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Are we Really just Dumping Dollars Down the Education Toilet?

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There is a constant battle going on between conservatives and liberals concerning the cost of education. The conservatives feel that our kids’ education would be better served by slashing the education budgets (while at the same time giving tax breaks to the wealthy, but that’s another subject). They point out that our K-12 education costs have tripled since 1970 (adjusted for inflation), and that privately run schools are run much less expensively than public schools. Here’s an article that explains their complaints rather well. Problem is, as with so many other issues, the conservatives are using false arguments and refuse to see the big picture.

This is not to say the conservatives are wholly wrong. Our schools are far from perfect, that much is obvious. I’ve agreed with conservatives for many years now that the NEA is too powerful, that the tenure system needs to be revamped and the schools need to be able to fire underperforming teachers. But that’s not the whole story; far from it, in fact.

Not so long ago, Dave Nalle, head of the Republican Liberty Caucus, posted a complaint that only 49% of education budgets in Texas go towards teachers’ salaries, and that the other 51% went towards administrative costs. His solution? Slash the administrations!

Now Mr. Nalle is generally reasonable and certainly intelligent, but on this one issue, what he didn’t understand, and didn’t reply to when this was pointed out, was what those administrative costs entailed in the remaining 51%:

Buses – 3%
Building construction and maintenance – 9%
Heating, cooling, lighting – 3%
Security staff and school nurse – 2%
Instructional aides and instructional supplies – 9%
State-mandated teacher training and curricular development – 3%
Lunch – 5%
Libraries – 2%
Guidance counselors, guidance materials, loan and post-secondary advancement information – 4%
Day-to-day operations, non-teacher school staff and administration – 5%
Extracurricular Activities – 3%
District-level staff to coordinate all of the above – 3%

So when the conservatives want to cut billions from the education budget, where exactly are those cuts to be made? The conservatives almost never point out exactly where the waste is! They cry, “The cost of education has tripled since 1970, but the quality of education has not; therefore the extra money spent must be wasted somehow!”

So let’s go down the list. Even adjusted for inflation, are buses as cheap to purchase and maintain as they were 40 years ago? No. What about building construction and maintenance? No. How about utilities and security staff and nurses and aides and instructional supplies (including computers we didn’t have 40 years ago)? No.

Go down the list: the costs of all these have greatly increased. That is, for the ones that existed forty years ago. The increased costs the conservatives rail about do not take into account that in the past forty years most schools have found that they need computers, and people to maintain the computers and the networks. Forty years ago, security staff were almost nonexistent, and there was usually only one school nurse as opposed to the several aides and nurses needed to take care of the severely disabled students that now attend regular school instead of being hidden at home. The reader can look at the list and imagine all the changes that have happened over the past four decades, and the increased costs they entailed. These are not some kind of strawmen in the argument, these are hard-and-fast reality.

But what about the argument that private schools are run so much more cheaply than public schools, yet often achieve better results? That, too, is a false argument. Why? Because there is no private school that does everything that every public school is required to do. Let’s look at what private schools don’t do:

About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • Clavos

    Unfortunately, your otherwise well-written article misses the principal point about the increase in education costs, Glenn. The quality of America’s educational system has not only not increased to a degree commensurate with the increase in costs, it has actually decreased significantly over the past five decades.

    Also, your comparison of education expenditure against GDP is fallacious. It ignores the fact that the USA’s GDP is so much larger than all but a very few other countries’ GDPs, it’s neither unusual nor worrisome that we would spend a smaller proportion of our GDP on education than say, Cuba or Lesotho.

  • jamminsue

    When mandates such as NCLB are imposed without funding, then of course someting has to give. “Teaching to the test” has lowered the quality of education. Class material had to be “dumbed down.” Why? To be sure the students passed. Why aren’t the students studying? When both parents work, sometimes each with two jobs, leaving kids to thier own devices. Hence, the TV or computer games or whatever. Do these kinds of entertainment ever make the person who studies a hero or respected? Consider the number of individuals who have to take preparatory classes in English and Math before being allowed into the University system. Further, I have seen studies where kids from France and England have come over and taken the US tests (the French had to do it in English) they were shocked at how easy the tests were.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Your method of looking at the costs alone without looking at the reasons behind it works VERY well when it comes to health care, since we spend nearly twice as much per capita as any other nation yet we’re something like 37th on the life expectancy list.

    But such does NOT work with education, since we not only do not spend more than any other nation per capita, but we’re something like ninth on the list. I’m in a hurry right now but you can look it up on nationmaster.com.

    And concerning the percentage of our GDP, I might be wrong, but I think we spend a greater proportion of our GDP on defense than on education. If that is so, I think you should sharpen your knives for the military-industrial complex LONG before you should attack our all-important education system.

    And besides, the ONE statistic you attack is not the only point I bring out in the article, is it? Yet again, you refuse to address the reasons WHY the cost has tripled. You refuse to identify exactly where it is that the money is wasted, but instead are repeating the same simplistic and logically-flawed claim.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clavos –

    While you have every right to stand up and say that we’re wasting SO much taxes in education while refusing to identify exactly where the taxes are wasted, it puts you in a rather bad light by making you seem intellectually dishonest in that you’re claiming there’s a huge amount of wasted funding while refusing to even attempt to identify exactly where the funding is being wasted!

    I gave the Texas school system as an example. Texas governor Rick Perry wants to slash education funding by something like $5B, yet is he identifying where the taxpayer dollars are being wasted? No.

    So why don’t you go back to the list of cost percentages that I provided and show us where you think the billions of dollars are being wasted? Would you at least do that?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    jamminsue –

    It’s the same old story – America rested on her laurels after spending a few decades being Number One, and now we’re shocked that the rest of the world is catching up, and that quite a few nations have passed us by.

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/2011/07/gop-leaders-breach-oath-of-office.html Tommy Mack

    I must agree with Clavos on this one, Glenn. It’s a cost-benefit thing. Old things can be polished to a new lustre but it only changes the patina.

    Tommy

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Then identify where the money’s being wasted, Tommy – that’s all I ask.

    See, that’s the problem with Clavos – he’s claiming the money’s being wasted based only upon the results, and that slashing the funding will somehow fix our education system.

    I give you the same challenge I gave Clavos – look at the lists of cost percentages and tell me where the money’s being wasted.

    And while you’re at it, bear in mind the MANY things our schools have to deal with now that they didn’t have to deal with forty years ago – little things like computers and networks, buses that are FAR more expensive than before, buildings that are more expensive, and I don’t know if you remember, but forty years ago, schools didn’t take kids who were severely disabled – but they do now, just like the two medically-fragile kids I have downstairs as I type this.

    Tommy, Clavos’ approach is too simplistic by far – you’ve GOT to look at the whole picture, at how our schools and our society has changed so much, and not just at total budget versus results.

    Throwing money at schools doesn’t ensure they’ll provide quality educations. Slashing their funding not only does NOT solve any problems, but also virtually ensures that the quality of the education provided will take a nosedive – ask the 25% of ALL teachers in Texas who are having to moonlight to be able to make a living, instead of being able to concentrate on little things after hours like grading tests and homework and all the other things that teachers normally do.

  • Cannonshop

    #7 Okay, Glenn, I’ll point out a couple places it’s wasted:

    Administration costs, and remember that you’re playing with GROSS numbers-so, what percentage of the budget of, say, the Dept. of Education (Federal) actually reaches…schools at the TEACHING end?

    and what’s the slice of Education Dollars such agencies absorb before one dim dime hits the customers (that’s the student end, or teacher end.)

    The real question isn’t “More or less” but HOW the money’s being spent.

    The second one only fringes a tiny bit on the usual ‘blame the unions’ thing. Unions in and of themselves aren’t a bad thing-but when Management and Unions are the same people, they ARE a bad thing-it’s a conflict of interest created that serves, in the end, only the Leaders of the Union.

    NEA has that kind of relationship in many states. Again,it isn’t the money, per-se, it’s how it is being spent. When my family moved here to Washington in 1986, this state was third highest in spending on K-12 education, and 47th or so in ranking in terms of quality of that education. About five or six years ago, the proportions started evening out-the rough dollars spent started getting closer to the actual quality of the product-it’s the quality of the product that we need to be examining here, and that comes down to HOW the money’s being spent…or misspent.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    Cannon, only your first point addresses a specific instance of waste, and that vaguely.

    I’ll agree that having a federal department of education at all is somewhat superfluous, as constitutionally the responsibility for educating their young rests with the states. There’s a very strong limit on what the feds can actually do.

    Your second point is just “it’s the unions”, but doesn’t explain what exactly it is the unions are doing that’s wasteful. As Glenn has been complaining about of Clavos, your answer focuses on the supposed results rather than the details.

  • Clavos

    you’re claiming there’s a huge amount of wasted funding while refusing to even attempt to identify exactly where the funding is being wasted!

    Glenn, I’m a taxpayer; I don’t work for the government, it works for me (or is supposed to). That there is waste in the educational system is obvious by the fact that the students (many, if not most of them) are not getting educated. Colleges are having to set up remedial courses in reading and writing for incoming freshmen, and our nation scores very poorly academically against other developed nations.

    Since the kids aren’t getting a proper education, maybe we should look at…oh, I don’t know…maybe how we’re “teaching” them?

    In any case, it’s not my responsibility to ferret out the waste and correct things, that’s what all those overpaid bozos in the DOE should be doing.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    As always, y’all conservatives just hate paying attention to the details, as if the word “why” is of absolutely no meaning to you.

    I’ve pointed out many times how many things the schools are required to have and required to do that they were not required to have and do forty years ago. All these things cost MONEY.

    Furthermore, schools cost MONEY. Has the cost of real estate merely kept pace with inflation? Or has it exceeded it? Has the cost of construction (including all modern construction requirements) kept pace with or exceeded the pace of inflation?

    BUT YOU KNOW WHAT, CLAVOS? If we were to go in and get rid of everything in today’s schools (including staffing) that they didn’t have in 1970, they’d probably cost just as little as they did then! But then, when was the last time you spent much time in a modern school? Do you really understand how much they have changed, and what challenges they face that they did NOT face forty years ago? It is an indisputable FACT that schools are required to be and do much more today than they did forty years ago, but you’re pretending that this shouldn’t have any effect on how much K-12 education costs! Clavos, when it comes to this particular argument, you’re living in fantasyland!

  • Cannonshop

    #9 I was trying to be more ‘nuanced’, I think is the term on the Union side of the issue.

    I guess I’m not being clear…

    Okay, when you have Unions, it’s best that they are in opposition to the management-the compromises thus achieved tend to benefit both the membership, and the customers (and often the employer as well). When the Union is ALSO the management, there’s a problem-and it’s not so much the fault of the membership, as it is the system that allows Union Officials to also be part of the management structure (whether directly, or indirectly.)

    American education is saddled with seniority rules, merit pay is blocked, and it’s nearly impossible to fire a bad teacher and make it stick. This creates a situation wherein the ones who will hang on, regardless of skill, or commitment to the profession, end up being the highest paid, and are immune to firing-a teacher practically has to sleep with students (and even then, in at least one prominent case, it wasn’t enough to make the firing stick!) to lose their job.

    Lawyers and Doctors carry malpractice insurance, because they can lose their license to practice if they violate the ethical rules of their professions, or do a crap job of DOING their professions.

    Teachers don’t face this. A teacher can be compleatly incompetent, teach that the world is on the back of a turtle and that 1+1=Blue, and they’re immune. Does that make sense to you? a Doctor might kill one patient, and ruin that person’s family’s life, or ruin someone’s life with a bad call, but Teachers influence the lives of thousands of students, many of them simultaneously, a bad one can damage a decent proportion of the community for generations.

    In school systems, Unions and Management both work frantically to block any effort to measure the effectiveness of their teachers-doesn’t that strike you a little odd for professionals we’re supposed to trust our futures to? (and don’t think it’s not trusting your future to these people-it’s your kids who decide what kind of home you’ll end up in when you get to be that old…your kids, and their peers. something to think about.)

    It’s not entirely the Unions fault-parents have a big chunk of this too-but who educated the parents? I have a Niece who graduated high school, she can barely multiply two-digit numbers without assistance, can’t divide fractions, can read at what used to be about a sixth grade level…but she graduated, because she knows the right causes to support, did her 90 hours of school-approved community service, and got a break on the standardized tests because of a lawsuit that claimed they were unfair.

    A suit partially sponsored, by the Teacher’s Union.

  • Clavos

    It is an indisputable FACT that schools are required to be and do much more today than they did forty years ago, but you’re pretending that this shouldn’t have any effect on how much K-12 education costs!

    [Sigh.]

    No, Glenn, I’m questioning the cost of the ineffective education system we have.

    Not how much it costs, Glenn, but the fact that it isn’t educating the kids.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    Hey! A detail! Not much of one, and certainly not enough to come close to answering my challenge to show me where all that money’s being wasted, but at least you tried – which is more than can be said for anyone else so far.

    As I stated in the article, I’ve agreed with conservatives for many years that it’s wrong that school districts have such difficulty in firing teachers who are incompetent.

    But think about this: look at every thing you wrote in comment #10, and would that alone account for a tripling of the cost of education? Would it really? No – not even close. It wouldn’t account for much of it at all, since American teachers are famously underpaid when compared to teachers in other first-world nations. Sure, teachers who have tenure eventually get paid well…but shouldn’t that be the case in any field where the minimum education to get hired is usually a master’s degree?

    So I send you back to the blackboard, chalk in hand, with the same challenge I’ve given Clavos and Tommy Mack – show me where the money’s being wasted! Show me how it is that when the challenges faced by schools have changed so radically, when they’re required by law – and by common sense – to teach and provide things that were never taught or provided in 1970, our education departments are supposed to somehow do the job for the same amount of money that they were budgeted forty years ago!

    And Cannonshop – you can’t say it’s because of the teachers’ salaries (and therefore the union) when 25% of ALL teachers in Texas have to get second jobs to support themselves!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos #13 –

    Changing your argument, hm? First, you were saying that we need to slash the education budgets since the education hasn’t kept up with the costs…

    …and now you’re saying that it’s not how much it costs, but how effective it isn’t! So if the issue now isn’t how much it costs, then why are you insisting that the budgets must be slashed as if that’s going to somehow fix our educational system?

    And yet again, you REFUSE to show where you think the money’s being wasted. You decry the fact that we’re having to spend so much money, but you refuse to show where it’s being wasted.

    And NO argument you bring up will be effective so long as you continue to refuse to show where the money’s being wasted, Clavos.

  • Clavos

    So if the issue now isn’t how much it costs, then why are you insisting that the budgets must be slashed as if that’s going to somehow fix our educational system?

    Because (and I realize this is an alien idea to Democrats) I hate see the people’s money wasted. To the DOE I say, either stop wasting our money and fix the damn system!

    And yet again, you REFUSE to show where you think the money’s being wasted.

    Yep. And I’ll continue to do so. It’s my money that is being wasted, and I am under no obligation (despite your mistaken assertions to the contrary) to do the job of those yahoos in DOE and in the educational system. They screwed it up. It’s enough that it’s plainly ineffective and wasteful, and it’s enough that taxpayers say “fix it.” It’s the job of those who screwed it up (and their bosses, Congress and the WH) to identify the problem and correct it.

  • Cannonshop

    #14 Glenn, I guess most of my ranting goes past you. Teaching should be a Profession, like Lawyering, or Doctoring, or engineering, savvy? Means teachers on the sharp end (that is, with students) should definitely be paid more than a fixed wage for their work.

    in particular, if they do it WELL. The problem is, the system as it currently exists is geared toward a less-quality-based model, more ‘quantity’ than ‘Quality’-but that goes all the way from the courses required to GET that teaching certificate, to the quality of applicants, to the manner in which personnel are handled in the schools.

    and in how the schools themselves are run-a lobotomized monkey with a pencil can usually score on multiple-guess testing, and that’s testing that has become “THE” standard at all grade levels. When we were in school, the tests were usually essay questions and ‘show your work’, remember that?

    They don’t do that anymore outside of ‘advanced placement’ classes.

    it’s not the money, it’s how it’s being spent-Bush’s idiotic “No Child Left Behind” project just underscores the real problem-the idea was a set of standardized tests to measure learning, but the easy (Lazy man) way of going about it from the teacher’s desk, is to teach the test, not the class.

    When most “Educators” are culled from the bottom 20% of College applicants, it shouldn’t be a surprise that application does not follow intent.

    Many of these people don’t have the education YOU did coming out of a Georgia High School in the Seventies.

    TEACHERS, not Administration staff, coordinators, counselors, or DARE officers, should be paid WELL above what they’re getting now-but they should be also held to a much, much, higher standard than they currently are.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I agree wholeheartedly with the first half of your comment #17 – you won’t hear me say much different. But you actually touched on the biggest problem – our ‘educators’ come from the bottom 20% of college applicants.

    And why is that? Ask yourself this – which would you rather do? Spend two years becoming an RN and make $25 an hour starting pay? Or spend six years getting your master’s degree in order to teach, and still have to get a second job in order to make ends meet?

    THAT is why we’ve got poor educators – we’re refusing to pay them what good educators are worth! While holding the teachers we do have to higher standards will help somewhat, we will STILL get only the bottom 20% – and what are your fellow conservatives wanting to do? Cut the education budgets even more!

    Garbage in, garbage out – and it doesn’t matter what standard you hold the garbage to, it’s still garbage. You get what you pay for.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    To summarize the argument between you and me:

    Clavos – “We’re wasting money on the educational system”

    Glenn – “Show me where the waste is”

    Clavos – “No. I don’t have to. We’re wasting money on the educational system”

    Glenn – “Okay. Show me where the waste is”

    Clavos – “No. I don’t have to. We’re wasting money on the educational system”

    Glenn – “Okay. Show me where the waste is”

    Clavos – “No. I don’t have to. We’re wasting money on the educational system”

    Glenn – “Okay. Show me where the waste is”

    ad infinitum, ad nauseum

    When you’ve got the intestinal fortitude to show me where the waste is, then come talk to me. Otherwise, just keep talking into the echo chamber that prevents you from hearing anything that might somehow threaten your worldview.

  • Clavos

    Otherwise, just keep talking into the echo chamber that prevents you from hearing anything that might somehow threaten your worldview

    Obviously, spending enormous amounts of money and obtaining nothing more than babysitting services for your money isn’t a waste to you, Glenn. And apparently you’re either not sending your children to government schools (a VERY smart move) or you don’t care whether or not they get educated, because all the evidence points to they aren’t getting educated; not in the government schools.

    Oh, and thanks for the endorsement.

  • zingzing

    clavos, you say it’s just a babysitting service. is that what you really think? or is that rhetoric?

    how is it that many kids have escaped public schools with an education if that’s true? yes, a significant portion of america’s children score low on tests, but they’re in classes with 30 other kids, some of which score quite high.

    i know i’ve made the point before, and maybe you don’t believe it, but what if–just hang with me here–what if the parents who bitch about their kid’s schooling actually gave a shit beyond the bitching?

  • Cannonshop

    #18 That two-year degree RN is held to objective standards, Glenn. The pay isn’t where most of the waste is anyway-I think even Clavos would agree with me on that, it’s not the pay that needs cutting, if anything, individual teacher salaries should increase…

    It’s the overhead. It’s using the schools as a babysitting service that usurps the role of Parents (albeit often with the collusion and agreement OF the parents), it’s the administrative overhead, the excess non-teacher staff, the assistant-principal to the assistant principals, the non-education crap added to a school year, and it’s the ass-covering by district management and superintendents that gobbles up a disproportionate amount of limited resources that is the issue, the bit that needs cutting out.

    It IS a thorny, complicated problem, but ask yourself:

    Why do Politicians who take NEA money send their kids to Private, non-union schools?

    Because they love their children, and want them to succeed, and that is far less likely in public schools run by the government.

  • zingzing

    beyond parents, it’s up to the student as well. i know one family that raised two children. one became a social extrovert that now attends a fine school in massachusetts. another, even though parented the same, became painfully introverted and a lax student. he’s barely scraped through to this point, but seems to be coming out of his shell and has been accepted at a state college. scored horribly on the SAT. it was his essays that got him in. he’s an incredibly bright kid when you leave him alone and let him work.

    were they judging kids based on standardized tests back when america’s education system was “the best in the world?”

  • http://loftypremise.blogspot.com/ Tommy Mack

    Where is the cost-benefit? Since the Reagan administration, schools have been infrastructure considerations. Content and quality didn’t generate money.

    The lives that tossed aside so that single parents could put their children on Ritalin while school boards broke ground verges on being criminal.

    Tommy

  • S.T..M

    I’ve always believed the US education system should actually educate kids, rather than feed them propaganda.

    One if the things almost all non-Americans notice about Americans is that they have tend to have a world view focused solely on the US, and not much of one at that.

    The study of modern history and geography and global politicas, which you might think are obvious places to start, lack hugely in the American curriculum.

    The classic example is that US schools are still teaching that the US won the War of 1812 (in so many words, even describing it as the second war of independence, which it wasn’t – it was a grab for Canada that failed spectacularly), when almost all modern historians – including the foremost US historian on that era – says the opposite.

    I once read a text used in American schools about WWII that almost failed to mention except in passing the sacrifice of any other allied nation among the victors. Had you read it and not known, you’d have thought this was a singular achievement of the US.

    And that’s the problem: thanks largely to an education that lacks dreadfully, many Americans simply don’t know.

    And education system that breeds ignorance is no education system at all.

  • Cannonshop

    #24 What is Ritalin (or whatever poison they’re prescribing these days)?

    It’s chemical-riot-control.

    Stone those kiddies out because a classroom K-12 isn’t like the bull sessions at Starbucks (or insert trendy place here).

    There’s actual ADD, and then, there’s Kids-being-kids and acting out because they really ARE bored.

    But the School District will damn well hook both sets of kids on some pharmaceutical behavioural magick, yessiree…Because burger-flipper pay isn’t going to attract the best candidates for teaching posts, and being humiliated by management-whom also are your shop steward, isn’t going to keep the best candidates you’ve managed to rook into the profession.

    Nor is dealing with the Mothers-of-America who can’t Believe their little Honey-bun’s not reading the textbook or doing homework is the cause of failing to pass a quarterly exam-instead, it’s somehow the School’s fault that their little hellspawned i-phone advertisement can’t add, subtract, divide, or multiply NUMBERS and/or that their darling little eruptions of infected tissue can’t spell their name or find their town on a map.

  • zingzing

    stm: “The classic example is that US schools are still teaching that the US won the War of 1812 (in so many words, even describing it as the second war of independence, which it wasn’t – it was a grab for Canada that failed spectacularly), when almost all modern historians – including the foremost US historian on that era – says the opposite.”

    crazy, eh? crazy because i’ve never heard it described as such. “the second war of independence…” where did you find that? ever been educated in the us? i find that stunningly hard to believe, most of all because i was educated about that war only in the context of ongoing european wars. it was never classified as how you describe it, but was put in the context of trade wars. god damn it, stm, you simply don’t know.

    “I once read a text used in American schools about WWII that almost failed to mention except in passing the sacrifice of any other allied nation among the victors. Had you read it and not known, you’d have thought this was a singular achievement of the US.”

    when was that from? 1950? you’re as bad as them, you know. your “history of history” is a load of bunk. i can’t believe you’d actually pass this off as knowledge of anything but 50 year old crap. there may have been a time, but that has LONG since passed. i’m frankly shocked you’d hold onto these ideas.

    where’s canadia?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    It’s the overhead. It’s using the schools as a babysitting service that usurps the role of Parents (albeit often with the collusion and agreement OF the parents), it’s the administrative overhead, the excess non-teacher staff, the assistant-principal to the assistant principals, the non-education crap added to a school year, and it’s the ass-covering by district management and superintendents that gobbles up a disproportionate amount of limited resources that is the issue

    Okay, Cannonshop – let’s fire ALL the non-teacher staff! Let’s fire all the administrators, the secretaries, the counselors, the coordinators, the finance personnel, the maintenance directors, the school board, the principals and vice-principals. If we did, that would solve the problem, right?

    Wrong.

    As I showed in my article, they take up about five percent of the entire budget.

    Back to the chalkboard, Cannonshop – but at least you’re showing more gumption, more than Clavos, who refuses to have the intestinal fortitude to back up his claim with even the least attempt to back it up.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Do you realize that your refusal to point out what the problem is makes your claim fall afoul of your precious causation-correlation logical fallacy?

    Your position is this: our schools are not showing the results that they should – therefore the incrased money being spent is being wasted.

    And in logical terms, that’s almost NO different at all from the position I took when you first pulled out your ‘logical fallacy’ handbook: red states strongly tend to have higher violent crime rates, lower education levels, higher teen pregnancy rates, lower income levels, lower life expectancies – therefore conservative governance is not as effective as liberal governance.

    Now after you finally beat that particular logic rule into my brain – took you long enough with your literary baseball bat! – I realized that I was wrong and I figured out the real reason, and I thanked you. Remember that?

    Now I’m not going to assume for a moment that you’re going to realize that you’re wrong, discover the real reason, and thank me. But I will promise you that so long as you refuse to show where the waste is, then you’re being quite hypocritical because you’re falling afoul of the same logical fallacy that you pointed out in one of my arguments.

  • Clavos

    Sigh.

    I have no obligation to “back it up,” as you put it.

    It’s sufficient to point out that we, the taxpayers, are paying billions for shitty-to-no education.

    Identifying where and how to fix that is, and should be, the responsibility of those who are charged with making the educational system accomplish the goals we spend all that money for.

    I’ve enough on my plate keeping my money away from the government.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Stan –

    I had not heard that the War of 1812 was a land grab for Canada by America. I do remember the Oregon Territory dispute of 1844 (see how old I am?).

    Now I know that in 1812, England invaded America and burned down Washington D.C., and tried (after the treaty was signed, which was due to how slow news traveled) to invade New Orleans and were defeated with the assistance of the pirates LaFitte – that last is a great story – you should read about it sometime.

    But being accurate about history is very important to me. Could you please point me to where I can find that the War of 1812 was as you say a land grab on our part? Yes, I’m being lazy – it’s almost certainly on the Wikipedia – but I want to see what your particular sources are. Thanks!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Okay – so you think it’s okay to use the same kind of argument that YOU have in the past described as logically fallacious.

  • Clavos

    No, it’s not the same argument, Glenn.

    I am not saying that the correlation implies causation, which is the fallacy you were committing. I’m not saying that spending all that money caused the decrease in the quality of the US education system, and of course I’m not saying that the decrease in quality caused all the money to be spent.

    Nice try, though.

    Now, one more time: It’s a crime against the taxpayers that so much money is stolen from us to be spent on education, and yet the quality of the government education system, as measured by the performance of the students, is so deficient.

  • Clavos

    In other words, Glenn, we’re getting really crappy results for our money.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    No, I disagree, Clavos – you’re saying that just because we’re getting crappy results, the money being spent is therefore being wasted. It is the same kind of argument.

  • Clavos

    Glenn, if you spend a dollar for a can of soda, and when you get it home discover there’s no soda in it, have you not wasted your money?

    That’s not “correlation implies causation.”

    Bone up on your logic, Glenn.

    The bad results are a sign (the proof, even) that the money is wasted; they didn’t cause the waste, what caused it is not yet determined with the information at hand.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Good example, Clavos – I’ve wasted the money, but the soda didn’t cause the waste – and as you stated, the cause is not yet determined.

    But do you see the implication of your argument? You’re implying that because the money was wasted on that can, that I should not waste more money in that machine because there is an apparent likelihood that I’m going to lose yet more money – when in real life, you and I know that’s not the case.

    Just because you are spending more money that you think you should, unless you can identify the problem, then you canNOT assume that you are wasting your money.

    Why? Because without identification, all you have is assumption.

  • STM

    Glenn, the War Hawks in Congress used maritime trade issues – which had actually already been rescinded by Britain – as an excuse to pressure Madison to declare war on Britain and invade Canada. The War Hawks believed that it was a great opportunity to be rid of the British from the continent.

    The Poms actually went out of their way to avoid war, and Madison said had he known the British had suspended the Orders in Council, which affected the US and prevented America trading with France to aid Britain in the Napoleonic wars, he would never have gone to war. Much has been made of the British impressment of sailors serving on US ships, but close examination shows it was a side issue. The British believed anyone born in the UK was British, and could therefore be conscripted. Their approach was undeniably arrogant, but in terms of a life or death war with France, possibly understandable given the times.

    Thomas Jefferson’s view on the invasion of Canada was that it would be “just a matter of marching”.

    The only marching that was done was backwards, across the US border. General Hull was cashiered for losing Detroit, and a lot of US territory was captured and held ’til the end of the war.

    US casualties were very high, and they got the worst of the fighting – mostly.

    I hate to say it, but while the British did get a pasting at New Orleans, the US got a pasting around Detroit, although the understated British wisely chose not to write a song about it.

    The last main action of the war was the capture of the US garrison in Mobile Bay by the same force that had been defeated in New Orleans. They were marching on Mobile, which was largely undefended, to establish their base in the south that had been denied to them in New Orleans. It’s most likely that they would have succeeded, but news then came through that the war was over.

    The US had some early naval victories but in the end was largely swept from the seas in a series of actions across the globe and then bottled up in port by a blockading British force that had a severe effect on the US ability to wage the war.

    In the end, it was Madison and the US who asked for peace.

    My view on that is: If you start a war, don’t achieve your objectives, then ask for peace, you lost.

    The British, however, lost the peace. They didn’t push for anything at the negotiating table in Ghent except for a return to the status quo that existed prior to the outbreak of hostilities.

    At one stage, parts of New England even threatened to break from the Union bexcause of what the war had done to their trading status.

    It’s not how it’s taught in the US, a fact that enlightened US historians also recognise.

    Clav gave me a great book by a US historian named Donald R.Hickey, who is recognised as the foremost American historian of that era.

    His book isn’t likely to be a best seller, though in the US: It’s called Don’t Give Up The Ship: Myths Of The War Of 1812, and his view is that America was the real loser in the hostilities.

    Pierre Burton is his Canadian counterpart, and has two books aboyut the war: 1) The Invasion Of Canada, 2) Flames Across The Border. They more or less come to the same conclusion, although Hickey does give some credit to the US holding its own against a world power, as was actually the case.

    The veracity of the truth of these conclusions is there in a pretty obvious piece of evidence: That Canada exists today as a sovereign nation to the north of the US, not half a dozen other states of the US.

    Much of this doen’t tally with what US kids are taught … it tends to be rather one-sided.

    Possibly America’s early Vietnam, really, such was the unpopularity of the conflict among the American public.

    In this case, since the winner chose not to rewrite history but to let it stand, the loser re-wrote it.

    I’ve never been able to understand why Americans can’t admit to some of their more obvious martial failings without getting out the sugar xcoating.

    You know I like Americans, so I don’t care that much. But perhaps the truth is, as Doc has said, Americans can’t stand coming second at anything :)

    And when you’ve come first plenty of times, I don’t see how the odd second is that bad, espercially when it paves the way for an enduring and historical alliance that changed the course of world history.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    The US had some early naval victories but in the end was largely swept from the seas in a series of actions across the globe and then bottled up in port by a blockading British force that had a severe effect on the US ability to wage the war.

    Yes: the turning point was the capture of the state-of-the-art US warship Chesapeake by HMS Shannon, commanded by Philip Broke, one of the great warriors of the Age of Sail.

    The Chesapeake had been making mincemeat out of British shipping, but was in port in Boston until Broke managed to entice her out with a last-ditch challenge.

    An action vividly described (in a fictionalized version) by Patrick O’Brian in The Fortune of War.

  • STM

    That battle is where Hickey got the line for the title of his book. “Don’t give up the ship” is supposedly a catch-cry for the US Navy.

    But in the case of the Chesapeake, her captain yelled this out … moments before sailors from the Hannon boarded her and captured her.

    To be fair, Chesapeake was in an awful state by the time that happened.

    But the American sailors did give up the ship. It’s one of the myths Hickey points to in the book.

    He’s even-handed, though. Others, such as the “militia myth”, show the Canadians in a poor light. The truth is, the war was mainly fought by a comparitively small force of British regulars, not Canadian militiamen.

  • STM

    Geez. Hannon … make that Shannon

  • STM

    Chesapeake was one of the larger US “frigates” built to take a place between ships of the line and the smaller frigates operated by the RN.

    Shannon was built to fight them on an equal basis, and was roughly the same size. Broke also had his crew practise their gunnery skills over and over again.

    It was actually a telling edge. Chesapeake was blown to bits and after what was left of it was towed to Halifz, it was ent over to Britain and became the floor timber for a flour mill, I believe in Devon.

    I also believe this timber was recently discovered and some have been preserved as a historical artefact.

  • zingzing

    i wonder, stm, if your example of the war of 1812 is fair. how many hours have you spent researching this? is your knowledge of it a product of your time in school? i’d say not. how much does the average british (high school equivalent) student know of the conflict?

  • STM

    I studied American history as part of modern history while at school. I got even more interested in it when I worked for the government here, especially given our special relationship with America.

    It’s also part of every kid’s upbringing here. American cultural influence is immense. I like to know about things that confront me.

    Yes, I’m interested in it, still. I still read books on US history. The War of 1812 is only bit of it. I use to make a point here, and IMO, a valid one.

    I know you don’t like it when anyone has an opinion on the US that doesn’t tally with your rose-coloured one, zing, but that’s your problem, not mine.

    You seem OK about if it’s only you making such comments.

    Sadly on that score, this place (BC) is democracy and you aren’t the only participant.

    You somehow also seem to think that I’m anti-American … I can assure you, the opposite is true. Very much the opposite.

    I am, however, a lover of truth.

  • STM

    And yes, zing, we studied it at depth since it’s also a part of our own history. All such things that occurred in the English-speaking world, going back really to the Roman invasion of Britain, are interconnected and therefore vital in having a real understanding of who (collectively) we are and why we are the way we are.

    Give or take a few quirks of our American cousins …

  • Clavos

    ust because you are spending more money that you think you should, unless you can identify the problem, then you canNOT assume that you are wasting your money.

    Once again, no, Glenn.

    If I’m spending the money and not getting the results for which I’m making he expenditure, the money is ipso facto wasted.