths can thrive. There's a lot of backstabbing, deal making, and pandering I think fits well with that mindset at all levels of government. I think the same could be said for wall street as well.

You're right about how people have been impacted. That's going to continue to hurt as long as their point of view is ignored. Can't just tell angry people to stop being angry. Doesn't work.

> Citizens who make similar mistakes when they're young get their lives destroyed.

Except in this case the mistake is that the government is willing to guarantee huge loans made to an 18-year-old. There are colleges out there that you can graduate with only a couple thousand dollars of debt and there are other colleges where you can graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.

A potential fix would be to limit the amount of government-backed student loans to something people can reasonably pay off. If students want to go beyond that, they would need to convince a bank that funding the more extravagant tuition was a reasonable risk to take. With the government-backed student loans, you rely on an 18-year-old to accurately do the risk analysis themselves and the current situation seems to indicate many aren't good at doing this.

> A potential fix would be to limit the amount of government-backed student loans to something people can reasonably pay off.

They DO limit the amount of government-backed loans you can take for an undergraduate degree to $31,000 (or $57,500 if you can convince TPTB that you are 'independent', which is much harder than it sounds.)

Other loans don't have limits, but aren't government backed. They're private loans but get many of the same privileges, including that the loans aren't dischargeable in bankruptcy. This sort of makes sense, because you can't repossess a degree, but it also sort of doesn't because of the points you made.

Insofar as bankruptcy itself was meant to be an "escape hatch" to avoid designing forgiveness into every element of the system, adding any situation where bankruptcy is impossible seems like it destroys the purpose of having bankruptcy exist in the first place.

I mean, I get the real problem: just-graduated students have no assets, but a lot of debt, so they have no disincentive from declaring bankruptcy. Hard to come up with a solution to that, since—if the just-graduated student had assets—they'd just be able to pay the debt with them.

> adding any situation where bankruptcy is impossible seems like it destroys the purpose of having bankruptcy exist in the first place.

Agreed, but keep in mind we aren't talking about loans in the traditional sense. Normally a loan requires some entity to take on the risk of default. With student loans this would mean looking at what the individual was studying, how much of their own money they were supplying, the typical default rate, etc. The amount that they will loan and the interest rate will be determined by the answers to those questions.

When you have the government making loans to students without asking those questions, you are no longer running a normal loan program. When you remove the way a loan program usually adjusts to the risks up front, you have to try to deal with the risk elsewhere. This is done by removing the bankruptcy option.

I think the solution is to account for the risk of the loan up front like we do with other loans. This probably means removing or decreasing the government's role in issuing these types of loans. Eventually, I could see colleges sharing the default risk with a private bank. Colleges who don't think their education is worth much would be less likely to participate in such a program, but that probably isn't a bad thing.

make them dischargeable by bankrupcty after 5 or 10 years.

or just make them dischargeable by bankrupcty and let the market price in the default rate and see what happens.

it’s terrible policy & imo immoral to let people be stuck in virtual debt peonage their entire life because of loans they took out at 18.

> make them dischargeable by bankrupcty and let the market price in the default rate and see what happens.

These loans aren't coming from the market. If students had to go to a private bank and make a case about why they were a good investment, student loans would look a lot different--to say nothing about college in general.

aren’t many of them? i remember my wells fargo atm always trying to get me interested in a student loan...

Banks used to be able to loan you money but have it guaranteed by the government. I think that ended in 2010.

Wells Fargo does offer a type of student loan, but it looks like you have to have someone cosign it with you (probably your parents).

Back in the 90s over 90% of student loans were Federal. I'm not sure what the percentage is now.

I feel like the only replacement for bankruptcy that works for people coming out of college with few assets is to require any unbankruptable (Is there a real word for this concept?) loan to have a minimum income required for repayment, meaning that if you come out of college unemployed or fail out you have a safety buffer between unemployment and destitution that you won't want to enter intentionally. Similar to the UK system, not that the UK system is currently doing any good.

Imo, one solution would be for high schools to encourage students to work for 3 years doing unskilled labor until they make enough money to pay for 3 years of college. Then for the 4th year they can get a part time job in their field and maybe extend their degree one more year. In the end they will be entering the professional workforce a few years later, but that isn't so bad and may help them mature.

This is patently ridiculous. Many people going to school also can't live at home with mom and dad or at least can't live off mom and dad.

3 years of unskilled labor will leave a lot with just enough to support themselves while the cost of education managed to go up in those 3 years more than inflation. Meanwhile you missed out on years of good earnings at your chosen profession.

Working your way through school has become somewhat laughable. Your advice would leave the majority of people much poorer for following it.

This is just fundamentally a waste of time and talent.

If you have the time to work enough to pay for 3 years of college in high school and still perform well in the school itself and jump through all the hoops required to get into that prestigious school you always wanted with a plethora of extracurriculars you aren't learning jack in high school anyway and are probably doing severe harm to yourself working so many hours of the day.

Education in general is messed up, mostly because years 5-18 are almost exclusively a black hole of nothing for most people where you go to learn to read, write, and do arithmetic. Which most people will do by age 8. Then there's a decade of Shakespeare, algebra, and dissecting frogs which plenty of people use in their daily lives and that plenty of employers eagerly need more of in the workforce.

As I understand it, subsidized loans mean that the government will pay your interest for awhile. Unsubsidized Federal Student Loans are still loans from the government, but you have to start paying interest right away.

As far as I can tell, a combination of different loan programs the government will loan any amount of money toward the cost of college with the only "limit" being for undergraduates. Your parents have to take out the loan for an amount in excess of the $12.5k to $18k yearly undergraduate limit. Once you get to grad school you can borrow the entire amount directly. Once you get to the Plus loan program (which doesn't appear to have any limit) there is a credit check required.

There used to be a private loan program (FFEL) where the government would guarantee the loan amount, but I think that was shut down in 2010. I'm sure you can also go to a bank and just get a loan directly, but I don't know what type of special rules apply to those.

The limits I mentioned include both subsidized and unsubsidized federal loan programs. Any further amount you receive is either a private loan or PLUS. PLUS loans are made to the parent on behalf of the student, and actually were dischargeable by the parents' bankruptcy last I checked.

The graduate school limits are higher, but still exist. Med school students, for example, simply cannot fund their entire education through federal loans. The maximum period you can get through federal loans in any circumstance is around $140K, and medical school almost universally costs more than that.

Everything I've seen suggests that Plus loans will cover any cost of attendance at a college that isn't covered by other financial aid.


It is possible to discharge student loans (not just Plus loans) in bankruptcy, but you have to basically prove that you can't survive while still making the payments. I don't know if it is easier to discharge the Plus loans or if they all require the same level of hardship.

Sure, but PLUS loans (for undergraduates) are obligations of the parent, not the student. The parent must agree to take out the loan and the parent signs the MPN.

The parent can, of course, take out unlimited amounts of money if their credit qualifies them to, just like they could by going to the bank themselves and asking for a loan.

Bank bailout was not done out of kindness towards banks. It was done to save the economy from free fall. Infact some banks like JPM were forced to accept bail out even though they didn't want or need a bailout.

Yes, student loans are a disaster in this country, but of all things.. nursing is used as the example here?

Nursing is one of the easier ways to get value out of an education. A fresh graduate with a 4 year BSN can make ~70K to start, and nearly every major metro has an affordable community college nursing program. This isn't underwater basket weaving here, this is a very marketable skill that requires a fairly low cost (compared to many fields) amount of schooling.

The article also states the program is in fact successful at getting people to repay loans, and that people truly unable to pay simply had to enter into a payment arrangement to get their licenses reinstated. This sounds more like people flat out not paying their loans, more than being unable to because of a predatory student loan culture. It's the exact same thing they do to child support non-payers in most states, and it works because the reality is rarely true inability to pay - and when it is, the states are generally sane about it and have programs to accommodate. Pitchforks are coming out way too fast about this, I think.

South Dakota is kind of crazy when it comes to this. They cross references people who hold SD drivers licenses with student loan debt databases and buys up the debt. If people fall behind at all, they get a letter warning them that their license will be suspended in 30 days unless they pay up.

South Dakota is a very rural state. There are no metros like NYC, SF, or Seattle where you can rely on public transit to get around.


From the article, it sounds as if records are pretty informally kept in most cases, if at all. I’d be interested in how this breaks down across gender lines. When I think of (jobs requiring licensure) INTERSECTION (jobs that don’t pay enough to pay down student loans), I come up with non-doctorate level healing/helping professions, like nursing, social work, and education, all of which are predominantly female.

This is another example of society putting morality above practical considerations. The result is cutting our nose off to spite our face. The moral calculus is: people who welch on their debts are cheating. Cheaters must be punished. The most effective way to punish someone who hasn't actually committed a crime is to strip them of their "privilege" to work. The net result is to make it even harder for them to pay their debt, which nobody actually wants.

This is not an isolated example. Another is the way in which "cheating" is discouraged in school. If one kids convinces another kid to do their homework for them, that's called cheating and it's punished. But in fact the ability to persuade other people to work for you and negotiate a deal where both sides feel like they've come out ahead is one of the most valuable skills a person can develop. What the education system calls "cheating" is often budding entrepreneurship, and it really ought to be encouraged. But it isn't.

If society put its morals in front of its face they would abolish bankruptcy and let people drown in debt.

Society doesn't because those writing the rules like having bankruptcy protection. But at the same time, the electorate dictating laws is also way past college age, but also wants their kids to be guaranteed to go to school (and if student loans weren't protected there would be dramatically less money for kids to go into lifelong debt with). If they are in debt for the rest of their lives... thats their problem, but I'll be damned if my kids are not going to college!

I’m surprised how little attention is given to the fact that things like this are a side effect of a car-based society. If you don’t build a world where people depend on their cars to do absolutely anything or to economically function, restricting their freedom isn’t nearly as easy.

I mean, to the residents of most European towns and cities, this statement sounds absurd. So you took away my driving licence: so what?

Trick is the residents of those European towns and cities are going to school for free or nearly no cost that they can pay for in real time, don't have to declare bankruptcy if they break a bone a month out of college, and don't need to invest in a car to be able to go anywhere.

I really feel the future is in Europe. The winners of American capitalism might be burning a great fire, but it has no kindle to last. Most of Europe burns calmer but more sustainably, at learn in terms of having an educated and skilled population that isn't endemically mentally ill or drug addicted from all the abuses of their society.

Don’t forget that states are also revoking professionsl licensee. Not just drivers licenses.

Whether it's about a student loan or some other kind ow loan, how exactly are people supposed to pay with their professional licenses suspended? Isn't this policy purely nonsensical? Doesn't suspending such a license in such a case mean preventing the person from ever repaying the debt actually? Isn't it in the best interests of a creditor to help their debtors earn money rather than to prevent them from earning?

The idea is to set an example. You basically write off this debtor, in the interest of encouraging your other million debtors to think before defaulting on their loans.

Thanks. This way it makes at least some sense. But isn't it a way too brutal and still a way irrational from the society point of view? Effectively ridding a skilled person of a life, setting them broke and probably homeless as the result at the same time while funding other peoples welfare and undertaking all kinds of efforts to solve homelessness and joblessness problems on the other hand?

The article states that those with inability to pay were able to get their licenses back by entering into a payment arrangement. This is targeted at negligent non-payers, not people unable to pay.

The dismal quality of state government is a damning indictment of federalism. Any idiot would realize that blocking someone’s professional license is a completely counter productive way to collect on a debt. It’s no comfort to realize that the same people who make laws like this also craft laws regulating key aspects of our economy, from zoning and construction to policing.

I would call this as yet another consequence of not having free education.

I would call it a consequence of supply management. Once you get past the headline, you soon see this has nothing to do with education at all. Rather, these professions have created a regulatory environment where only those who buy into it are allowed to participate. This artificially limits the supply of workers to artificially inflate incomes. If the 'quota' was freely accessible to anyone then the whole reason for the supply management would be lost altogether.

So not having student dept would not help these people, is that what you are saying?

More or less. If schooling (education truly is free already) was hypothetically free and accessible to all, then the professional bodies would simply move the fees away from the school system entirely. The debt would remain, just as it already does in professional organizations who aren't tied to the school system (taxi medallions, for example). You're not really any further ahead as it relates to this topic. The regulatory body wants their money, and if you don't pay up they will happily give the spot to someone else.

This is not exclusive of the issue of thread parent.

Regulatory licensing hurdles AND education both have major issues.

I see no issue with the education system. You can learn anything you want on demand, for what is basically no cost whatsoever (other than your time and minor incidentals), with virtually no barrier to entry.

The credentialing and licensing process is horribly broken, but only related to education to the extent that we have decided to sometimes link them together. There is no intrinsic relationship between them.

> I see no issue with the education system. You can learn anything you want on demand, for what is basically no cost whatsoever (other than your time and minor incidentals), with virtually no barrier to entry.

are you referring to the internet as "the education system"?

Even just living life provides a constant education, if you are willing to accept it. You can gain an education at school, but school is not equivalent to education.

LOL. No issues with the education system. Cool. I'm just going to start practicing medicine tomorrow. I'll just Google everything. No need to pay 150k for med school. Random internet person said there's no problems with that.

> I'm just going to start practicing medicine tomorrow.

The broken licensing system is going to get in your way of practicing medicine, but what issues does med education have? They are not the same thing.

I find absolutely ridiculous that a license can be taken away because of not having money.

It is unbelievable.

In North Dakota's defense, the law here was probably put into place when the Bank of North Dakota was doing the majority of loans (SLND). It was really, really hard to default since you could get a deferment with a phone call or change your payment amount the same way. I had about 5 years (various lengths over the loan) where I didn't pay on my student loans because my take home was too low.

I don't know what the situation is now but SLND was really, really easy to get to something that was acceptable.

[edit] hold the heck up: The section of the North Dakota Century Code these websites are quoting is 28-25-11 which has the title "28-25-11. Property applied - Wages exempt - Suspension of recreational licenses for nonpayment of defaulted state guaranteed student loans." - note the word recreational www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/t28c25.pdf - no hunting for you - The court may withhold or suspend any certificate, permit, or license issued by lottery, tag, electronically, or over the counter by the director of the game and fish department which the judgment debtor is required to obtain before engaging in a recreational activity.

I live in Texas (DFW). I pay close to 10k a year to the school district. They spent over 2 million dollars on my sons high school this summer to replace the grass on the football field with artificial turf. They also destroyed what looked like a brand new baseball field to replace it with a brand new baseball field. Across the street at the middle school they also replaced the grass with artificial turf for the grade 6-8 kids. The football field is of the same caliber as the Dallas Cowboys use.

My son told me a couple of days ago that the PC's in his computer lab are complete garbage and barely work (I bought him an Mac Airbook for his birthday) so he uses his own laptop. He says the lab equipment(physics, Chemistry, Biology) is also marginal. The ignorant fools in my district just passed a Bond Election for like 300 million dollars for God only knows what. My taxes went up by about $500 bucks to the school district.

It now almost costs the same amount to send one kid to High School as it does to send the other kid to UoT (Dallas). Where does it end? I don't know.

I live in the same area and agree with your complaints.

You may have already accounted for this in your $10k figure, but keep in mind that because property taxes are pretty much the only funding for school districts in Texas a percentage of rich school district's budgets are recaptured for redistribution among poor school districts. I paid $3300 for the school district portion of my property taxes this year, and about $800 goes to the state (which I don't have a problem with for the record).

I address some of your specific concerns below, but here's a tip: be loud and be involved. At a lot of districts, especially in Texas, sports facilities receive a ton of resources because the sports-obsessed parents are loud and make it clear that they vote.

But this requires civic-mindedness. You have to care a decade before your kid is in school, and continue caring a decade after, if anything's going to change. That's why sports get so many resources at some districts -- the sports -obsessed parents stay involved long before and long after their kids are out of school.

I'm not sure what to say except "welcome to democracy". (e: you might expect things would be better if education were privatized, but in reality the private schools seem even more obsessed with sports, and have their own high school version of the university amenities wars. So I'm skeptical that market mechanisms wouldn't end up behaving similarly to democratic mechanisms.)

> They spent over 2 million dollars on my sons high school this summer to replace the grass on the football field with artificial turf.

Artificial turf can be cheaper in the long run for primary use athletic fields, which get a lot of abuse and therefore require a lot of ongoing maintenance. You're trading a ~30+ year amortized cost for a single fixed cost, so the number can get pretty high while still working out in the black.

$2 million is high for a single field, though. Did it include e.g. upgrades to the stadium seating?

And I don't see why a middle school would need turf.

I tend to think the sports component of American high schools is stupid. But if it's going to exist, turf can be a cost-efficient choice. WRT the other stuff, again, see "get involved" and "be loud".

> The ignorant fools in my district just passed a Bond Election for like 300 million dollars for God only knows what

This is generally public information. 300 million sounds like district-wide significant building upgrades. These things usually mix "invisible but important" stuff (routers, HVAC upgrades, etc.) with "visible, high impact" stuff. I'd be surprised if those science and computer labs aren't included?

> It now almost costs the same amount to send one kid to High School as it does to send the other kid to UoT (Dallas).

Frankly, if you step back for a second, you'd expect K12 education to be more expensive than college. In one case you're lecturing to huge rooms of adults, in the other you're teaching small classes. But that's a whole different conversation...

While not directly related, Bryan Caplan of George Mason University argues that pushing everyone to college doesn't make sense and most of what's learned in school is a waste of time from the job market perspective. The degree is about signaling how competent someone is instead of the useful skills and knowledge obtained via education.

The link to the podcast from 2014 better represents this nuanced argument.


His book on the topic will be released in January 2018 https://www.amazon.com/Case-against-Education-System-Waste/d...

I'm not sure what california's policy is but I have licensed work with 5 defaulted school loans, and nothing has happened in 5 years

Isn’t this what garnishment is for? Garnish their wages if necessary why revoke the ability to work

There's garnishment limits. Since they have to leave you with at least 30 hours worth of minimum-wage earnings per week, a lot of people who can't afford their loans are effectively un-garnishable.

I believe that legal barriers restricting qualified people's working rights are the next big thing ought to be abolished after slavery has been. Hopefully in future every person that actually can and wants to do a job will be legally allowed to apply, no matter what.

It seems like having a license to work is more about barriers than making things safer.

So... Don't get student loans, but if you do, don't borrow an amount your career wont pay for?

Modern day debtors' prison.

The two photos in that article tell two different stories. I wonder why.

what is the difference, and why is the difference noteworthy such that you wonder about it?

One is set in a spare hospital corridor. Its subject wears scrubs and a woebegone expression. The sense is one of desperation - of at best a forlorn hope, if not of hopelessness outright. It is in every respect commensurate with the textual depiction of the subject as someone struggling nobly under an unjustly imposed burden.

The other is lush, full of color and interest and expensive appointments: fine curtains, musical instruments, a leather sofa. Its subject wears a stylish outfit and a look that lies somewhere between a smirk and a sneer. One need not read a subtext of entitlement into the image. Entitlement is the whole of its text.

Yet these photographs depict two people whose situations the article they accompany would have us regard as effectively parallel. It's an odd juxtaposition, and one whose origin in mere happenstance would surprise me greatly of so consummately professional an A-list blog as this.

The cliché is that a picture is worth a thousand words. These two pictures are worth two very different thousands of words. Such things do happen by accident, but not, I think, at the New York Times. So I'm curious about the purpose that underlay their selection.

This is the most odd post I've read in quite a while.

I was going to reply defending the subject of the article -- a middle-class person with hobbies and a home who fell on some temporary bad luck and was pounded into the ground by an objectively bad confluence of policies. But then I realized you think blue and red pigments are symbols of extravagance, and even in 1905 I'd be pretty lost on how to reply to that...?

No, I don't. I wonder why one person is made to look like she's living an extravagant lifestyle, and the other just this side of privation. I'm not a professional photographer, just an amateur - and if I did that, I wouldn't have done it by accident. I see no reason to imagine a professional would do it by accident, either. You don't take just one photo and call it good, after all. You take a lot of them, and then you sort through them to choose the ones you publish. The question I'm asking is: why choose these?

I think I'm seeing a deliberate attempt to manipulate the reader's sympathies, is what I'm saying. I don't understand what purpose that would serve, but I think it must have been done to serve some purpose, and so I wonder what purpose that was.

I see.

I think you're reading too much into it.

i don't see what you see, so i can only attribute your interpretation to your biases/assumptions/worldview.

aside from wondering at motives, perhaps you should also wonder why your interpretations are what they are.

What do you see?

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