Monday, October 03, 2005

Education Failure - Longer Summers

Michigan recently announced plans to extend "summer vacation" for schools to Labor Day. Part of the rationale was that the present practice of starting schools the last week of August hurt the tourism industry. Well, that's probably true. But a lot of students go back to school early in one way or another for things like sports practices or band camps or knitting circles. The new schedule simply moves vacation from other parts of the year back into summer the way it was when I was a kid in the agrarian society.

I find it kind of refreshing that our politicians are so concerned with the quality of education that they give our kids some extra time in the summer to soak up more sunshine to sustain them through the dark days of winter.

Interestingly, the U.S. does not appear in a list of nations that have 33 weeks or more per year of elementary education. However, when you look at the list, you have to wonder if there is a relationship between time in classroom and economic success. I suspect that the nature of education in many of these countries is different from the U.S. Sure, readin', writin', and 'rithmetic are taught, but perhaps with religion thrown in for some countries or more social studies in others. Just speculating. Russia has the 3rd longest school year and Mexico the 5th longest. I'm not sure that their countries have been particularly successful as a result.

And that may be just the point: education failure or success is not achieved in an educational vacuum. Without a social and political fabric to provide opportunities to use educational training to its fullest, the amount of time spent in a classroom might just be irrelevant. Certainly, the more time one spends reading and receiving instruction, the more information can be absorbed. But information without the freedom of application is trivia.

So should summer vacation be extended to a more traditional Labor Day? I don't believe the week or so extension (and subsequent reduction during the rest of the year) makes any difference at all. Is 26 weeks of classroom versus an average of 40 weeks for the longest 36 school years important? That depends on the opportunity to use the extra training.

India is an example of where those extra weeks are eventually turning into a lot of extra Ph.Ds. At least for a segment of its population. European countries make up many of those top 36. Some of those nations have prospered and some not so much. So the ultimate question is: should education focus on improving a nation's wealth or its intellectual quality? The anwser is yes.

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“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
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Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)