Community college has the stigma of "not real college," and I think they tend to get short shrift on funding because of that. What, you don't want everyone to go to a four year school?
There's a great article in the Atlantic that makes the case that the way work used to be structured meant a more consistent learning curve - you got better at working one machine, you could transfer those skills to the next and learn on the job - whereas now there tends to be an initial barrier you have to clear before you can learn anything. You can't get a job programming machines until you know the languages and have the math skills, but there's no way to get there through another job. You have to put your life on hold before you can get to an advancement path. That's the main hurdle - once you're past that point you're on the more experience/better skills track again.
Community college shouldn't the focus so much because it'll reach nontraditional students and save money for students who want to transfer to four year schools but because the separation between no college and a good two-year degree is the biggest, hardest gap to cross and once you get people across it they're already most of the way to accomplishing whatever they want to next.
Myself being primarily involved with filmmaking and film classes at North Country Community College - I am attempting this year, before I graduate, to change the filmmaking culture that currently barely functions at my CC. Ive seen enough from the students here, in 3 semesters worth of film classes, to know that these kids who have great interest and talent at our CC, who migrate towards taking film classes, they all have talent. Theres a spark of magic in each of their shitty flip-cam produced final projects. And these kids just slip through the cracks after the semester is done, because theres no infrastructure to catch or support them.
Flip cams do not command high levels of creative performance. They just dont, and its a shame these kids dont get the chance, now, to use better. Especially with the price of technology today.
I began attempting to make a change at the end of last Spring's semester, and get the school to budget competitive equipment for film classes. The process; Everything I tried doing through traditional bureaucratic methods of improving the school's filmmaking situation, was either a barrier or unefficiency.
By the time I go through the proper channels to make visionary culture change at the CC, Im already gone. Everything is a process of approvals and appropriations. Meetings. Decisions. Levels. Kicking things upstairs, come on! Ill be transferring to a top ten film school, like USC, that already has all that good stuff Id like to play with. And at that new school, im 'happy to be there' guy. That emotion, buries the ones I have attached to my CC. Once I have that access to proper filmmaking equipment, I could give a shit about the ills of the CC, regardless how much I loved the school.
However, I believe if I could now have the proper filmmaking equipment at my current CC, I would be making great films now, not two years from when I first started, and not at a 50k a year institution. If im making great films now, at 5k a year, dosent that shift my perception about what I would need out of continuing my education at a four year? wont my decision making be different at that point?
Im definately interested in the future of filmmaking and community colleges. So, heres a nice place to plug the fundraiser I set up to help get our school filmmaking equipment and establish a new film club.
at 28k, its competitively budgeted. the goal is to do the most with what amounts to table scraps of funding.
4 billion, and 28 thousand. Thats a lot of filmmaking to be created at every single CC in the nation. Im taking a stand to show the world how.
It's hard to have leadership when 90% of your job is triaging "things to cut this year," and the rest is dealing with the fallout. It's been like that in California for over a decade.
It's pathetic, and someone with a couple spare billions deciding to prop up the system would be welcome.
But where there is active entrepreneurship in the US in this field, most of Scandinavia is copycatting others or developing government plans on how to improve education per. the PISA measurement scale.
The Scandinavian model is known for it's group oriented focus on learning where the new discussion is whether this is the right approach.
Among other things especially the tiger mom revolution from china is a big discussion and Canadas education system is very popular.
Finland seems to be the only Scandinavian country that is doing exceptionally well on the PISA scale.
My own personal believe is that there are to basic reasons why the quality of education seems to go down is.
1) Still too much focus on "learning by heart". It's obvious that you need to learn read, write and do basic calculation, but beyond that the most important thing to learn is, how to learn.
2) Parents outsources the job of raising their children to the pre-schools, kindergartens and so on. Forget about more money for education. If you can make parents more actively interested in their childrens education it will automatically raise the quality of the education they recieve.
More money for education is not going to solve those two fundamental problems.
As the vast majority of US children are not homeschooled, it's not relevant to the broader discussion. In anycase homeschooling is typically encountered in a religious setting, or remote locations.
Education is already a family matter, children whose parents provide a home environment conducive to learning will learn better, it's an inevitability. The tragedy is that such an environment is usually beyond the means of less wealthy parents, or beyond the abilities of those less-well educated. The solution of course, is good public schools (though the home learner will still be top of the class).
EDIT: I'm British, we have 28 days holiday and overwork is perfectly acceptable here. Our schools are doing poorly because of a mediocre and highly proscriptive curriculum which has reduced the job to spoon-feeding photocopied worksheets, and puts off anyone intelligent from becoming a teacher (the pay is awful too). This is compounded by a severe over-dependence on standardised testing which has further reduced the job to spoon-feeding only the photocopied worksheet required to pass the next test, and resulted in massive grade inflation for over a decade. Rote learning is the only lending, and there is little to no actual understanding anymore. But people think that the government should fix education, as it is a public endeavour, even if this means admitting that the government don't have a clue and simply using public money to fund private schools (see Charter Schools) which is the latest experiment, and so far seem to be working.
To your point, you will find this paper interesting:
Europeans Work To Live And Americans Live To Work
This paper compares the working hours and life satisfaction of Americans and Europeans using the World Values Survey, Eurobarometer and General Social Survey. The purpose is to explore the relationship between working hours and happiness in Europe and America. Previous research on the topic does not test the premise that working more makes Americans happier than Europeans. The findings suggest that Americans may be happier working more because they believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success.
Current age issues is that for having existed nearly forty years the Department of Education has presided over an eleven time increase in the number of public school employees while enrollment over the same time increased only a little over eight percent. Yet test score improvements are nearly flat. The joke in the city nearest me is, if you want to know if someone works for the school just look to see if they have relatives in political office. Its as bad as people getting jobs at the airport.
Simply put, the system does not work and going through the bureaucracy to fix it isn't panning out. Toss in the fact that in many districts the union is in total control of the local politicians. Look at how much money they pour into politics, in California for example over sixty million dollars is being poured into support of Prop 32. This money is essentially transferred directly from the tax payer to the unions to fund their political agenda because teachers have no choice in how their dues are spent let alone they have no choice in paying them. We allowed a system to be constructed where we pay with tax dollars an interest who then uses those dollars to get even more.
Think of how all that money would benefit education instead. Actually we spend too much on education based on the results.
Want to fix education? First get the political money out. Forbid unions from spending money on political campaigns directly or indirectly. Second, give schools systems more freedom in assigning teachers. Currently in our area staffing is based on the employee needs and not the student needs. Third, Hold parents accountable for disruptive children. Fourth, run the school year round. Fifth, quit wasting money on schools which are merely monuments to the politicians who have them built (half billion dollar schools? hundred million dollar schools? Really?)
I have always thought investment into education is the optimal strategy for increasing the rate of human progress against time.
Historically construction has been the most popular type of philanthropic project. But in recent years the scope has been broadened a lot because the welfare state has had to retract some of its branches, and thus education has also risen in popularity.
We moved to the Boston area for a couple of years. We thought the school system was excellent there too.
We found some level of parent involvement is required in both countries to help over the rough spots and fill in the holes of missed knowledge.
None of our children have gone to a US high school so I can't speak to that. Up until that point I don't see much of a difference between the two countries and have negligible complaints.
That being said, I think computer based learning with the teacher only used to get over tough spots is what I'd prefer. (We can't risk a country-specific online school)
: http://www.sulf.se/Universitetslararen/Arkiv/2011/Nummer-101... (sv)
In the countries I know best, philanthropists donate to K-12 education, just as they do in the United States. But in the countries I know best, the school system in general gets better results per dollar, from public or from private investment. You may have noticed one of my posts on HN in which I said that I first came to Hacker News after a Ph.D. mathematician who was in the same homeschooling support group as I was at the time recommended that I read your essay "Why Nerds Are Unpopular" (2003).
Later on, another friend recommended that I read "What You'll Wish You'd Known" (2005),
and after that I made a habit of visiting your site to read your new essays. Somewhere in that process I followed the "News" link on your site and discovered Hacker News, and I see I registered my user name here about four years ago.
Because I discovered Hacker News through your interest in education issues, I especially comment here in threads about those issues. I was introduced to the formal literature on education reform after an assistant principal at the local junior high school in Wisconsin I had just moved to from Minnesota recommended that I read John Holt's book How Children Fail. (You will find it an interesting read if you have not read it before.) On my own, I then went to the public library and found other books on education reform such as Charles Silberman's Crisis in the Classroom (quite an interesting book forty years later, to see what has changed and what has not in schools in the United States and Britain, the two countries he compared), and very radical books like Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society (1971). I have been studying education reform ever since, and have several shelf-feet of books on the subject that I have actually read, from a wide variety of perspectives, in my home office. During my two three-year stays in Taiwan (1982-1985, and 1998-2001), I was very alert to educational issues there, and I also have a huge collection of Chinese-language textbooks at home. My law degree was motivated by a desire to understand the legal framework surrounding the United States school system, the better to work to improve it. I have testified to committees of the state Legislature in Minnesota on education issues multiple times. I'm currently on the state board of directors of a parent organization here devoted to improving education of gifted children, and my paid work is providing supplemental mathematics courses for able learners from ten counties in Minnesota.
So I've tried to walk the walk in the real world before talking the talk about education reform here on HN. I notice you wrote of
the brokenness of American schools
and I would not go that far. United States schools do not do as badly as they might. But I find that even when I say that United States schools underperform compared to the level of spending devoted to them,
that this has evoked a fight club response here on Hacker News, with a persistent claim (poorly evidenced, based on the prior probabilities) that the United States is doing as well as any other country in educating public school pupils, correcting for the demographic groups living in the United States. I don't buy that, on multiple grounds, and I remembered a little while ago that one reason that statement is implausible on its face is that school systems in almost all other parts of the world have to teach young people to be proficient in one or more second languages (including but not limited to English) while learning all their other K-12 subjects, while Americans who have an acquired knowledge of any noncognate language (as I do) are exceedingly rare. More specifically, American schools are underperforming in teaching the most advantaged members of American society,
especially in mathematics,
while not doing well by the least advantaged young people in American society either.
So while I haven't used your word "broken," nor the word "failed" that other Hacker News participants have falsely ascribed to my keyboard, I think it is fair to say that United States schools underperform relative to the huge investment made in them.
"'There are countries which don't get the bang for the bucks, and the U.S. is one of them,' said Barry McGaw, education director for the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which produced the annual review of industrialized nations."
"As you can see, the United States is exactly on the line of best fit [on a scatterplot of country GDP and country means on reading test scores]. American students scored about as well as you’d expect them to if all you knew about them was their average standard of living."
If a philanthropist can encourage further research in and understanding of how the United States and other countries could do even better in results for their already large investments in K-12 schooling, that would be a good contribution to society. And you, Paul, I suppose have much interest in this as the father of a child born since I discovered your writings.
The George Lucas Educational Foundation already funds the Edutopia website
but I'm not aware of that website receiving much attention from anything but its National Public Radio underwriting messages. Maybe more money will help the site do a better job of nudging reform along, or maybe the foundation needs a new focus. Among the big-money philanthropies, I think the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has gradually stumbled upon some helpful approaches for genuine school improvement, after several false starts.
None of these groups recommend giving to the Gates Foundation, btw. GF is better than average but it's not in the league of the best.
(I honestly think that if Gates, Buffett, or Lucas truly deeply cared more about saving lives than anything, they'd just hand $10M to Givewell, and that as a test for $100M the next year. I don't see how anyone with $10B to give could possibly not think this was a good idea - there's more than enough Givewell track record to establish the point.)
Also quite a recommendation coming from you - never fails to amaze me the people you find posting on here.
It's not sexy. No one will ever raise money for it. But nine out of ten African aid projects fail because the medicine or the personnel can't get to the people in need. Blanket the continent with highways and then maybe get started on plumbing.
For the US, replication and forking off improved variants of the Harlem Children's Zone somewhere other than Harlem
Well, it's his money; he can do whatever he wants. It's a shame to see this when there are so many other places the money might do some good.
Maybe he isn't going to do it in the wasteful ways you predict. Maybe he is.. time will tell.
I gravitated towards the theoretical in my B.S. and Masters subjects because that's what I liked. In retrospect I should have learned more about OS's and such. Though I learned it while working through self-study, so it worked out OK.
My education gave the impression that all computer scientists did was various kinds of linear algebra, whereas I don't think I've used linear algebra once in 10 years of professional programming, even working at a video game company, and Google (i.e. I've actually had jobs more likely to use math than most programming I would say)
On the other hand, I don't think you should be annoyed... theoretical foundations are worth learning. A lot of stuff you mention will be less important or commodified in some way in 10 years. Your education is supposed to last your whole life, not just prepare you for whatever's hot the decade after you graduate.
 This proposal depends on having a highly challenging and good quality work experience (not entry level garbage job), which might also be a conideration for many Uni's to manage. It might not be possible at scale.
I happened not to take advantage of that because I was having fun in college. But I know people who did.
Really, CS majors shouldn't be complaining that they didn't learn any skills in college, because they learned about the halting problem and network flow rather than source control and automated testing. Logical thinking is a transferable skill. Liberal arts majors should the ones complaining!
The current system is somewhat broken in that a lot of smart kids get sucked into academia without realizing how little what they're doing matters in the professional world. But there are a lot of other systems that would be equally or more broken.
I think there are some schools with a mandatory coop program for engineers. I think Waterloo in Canada? Looking back I think that's pretty close to ideal... within 4 years you can't really do much more for a student.
What you were looking for is more of a trade school skills experience, which some community colleges provide, particularly for languages.
It wouldn't destroy the university system to teach these people some useful software engineering skills.
Our vision is of a new world of learning, a place where students and parents, teachers and administrators, policy makers and the people they serve are all empowered to change education for the better; a place where schools provide rigorous project-based learning, social-emotional learning, and access to new technology; a place where innovation is the rule, not the exception; a place where students become lifelong learners and develop 21st-century skills, especially three fundamental skills:
-how to find information
-how to assess the quality of information
-how to creatively and effectively use information to accomplish a goal
It’s a place of inspiration and aspiration based on the urgent belief that improving education is the key to the survival of the human race. We call this place Edutopia, and we provide not just the vision for this new world of learning but the real-world information and community connections to make it a reality."
Education is a great thing to focus on too. My personal belief is that a lot of our social and political problems stem from a population that, on the whole, lacks critical thinking and analysis skills. When one can't think critically, emotion and fear take over, and people vote against their own interests or slide into apathy. If Lucas is planning to invest in high-school-and-below-level stuff, he might have a chance at changing that for the next generation.
I bet the internet feels silly at this point.
Calling it quackery is absurd, thousands of people have treated with it already and companies like GE are investing in it. You must be retarded.
The only people that truly don't fear real death are atheists that have made peace with that fact.
I am a atheist that has not out grown a fear of death, but I can't relate to anyone I know because they all say the same as you, "you will eventually out grow that fear", then I ask what if I am right and when we die we are forever gone and there is no afterlife? They say "Well that is unlikely, there is something else out there" So everyone I know doesn't fear death, because they think they will never truly die anyway.
Like I said, the only people on earth that really do not fear death are a small amount of the atheist population that have come to accept death as inevitable. But what I think is that if all of humanity was atheist, we would be pouring billions in immortality research.
You don't truly want to live forever, and lose everyone you know and will ever know. If everyone lives forever, then children will never grow.
Once you truly accept that change in not only inevitable, but extremely desirable, the fear of death is greatly diminished.