Tag Archives: college

Rare good political news: Boosting apprenticeships

Trump Orders U.S. Regulatory Review to Boost Apprentice Programs” is not a good headline, but the article is worth reading because apprenticeships are important, underrated, and should be more prominent and prevalent. We’ve written about the desirability of apprenticeships before, in posts like “The Department of Labor’s ‘American Apprenticeship Initiative’ (AAI) Shows Some Forward Thinking by the Feds.” Moving towards an apprenticeship-based model is also a bipartisan good idea that should get both left and right excited.

Right now, most federal education policy is oriented towards getting everyone into a four-year college or university and graduating with a four-year degree—but, as the cost of college rises faster than other sector of the economy, it’s not clear that college is always such a good idea. In addition, the value of a degree varies widely by major. Just “going to college” is often not enough. The number of people who have expensive college degrees yet find themselves in jobs not requiring them also appears to be rising; I went to an expensive liberal arts school in the northeast, and one of my roommates from college is working as a bartender. I don’t want to disparage bartenders, having availed myself of their services many times, but four years and five figures—if not more—in costs is a terrible misallocation of resources.

For The Story’s Story, I wrote about Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton’s Paying for the Party. The book is too complex and interesting to summarize briefly, but one of its main points concerns the way colleges have evolved party tracks that require little studying—but undergrads with successful outcomes on that track tend to be wealthy and socially connected. Many undergrads wander onto that track without their peers’ financial and social resources, only to fail to graduate or to graduate with weak degrees that don’t produce much income.

Given this situation, policy change is warranted. If college was once a panacea, growing college costs have eliminated that situation. Shifting towards apprenticeships is one way to shift in a smarter direction. Right now, the Department of Labor and some states have “Registered Apprenticeships” programs of various kinds, but most of those are in the construction trades. We’d be better served to broaden that base.

The original article cited above also points out that Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta appears to be behind the shift. He appears to be of higher competence than many current executive branch political appointees, which is good. As a side note, in contemporary politics, there tends to be a drive to oppose anything at all proposed by the “other” party. This tendency is bad. We should work as hard as we can to judge any policy or person on its (or their) merits. Don’t oppose or favor a particular policy merely because your “team” opposes or favors it.

Over time we may also see the definition of “apprenticeship” and “school” change. For example, many coding bootcamps aren’t traditional schools and aren’t exactly apprenticeships either. A couple friends have done the Flatiron School in New York City. Lambda School is a new, promising effort. Pretty much everyone knows that high-paying, in-demand fields include programming and almost all levels of healthcare, while there isn’t a huge amount of demand for generic grads in most non-technical four-year college programs and for people who don’t have many skills. Things like coding boot camps may fill the gap between school and work for some people, while traditional trades seem to be robust, as those of us who have had to pay a plumber or roofer knows.

Apprenticeships are also an obviously good idea from the perspective of academia; anyone who teaches college students at schools below the most elite level knows that a large number of students really shouldn’t be in college. This was most obvious to me at the University of Arizona, but it happens across the academic landscape. Many of us in the basement of the Ivory Tower are attuned to the many students who don’t like school, drop out of it, but still have to pay a lot for it via student loans that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. I’ve been teaching undergrads for ten years, and it’s clear that many undergrads don’t know why they’re in college, don’t care about school, and are floundering in an academic milieu; they don’t like abstract symbol manipulation, sitting still for long periods of time, or reading.

Many college students go because their high school teachers and parents tell them to, yet many dropout after taking on student loans, or they graduate with weak degrees, little learning, and few connections. See, for example, “Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills.” In modern colleges, there is a lot of “They pretend to learn and we pretend to teach.” Professors are mostly rewarded for research and grad students are socialized to ignore teaching in favor of research. To be sure, some professors do focus on teaching, and community colleges in particular are teaching-oriented—yet the overall culture is clear, and many of the least-prepared, most-marginal students pay the price. Professors have often realized that there is little incentive to grade honestly and lots of incentive to not rock the boat, pass students along if at all possible, and collect those (meager) paychecks.

To professors, the unreadiness of many students is so vast that it’s hard to motivate them or pull them into the academic or intellectual culture. Many students flail in large classes and ultimately dropout. Again, this isn’t universal, but it is common and, again, obvious to anyone who’s spent time at the front of a college classroom.

The “college for everyone” meme is likely played out. Be ready for the apprenticeship shift and a wave of federal and state RFPs for innovative apprenticeship programs.

June Links: College Degrees, Federal Acronyms, NIH Grant Writers, Savings, Chairs, GeekDesk, Teaching, Teen Moms and Teen Pregnancy Prevention, and More

* A college diploma isn’t worth what it used to be. To get hired, grads today need hard skills.

* Let’s play “Count the Acronym” in this sentence, from the ACF’s Transitional Living Program and Maternity Group Homes: “The Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) is accepting applications for the Transitional Living Program (TLP) and for Maternity Group Homes (MGH) funding opportunity announcement (FOA). TLPs provide an alternative to involving RHY in the law enforcement, child welfare, mental health, and juvenile justice systems.”

* Someone found us by searching for, “how do you keep your youthbuild grant”. Here’s how: by providing the services you promised to provide and filling out your DOL reports thoroughly and on time.

* Another person found us by searching for “expert nih grant writer”. You’ve come to the right place!

* Why Are Teen Moms Poor? Surprising new research shows it’s not because they have babies. They have babies because they’re poor. Emile Zola more or less got this point in 1885 in his masterpiece, Germinal.

* Why the U.S. has an artificially low savings rate: we take money from the young, who might save for later and have a low discount rate, and give it to the elderly, who want to spend it now because they have a high discount rate.

* Against chairs. I want a GeekDesk.

* Bertrand Russell’s 10 Commandments for Teachers; I try to follow them, especially the one about arguing via authority.

* Learning that works: rethinking vocational education. This is positive step, and I’m noticing more and more people making these kinds of arguments.

* The Real E-Publishing Story: It’s Not the Millionaires, It’s the Midlist.

* Game over for the climate, which is one of those important articles you won’t read.

* “As an outsider I hear plenty of what America does wrong, I want to hear what they do right.”

* The World as We Know It Is About to End, Say Some Really Frightened Scientists.

* A lot of what’s wrong with public schools can be surmised from How did this parent end up in jail? Kelley Williams-Bolar just wanted her kids to go to a safer school — then her story took an unexpected turn.

* The great Verizon FiOS ripoff.

September 2011 Links: Understanding Expenses, the Freelance Revolution, Skirt Length, College Life, Schools, Software, and More

* The Tyranny of Silly Expense Control Rules; notice the comment from yours truly.

* The Freelance Surge Is the Industrial Revolution of Our Time. People are, in other words, repurposing their jobs. A lot of academics in the humanities appear to be completely missing this. In addition, you might want to emphasize this fact in your job training proposals, much like social media.

* Speaking of college life: “Smart Girls Wear Short Skirts, Too: Stop Complaining About College Students.”

* The FDA should be limited to establishing safety, which I find convincing for reasons demonstrated by Cowen and Grove.

* The Real Problem With College Admissions: It’s Not the Rankings. Notice especially the graph.

* I don’t often agree with the Wall Street Journal’s editorial line, but “The Latest Crime Wave: Sending Your Child to a Better School” has it about right:

In case you needed further proof of the American education system’s failings, especially in poor and minority communities, consider the latest crime to spread across the country: educational theft. That’s the charge that has landed several parents, such as Ohio’s Kelley Williams-Bolar, in jail this year.

An African-American mother of two, Ms. Williams-Bolar last year used her father’s address to enroll her two daughters in a better public school outside of their neighborhood. After spending nine days behind bars charged with grand theft, the single mother was convicted of two felony counts. Not only did this stain her spotless record, but it threatened her ability to earn the teacher’s license she had been working on. [. . .]

Only in a world where irony is dead could people not marvel at concerned parents being prosecuted for stealing a free public education for their children.

I knew some kids in high school who used this trick; one day, I gave a guy a ride home after working on the school newspaper and was surprised at how far he lived from campus. He told me that his parents used his uncle’s address to smuggle him in.

* Is barefoot running (using shoes like the “Vibram Five-Fingers” I wear) “better” for you? Yes, if you land on your forefoot. If you still land on your heel, however, they’re probably worse. This, however, would be pretty damn unnatural.

* My job is to watch dreams die. My job is to make dreams live; I think it works out better for me.

* One Path to Better Jobs: More Density in Cities.

* File this under “no shit:”

But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.

This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements.

Remember: there is no silver bullet for education.

* The New Pants Revue, by Bruce Sterling: “Since I’m a blogger and therefore a modern thought-leader type, my favorite maker of pants sent me some new-model pants in the mail:”

I should explain now why I have been wearing “5.11 Tactical” trousers for a decade. It’s pretty simple: before that time, I wore commonplace black jeans, for two decades. Jeans and tactical pants are the same school of garment. They’re both repurposed American Western gear. I’m an American and it’s common for us to re-adapt our frontier inventions.”

(Hat tip Charlie Stross.)

* The most important post you haven’t read and probably won’t read: Great Stagnation…or Great Relocation?:

Suppose all of those people had the same purchasing power. If you were a factory owner, and you wanted to minimize transport costs, where would you put your factories? The answer is a no-brainer: China and India. Some others in Europe, Japan, and Indonesia. Perhaps a couple on the U.S. East Coast. But for the most part, you’d laugh in the face of any consultant who told you to put a factory in the U.S. The place looks like one giant farm!

It may be that American manufacturing strength was due to a historical accident. Here is the story I’m thinking of. First, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, our proximity to Europe – at that time the only agglomerated Core in the world – allowed us to serve as a low-cost manufacturing base. Then, after World War 2, the U.S. was the only rich capitalist economy not in ruins, so we became the new Core. But as Europe and Japan recovered, our lack of population density made our manufacturing dominance short-lived.

Now, with China finally free of its communist constraints, economic activity is reverting to where it ought to be. More and more, you hear about companies relocating to China not for the cheap labor, but because of the huge domestic market. This is exactly the New Economic Geography in action.

* California or Bust. Isaac may also write a post on this.

* Student choice, employment skills, and grade inflation.

* People respond to incentives, example #14,893:

Top officials [in the Social Security Administration], in a bid to meet goals to win promotions or thousands of dollars in bonuses, directed many employees to refrain from issuing decisions on cases until next week, according to judges and union officials. This likely would delay benefits paid to thousands of Americans with pending applications, many of whom are financially needy and have waited for a government decision for more than a year.

* Demand for software developers is still high.

* Two thousand years in one chart, or, “we make a lot of stuff these days.”

* This is how you catch someone’s attention with the lead: “I became a feminist the day my sixth-grade math teacher dismembered and spit on a white rose, telling us, ‘This is you after you have sex.’

* How Suburban Sprawl Works Like a Ponzi Scheme.

* Hiring Locally for Farm Work Is No Cure-All.

* “The Numbers Behind What’s Your Number?: How many sex partners has the average American woman had—and does anyone still care?” My guess tends towards “no,” and that the number of think “no” increases with age.

* Why Businessmen Wear Black Hats in the Movies:

Why don’t the movies have plausible, real world villains anymore? One reason is that a plethora of stereotype-sensitive advocacy groups, representing everyone from hyphenated ethnic minorities and physically handicapped people to Army and CIA veterans, now maintain a liaison in Hollywood to protect their image. The studios themselves often have an “outreach program” in which executives are assigned to review scripts and characters with representatives from these groups, evaluate their complaints, and attempt to avoid potential brouhahas.

Finding evil villains is not as easy as it was in the days when a director could choose among Nazis, Communists, KGB, and Mafiosos.

This has the unfortunate side effect of decreasing realism and / or pandering to obviousness; no one is going to argue Nazis aren’t bad guys.

* For the performing arts, this is the moment where recession turns into depression. See data at the link.

* Filed under “duh:” “The e-book marketplace is redefining what people expect to pay for books.”

* “[T]he broader point really is the cliche: this is what it looks like when “the terrorists win” and we lose the long-term struggle to protect a free society.” From James Fallows.

* Awesome: NASA revealed on Wednesday a design for its next colossal rocket that is to serve as the backbone for exploration of the solar system for the coming decades.

* Some real Shock and Awe: Racially profiled and cuffed in Detroit.

* Better Business Bureau (BBB) accreditation appears to be bullshit, since the organization will rescind accreditation if you criticize it.

* Finally, for those of you who made it to the end: “Steve Jobs passes and the Internet speaks.”

September 2011 Links: How to Meet Your Program Officer, The Death of Books, Mistakes in Thinking Outside the Box, Handwriting, Education, and More

* How to meet not only your program officer, but the US Attorney as well: “D.C. Government Claims Nonprofit Used Grant Money to Open Strip Club.” This is especially brazen; everyone knows that programs occur a certain amount of indirect costs, but that’s considerably different than out-and-out fraud.

* Reminder: in the age of the death of the book, “Publishers sold 2.57 billion books in all formats in 2010, a 4.1 percent increase since 2008.

* Charities Struggle With Smaller Wall Street Donations, although this probably isn’t news to GWC readers.

* The Legislation That Could Kill Internet Privacy for Good.

* Why the Real Estate Recession is Halting Divorces.

* The grant of the week, courtesy of a reader: “Co-Management for Sibsistenceuse of Pacific Walrus.” That is in fact how it appeared at Grants.gov.

* News flash: college students like drinking because it alleviates social anxiety and enables hooking up. File this under, “I could’ve told them that.” If you’re running a Enforcing Underage Drinking Laws Discretionary Program: University/College Initiative or Capacity Building Initiative for Substance Abuse program, you should keep articles like this in mind. People don’t binge drink to become cautionary tales. They do it because it’s fun.

* Speaking of college life: “Smart Girls Wear Short Skirts, Too: Stop Complaining About College Students.”

* “Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.” That’s from the New York Times, “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.”

* What happens to doctors who think outside the box? Answer: nothing good. Kind of like grant writers who think outside the box.

* If you can get FiOS, you should.

* Broadcasting and Narrowcasting: “Generalized interventions tend to affect everyone a little bit, but they don’t close achievement gaps. Narrowly targeted interventions make large differences on a small scale; they help close gaps, but they don’t do much for the overall completion number.” If you’re not reading this blog about community college life, you probably should be.

* Handwriting Horror: Nation of adults who will write like children?

* Why Software Is Eating The World by Marc Andreessen—one of the most impressive essays I’ve read recently.

* CIA’s ‘Facebook’ Program Dramatically Cut Agency’s Costs.

* A Federal Register API? Shocking!

* Charlie Stross, interesting as usual:

In the period 1997-2010 in the UK, Parliament created an average of one new criminal offence for every day the House of Commons was in session. I asked a couple of legal experts how many actual chargeable offences there were in the English legal system; they couldn’t give an exact answer but suggested somewhere in the range 5,000-20,000. The situation in the USA is much, much worse, with different state and federal legal systems and combinations of felonies; the true number of chargeable felonies may be over a million, and this situation is augmented by a tax code so large that no single human being can be familiar with all of it (but failure to comply is of course illegal).

Now, most of the time most of these laws don’t affect most of us. But there’s a key principle of law, that ignorance is no defence: I’m willing to bet that most human beings are guilty of one or more crimes, be it smoking a joint or speeding or forgetting to declare earnings or failing to file the paperwork for some sort of permit we don’t even know exists. We are all potentially criminals.

* Note: there is no evidence that birth control actually causes weight gain.

* Does a Moleskine notebook tell the truth? Answer: probably not. I’ve been trying various notebooks over the years and have probably settled on the Rhodia Webbie, an unfortunately named but quite nice notebook that appears much more durable than its competitors. I am disappointed with Moleskines.

* The “overlearning the game” problem.

* On English as a language:

[. . .] there’s no subject, however technical or complex, that can’t be made clear to any reader in good English—if it’s used right. Unfortunately, there are many ways of using it wrong

This should remind you of our post, How to Write About Something You Know Nothing About: It’s Easy, Just Imagine a Can Opener.

* A Tough Job, but Someone’s Gotta Do It. A jobs-training proposal that looks straight out of, well, a proposal.

* College football as seen by a (British?) person acting as an anthropologist.

* PicPlum calls itself “the easiest way to send photos.” I ordered some and they turned out quite nicely.

* Text Slang for Adults. Sample: “NSR = Need some roughage”; “T4W = Time for whiskey.”

* Contrary to popular belief, riots might not mean much of anything:

But across U.S. cities, there has never been much of a link between unrest and either inequality or poverty. In fact, the riots of the 1960s were actually slightly more common in cities that had more government spending. Riots were significantly less common in the South, where the Jim Crow laws were making their long overdue exit. This isn’t to say that many people involved in riots don’t have valid grievances, but plenty of people have serious grievances and don’t riot.

* He Sexts, She Sexts More, Report Says, this from the NYT.

* How Cisco’s “unmitigated gall” derailed one man’s life.

* Recession worsens racial wealth gap; women and minorities hurt most.

* This may be the most impressive blog comment I’ve ever read (it’s from Cory Doctorow):

Education is a public good. It is best supplied and paid for by the group as a whole, because no individual or small collective can produce the overall social benefit that the nation can provision collectively.

Education doesn’t respond well to market forces because many of the social goods that arise from education — socialization, a grounding in civics, historical context, rational and systematic reasoning — are not goods or services demanded by a market, but rather they are the underlying substrate that allows people to intelligently conduct transactions in a marketplace as well as establishing and maintaining good governance.

There is a long and wide body of evidence that people with wide, solid educational foundations that transcend mere vocational skills produce societies that are more prosperous, more transparent, healthier, more democratic — that attain, in short, all the things we hope markets will attain for us.

* “There are many studies of the stimulus, but finally there is one which goes behind the numbers to see what really happened. And it’s not an entirely pretty story.”

* Although For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers doesn’t say as much, it’s actually about how hard it is for lower-and middle-class students to get into elite colleges.

* Born, and Evolved, to Run.