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America Lets Too Much Young Talent Go to Waste (bloomberg.com)
196 points by pseudolus on Feb 6, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 254 comments

I have a saying when my peers compare themselves to the Zuckerbergs and Gates and Musks of the world: How many hundreds of thousands of dollars did your parents spend on your education? Because you have to realize that is who you are competing with.

I went to a VERY RURAL high school. We had 3 math classes that everyone went through... none of them college level. My math class decided it was funny to rip up the floor tiles and smash them against the blackboard when the teacher's back was turned. Kids would just not do the homework and they would pass them so they didn't have to deal with them for another year.

No AP classes, no test prep to speak of. Top of the class were just the obedient kids who did the 7th-grade level homework assignments. We had a small band and it was tight-knit and fun.

I get really down on myself because I'm so far away from what I actually want to be. But did I actually have a chance? Yeah. But a small one. Much smaller than a lot of other people. And now the kind of jobs I can get are... fine I guess. Not great, just fine. I'm almost 30 and now I need to learn a ton of mathematics my peers have known for a decade.

I ended up going to whatever Chicago college would take me at an affordable rate ( DePaul ). College was hard. I worked 40 hours a week and went to night classes. I struggled through the "easy" classes and SCRAPED past on the hard classes.

Still, my early education wasn't SO BAD. At least I didn't have to worry about violence or a gang trying to draft me.

I have a crazy idea around this: End high school sooner.

Let the kids leave sophomore year, or even earlier. Let them go to trade schools.

For most of the country, school is just child jail. Why are we forcing students who WANT TO LEARN AND IMPROVE deal with students who do not want to be there, and are going to end up working at a tire plant anyway?

"But but but.. the education!" They are not getting an education anyway. The schools do not have enough resources to teach these kids. They do not want to be there. They are torturing everyone around them because they are bored.

I finally gave up comparing myself to them. Even Jobs. It's just a waste of time and a pointless exercise to feed/starve the ego.

No one in my family has been to college. I am a first-generation American from the Bible Belt, a state that is 49th in education. I was fortunate that I loved nature, books, music, sports, computers, creative service, big ideas. This helped me find a way out of poverty, out of a life of drugs and crime surrounded by cops and judges.

I am a minority but that is not my identity. I am a man but I respect women, hoping for equality for all. Yet, above everything, I believe in a meritocracy. I was in SF last fall, realized that I don't even want to move there anymore. I am visiting NYC this month for work/fun, maybe that's where I'll want to be. Maybe though, I'll aim even higher (live by some mountains like originally planned) because SF felt like it was too one-dimensional for me. NYC looks amazing but I may just see it a place I visit when I need to instead of moving there.

I was rejected from YC once and I felt bad about it. I still love HN but I've learned that SV isn't the gatekeeper anymore, the Internet as a whole is. If I keep chugging away every day and put myself in the best position to get my ideas out into the world, I believe that the best design and marketing will always beat out a team with better engineers that lacks good design/marketing.

I have no trust fund or inheritance, just the sweat of my brow, this brain aided by computers, and the vision inside my heart.

"Fortune favors the bold"

So basically everyone from where you came from is held back by poverty and lack of education, and you believe the world is a meritocracy?

No. I believe that I need to pick my battles and I can't win them all.

Can you point out where they said they “believe the world is a meritocracy”?

I misread his post.

If you are looking for a place to move, check out Reno NV. Cost of living is fairly cheap and only a few hours away from SV & SF. Tech scene is blowing up. Tahoe is 10 minutes away.

Thanks, this is a good place to keep in mind. I loved Oregon and Montana the most out of all the Western states I've explored. I have not been to NV or Tahoe yet, but I want to soon. Heard a lot of great things.

After growing up in the Bible Belt and living in Utah for a year, I realized just how much more I value mountains over skyscrapers.

Oregon/Washington is really nice if you don't mind the rain. :) Wouldn't want to live anywhere else.

Oregon was perfect. It had it all but the biggest thing was the people. Very kind, enjoyed life, respected the environment, valued fresh/quality ingredients, not too 'busy' but still productive. It had the best parts of California and Washington without any of the stuff that annoyed me (I won't go into it because this is subjective). Plus, as a single man, I got a ton of matches on Bumble, a lot more than any other state. Made me feel very welcome.

Montana just felt WILD. Missoula had a vibe that is hard to describe. I just felt like I was at the edge of civilization but still had fast internet and a Target close by when I needed it.

>Plus, as a single man, I got a ton of matches on Bumble, a lot more than any other state. Made me feel very welcome.

Really? According to the statistics, the west coast cities have a surplus of single men, whereas the east coast cities have a surplus of single women. Of course, lots of single women in a place doesn't mean that there's a lot who will match you.

I'm in DC, the #2 metro area for surplus single women (NYC is #1), and interestingly, I do get a lot of dates, but the large majority of them are from Asia (as in born there, not just descended from there). The professional white women here all seem to want a guy from the cover of GQ who likes to go to bars and drink a lot, and I don't drink. Or they're conservative and religious. Maybe I need to move to Portland...

I'm headed up to NYC for the first time and I will find out for myself. I met a beautiful blonde woman from Melbourne while exploring SF, we were at Fisherman's Wharf and started laughing at the seals as they pushed each other into the water. She had just got stood up by some 'financial advisor' dude, so she had 2 tickets to the Aquarium. We spent a week together before going our own ways. Magic happens in big cities like SF and NYC. Yet, SF still felt like a pre-dystopia to me. NYC seems like the center of civilization now and for years to come.

The type of women you describe are not my cup of tea, I like women who love the outdoors, bookstores, and are into a mindful, peaceful way of life that challenges materialism and consumerism. They are out there, they tend to like weirdos like me because they don't want the GQ cover guy who loves to drink. I'm not much of a drinker either, even weed is not as appealing to me as it was a few years ago. I like clarity of mind and I value 'the lightness of being' more than anything external.

Portland - one of my favorite cities all around. Felt so clean, people were friendly, I felt welcome because I am a bit strange looking from the outside. Yet, 'creative weird' is cool in Oregon. Of course, 'sketchy weird' is a red flag most places in the world though.

Any tips for NYC? I'm a little intimidated but I'm gonna go anyways.

If you really like west coast cities like Portland where you can be "creative weird", I honestly don't know what you see in NYC. You're not going to fit in there at all; you need to learn to wear a black business suit and other all-black boring clothes, get involved in the financial sector, and spend all your waking hours at work. It's a fun city to visit now and then, but it's not like west coast cities at all.

The museums, history, architecture is what is calling me there. I will be there for about a week and it will probably be enough for me to last a few years at least.

More than anything, I see the next year or two as time to be nomad and explore as much of the planet as possible.

Wow, did more research on Reno and I see what you mean. It's got everything I want/need and is close to many national parks and major cities.

I love the idea of vandwelling too, so this would serve as a good central hub.

Boise, Idaho has a growing technology scene. There are many HP and Micron offshoots. Some big success stories too: Cradlepoint, Bodybuilding.com, T-Sheets (acquired by Intuit), ClearWater analytics, ClickBank, TruckStop.com, the list goes on.

A bit further of a flight to SF and Seattle, Salt lake, but also has a ton of outdoor access.

Thanks, I'll look into it. That region of the country is great because of the quiet life that is possible, the sight of the stars at night, without giving up creature comforts like fast wi-fi (which I need to feed myself!).

SLC is a great city too. I have some good friends there right now. Outdoor access is a higher priority to me than bars and clubs.

>Tech scene is blowing up.

Can you expound further on this? I keep hearing this, but it seems that the big names (Apple, Switch) just have datacenters in the area. I lived in the area from 2014 to 2016, and it seemed like not a whole lot was going on techwise. I know that the Gigafactory is therenow, but it's not really employing a lot of HN type people.

Sure. You are correct that Switch and Apple really only have data centers in the area. They employ very few skilled workers. The Gigafactory does employ a number of skilled engineers. If you are looking for SV & SF pay, you aren't going to find that, but the cost of living is not nearly as high. There are a number of old incumbents that most people don't think about. Microsoft Licensing, Intuit, Hamilton Company, IGT, Sierra Nevada Corporation (Think SpaceX), Arrow Electronics, TriNet, ITS Logistics, Server Technology, Panasonic. Then you have a lot going on with the startup scene. There is the Adams Hub for Innovation in Carson and UNR Innovation Center. Companies like cycle.io, Shortstack, Black Rock Solar, Filament, PeerIn. Marketing companies like Noble Studios, KPS3 and The Abbi Agency.

>Adams Hub for Innovation

I lived in Carson, and never in a million years did I think something like this would take off. A lot of these jobs seem more dev oriented (I'm a designer), but it's good to see more tech jobs coming to the area in general.

Shhhh keep it down man lol. I don’t want the techies to price me out

> I have a crazy idea around this: End high school sooner.

YES, YES, YES! As a teacher at a rural high school (the same one I went to and that I was blessed to have a few really good teachers and accelerated only classes with kids who wanted to be there), this is what's needed. Most these kids don't want to be here, and it's just frustrating everyone and lowering standards around the board.

I would also say that your first point leads to something else too -- kids from not-so-wealthy parents don't understand the importance of things like internships and networking; I sure as hell didn't, compared to many of my kids (at a "rich kid" college). I took my summers to go to Europe, for free on school funding, and didn't get the experience or connections I needed to go to other jobs; that's a big part of the reason why I'm teaching where I graduated from... There's a lot of stuff I wish I had done differently looking back, mostly things like that. And I can't blame my parents; they didn't really know it either -- mom was a teacher and dad worked for the family business most of my childhood. (Really, I kinda blame the school; I think they assume everyone knows it, when that's really not true at all...). That's part of where the issues lie as well...and, once you're behind, as you mention, it's harder to catch back up.

And to add to this - It only works for people if a few people are doing it.

Its a "meta" advantage that evolved after there was a stable state of people going to college and getting jobs.

Now that the economy has changed, the drop of pay power in other jobs make the well paying ones stand out - and more competitive.

IF everyone were to go to find connections, you would basically recreate the old boy networks and quid pro quo social networks of old India/China.

At least where I'm at, they already still exist. It's easy to tell who will move to superintendent of our schools, who will become principle etc. It's all a good ole boy club, even now.

I know this meme and argument is exhausted, but I also believe is true: Education in the US is broken. Everywhere.

We live in an excellent upper middle class area with excellent schools. And yet the same truth applies here as it does everywhere else in the nation: Kids graduating high school are only qualified for stacking boxes on shelves, making coffee or, maybe, applying for college. They know nothing useful and have trouble adding value above minimum wage.

Knowing this was the case I got my college-bound kid ready for the real world at various levels. He can work with his hands (woodwork, weld, manual and CNC mill, etc.) as well as his brain (programming, various MOOCs and a Nanodegree on web development).

By the time he left high school he could reach for jobs making 4x to 5x what his friends could land.

He also got an education on financial matters. He has, as a result, saved more money than many of his friends will see in five years and is getting ready to start investing some of it. All while he works on his university degrees.

Secondary education has become useless. We give our kids to these institutions until they are 18 and they come out barely ready to stack boxes in a warehouse. This is criminal. It is an incredible waste of over a decade of someone’s life.

Not sure how to solve this problem. It involved forces and interests that are hard to wrestle with.

"Let the kids leave sophomore year, or even earlier. Let them go to trade schools." Germany does this.

The U.S. has this, many Highschools have trade programs. You're still "technically" in school you spend your Junior and Senior year at a trade school and often working / making money.

Unfortunately, this is only true for places with trade schools nearby. I grew up outside of Chicago and every school had this option.

I think this is one of the reasons why people in Germany are so highly technically skilled. In India where I live (this is the same pretty much in all of Asia - r.g. China, S. Korea, Japan) students have to go through nightmarish entrance exams at the age of 17. I've often felt that students here don't have a feel for science, for us it's been just another hurdle to cross with 100 percent marks. This sense of enforced labor persists long into adulthood, and you lose a sense of enjoyment.

And that mostly locks you into a certain constrained career path.

Having being shoved down that path in the UK due to dyslexia it does have its downside lots of bright kids where sent to secondary modern schools and left at 16 to work down the pits etc.

I agree with you. It's tough for many kids to figure out where they fit in in life, and I don't think setting that fork in the road too early is necessarily a good idea. Rather, I think it would be better to expose kids to what careers exist so they are able to make that decision when the time comes.

Myself, I left high school with high marks but no direction. I went to university for computer science the next fall, not because I knew that CS was for me, but because my brother went through the same program and I didn't know what else to do. That only lasted one semester, but six years on, after working various jobs and getting a college diploma in Graphic Design, I've landed on web design and development as a career. I had no idea this kind of work existed when I was in high school.

I think Norway has a similar program. 16 year olds go to school - it can be trade school or continuing education for university prep (or both, depending). It also isn't mandatory, even though most folks go.

Can we just go ahead and split computer programming into vocational and science-based tracks while we're at it?

There are a lot of people who can or could stitch together existing libraries to accomplish results. There are a lot fewer people (than are currently participating) who have any business writing those libraries in the first place.

My hope is that if we just acknowledged the difference in these two problem domains we might get more quality over quantity in the places where it really matters.

Sweden does this. You can either go to university and get a Computer Science or Computer Engineering degree in 3-5 years or go to vocational school and get a programming diploma in 1-2 years.

We already do. Its called junior web development. Which most of the time just involves installing wordpress plugins.

The college I went to in Eastern Canada does this, I'm employed after a two year diploma based program, rather than a 4 year CS degree

Yes. Unfortunately trade school looks more and more like regular high school these days and apprenticeships in many trades is I low supply. :-(

Do you think there's a way we could run apprenticeships that makes them more attractive to adults seeking to retrain?

I wonder sometimes how much of the problem with switching careers comes down to the usual scapegoat - lack of humility - and how much of it comes instead from infantilizing the students.

If we're going to keep moving the workforce around every 15 years then we need a way for someone^W most people to comfortably have 3-4 fairly distinct careers in their lifetime.

Worked construction when I was younger. If you're in the electrical Union, you'll easily make 60k per year (even in southern States where average family incomes are often under 40k). After a few years, making over 100k is very possible. In addition, the benefits and retirement are very good.

But you'll be putting in 50-60 hour weeks in the cold and heat. On the bright side, the work isn't as physically demanding as some other jobs.

I've pitched the idea to a bunch of friends who seem to have an aptitude. They'd all rather with as delivery boys, waiters, or whatever low end job. They don't want a "dirty job". They want to hold out for an easy money desk job. Screw working in the cold, I'll just stick with my $7.25/he job.

Australia does this too, at least in the ACT. It’s fantastic.

Looking back at my education,

Precalc and English were me 2 most useful classes.

"Science" "engineering" and "history" were actually useless. If you were going to get further education, college science eclipses HS science in 1 semester. My Engineering class was the most absurd, it wasn't engineering. History was basically propaganda.

High school needs to end sooner. AP classes are the sign of this.

For a long time I have had the opinion that science classes are really history classes and not conducive to actually performing science, unless the students are really paying attention AND highly motivated.

Here is a thing someone discovered at one point in time. Here is the conclusion. Now do this experiment. You didn't get the right answer? Do it again until you do. Or make up an answer that you think is right enough that you'll get credit. Sure, some people probably figure out what you're supposed to be learning, but I suspect most people just figure out that you should listen to authority and parrot what they expect you to say.

I was in the circle of friends that contained our high school valedictorian. She gave her real commencement speech in the lunch room, to us, because she wanted to say things fairly close to what you just did, and the school wasn't having it.

The problem is, you have no idea what you will pursue after HS. I didn't have any interest in history in HS. I ended up getting a BA in history in college because I fell in love with it. I never would have guessed I'd end up there while in HS, but in retrospect I'm grateful for the history classes I had to take.

Yep! I changed my major three (or was it four?) times, and my minor countless others. I wanted to learn it all, and, 5 years later still don't really know what I'm super interested in and want to do as a career (actually, I do, but I don't want to enter academia with its current model).

Which suggests that college is a better place to suss out an academic field you love or value than high school.

(I take the point, though -- I briefly taught HS math and one of my responses to the perennial "when are we going to use this" question was "most of you have no idea all the things you'll need or want to do yet, and we want to open doors for you.")

> I didn't have any interest in history in HS.

I blame your teachers.

Well, parents certainly come in ahead of teachers for failing to encourage interest in history. It's not just teachers that have to magically light the spark.

My message to my younger self re: high school would be to ignore all of the "advanced"/"college-track" classes and take all of the shop, welding, automotive repair, and drafting classes.

There's a host of skills I'd love to have now, don't have the time/energy to learn now, and could have acquired very easily in my rural high school, instead of taking a calculus class I'd already learned on my own the year before, because it was the highest-level math class offered and the one that all the "smart" people were taking.

What do you feel made your history course propaganda?

Looking back at my Canadian (BC) high school history curriculum, it was well-sourced and written, but I think it could have been structured in such a way to encourage youth to understand modern politics better.

The curriculum doesn't have to be a problem, if the teacher wants to bias the lesson. For example looking back at it my history teacher, whom on the whole was one of my favorite teachers, was super pro-Israel. However I didn't realize this until years later and as result I was probably in my mid 20s before I started to get even a slightly nuanced picture of the whole situation in the Middle East.

Now there was nothing in the curriculum that said "Students must learn that Israel can do no wrong" it was just the way he chose to bias his presentation.

Where did you go to school? Mine (Victoria - Social Studies) was a joke. Literally the same Canadian history lessons over and over, they didn't even get into anything recent, nothing past the second world war.

Victoria as well!

I agree that the Canadian history post-1945 wasn’t emphasized enough; it should have been the center-focus. I had a good teacher in the eleventh grade that vocationally extended the curriculum to include things like economic and social issues, but they were a rare one. Honestly, if they spent as much time on The Quiet Revolution or Western Alienation as WWI, I think young British Columbians would be much better off.

In Nova Scotia, surprisingly our Canadian History classes did focus mainly on post-1945 Canada in the later years of our education (Highschool).

Pre-highschool Canadian history was extensively focused on pre-1945 events and pretty focused around Eastern/Acadian history

I definitely don't blame my gr.11 teacher, he was an awesome, abet very strange dude. I don't know when you graded, but the curriculum that I had was bad. At least they could have gone into what the BNA acts meant.

Your idea about ending school sooner is spot on. My wife has almost 2 decades experience teaching High School English. Your Junior & Senior years are fluff - they're not tracked with standardized testing of any sort in those last two years (at least in Washington State) and you've met all of the content requirements needed to graduate (just not the credit count). That's why running start exists - you're already "done" with your public education content by the time you've hit year 10 - go ahead and get your "credits" at local college/community college and get both the HS diploma and AA degree.

I'm pretty sure you can take the GED before you're 18. You can likely enroll at a community college if you've done that. It's what I considered doing when I was 16, and now, a good long while later, wish I had. All the last couple years did was make me more discouraged and lazy. First ~3 semesters at No-Name State University were just a repeat of material from 7th(!) to about December of 12th grade, could have been working on that for college credit much earlier. Pointless. Could have had a better "story" to sell myself to a a nicer school, more time working the tech job I already had in high school and making money, and a bunch of college credit (transferable or not, at least I'd have it) to my name by age 18.

Bonus: once I went to college I found that 15hrs of 100-200 level college courses took up one hell of a lot less of my time than high school plus the ~2.5-3hrs of homework they assigned a night (I understand that part's even worse these days—what a joke). Like, under half as much. Waste of a couple good years. I'd strongly recommend giving that plan consideration, to anyone who thinks they can pass the GED and is having anything other than an outstanding time in high school.

You're correct but GED is definitely not an advertised option for current hs students. There's a lot of 'tricks' which can be unlocked just by being in the know. Unfortunately, that predominantly favors middle class +

On the one hand, if I could turn back time, I would like to have done that myself from a money perspective. On the other hand, that would mean that I never would have met my wife, which is something I wouldn't give up for anything.

I'm not sure if this is true in your wife's school, but in my high school junior and senior year was when people loaded up on AP courses that would supposedly get them out of introductory math/science/writing in college.

I think that's what GP is saying. AP classes are supposed to be college level work. If high school ended after sophomore year, you could just actually just start your college education. It doesn't hurt AP kids at all, in fact it probably helps them immensely. It also helps the kids who don't want to be in school. These kids are likely taking fluff classes. The area that it hurts are the kids who aren't quite AP kids but want to learn. Some type of college prep would need to replace those last two years.

There's a cumulative effect too, in some cases. I took AP and "dual credit" classes in high school (and the local university) that got me out of some of freshman required classes. Near the end of my undergrad program, I had time in my schedule to take graduate-level classes.

11th and 12th grades should be for community college and starting to work. That is what kids will be doing!

We’re about the same age.

I agree with most of your statements.

Success is not only determined by how much parents spend on education, though. It’s a lot harder to start a Facebook or Apple in 2019 than it was in 1980 or 2004. Or to start a Snapchat or Twitter than it was in 2009.

That isn’t to say all the good ideas have been taken. Technology is just much more mature than it was in the early 2000s. Many of the ideas (which seem obvious now) have already been fulfilled by dominant, established players. I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks at someone like Dell and says “crap, if I was 20 years older, I could have definitely done something like that.”. Nope. Wishful thinking.

I was always a top-scoring test taker but I actually don’t like complex mental work that much. I wish “trade” jobs paid more, because honestly, it sounds much more relaxing to do electrician type work or mechanical work than sit and stare at a computer all day.

...an option for this is online high school usually run by K12.com. Usually it is your state curriculum but you can accelerate it. Our kids are both going through it. First one started college courses 2nd year, second one will start her freshman year. Suggest picking the cheapest "state school" town and moving close by. It works until it doesn't. Georgia modified the laws last year to limit number of yearly college credits. Alabama offers something similar. Can still take close to a full load though. Good luck. In Georgia, look for the Georgia Cyber Academy gca.k12.com, it is an online charter school. Your other choices are expensive housing in the suburbs (good public schools) or private school.

Competition to be the best is a zero sum game. But education isn’t. You speak of life before internet, youtube, wikipedia, github, bigquery. Things aren’t so bleak.

Competition to be the best is a zero sum game.

Of course it's not. Almost everything you own is better because the people who made it were trying to outcompete some other people.

I commented further down, but this is already the case.

The U.S. has this, many high schools have trade programs. You're still "technically" in school you spend your junior and senior year at a trade school and often working / making money (some as early as sophomore year)

Unfortunately, this is only true for places with trade schools nearby. I grew up outside of Chicago and every school had this option.

My school had this, a "trade school" that was basically day care for the kids who didn't care. Problem is they had a 10-1 student-teacher ratio while the handful of AP classes the regular high school offered were closer to 50-1.

None of these guys are really all the accomplished as programmers though. Sure smart guys, but Microsoft bought DOS. Zuckerberg was far away from programming by the time that facebook was actually making money, and Musk didn't actually build any of the products he's famous for (Rockets, electric cars, or paypal).

Gates was a pretty accomplished coder. He famously wrote the bootloader for his Basic interpreter by hand on the plane trip to Altair. Microsoft bought DOS out of expedience, not because they were incapable of developing it on their own.

Bill Gates also made some waves in the academic world when he came up with what was at the time the most efficient implementation of pancake sort [1]

[1] https://people.eecs.berkeley.edu/~christos/papers/Bounds%20F...

Yeah, that was Paul Allen not Gates, and he wrote the bootloader on the plane. The interpreter was already finished.

Only full on Gates program I've ever heard of is Donkey.bas

Donkey.bas was most likely written as an educational exercise, although IBM ordered it. Microseft needed to show people how to code with their interpreters and compulers too, so Donkey.bas is not that sophisticated.

Gates was responsible for writing the first Altair Microsoft BASIC interpreter, except the bootloader, the software for the Kyotronic clones (designed in collaboration with Kay Nishi and licenced to Kyocera, Tandy and others).

Gates also had ample experience in programming minicomputers such as DEC PDP series together with Paul Allen.

You can read all about it in all the Bill Gates biographies out there.

Not to take away from your overall point, but "almost 30" isn't old. You still have time to learn everything you want in order to get involved with really interesting projects / jobs. But don't waste your time wallowing and start dedicating time each day / week now to filling your gaps.

Indeed. Thirty feels old ... when you're 30. Get another decade or two under your belt, and you'll look back and realize you had so much time.

Looking at the problem another way, we could just fund education properly and provide a better social safety net.

I also went to a "decent but not great" public school and saw similar behavior. Teachers were underpaid and overworked, and are basically just baby sitters with a lip service to actual teaching. Most of the kids went wild because their home life was so bad and had no rules once they left schools. This is because their parents were working poor, often working two jobs and with no time to properly raise kids. Or trapped in a cycle of poverty that causes all sorts of other home issues.

Most of these problems begin at the home and then cash strapped school systems have to deal with the consequences. Schools have become "child jails" because of broader societal problems.

The other big problem I see with these "cash strapped school systems" is that they're all locally-run, and mostly locally-funded. So poor counties have poor and crappy school systems; there's no higher level of government making and enforcing standards to any serious degree.

You don't see this at the college level because state universities are run at the state level (and are also funded in an entirely different way, but they do receive state tax funds for in-state students to my knowledge).

I grew up in one of the richest counties in the U.S. and the teachers were just as underpaid and overworked, the added money the schools got was spent on useless tech like putting smartboards in every classroom.

I had a friend in college who grew up in an even richer neighborhood, and his school inflated GPAs to the point where most top-tier schools threw away their applications.

Not saying you're wrong, but lack of money isn't the only issue in the public education system in America.

In some ways, it doesn't really matter how much we throw at the schools because they are expected to solve for very large societal problems such as the massive inequality that exists in this country.

In the US at least, schools bear the brunt of consequence of the lack of social safety nets. They are expected to not only teach but also raise kids that have no real parents (who are either working two jobs or the victims of a life time of poverty themselves)

If we want to improve education, we need to take a broader look at inequality and the cycles of poverty that feed into each other.

> Looking at the problem another way, we could just fund education properly and provide a better social safety net.

You missed the point. More funding won't help if you're placed with kids that do not want to learn. A perfectly reasonable solution is exactly like OP said, separate out at sophomore year the people who GAF. Germany does this, it works well, and it doesn't cost a fortune to try to give students a Stanford level education who just want to do nothing.

> More funding won't help if you're placed with kids that do not want to learn.

There is very little kids inherently want more than to learn—if they've learned not to want to learn, either in general or in the particular venue of the school system, that's a failing of the school system or society more generally that needs to stop happening, rather than writing off those who have been failed.

Kids don't want to learn because they see no benefit in learning due to a cycle of poverty, a complete mess of a home life and parents that are probably uneducated as well. They have also been indoctrinated from an early age that "school isn't for them". It starts way younger than high school. Dropouts actually start dropping our during middle school or even earlier. If you think that kids tune out at 17 because they are bored, you are missing a lot to the debate here.

While I agree that alternative programs should be available, it's a bit silly to chalk up most educational problems to "kids don't want to learn".

Germany doesn't have the scale of inequality the US has and shouldn't be compared strongly to our situation. We have bigger fish to fry.

Totally agree. Reduce school time. Let them train on the job. Education should be over by 14 or 15. Then learn to do a job or specific profession. By 21 they should be proficient in their jobs. It is better than going to college.

Why do you assume Zuckerberg had/has strong math skills outside of your grasp?

Your suggestion is an option, it's just not the path of least resistance. You can get your GED early (or graduate traditional high school early) and then go to college.

> I have a crazy idea around this: End high school sooner.

I have an even crazier idea: subsidize education so much that every school is as good as the ones Zuckerberg and Gates attended.

Other than healthcare and law enforcement, everything else can be 100% privatized.

> subsidize education so much that every school is as good as the ones Zuckerberg and Gates attended.

You won't get that. The truth is that parental involvement is at least if not more important than the sort of school they go to.

I would guess that if Zuckerberg and Gates had been forced to go to public school, they still would have done well due to parental involvement. On the other hand, if you took a child in a single parent home in which the parent works 2 jobs and struggles to pay bills and put them in the same school that Zuckerberg and Gates attended, I would bet that they would do worse than hypothetical Zuckerberg or Gates at a crappy school.

Part of the reason why private schools score higher is that they select for parents who 1) Care about education and 2) Are well off enough economically to afford it. You put a bunch of students like that together and in aggregate they are going to do well. On the other hand, if you have a school (with mandatory attendance) where a large portion of the students live in struggling households where concern for education is behind putting food on the table and a roof over head, the school is going to struggle, even if you had the best teachers in the world with a vast amount of teaching resources.

This point gets brought up a lot, but it's focused on individual situations; peers influence kids as much as parents, if not moreso (especially when the single parent works multiple jobs).

If the preponderance of a community doesn't value education enough, or can't at least take the time to act on feedback from teachers about how their kids are doing, then you're just going to end up with a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure. On the one hand, you've got kids being made fun of for "acting white" when they try hard, and parents laying into teachers for daring to criticize their children who are acting out.

Money can't fix any of that, and it matters a whole hell of a lot less than parents who at least put in some effort. My best friend- who I first met in college- grew up in near-abject poverty, raised by a single parent who worked a lot. His parent made sure to drill into him the importance of trying hard in school, and what the other kids he tried to emulate were doing wrong (even to the point of having him join a hockey team instead of a basketball team to break him of living up- or rather down- to stereotypes).

    > The truth is that parental involvement is at least if not more important than the sort of school they go to.
Sure, home-life makes a big difference, but there's a lot of kids for whom a solid education at a non-dysfunctional school would do wonders.

It doesn't even have to be private-school mastery-based education with a 6-1 student/teacher ratio to make a significant difference, nor do we need to use Zuckerberg/Gates or other unicorns as the role models here.

What would it take to reverse the downward spiral in public education? Teachers who are paid a decent wage and aren't overwhelmed with 40-1 or higher ratios, crumbling infrastructure and insane administrations. That's totally doable-- if our culture is worth a damn.

Well. I think a good school would provide a lot of resources. Sure some parents, especially the wealthy will provide those when they can but they may not even know about opportunities out there.

Some private schools offer scholarships and those have been shown to significantly help less well to do kids succeed. I think there's a private school in Oakland that does this.

I think, as a first order of business, we should have our schools providing 3 meals a day to the kids. That will help things tremendously.

I agree about parental involvement. My brother and I both went to a good (public) high school, but I attribute much of our intellectual curiosity to parents who 1) read a ton 2) read to us a ton 3) had books/newspapers/magazines around all the time. That was nurtured in us during high school and college, but was created well before then.

I'm willling to bet real money that Mark Zuckerberg's and Bill Gates' parents also went to great schools...

You shouldn't make that bet. Zuckerberg's parents didn't attend Philips Exeter. Zuckerberg himself only transferred in.

But to the spirit of your point: yes, he did grow up in a household with two highly educated parents.

Or like, federal funding for public schools instead of this property tax funding which basically means the only good public schools are in affluent areas.

Privatization ruins lots more than just healthcare and law enforcement.

One of the (many) reasons education funding is local is that the economics and requirements of education vary immensely with locale, and local funding and policy adapt to that reality. I've gone to extremely rural schools (it covered three counties and my class still only had ten kids), sketchy urban schools that were mostly non-white, and wealthy suburban schools. These all had wildly different economics and requirements that reflected their unique needs, constraints, and student populations. Some parts of the US deliver a high-quality education for very little money.

Of course, I went to school long enough ago that the individual schools had almost unlimited latitude to tailor the schools to local conditions and needs. The forced homogenization of how schools are operated over the intervening decades is at least partly responsible for the rapid increase in operating costs without any improvements in educational results.

So... It costs proportionally more to educate rich parents' kids? Why? Do they need to sit in Eames chairs to pay attention?

All the workers (teachers, bus drivers, janitors...) have to pay more for housing or commuting, so yes.

In my mid-sized Midwestern city, the worst schools pay their teachers the best by a long shot. The best schools pay at or under average.

They still have trouble finding teachers. Probably due to all the lock-downs due to credible threats of violence, being cursed at and threatened by 7-year-olds on a regular basis, that kind of thing.

Send those kids out of their neighborhoods ? Mandatory school desegregation should be the norm.

IIRC you're right, and bussing's one of the only actually-effective tools we've found for solving this problem—but it's also an incredibly-unpopular policy among a pretty large set of the population. Like, get-people-out-in-the-streets-rioting unpopular, if you kept at it.

For racist reasons, yes, but also because home prices have become a proxy filter for schools (filtering for kids whose parents are able and willing to pay inflated prices to send their kids to school with other kids whose parents are able and willing to pay inflated housing prices—it's a feedback loop).

The premium's a good 20-25% around these parts for safe-neighborhood-good-schools versus safe-neighborhood-mediocre-schools, so not nothing, and the entirety of many home buyers' equity early in their mortgage. Harder to compare with neighborhoods where the schools are outright bad since the houses there are usually in much worse shape and in high-crime areas, but one must assume the effect would be far stronger still, if one could find an all-else-being-equal comparison.

Still worth doing? Maybe, but if you just tell those middle and upper-middle class folks (actually rich people unaffected, as usual) to screw off and eat a loss you're gonna have some difficulty. And that's before racism even enters the picture, which of course it would.

Some states try to redistribute a portion of the property taxes, but it typically gets seen as a piggy bank ripe for raiding to fund various pet projects of the state legislature.

California does this. Seemed like a great idea. Instead the parents in Palo Alto band together to hire teacher's aides, add art programs, build the high school a theatre, all as "donations" (voluntary property taxes -- it all comes off your tax return you know!)

The neighborhood deltas got so bad that these donations themselves are pooled and spread around Palo Alto!

So what happens if you don't donate? Do you still get to reap the benefits if you live in the school zone?

Yes you do. People pay a lot of money to get into the Palo Alto Unified School District and some can't afford to donate. But there's apparently a lot of pressure to do so (according to my GF; my kid went to private schools).

But what this means is that the kids in, say, Lodi are still getting shafted even though the whole point of spreading the money around was to try to level the school spending difference between rich and poor areas.

>that the kids in, say, Lodi are still getting shafted

So are the ones in a 200 person town in Alaska. What does proximity matter?

Because the point was to try to improve the educational opportunities for all the kids in California. California has nothing to do with school funding in Alaska.

How are the other kids "getting shafted"? They're still getting more funding thanks to the property tax revenue being spread around. Do you think they should be envious of the kids in Palo Alto who are benefitting from the extra donation money, or what? I mean, it's one thing to advocate for more funding of all sorts of underserved educational opportunities, but this rhetoric of envy and misguided entitlement is just not very appealing, even from that POV.

> They're still getting more funding thanks to the property tax revenue being spread around.

More funding relative to what? Certainly not relative to the funding Palo Alto schools are getting.

>privatization ruins lots more than just healthcare and law enforcement.

In my opinion we need more private law enforcement. Too many cops are spending too many man hours as glorified security guards and the downside is that they're expensive and we can't fire them, sue the employer or not renew the contract if they screw up.

There's no reason to have "real police" standing around at city hall or a sports event and the benefits are marginal at best. Just hire security guards. They are just as capable in those situations and have far less downsides. Same goes for directing traffic, don't waste money paying cops to do it.

This will never happen.

I went to a private high school in Westchester with a $20k/year tuition. My high school was significantly better than most. But it was still "only" good, not extraordinary.

The schools Gates and Zuckerberg attended have tuitions of $35k and $50k, respectively. They also have endowments larger than those of most universities, at $130 million and $1.2 billion respectively.

There simply isn't enough money to fulfill your proposal. Educational achievement is strongly positively correlated with wealth. Wealth attracts itself; it centralizes and consolidates around more wealth.

There are different things you could do to make most public high schools approximately as good as most private high schools. Stuyvesant is an exceptional public school in NYC; better than my own private high school, in my opinion. With significant, nontrivial socioeconomic reforms you could probably make most public high schools in NYC as good as Stuyvesant. Even achieving this would require vast amounts of money, probably more than you could convince politicians to tax.

But you'll never get every single public school in the country to empower its students with the resources available to schools like Lakeside and Philips Exeter. It's infeasible. They may as well be research universities.

> But you'll never get every single public school in the country to empower its students with the resources available to schools like Lakeside and Philips Exeter. It's infeasible. They may as well be research universities.

They'll never have the same level of resources, but I bet top public schools are already at parity when it comes to quality of education. It doesn't cost $50k/year to provide a $50k/year education - it costs $50k/year to isolate your kid among others whose parents can afford to pay $50k/year.

In my country we don't have school funding provided locally, it's a state level funding. Poor schools still do poorly, even with more funding. One of the big issues is school culture. A bright student surrounded my low SES kids isn't going to perform as well as a bright student in a high SES room

There was an experiment in the USA about a school given unlimited funding. It didn't help grades or any other metric they measures. Look up the Kansas school district experiment.

We are looking at the problem all wrong.

College Board, a for-profit private corporation, is the company responsible for administering the SAT/ACT which is essentially a college entrance exam. Its cost is non-negligible for a low income student and it can be prepared for with classes that once again have a cost that is non-negligible.

As the article states, colleges also have a profit motive and want to maximize their revenue. They are not incentivized to admit high-performing, low income students when they have a low probability of having their families donate prior to admission and just as likely have a low probability to donate after graduation. Remember that upward mobility is not just a factor of alma mater but also your network of high worth individuals that allows you to have the disposable income to donate.

So it's money all the way down. We can keep kicking the can further down the road and blame the next party. However I think it's worth stopping this issue with the employer. Outside of credit risk, the income of a potential employee is irrelevant if that individual is capable of handling the responsibilities of the position.

Yes, alma mater is a strong indicator of success and capability. However so is self-directed learning, examples of big fish in the small pond, etc. We need to further democratize free/low-cost education by investing in that infrastructure and content at the community level. Most importantly, we need to remove the stigma of not having a shiny diploma.

Employers need to also invest beyond the current employee and into communities to get these potential stars out of the vicious cycle of inequality.

> Its cost is non-negligible for a low income student

They have fee waivers for low-income students, which cover the cost of 2 SAT sittings and up to 6 subject tests. https://blog.collegeboard.org/guide-to-sat-fee-waivers

edit: Meh, in retrospect this comment was lazy and I don't feel like having it around for the rest of eternity.

"Standardized tests helped talented immigrants and minorities breach the elite’s ivy-covered bunkers."

It's a shame that you work for an education startup and you don't even bother reading the articles you are posting.

The article clearly states, that the standardized tests made things more egalitarian.

If you truly are interested in the truth and not merely trying to profit on persecuting people on ideological grounds, perhaps you might want to point to where the flaws in the tests lie, something the article fails to mention.

They claim that minority students increased representation in gifted programs after increased testing and linked to a paper.

They forgot to mention that the paper says IQ cutoffs were 130 for non-disadvantaged students vs 115 for poor/minority.

The paper then goes on to say, with lower ovjective standards, the groups pass the subjective bar at equal rates.

The subjective bar being applied by a system so motivated to achieve proportional representation they altered cutoffs.

I believe there’s a business opportunity here predicated on the idea that the SAT/ACT tests almost exclusively exist because teacher designed and administered assessments are not trustable. Create a system that supports teachers in creating, administrating and scoring trustable assessments. Have this system judge the reliability of assessment questions in a manner similar to the College Board’s internal auditing of test item quality. The outcome would be more reliable assessment results within our schools (which increases the baseline quality of that education) and allows for the benchmarking/sorting of students for higher education and employment.

The results would not be reliable immediately, but over time such a system would simultaneously refocus the billions spent on standardized testing into more productive educational endeavors while also supporting educational improvement. As a high school level teacher, standardized testing data is useless for improving my instruction and improving student outcomes. We should close the gap between these redundant assessment regimes, reduce the negative impacts associated with how we administer standardized assessments, and save school districts money.

Surely there must be some sort of test to measure applicants, though?

Higher socioeconomic classes inherently have benefits, like better informed parents, and friends who have better informed parents. This will show through any test, and it's just a fact of life since everyone isn't equal.

I don't see changing a test to be a solution. If the problem is not having well equipped parents and network, then the solution has to attack that issue. Which of course is very difficult and spans over decades as it would take generations to change.

Thats true, but there's no good way to just 'fix' it all.

However, don't make the test expensive. Basically, make it economically equal to as great a degree as possible. Some will still be disadvantaged of course, but I think at some point that's reality, the fact is everyone is not equal. If everyone is treated equal though, then at least those with value can rise themselves to the top regardless of other circumstance.

I agree with that, I think a British style system would be far more equitable than the College Board nonsense America has.

Since it does in fact have racist origins, maybe a campaign could be organized to make more aware of this? seems like the kind of thing that pretty much everyone except racists would be for, and so its just a matter of getting the word spread, once it is, outrage organically will emerge, and from that hopefully change.

Since it does in fact have racist origins

The article doesn't say that. The Army test before it seems to fit that description, but my reading says what would become the SAT was simply to keep stupid people out. The fact that the test's author thought "stupid people" would consist primarily of non-Nordic not-white-folk not withstanding, the test is what brought college admissions equality, or at least more of it, to minorities and immigrants.

seems like the kind of thing that pretty much everyone except racists would be for

Even if it were admittedly design to keep out minorities, the fact that it backfired and did the exact opposite is enough for me to support such a test. So you're calling me a racist? Can't we just have an honest discussion?

Please enlighten us on what is racist about the test. Then rational people will listen to you. Either it's scientifically correct and thus egalitarian since it'll deal with everyone objectively or it's flawed.

The test is in fact meant to discriminate between people, in a purely mathematical sense between those clever enough and those who are not.

So unless you can pinpoint where the methodology is flawed, I would recommend you to go and look up the story of "the boy who cried wolf", before running around and accusing everybody you don't agree with for hate-crime.

> seems like the kind of thing that pretty much everyone except racists would be for

Careful: labelling people, no true Scotsman style, is not a great way to push an argument. And it's clear that there is a real problem that needs to be solved (assessing students), so however poor the SAT is at doing this, you're going to have to provide something that can replace it.

College board is non profit.

> Employers need to also invest beyond the current employee and into communities to get these potential stars out of the vicious cycle of inequality.

Why bother when you have H1Bs?

Companies have no moral obligation to help the citizens over any other human being, just to deliver profit to shareholders.

So while I would like to see this happen, I don't see how it can.

I wrote about it before, but the smart poor face quite the uphill battle. Friend of mine scored a 1600 on the SAT but went to one of the worst high schools in the area. He was rejected from elite universities. He couldn’t compare to those that also scored well on the SAT, subject SATs (which our high school didn’t make clear was a thing), and those that already took calculus 1-3, linear algebra, data structures, and proof based mathematics courses from magnet schools. It isn’t just about raw intelligence and scoring highly on exams. He was behind before he started by attending our high school.

Some elite schools talk about free scholarships for those that make less than a certain income, but how many of those elite schools are admitting poor smart students? When you’re smart and attend a HS that doesn’t make you competitive, you tend to get rejected.

You don’t need to go to an elite university to make a better life. I went to community college and then a mediocre (in terms of rankings, not educational content!) state school. I was raised by a single mom. I now make roughly 7.5X what she made. My sister went to a brand-name state university in a different state on a full scholarship and is doing better than our mom, but not 7.5X better.

The idea of an elite university confuses me. None of the universities I can think of in my country are thought of as elite. They are also all very easy to get in to. For courses like computer science you basically just have to fill out a form and you will almost certainly get in.

Which country is it? If you don't mind.

Australia. I'm sure someone is about to point out the name of an elite university here but even if one exists, they are mostly unheard of and no one I know has put any effort in to applying or moved state to go to one.

Perhaps there's too much focus on the truly elite schools, and not enough on the good or very good ones. Surely it's possible to succeed by attending those?

The obsession over elite schools makes even less sense if you frame it in terms of where these people are coming from.

If you had the wherewithal to do well at a lousy high school, you'll be just as able to make something of yourself at a mid-grade university.

Elite universities are important if you want to be in the "elite" clique. If you just want to make a better life for yourself, any old university will get you pretty far. One close to home will likely be a lot more relatable culturally as well. Not everyone wants to uproot their identity and go be someone else somewhere else.

Have you looked closely at the website of Wellesley College, # 1 liberal arts college in the US? They sell themselves not on the education they provide, their spiel is that as a Wellesley alumna you will be able to draw on all sorts of connections.

I agree. It’s difficult for poor kids to know what schools are a good fit for them. Least, that is my experience when I applied. I barely knew what colleges were out there.

There is an obsession among the hyper-ambitious with being the very best. Some people won't be satisfied at having a shot at being a multi-millionaire with a successful career as skilled labor or operating a modest business. They want to be multi-billionaires that rub elbows with statement. Access to pretty good schools isn't enough for them, they want access to the most elite schools that will give them the most elite social connections.

Depends on your definition of success. Since the top quintile (and especially top decile) is running away with all of the profits from the growth in the recent past, it does put them in a different league than the others.

You may be interested in https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/college-mobilit... which compares Harvard against "other Ivy league schools" on a typical / above / below average. Looks like just under 5% is typical for bottom-20%-income background for admitted students.

It's also worth noting that Harvard, for example, admits fewer than 3,000 students per year. That means that 100-150 students (out of 40,000 applicants) will come from a poor background.

Seems like being rejected from an Ivy league school is statistically the most likely outcome, regardless of what your qualifications are.

>He was rejected from elite universities.

I'm not sure I see a problem. You can get a great education in most non-elite schools. You can do well in undergrad and it makes it easier to go to an elite grad school (it's a much more level playing field to get in there). It's not as if the landscape of education has a sharp cutoff at the elite level.

I know this is going to rub people the wrong way, but your comment reminds me of a documentary I saw where a couple tried to live on food stamps to show how difficult life is (as in that food stamps don't provide for much food).

The couple insisted on buying everything organic.

Yes, that is going to make life difficult!

And yet it's not uncommon to see job postings here on HN from time to time at pretty well-positioned places where it's basically stated in the ad that they won't consider you unless you're from an Ivy League institution or someplace equivalent like MIT.

I completely agree with you that you can get fantastic educations in a number of places.

But I think part of the problem is how much of a walled garden there is associated with these elite institutions in terms of top positions.

Tech isn't the only place this happens either.

I've become convinced that part of the source of our inequality in the US is hypercredentialing. That is, your abilities and skillset are equated with your degree. You're not that competent if you didn't go to an elite college, you can't do task X unless you have this very specific degree in Y, etc. and so forth and so on. It's rampant and affects all sorts of realms, from unemployment to licensing laws.

This website and California are so far from the reality the rest of the world lives in that it warps your view. I have never in my life seen a job advert that specifies what kind of uni you have to go to. Most of then don't even have a hard requirement for a degree as long as you can prove skill. And these jobs pay well above what the average person makes.

The comments in this thread make it sound like if you aren't born in the top 1% and don't spend every minute planning your application to uni then you will end up homeless on the street. If that is true then I highly recommend moving somewhere sane.

>And yet it's not uncommon to see job postings here on HN from time to time at pretty well-positioned places where it's basically stated in the ad that they won't consider you unless you're from an Ivy League institution or someplace equivalent like MIT.

Interesting - I never browse job postings here. Do you have a reference?

What's posted on HN is not at all representative of the rest of the country, though. I've certainly worked in places where they tend to prefer "top schools", but once again, that was for graduate degrees, where as I said, being from a wealthy background doesn't help all that much. And for engineering schools (Princeton would not be viewed favorably, for example).

>Tech isn't the only place this happens either.

In my experience, tech is probably where it happens less. In most of my peer companies, after something like 4-5 years experience, no one cares where you went to school. It's much more common for things like MBA and Law (one lawyer told me that many of his firm's clients stipulate that the lawyers working on their case must be from a top school, and graduated in the top N of the class).

>I've become convinced that part of the source of our inequality in the US is hypercredentialing. That is, your abilities and skillset are equated with your degree. You're not that competent if you didn't go to an elite college, you can't do task X unless you have this very specific degree in Y, etc. and so forth and so on. It's rampant and affects all sorts of realms, from unemployment to licensing laws.

I'd be interested in seeing studies supporting this. In my anecdotal experience, I've seen it much more acutely in other countries. But then again, those countries also tend to have much more inequality.

You can't say for certain since these things are quite opaque but I am fairly certain that taking calculus and other such classes in high school is not positively factored into admissions at elite universities. In general those would not even receive credit. E.g. at MIT you can get, at most, credit for calculus 1 if you get a 5 on the calculus BC exam - AB is no credit.

Elite universities tend to try to make admissions somewhat objective and so you get certain points for various things. And coming from a less privileged background gives you a pretty big boost. Pair that with a perfect SAT and you're already very near the finish line. Really strange he wouldn't get accepted. Extracurricular/sports are also important.

I came from a crap school, went to an top university (and did not have a 1600), felt slightly behind early on in calculus since most of everybody had already taken it in high school and I had not, but the playing field leveled out very rapidly. Never felt the least bit disadvantaged in any other course. I'm also certain that I would not have gotten in if I had my exact same background but came from a more prestigious/wealthy school. Of course I'd probably have done more in my high school years if I had that background, which is exactly why you get that boost coming from a poor background.

Overcoming the disadvantage of a poor high school is the basic idea behind Texas '10% law': any student who graduates among the top 10% of a public high school is guaranteed admission to any public Texas university.

> It isn’t just about raw intelligence

That's the problem though - blank slate theory. If we had a more biological attitude towards this, we'd be able to help individual more effectively. Do IQ tests yearly, find smart kids and get them into better programs. On the flipside, accept that some schools have naturally less intelligent kids, and that their performance will, as a result, be lower.

Blank slate and no child left behind and similar ideas create this false belief that bad results are the teachers fault. If you teach kids that all have below average IQs, and they achieve average results, you are an awesome teacher. If you teach geniuses and the get average results, you are awful.

Where did he end up going to school? And is he successful now?

He went to a top 5 public school instead. No idea what he did after.

How is that not elite? Being elitist about college level education in America makes no sense to me. Pretty much any Public Research University is good enough.

This is my go to defense for "social justice reform" when pulling at the heartstrings doesn't work. There are a couple of truisms when it comes to the global economy for the next 100 years (barring major catastrophe):

1. The US will not be able to compete w/ India or China when it comes to population. 2. As low-hanging fruit in the economy is gobbled up, advanced economies will need to rely on highly skilled workers to continue growth.

Basically, America is going to have to get MUCH better at realizing the full potential of it's population in order to keep growing. That means investing in poor neighborhoods and undeserved communities, providing equal access and opportunity and removing as many barriers as possible to those who have been traditionally marginalized.

While many companies use "woke as a business strategy" the underlying economics behind the recent diversity push of major tech companies is backed by these facts.

I agree, but the US has the wrong cultural mindset for this issue.

The example I turn to -- and I'd be interested in the hard data on this -- is the explosion of STEM education in the US after WWII. It seems to me that a massive institution of STEM education was built on the idea that we needed to "beat the soviets" in the tech race. Ample public funding made tuition cheap and expanded opportunities for huge swaths of the population. But access to these institutions is being shut out by increasing costs. Students pay a fortune in tuition and housing, and yet every intro science and technology class doesn't have enough seats.

I think it's a subtle change that has occurred. The universities don't much care about providing the best possible education. They care about signaling to the market that their graduates are the best, so that graduates can pay their loans back. This is because there is no unified mission any more. We're not engaged in a technological race with anyone, so the institutions only need to perpetuate the signal of quality--not quality itself--to maintain their existence.

We're resting on the inertia, which is slowly waning until we are not the best in the world any more. At that point, the true magnitude of the deficit will become apparent, because immigrants will look elsewhere to be educated.

The institutions that are really picking up the slack here are community colleges. Their resources are dwarfed by the scope of their mission.

> there is no unified mission any more

I enjoyed the way you phrased this. At times I've felt like different aspects of the "college experience" would be a scam if there weren't so many disparate good-intentions.

> They care about signaling

Non-traditional students in my university used to qualify for free tutoring by specific university-approved tutors. This semester, it was deemed an inappropriate use of resources and the funding was instead redirected to hire an administrator to write a regular newsletter "designed for the nontraditional undergraduate community" to "provide more opportunities to enhance and enrich your student experience".

That's quite an ambitious goal for what I would term marketing. If there is in fact anything resembling a unified-mission at this time, it certainly does not include reducing friction of at-risk students from graduating.

This is a great example. The launch of Sputnik in 1957 galvanized the US. I started first grade in 1960, and throughout my elementary school years there was a huge emphasis on math and science. We did number theory in 4th grade and started algebra in 5th grade. We had LOTS of science classes. This was at a good but not outstanding public school in a middle class town. It wasn't a magnet school or special in any way. It was considered patriotic to provide the best possible public schools. Unfortunately, that emphasis was not sustained after the 1960s.

In SFUSD, there's a big debate around algebra right now - in particular, the decision to remove it from the 8th grade curriculum.

It's important to note that this is both a controversial and complicated topic, since it isn't entirely accurate to say that the course material for algebra has been eliminated from 8th grade math. However, it does mean that graduates of SFUSD now have to amend their high school path (summer sessions, private classes followed by entrance exams, or doubling up on math during one or more years of high school) in order to be prepared to take calculus in their senior year of High School. This isn't the case for private schools or public schools from other Bay Area districts, which continue to teach algebra as a formal standalone course in 8th grade.

Here's one link about it, but I'd recommend reading more extensively if you're interested:


It's a more nuanced issue than pure "progressive" (or what the parent poster called "woke") politics, as this decision was also made as part of a push to teach math differently and less mechanically (common core).


However, concern over the racial/ethnic composition of 8th grade algebra classes in SFUSD was a stated concern of many of the people promoting this decision.

Coming from a public high school in the Bay Area I can totally understand the issue of AP/Honors or advanced math classes having the effect of segregation based on socioeconomic background. It's a tricky subject but I was able to take algebra in 7th grade which set me up to take calculus in junior year all through what the public schools provided which I was extremely greatful for. Personally I think it would be a shame if these classes get removed even though I understand the sentiment.

If anything, that is a call for better immigration, not better utilisation of those born in a country. Reasoning:

1. The US will not be able to compete w/ India or China when it comes to population

2. Most people with high ability are born outside of the US or any country statistically.

3. Importing the best and brightest is the surest way to continue growth.

The argument for immigration is that most 1st world countries do a great job of filling the middle 80% - most jobs in other words. We struggle at the top - as the top is hard to fulfill by definition - and the bottom, as most 1st world born don't want to, say, pick fruit.

To make sure 1st world economies continue to grow maximally, we need more of the very best, and more of those willing to do the sort of menial tasks we collectively simply don't want to.

Everyone wins from that. Those born in a 1st world country get to work at better run companies, and have their menial tasks fulfilled at a rate that keeps fruit cheap, and wait times low for things like fixing a broken door / getting a house painted.

India and China already have more people than America. Why does number of people matter in your context? Isn't the average American's quality of life much higher than the average Indian's in terms of housing, health care, public transport, etc.?

Those countries are catching up quickly, and they have far more human resources at their disposal. At some point, we won't be able to compete any more. They can afford to let half their population be completely underutilized and still have way more people than us.

As for quality of life, China already seems to be doing better in terms of public transport. America doesn't have anything at all to brag about here, unless you're comparing to Zimbabwe or something.

> As for quality of life, China already seems to be doing better in terms of public transport. America doesn't have anything at all to brag about here, unless you're comparing to Zimbabwe or something.

How long until the west starts to immigrate into china instead of the other way around?

It's already happening; there's a lot of American expats living there for work.

> and they have far more human resources at their disposal

It was my honest opinion that this worked against India and China historically. More mouths to feed, more people to educate.

True. It is like Sweden or Norway or Switzerland complaining that they can't compete with America and that it is unfair. It does not matter how much is your population except if you are a politician and want global power.

> That means investing in poor neighborhoods and undeserved communities, providing equal access and opportunity and removing as many barriers as possible to those who have been traditionally marginalized.

It seems to me that precisely the worst forms of that are the ones promoted most heavily. It is not difficult in the slightest to test a person's financial means, and that is the best proxy for the kind of inequality you're talking about; but American (and Canadian) schools tend to focus on imperfect, politically-charged metrics of "marginalized" (usually mainly race).

Since the current forms of this kind of policy tend to mainly attract racists (the subtle, erudite kind), they tend not to address the broader issues, and they tend to push away true progressives.

You invest all that just so that big firms hire people from overseas at a lower wage.

Most "woke" advocacy hardly favors "realizing the full potential of [our] population". Back here in the real world, the "woke" folks are the ones pushing for deeply flawed educational approaches like "whole language" reading (aka don't actually teach kids to read by explaining the rules that link written and spoken English, viz. phonics; just give them fully-formed written texts and let them figure it out!) and "reform math" (aka don't actually teach kids the traditional, efficient algorithms for computing simple arithmetical operations, just have them do a lot of fuzzy "mental math" and "discovering their inner knowledge" without even caring whether they're anywhere near a correct approach. They'll figure it out eventually!). These approaches are being pushed as a result of mindless cargo-culting and politicking, and are doing quite a bit of damage to our educational system. The basic attitude of not caring about the actual outcomes of what you're teaching persists all the way through K12, and explains quite a bit of how far U.S. primary and secondary schooling underachieves compared to the rest of the developed world.

When a potentially "bright" kid has been subjected to 12 years of such deeply-flawed, even outright nonsensical cargo-cult schooling, how can we even expect her to be interested in college?

The actual "cargo-culting" in K-12 education is opposing new ways of teaching because it's not how you learned when you were a kid. That's not that far from worshiping cargo boxes because you remember that one time that they had food in them.

As an example of new ways of teaching math, my daughter is in public school kindergarten and they are doing less arithmetic than I did as a kid, but they're already introducing concepts like number sets and bases.

I'm sorry the comment describing how SFUSD had eliminated algebra from middle school [0] has been deleted. Waiting until junior year to split up a class based on math aptitude is probably good for those in the middle, but it's certainly bad for those with higher or lower than average aptitude. As I recall, my pre-algebra and algebra I courses were attended by two classes: 7-8 and 8-9 grades respectively. After that there was no requirement that you take a particular course in a particular year, just that you had passed the prerequisites. This seemed to work very well, since everyone was ready for the material.

[0] https://priceonomics.com/why-did-san-francisco-schools-stop-...

I didn’t realize anyone had read it, I moved it To the parent comment in the thread.

Haha no worries... I guess I should have looked for it before posting.

So, assuming none of the silly pedagogical techniques are used, is the argument for aiming for a highly educated workforce sound?

Pushing more and more people to go to college isn't going to raise productivity. It will just lead to even more degree inflation. We've been seeing degrees pay out less and less as more and more people get them. This shouldn't be surprising. Look at the extreme cases in China. The amount highly educated labor is so vast that Seasonal workers moving to the city earn more than the average College graduate. Is this how we want to end up?

It would be much better to give students the right kind of education, and make sure that post k-12 training reflects the demands in the market. Right now there's huge demand for construction workers that isn't being filled, and there are many other niches that could use the right type of trained workers. And industry needs to get better at highering, and better at understand what they actually need, rather than continuing to advertise job templates for which no one's given any thought to what they actually need.

I disagree, let the companies do the training. If it's so valued in the market, then surely they will be happy to provide that training.

Why we let the companies push that externality on higher education is beyond me.

And I think degree inflation would be a great thing, if we could just reduce tuitions.

A highly educated populace is a good thing.

I've worked as farm labour in a tiny little town, where most of the the farmers went to college.

If you want to go back to the farm, it's fine. Training is fine, but a true education is something they can never take away from you.

degree inflation means A degree is less valued by employers, thus jobs that used to require bachelors, now require masters (because there's too many people running around with bachelors), and jobs that used to only require high school completion now require bachelors.

I also want a highly educated populace, but you can get that from a book/library/continuing education courses/online courses, book clubs, etc: there's no reason you MUST spend 50K on it (unless employers force it: as with degree inflation). That problem is the institutionalization of education and their subsequent monopoly on it.

Totally, one wish list item from my post was that education be cheap.

Back when I went to university I paid for it by working farm labour. Not so feasible now.

If we prioritized that as a society, we could have practically free higher education.

Education is already free, it's on the internet for anybody that wants it.

Correct, it’s only the piece of paper and the teaching staff who read the books to you that cost $50k+.

> I disagree, let the companies do the training. If it's so valued in the market, then surely they will be happy to provide that training. >Why we let the companies push that externality on higher education is beyond me.

Welcome to the flip side of doing away with non-compete agreements. Why should a business invest so much money in training workers when they'll just get poached away by a competitor who is virtually guaranteed to be able to offer higher pay, not just for the value of the trained skill but because the competitor doesn't need to pay the overhead costs of training them? When new employees can leave their contracts at any time and for any reason, the expectations of employers necessarily shift away from training.

Now of course, reality is a little more nuanced. Training for long-time employees to keep them up-to-date makes more sense since they have so much domain experience internalized. A just law would need to allow for some exceptions to allow employees to break their non-competes in cases like toxic workplaces, and the law would need to set a maximum term for a non-compete to prevent workers from being exploited for low pay for their entire working lives.

But the notion that employers today should take "no-experience-needed" candidates off the street, give them 6+ months of full-day training with pay, and allow them to walk right out the door a week later to their competitor... is laughable on its face.

Screw non competes, they aren't even enforceable most of the time anyway.

My answer to why companies should train people if they can just leave for another company is twofold:

1: It evens out. Sometimes people will leave company A, which trained them, and come to your company, and other times they you will train them and they will leave. As long as the relative rates are about even, it should be ok.

2: Any general training that would apply to all similar companies can just as easily be acquired on the job at any given company. So train the employees, and if you really don't want to lose your 'investment' then perhaps treat them nicely?

Why are we always so quick to cry a river for huge organizations that hold a disproportionate amount of power over individuals?

1. Relative rates are fine in aggregate. But the economy doesn't consist of actors who are perfect representations of the median. Individual companies are going to be net beneficients or net losers. And it is always the net losers who are more vocal, complaining, and ultimately influential over the wider market. Actor confidence in large markets is naturally biased towards fear, not security. This is one of the reasons why regulation is sometimes welcomed by actors, if they can influence all actors equally.

2. "Treat people nicely" is about as effective a corporate policy as a law is forcing people to "be good and moral." A small company can effectively assert hiring control in hiring only people who "gel" with the people leading the company. A large company with a hiring quota of hundreds or thousands of people a quarter cannot. Ultimately, people are going to have personality conflicts with coworkers at large companies. You can either accept that as an inevitability and find a solution for it, or you can write off people finding (somewhat legitimate but still entirely foreseeable and unavoidable) excuses to move as BigCo management not treating their workers "nicely".

So the only alternative is to let corporations offload their training externalities onto higher education?

If that's what you're saying, it's a false dichotomy.

Cry me a river for the corporations, who cares what they want? It's always their agenda that wins these days anyway. That's the way the world is going.

No, what I'm saying is that we need to find some kind of way that balances protecting workers from exploitation with the kind of security that allows corporations to invest in workers' training.

Yes, one way, in theory, of doing that is by offloading training externalities to higher education. But that has its own tradeoffs, namely, the tendency of universities to adopt ivory-tower attitudes to education, the tendency of American higher education to inflate costs beyond any reasonable limit to afford facilities, services, and administration of dubious value to the education afforded the end consumer / student, and the tendency of universities to not educate with an eye to the skillsets which contemporary employers value.

Which is why the better way is to localize training efforts with the actors for whom it is most relevant. But corporate actors are not going to do "the right thing" in a vacuum, the law needs to empower them to do "the right thing", because typically "the right thing" will hurt any actor who does it in isolation but is bearable if all actors commit to doing it together. The easiest, safest, and most predictable way of making that happen is through law or regulation.

Regarding #1: From the point of view of the company, if other companies are educating their employees, then the company will likely stop spending the resources on their own employees while still taking advantage of the workers educated at the other companies. So, this point doesn't make sense without a very optimistic view on the cooperation that would take place between companies.

2. Treating 'nicely' is far from enough if another company is simply able to offer a better package. For example, are small/new tech companies not deserving of keeping their investments because they can't pay their devs as well as some large ones? Or if they can't match the prestige of other companies?

The problem with #2 is that if a company spends $30k of time and effort to get an employee trained up, the poaching company can offer a raise of 10k and still be in the black 3 years later. If the original company decided to match that offer, they're now spending 60k more over three years, and the poaching company can offer a 15k raise and STILL be in the black after 3 years. Any money you pay in training is a sunk cost that doesn't have to be paid by your competitors.

Sure but presumably, unless all employees start out only at your company, then the effect would also sometimes happen in your company's favour.

As I said in point #1, as long as the rate of defections/arrivals is about even, then your losses on one employee would be offset by your gains on others.

Having an even defection/arrival rate requires other companies to also train their employees, and not only hire previously trained persons.

What makes you think the poached employee is actually going to stick around for 3 years, instead of jumping ship when Company C comes along and poaches them for a $10k raise? Most people in Silicon Valley these days don't stay in jobs for 3 years, according to what I've read.

I agree and am against non competes, but feel weird about how that would be replaced. Obvious thought is to put a monitary value of the training and let that value "vest" over a year or two, so if the employee leaves early they have to pay back everything. That sounds good, but then you'll have situations where some company is just inflating the true costs of their training in order to make an employee stick around because they don't want to be on the hook for $X0,000. It would end up being like a reverse signing bonus.

So I have no clue what the solution is, all alternatives seem to be negative.

I think there's workable ways around this. One of my past employers required a retention contract if they pay for specific education.

Sure, I could still leave prior to the agreed upon term but I'd be required to pay back their investment. I thought that was fair.

Have you ever heard of a relocation bonus? Do you think the notion that an employer can give a new employee $10k+ for moving costs, and then allow them to walk out the door a week later to their competitor is laughable? You might, which is why relocation bonuses almost always have a retention clause: if the employee voluntarily quits before a certain amount of time, then the employee has to pay back all or part of that bonus.

I got a huge relo bonus once to move cross-country. But it had a 2-year clause attached to it, so if I had left after a year, for instance, I would have had to pay back 1/2 of it.

I don't see why the same couldn't be done for education paid by employers.

There's a difference between a relocation bonus paid to a mid-career professional for recouping relocation expenses and an educational debt owed by somebody entering an entry-level position. A mid-career professional can pay back a relocation bonus from savings if necessary, but an educational debt would generally result in debt bondage until the debt was cancelled.

Remember, a non-compete doesn't prevent people from leaving, it just prevents people from leaving and taking a job in the same field. Most people won't want to leave their field, which is why the non-compete is effective, but in the case of exploitation, people still have an out. An educational debt would follow somebody if they decided to leave, and that's therefore much more coercive and prone to exploitation.

I got my giant relocation bonus when I was only a couple years out of college.

I have a practical question about the seeming truism that a highly educated population is a good thing.

Our educational attainment rates have absolutely skyrocketed. The number of people with a bachelor's degree or higher is now comparable to the number that managed a high school degree in the 1950s. What would you say are the clear benefits we've really achieved from this? It's hard to disagree with a highly education population being a good thing, yet in practice I find myself able to list quite a lot of negatives relating to our sharp increases in educational attainment, but I'm not really sure what the positives are except in the most abstract terms.

The 'education' of today is starting to look more and more like job training.

However, education is meant to expand your mind and to teach you how to think critically.

Education is supposed to round you out, teach you about the history of your culture.

Adam Gopnik once wrote a piece for the New Yorker. The gist of it is that he was living in Paris, and his wife was pregnant with a girl, after having already had a boy. When French people found out about this the would always say to him: "Mais c'est le choix du roi!"[1]

Finally after a taxi driver said the same thing to him for the 10th time, he asked a bit exasperatedly, what it meant.

The point of the anecdote is that the taxi driver then proceeded to explain how under the Salic law governing the succession of French royalty, having a son followed by a girl had certain advantages.

That is education populace.

[1] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2000/01/31/like-a-king (Paywalled)

I'd completely agree with you here about the ideal of education being meant to expand your mind and teaching one to think critically. But this is where we might begin to diverge a bit. Is this really happening in modern times? Do you associate fresh graduates with anything like critical thinking and breadth (let alone depth) of views and understanding?

We could blame this on our educational institutions of course. And I'd agree that our institutions have changed. But this gets into the question of why have they changed? And I think there we get back to the initial issue. As we see vastly more people pursuing post-secondary education, it means that the demographic of your average student is changing. Systems that worked and produced a certain tier of student when dealing with top e.g. 2% of society, cannot reasonably be expected to achieve the same or comparable results when dealing with more than 30% of society.

This is what made me ask the question. In principle I cannot disagree with the notion that an educated population is a good thing. But in practice, universities are seemingly giving it their all to make me rethink this view.

The change we need isn't going to be arrived at by turning some knobs. We need deep structural change around our relationship with growth, capital and ownership. The total job pool due to the way we have structured and rewarded society will only continue to shrink. No amount of votec training will change that. It is all just deck chairs.


I disagree with your core argument (that a more educated populace is not necessarily a good thing). I’m not going to argue that, though.

Even if you have a finite number of spots for educated people, isn’t it better to give those spots to the more naturally talented people? Wouldn’t be be better off educating our smartest?

> Pushing more and more people to go to college isn't going to raise productivity.

"Every appeal for productivity comes from above. But only creativity is spontaneously rich. It is not from ’productivity’ that a full life is to be expected, it is not ’productivity’ that will produce an enthusiastic collective response to economic needs."

Our society wastes most peoples talents. At a time when we face problems that require a full mobilization of all human ability to solve if we are to achieve mere survival as a species.

The wasting of talent does not always look like someone languishing in a position below their abilities. Waste of talent can also look like someone expending their creativity pushing addictive services or building products for an audience of pampered elitists.

You deserve a better world.

> The wasting of talent does not always look like someone languishing in a position below their abilities. Waste of talent can also look like someone expending their creativity pushing addictive services or building products for an audience of pampered elitists.

Oh, my heart bleeds for Silicon Valley-type (the TV series) programmers. Sniff.

Wastrels and scoundrels do not always suffer for their sins. Such is life.

Made me think of this tweet from @patrickc

"The high-return activity of raising others' aspirations."




> Only a minority of high-achieving, low-income students apply to colleges in the same way that other high-achieving students do: applying to several selective colleges whose curriculum is designed for students with a level of achievement like their own. This is despite the fact that selective colleges typically cost them high-achieving, low-income students less while offering them more generous resources than the non-selective postsecondary institutions they mainly attend. In previous work, we demonstrate that the vast majority of high-achieving, low-income students are unlikely to be reached by traditional methods of informing students about their college opportunities since such methods require the students to be concentrated geographically. In this study, we use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate interventions that provide students with semicustomized information on the application process and colleges' net costs. The interventions also provide students with no-paperwork application fee waivers. The ECO Comprehensive (ECO-C) Intervention costs about $6 per student, and we find that it causes high-achieving, low-income students to apply and be admitted to more colleges, especially those with high graduation rates and generous instructional resources. The students respond to their enlarged opportunity sets by enrolling in colleges that have stronger academic records, higher graduation rates, and more generous resources. Their freshman grades are as good as the control students', despite the fact that the control students attend less selective colleges and therefore compete with peers whose incoming preparation is substantially inferior. Benefit-to-cost ratios for the ECO-C Intervention are extremely high, even under the most conservative assumptions.

Poverty-spent childhood in a rural area of Oklahoma here. I'm also a convicted felon. Never had perfect marks in high school. No one in my family ever went to college except me.

A mentor saved my life. She opened my eyes to the world outside of Oklahoma, and I had so much anger saved up inside of me that it fuels me even today. I've spent the last couple decades building startups and have made millions doing it.

Now I'm 35 and I run an online communications school that helps thousands of young people with a focus on mentorship.

Standard tests are the wrong approach. Find mentors.

My mentor was Nick At Nite: The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons, Gidget, Mr. Ed, Dennis the Menace, The Patty Duke Show, etc. Also similar shows that syndicated during the late 80s and early 90s, like the Andy Griffith Show, Webster, The Jeffersons, and especially Good Times--which despite being white and relatively rural I identified most with. I grew up with near zero supervision so I would often watch these shows into the wee hours.

I knew that the behaviors in these shows were idealized and in large part imaginary, but I also believed they represented the types of relationships and goals I should aspire to if I wanted to learn to behave like the non poor. In retrospect I think my beliefs were pretty healthy considering the circumstances, and in particular more constructive than, e.g., aspiring to be like sports stars.

There's something to be said for demanding, if not mandating, strong moral codes in our popular entertainment. In many ways those old 1950s era shows were far more mature than the current fare. We tend to think of those characters as naive, but I don't think the characters, writers, nor audiences were naive.

Good story. A lot of people in your position never meet the mentor that will turn their life around and their potential gets wasted.

I used to box in a gym where a lot of poor kids went and it was amazing how little they knew about the wider world. All they knew was crime, prison, poverty, anger, disappointment and violence. Although a lot of them were clearly very intelligent I doubt they will ever escape that cycle.

In the USA, the historic path for that demographic to gain a broader world view is joining the US military. Bonus points if you use it to pay for college.

There was recently a Planet Money podcast[0] about the HAIL program at U of Michigan. That program basically sends a pamphlet to poor and/or rural students in Michigan with good grades to let them know about the scholarships that the school already offers and to let them use a fast-track application process.

Basically it is telling them about things they already had access to but might not have known about. It was only a small experiment, but the early results were promising.

[0] https://www.npr.org/sections/money/2019/01/24/688395248/hail...

I’ve wondered about this. If you assume that intelligence is evenly distributed across some demographic and a particular group is underrepresented, then you’re missing a lot of intelligent people and accepting a lot of less intelligent people in your overrepresented group.

Any company that is struggling with hiring should take notice. I’ve noticed a bias towards Ivies and traditionally well regarded CS schools in initial recruitment, in getting interviews and in decisions. And sure, that’s understandable, but would it really hurt for Google to send a few recruiters to HBCU’s? Or for Microsoft to sponsor a program for underprivileged kids to learn to program. Or heck, help kids who can’t afford to go to college still get opportunities in tech.

> then you’re missing a lot of intelligent people and accepting a lot of less intelligent people in your overrepresented group.

This is true even if intelligence isn't evenly distributed.

> Any company that is struggling with hiring should take notice.

I wouldn't rely on companies to solve it, equality of opportunity needs to start much earlier.

> I wouldn't rely on companies to solve it, equality of opportunity needs to start much earlier.

Completely agree. However, I’m amazed that otherwise profit oriented companies wouldn’t think to explore alternative recruitment channels (even if they take time)

> If you assume that intelligence is evenly distributed across some demographic

Why on earth would you assume this? It's well known that IQ scores do differ across demographic groups. Maybe you are assuming that all groups have equal underlying genetic potential, but there's no actual evidence for this, it's just the politically correct belief that everyone is scared to question.

>Maybe you are assuming that all groups have equal underlying genetic potential, but there's no actual evidence for this, it's just the politically correct belief that everyone is scared to question.

Well, for good reason. The eugenics programs of the 20th century didn't noticeably improve the average persons life but did ruin (or end) the lives of millions. I'm not surprised people are scared after an outcome like that. Not to mention the supremacist arguments which relied on disparities in ethnic intelligence being the scientific consensus.

19th century social justice activists were able to simultaneously believe that consensus and advocate on behalf of folks. A lot of the problem with the new school is its withering fragility. I'm to understand the jury is still out on whether variance in IQ scores represents underlying genetic variance in g, but which outcome should we hope for? I think I'd prefer to live in the world where it's genetic, that's generously solvable outright with a few decades of well funded research into genetic engineering. By contrast, bigotry and social disparities are intractable logistical nightmares that might take a century to solve.

Because IQ and Intelligence are not the same thing.

Articles like this ultimately describe the symptom and not the actual problem. They have a subtext of how we're wasting talented people, and not how we're failing to care for disadvantaged people in general. Ultimately we have to believe that all people have worth, not just the talented ones.

"I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein's brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops." - Stephen Jay Gould

This is even more true under No Child Left Behind. Schools are graded by pass rates on a test. Once a child is good enough to pass the test, there is no incentive to provide anything more, and there is every reason to redirect all resources given to talented students towards students on the borderline between failing and passing.

The result is that gifted education has effectively disappeared from American public schools. Parents of smart rich kids will compensate by sending them to a private school or sending them to enrichment activities outside of school that challenge them at their ability level. Poor kids can't do this, so they're stuck with an education that doesn't help them reach their potential.

The best broad-based way I can think of to address this is to give schools some incentive for producing students that perform exceptionally. Designing the incentives will certainly be fraught though. It is very hard to design something like this that doesn't have too many unintended consequences and is politically palatable.

> This is even more true under No Child Left Behind

As NCLB was repealed in 2015, you have either a verb tense problem or are pointing to the wrong law.

Well, if people are really concerned about this they could always trying hiring American developers with 0-3 years experience, and giving a chance to developers without STEM degrees, or degrees at all. This article still reinforces the idea that elite degrees are the only way to judge "talent".

In my experience, Google does this to some extent.

I’ve had great coworkers who didn’t go thru the traditional route.

Personally, Google hired me when I quit my first job out of college, before the one year mark, and was unemployed for a few months. It wasn’t a great look on my resume. The vast majority of companies didn’t give me the light of day. These weren’t top-tier companies, and I doubt they could have offered me the engineering experience or career growth as Google. Those same companies look to employment at FANG as signals of competence. 3 years later, they’re spamming my LinkedIn. One of these companies ask candidates for their SAT score and high school GPA.

The issue is that there are more people who are talented enough to learn complex jobs than there are positions. So the system is built to make sure the children of the well-connected get first dibs on the available positions. No matter how well educated everyone is, we will always need more food prep workers than surgeons. In other words: the people in charge of the country understand that a lot of talent is wasted, they just don't care. And to make sure that working class people don't get upset about their class status they use the language of "personal responsibility" and "the land of opportunity". That way you make it seem like it's their own fault for being in the situation they're in.

I agree about needing more food prep than surgeons. It is like that scene from Office Space where the whole question of what you would do with a million dollars helps you decide what you should do for a living. Everyone wants to be rich and live easy but it is never that simple. Half of it is education and the other half is just plain luck/rng/fate. Education sometimes is just one in a list of things needed in life.

Broad clickbait title when the article focuses on standardized testing amongst low-income minorities.

More than just minorities, the wasted talent problem extends even to the elite. Ivy League students aspire to work in investment banking and management consulting. The finance industry is one of the biggest modern-day brain drains.

The real wasted talent is in the modern day labor market. We need to invest more in the jobs we want to see - otherwise our brightest minds will continue to waste their lives making money for wealthy people instead of working on the important problems.

Much better to have the elite of a generation working on new ways to invade their fellow citizen's privacy to sell that data to advertisers, which is basically the business model of half of the Silicon Valley...

> More than just minorities, the wasted talent problem extends even to the elite. Ivy League students aspire to work in investment banking and management consulting. The finance industry is one of the biggest modern-day brain drains.

The elite is supposed to be a net drain on society. Or else they would not be “elite”.

I know a family who immigrated from East Asia to US about 30 years ago. The father of the family was from a poor family (which was the case for everyone 30 - 40 years ago) who couldn't afford to send their kids to college, and so he had minimal education (up to High school?) in their native country. He worked as a carpenter all his life. Due to lack of money, he received minimal medical care (aka no checkups etc), and passed away rather young.

The 2 kids went to an inner city high school. They went onto University of California, which were definitely affordable 20 years ago, with loans and grants.

One went to an Ivy League and got PhD in STEM and now working in that field. The other also went to a top ranked public university and got PhD in STEM also.

Had the dad been given a chance to get a proper education, who knows what he could've achieved?

Or if the Dad had health insurance* he may be still alive.

*care would imply that someone does, insurance is more accurate

I don't understand why these anecdotes are presented as proof that we're wasting talent. The way I see it, it shows that we have a system where people from even the poorest of circumstances can find opportunities to excel. Many other countries are far behind the US in this regard.

I think america is going down hill in this regard to giving opportunities to the down trodden. I feel like this new generation of parents due to anxiety about the future invest much much more in their kids than previous generations, this naturally causes massive inequality between talented poor students and talented or even above average students with means. Maybe a genius might be able to rise above circumstances but for the average very talented person who isn't born into means, this will be very hard and will probably get much harder. For all the populist speak that tech leaders give, i think tech will cause more inequality in every regard. While poor students whittle away their attention span by using facebook or instagram or responding to watsapp messages every five minutes due to having poor role models (parents, teachers, etc... in poor communities). The more educated, parents of means will restrict usage for their children. In an era when attention span needs to be the greatest to achieve things (because everything is so complicated), the people without means in a generation will have the least of it.

Anyone, feel free to share a perspective instead of a downvote

Malcolm Gladwell has a great set of Revisionist History podcasts on this subject.

Here's the first one:


That was a fantastic podcast. I would encourage everyone to listed to it.

The "talent waste" problem described in this article focuses on fairness--who gets access to which learning communities, which opportunities within those communities, and which support structures.

Regarding fairness, maybe it's less important to think about access to learning experiences and more important to think about access to evaluation experiences. If everyone had fair access to proving their talent regardless of how they cultivated it, we might see an increase in learning efficiency. I wonder if this could lead to some sort of market efficiency for talent cultivation.

As a parent I am seeing a corollary to this in that there is an insane arms race in high school education for those who can afford it. Some of my sons friends are taking their Math SAT before freshman year of high school so that they take it while high school math is still "fresh". All the bright kids are cramming AP classes in and taking very advanced math, science and computer science classes that I am sure most schools can't provide. Essentially these kids have taken a year or two of college before they have gone.

They claim that minority students increased representation in gifted programs after increased testing and linked to a paper.

They forgot to mention that the paper says IQ cutoffs were 130 for non-disadvantaged students vs 115 for poor/minority.

This is a standard deviation, 15% of people from a 100 IQ pop exceed this threshold.

The paper then goes on to say, with lower ovjective standards, the groups pass the subjective bar at equal rates.

The subjective bar being applied by a system so motivated to achieve proportional representation they altered cutoffs.

I am saddened to here that lots of people had poor high school experiences. My teachers ranged from good to great. Much better than my college professors. Students were highly motivated. It was the perfect environment for me.

Growing up I used to think I was smart. Now I think I am the product of a great education system.

America lets too much talent of all ages go to waste. Most people I know with graduate degrees never were able to get work with their degree. If they have a job, it is not in their degree, they landed work in "some generalized tech" somewhere and worked their way up.

The problem is multi-faceted. On the one hand, you have a culture that largely celebrates ignorance and stupidity as something to strive for (especially up through 12th grade) and on the other hand you have universities costing a quarter million dollars for an undergraduate degree, something one wouldn't be able to afford without a huge salary, much higher than the median. IMO, the first one is actually much more damaging, but combined, it should be no surprise that the outcome is losing out on a lot of talent. No one seems to care, however, as the national objectives are clearly to extract as much money from students and leave them in a position where they are forced by law to pay it back. Profit rather than education. That's literally the national policy on higher education and we're wondering why our citizens "roll coal" and eat dish-washing liquid? Or why the masses are so anti anything intellectual? Stupid policies and a culture of stupidity lead to stupid people.

please don't imply that $250k is typical to spend on a BA/BS in the United States. most undergrad programs don't cost anything like that, and the elite schools that actually cost that much offer steep discounts to most of their students.

only children of the truly rich are going to school for $250k, and they are learning alongside students who are getting the same education for way less.

I think there are much better things to worry about. The talented students will find a way to rise up from their surroundings. They are probably better prepared for life anyway with their tough upbringing.

Most companies still want people with a four-year degree. Until that's no longer the case, talent will continue to go to waste.

I think it's also about inability to take risks. Rich kids can afford to try ambitious things and fail: they'll be fine anyway. Poor kids usually cannot. The only solution to this is a much stronger social safety net.

Yes it is a damn shame. A rising tide raises all boats, eh?

If you educate the poor and disadvantaged, they will demand equality.

If the disadvantaged were to be competitive, then it's harder for those at the top to hold onto what they have.

This is undesirable for those whose position in society requires hierarchy. Capitalists hate competition.

I see thousands of Indians coming to USA and having a wonderful life. Indra Nooyi often says she grew up in a two room apartment (not two bedroom apartment). As an Indian in USA I often wonder why do so many American young kids don't show that fire in the belly ? There are of course honorable exceptions but most of the early teens I meet from low income neighborhoods simply are not ambitious enough.

I think a part of the reason is that the whole notion of standardized tests, a set factory assembly line like education model is to be blamed here. The baker I know, the car mechanic I know and the Sikh guy who runs the motel on my street they never went to college either but are fairly successful.

Whether you are good or bad at tests is irrelevant when the the very notion of these tests is essentially very elitist, it does not account for street smarts and variety of other factors that can lead to success in life. Unless you have a family and peers you will always live in a low information state where you simply don't know how to approach this education assembly line.

It might be offensive to some, but USA fought it war of independence because it believed you dont have to be born a Lord of Earl to be honorable and dream big. This is the home of the brave and land of free. But then our public edu system is everything opposite of that.

I was told the following 2x2 matrix by a retired school teacher. Think of a 2x2 matrix (with 4 blocks) along two dimensions. Compliance and IQ.

High IQ, High Compliance => These are the kids schools should promote, send to college and will end up working for Government and as white collar workers. They will pay taxes regularly and obey every law. They might not get laid as much or might not smoke weed ever but they might end up working for Google or Facebook.

High IQ, Low Compliance => These people while being worthy of college and other achievements the school system must discourage and discredit them right from an early age ensuring that no other student is influence by them. These are the rebels who question authority and challenge status quo. Most of them will live a miserable, unsatisfactory life disgusted with the system. However handful of them succeed and the above group ends up working for these people.

Low IQ, High Compliance => These the best of kids (in schools perspective). These are the kids that we must send to college even if they do not deserve it. They study things like Gender studies and Race relations and participate in Bernie Sanders rallies. They sometimes might pretend to be rebels but in reality are mere tools in the hands of people smarter than them.

Low IQ, Low Compliance => This assembly line leads straight to the Prison Industrial Complex. You deliberately create laws that these people will end up breaking and ensure heavy jail time for even minor crimes like possessing few grams of weed. A large set of American laws are such as a relatively high IQ informed citizen can easily avoid them but if anyone breaks the law he gets a very big jail time or even shot dead.

A lot of kids from minority or poor neighborhood show non compliance from an early age because they grew up in harsh environments. Hence the school system does everything to suppress them.

Low income kids are surrounded by negativity and people with low ambition. I would go as far as to say that ambition is discouraged in poor communities. This includes parents who are not present because they need to make ends meet, kids not getting exposure to the world and what it has to offer. Most of life is experienced through the lens of what is possible and what is impossible. These lens to a large extent are developed by looking at the world around you. If everyone you know never went to college, and pretty much barely survive, you would think that's your lot in life too. Now you have a kid in a shitty school system, whose parents are never around, and everyone surrounding them (probably also products of this environment) try to shit on their hopes to "make it big" or "get out", then you begin to understand a small part of the "why" it is so difficult for even talented people born in the wrong circumstances in america to make something of themselves.

Poor people is not a minority know is it?

The young need to tear their opportunities away from the old which hoard them. Mandatory retirement at 55 would be a great start.

There's a reason they call it the lump of labour fallacy

The only economist over a hundred years old I'll trust is Marx.

It doesn't appear to be a rigorous fallacy, just a defacto one, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lump_of_labour_fallacy

Just divide the economy into people with even and odd numbers of letters in their name and pretend they're part of different countries trading with each other.

Mandatory anything is a bad start.

I really find it amazing that people could subscribed to the idea that there is a finite amount of work to do, and the worst thing that cuold happen is that it runs out.

What a googley way throw an insult! I find it disappointing that you think there is an non-finite amount of work that can needlessly cause people to toil.

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