We're not No. 1!

This is an opinion piece talking about the US. In particular, it is suggesting that GDP is not the right measure. It doesn't make Nicaragua No. 1 but it does suggest that there are some things to measure besides wealth.

The piece is in the New York Times and is written by Nicholas Kristof. It is both about perceptions and about measurement. The article has multiple links to support his conclusion.

Sure, technically Norwegians may be wealthier per capita, and the Japanese may live longer, but the world watches the N.B.A., melts at Katy Perry, uses iPhones to post on Facebook, trembles at our aircraft carriers, and blames the C.I.A. for everything. We’re No. 1!

In some ways we indisputably are, but a major new ranking of livability in 132 countries puts the United States in a sobering 16th place. We underperform because our economic and military strengths don’t translate into well-being for the average citizen.

To me, that last sentence is the key. After all, shouldn't the whole goal of government be to maximize the well-being for the average citizen?

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Ol' Tom Jefferson would more or less agree

You'd have to strike that concept of "the average citizen". Treating only the mean can allow some wild behaviors in the extremes of any distribution.

“The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.”

A government should create laws that apply to all equally, and the proper & just enforcement of those laws. And provide for an infrastructure of common use properties - highways, banking, electric, water, sewar, internet, radio-frequencies transmissions, &c. - sufficient to allow society to grow - that serve the general good. (It seems reasonable to me that those could be created & managed by private concerns, as long as they were regulated & supervised by government.)

All citizens should be require to serve in government. None for longer than a 4 (or ...?) year term. (The size of government would therefor depend on the size of the population of the nation.)

I would like to see the government out of education, completely.

I would like to see for profits out of education, completely

The college level for profits have shown that the graduation rates are less, the institution uses more part-time teaching labor, pay fewer benefits, and leaves students with far greater debt load and less actual education. Canada has part-time teachers, but they're paid the straight fraction of a full time college faculty member's salary and everyone is covered for health benefits by the government health insurance company. A far higher percentage of Canadians get college degrees than in the US.

Educated all US citizens to a common standard whether their parents have money or not. I do support home schooling with the home-schooled children being required to pass educational tests to assure that the children can also compete with students from other parts of the US and the world when they graduate.

Rebecca Brown

The problem is defining a common standard ...

... and then requiring ALL to meet this minimum. For those who consider public schools JAIL, it would be better if they had the option of apprenticing somewhere (a la Deutschland today or Ben Franklin yesteryear). Governments make soldiers & bureaucrats, not thinkers.

"For profit" universities includes some of the best institutions in America (that 'directed' its growth by studying governance, political science, economics, &c.). And some of the worst of modern times, where the term is a profanity. That's due to lack of outside oversight. It doesn't necessarily have to be regulated by government. An independent, respected seal of approval would do, like Consumer Reports.

Yes, using part-time teachers in colleges is especially being abused today as administrators look to cut corners without raising tuition (which they do anyway). I was an adjunct prof for one semester (told I got full-time, but Affirmative Action wouldn't allow it) and worked a 2nd job. I escaped to work with a small company at a much, much better salary with bene's. Canada is being fair; they're smarter. But still, part-time should be treated as temporary. Nobody told me getting a living would be easy..

I like Bob Dylan's line "20 years of schooling and they put you on the day shift." He's another famous American 'dropout'.

the right distinction?

Based on the followups I see, I think "for profit" may have been the wrong choice of words. In retrospect, it would seem like "government run" vs. "business run" may be a more useful distinction. Still imperfect but maybe closer.

For profit and not for profit are really no more than tax distinctions. It's a business and, in general, can be run like a business. Basically, you just pay more administrative overhead in order to get a tax advantage. That is, in a not for profit, you have to spend all the profit -- which can be in the salaries of the Board of Directors.

Government run schools are a different case. Generally they are regulated in such a way to make sure everyone is moved to the level of incompetence of the least competent. I saw generally because there are exceptions. The one that comes to mind is The Evergreen State College. It seemed to have the goal of educating people in what they wanted to learn. I taught there and it was actually fun. Students were allowed to learn things. Probably the most famous Greener is Matt Groening. It's pretty clear to me that the father of The Simpsons and Futurama was not turned into someone ordinary.

California used to have and to some extent still has

…absolutely first rate school (Universithy of California at Berkeley is an example, and at one time had free tuition, as did City University of New York. The Ivies and the West Coast equivalent, Stanford, give full rides to a select few poor students -- but the average student is from families that have annual house hold incomes over $60,000 a year (generally well over). The first rate state schools gave people who didn't come from those backgrounds and who weren't extraordinary to qualify for the full ride scholarships to get good educations.

I've been a student at everything from a teacher's college turned university to a community college to Columbia University School of General Studies and have taught at a for profit (wretched abuse of the students like most of the Pell Grant Schools) to second tier state schools (SUNYA when I was a graduate student and Temple and UNCC when I was an adjunct) to non-profits (Drexel University).

The very best schools are a cut above. Both state colleges, non-profits, and most particularly for profits are cutting expenses by hiring part time faculty and the fantasy that all of these people are working professionals who teach a course for the pleasure is really verifiably not the case for most of the classes taught by adjuncts and contingent faculty. Canada has part time faculty but pay them better. In the US up to 60 to 70 percent of non major required classes are taught by adjuncts, and studies show that these schools have lower retention rates than schools that don't have a staff that's adjuncts and contingent faculty. The schools save money, and yes, that goes into superstar faculty salaries and into administration. The superstars generally teach one or two courses a year (and they are the professionals who come in to teach majors). Friend of mine at Temple is one of those superstars and makes $90K a year and publishes a novel a year. I have no doubt that the deans make more, and at Drexel, it was far more.

I think you're mistaking the influence of conservative governments on education with what the goals of education would be without people seeing educations only role as fitting people to locally available jobs.

Also, the UK has other models -- and, to a certain extent, Cambridge and Oxford are the properties of everyone with a degree from those schools -- the alums can vote on how the schools are run.

The big difference between the first rate schools and the second and third tier schools is that the students are the first rate schools are future peers and fellow professionals and all that while the second and third tier schools don't have that respect for their students, even their better ones. The UPenn writers invited a freshman poet to join the outside reader and UPenn writing faculty and some of the outside reader's friends for dinner after a reading.

Not that there aren't brilliant professors at even the second tier schools -- but they tend not to have their scholarly lives on their home campuses.

Students pay a higher and higher portion of the budgets of state-run universities. And Drexel was as expensive as UPenn, which has endowments and alum who give money, sometimes serious money, if not at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia levels (I almost feel that I'm Winston Smith and I'm beginning to love Alma Mater, and have been thinking of arranging for an annuity through Columbia).

A place either exposes its freshmen to first rate people in their fields, or it doesn't. Even adjuncts who are excellent teachers end up spread out among too many schools to be able to spend serious time with individual students. A friend in the sciences said that most of the education in the sciences was working as a lab tech for someone doing good research.

Many places do use adjuncts for all sorts of intro classes -- and I've heard that the practice is growing in Germany, but the countries that seem to have decent academic unions tend to pay the part-timers better and the national health system provides everyone with pretty much the same health insurance.

If there's money to be made for the for profits, it's made by hiring more adjuncts -- and at the for profit I taught computer courses in (before I'd actually worked in IT) and Human Resource Management and Marketing. The school was one jump ahead of the accrediting agency -- and many more schools are like this than like the good ones. And no, they weren't hiring people in industry to come in and teach. The average teacher at National Business College was a high school teacher working a second shift after teaching, with a Masters. And 100% of the teaching faculty were adjuncts.

We end up with people who can't imagine a nuanced complex reality for themselves and who tend to swallow whole propaganda and over-simplifications. And the student pay for most of this with either Pell grants or loans.

Most if not all of what we taught could have been studied cheaper at the local community college. Same for Brooks Photographic program and Brooks Fashion program.

If the purpose of the school is to give deans and administrators raises, public isn't any different from the for profits. And that tends to be the case.

It may be as simple as the good schools know their alums will support them and possibly pay more in bequests than they ever paid in tuition, so treating them badly costs in the long run. The bad schools just want the money up front and will never have any further connection with the students, and if they borrow and drop out, student loan debt can't be discharged through bankruptcy. Other countries do this better.

Rebecca Brown

Many For Profits

cut to the chase, provide better opportunity, are more streamlined, less unionized, more responsive ( an oxymoron when used with less unionized). They're focused on the student, not the teacher.

University of Phoenix comes to mind as a sterling example.

I did a year's computer schooling in a first rate for profit. Excellent teachers, no BS, no left wingers, just the facts, Ma'am.

Other big difference was, my instructors were actually working in their fields, not academics who hadn't held a job in 40 years and were teaching irrelevancy. Plato and Socrates don't change, much of the rest of the world has moved on.

I've had both, and they both have their place. The leisure of academia is great, hooking up, pizza and beer, and it's a rite of passage for many. Everyone should have the independence and freedom. A college degree doesn't buy you much these days (besides the hooking up and pizza & beer). You then go on to medical school, law, business school, etc, etc.

Interesting,, that anyone these days who can afford it, sends their kids to "for profit" schools.

My non-profit alma mater just raised $6.1 billion

…in a relatively short campaign push, from alums in circa 140 countries. The elite don't go to for profits. And schools like Harvard, Columbia, UPenn, Princeton, Yale, and such have deep enough pockets (see that $6.1 billion figure) to give full rides to the smart kids of the world from whatever background. The reason more poor smart kids don't apply is uninformed guidance counselors who don't know a thing about those schools and expect them to be expensive (for a poor kid who can get in, they're about the best deal out there.

There are a few for profits in technical education that have decent programs (one place I worked knew which one it was and hired people who'd been through that program but not the others.

The people who have money try to get their kids into Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, Yale, Columbia. Princeton had, at one time, the guy who developed C as one of their instructors. Stanford had the guy who wrote The Art of Programming and who developed a scripting language. In writing, undergraduates get taught by people who are actively publishing in the New Yorker, who have books on the NY Times Best Seller List (John McFee, Joyce Carol Oates) -- and they teach undergraduates.

Not everyone who comes out of those schools does make lots and lots of money, or even gets published by a commercial publishing house, or goes on to use the contacts made at Harvard to create Facebook. But nobody who goes to those schools can complain about what was available to them if they wanted it.

And some of the state schools are as good or used to be as good. None of the for profits are. They're trade schools that have lower than average graduation rates.

From Wikipedia on University of Phoenix, which is a bad joke:

"USA Today has listed University of Phoenix as a "red flag" institution for posting a default rate (26%) that surpassed its graduation rate (17%).[6] According to USA Today, the University of Phoenix's Detroit campus has a graduation rate of only 10%, but a student loan default rate of 26.4%.[7] A 2010 report found that the University of Phoenix's online graduation rate was only 5 percent.[8] According to collegecalc.org, tuition costs are typically 300% to 500% more expensive than community colleges.[9]

The University of Phoenix closed 115 of its campuses in 2013, previously having over 200.[2] The University of Phoenix attained a peak enrollment of almost 600,000 students in 2010, but its numbers have declined almost 60 percent since 2010. The enrollment drop has been attributed to operational changes amid criticism of high debt loads and low job prospects for university students.[10] These changes included allowing students to try classes before officially enrolling and recruiter training programs that are designed to improve student retention and completion rates.[11] In October 2013, Apollo Group reported University of Phoenix's degreed total enrollment 269,000, an 18% decline from 2012. New degreed enrollment fell 22% to 41,000.[12]"

I don't believe that USA Today is a left wing rag (conservative but one of the few news sources that turned down the CIA money if I'm remembering correctly). Not only is University of Phoenix not a good education; it's not even a good business.

Rebecca Brown


That makes sense to me. I think the people of the US would be much better off if spending priorities were different.

1st Capt. Ron

(Title by Miskito Alan)