Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Random Stuff

I've had to restrain myself from posting about some recent incidents that disturbed me deeply.

It's a funny thing. Years ago, when certain political forces wanted to demonize liberals, I decided to defend that point of view vigorously. I simply stated what I believed would be a true liberal viewpoint and stuck to my arguments.It wasn't a knee-jerk union point of view nor was it a particularly wide-eyed caricature of the genre. It was simply respectful of people who were and are intelligent and politically disenfranchised.

Over the years I've been called all kinds of names and got banned from the old Charlie Rose forum, the Talking points Memo forums, and got bored with a dozen others. Freedom of Speech is no more protected in this country or on the internet than in most wannabe totalitarian territories. In my experience, it was never the right wingers who wanted to shut me up for giving voice to unpopular opinion, it was the rank and file democrats and republicans who are quite comfortable with a world they've learned to take advantage of. Don't upset the gravy train. Don't ask us to think and don't question the cultural myths.

These days I'm surrounded by individuals who purport to care about education but have no stomach for anything more than the status quo and spending money (money never cures anything because we always have to spend more and more is never enough). Many simply count the days until they're safely free of it, pensioned, and ready to promote the union line while serving on their school boards.

The news is awash with the horror that the oil and gas industry watchdogs were eager and willing lap dogs when it came to rigorously being vigilant about small things like safety, ethics, and conflicts of interest.

But I'm not surprised at all. The oil and gas industry watchdogs are no different than most organizations expected to oversee highly profitable enterprises. Floating downstream is an American way of life for a lot of people and its a career path as well. Go along to get along to go along.

I've been writing for years about the student debt reality and looming crisis. Very few parents ever read to warnings and fewer care. Washington wants every student to go to college (and incur backbreaking debt). It's all in the name of equality.

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile, universities like N.Y.U. enrolled students without asking many questions about whether they could afford a $50,000 annual tuition bill. Then the colleges introduced the students to lenders who underwrote big loans without any idea of what the students might earn someday — just like the mortgage lenders who didn’t ask borrowers to verify their incomes.

Ms. Munna does not want to walk away from her loans in the same way many mortgage holders are. It would be difficult in any event because federal bankruptcy law makes it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debts. But unless she manages to improve her income quickly, she doesn’t have a lot of good options for digging out.

It is utterly depressing that there are so many people like her facing decades of payments, limited capacity to buy a home and a debt burden that can repel potential life partners. For starters, it’s a shared failure of parenting and loan underwriting.

But perhaps the biggest share lies with colleges and universities because they have the most knowledge of the financial aid process. And I would argue that they had an obligation to counsel students like Ms. Munna, who got in too far over their heads.

How many people are like her? According to the College Board’s Trends in Student Aid study, 10 percent of people who graduated in 2007-8 with student loans had borrowed $40,000 or more. The median debt for bachelor’s degree recipients who borrowed while attending private, nonprofit colleges was $22,380.

The Project on Student Debt, a research and advocacy organization in Oakland, Calif., used federal data to estimate that 206,000 people graduated from college (including many from for-profit universities) with more than $40,000 in student loan debt in that same period. That’s a ninefold increase over the number of people in 1996, using 2008 dollars.

I've also blogged long and hard about the perils of the Bush/Obama education reform scam. most recently gullible legislators passed a slew of bad law pertaining to educational policies that are being coerced by Washington bureaucrats. They dangle lotto ticket chances to receive parts of federal dollars aimed at education.

But recently Connecticut was awarded some federal money. Everyone thinks it stays in the state and creates or -cough- saves jobs here. No such luck. NCLB/RTTT appears to be a finely tuned money laundering scheme that awaards money to individual states giving the impression that the staes are dictating the terms of the engagement but the CT DOE website reveals the money is funneled to, um, TEXAS!

Read it and weep. And if you connect a few more dots you'll realize that RTTT is a covert, up from the bottom establishment of a National Identification database that not only identifies you from school age activity on but tracks you as an individual. Your freedom to re-invent yourself will not be tolerated, the data the government collects - good, bad, or indifferent - will forever define your freedom.

Here's a anti-Nazi propaganda piece produced during WWII. It may as well be the RTTT blueprint;

No, I have no interest in Hitler, or nazis, or any of the militarism involved in the cartoon. Strip those themes out and you expose a framework of state controlled education that is intolerant of "failing" students, the weak will be left in government [school] hands, and "marching and heiling" could easily be "memorizing and being tested" for global competition.

We are already far down the road to a reality that is a centralized control over school, curriculum, and personal identity that will doom our children for decades.

Maybe if we pretend its not happening it will go away.

My guess is that no one cares about what the government is doing with Race to the Top but I'll get a dozen complaints about the Disney YouTube video.


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