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Presidential Approval: So What?

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Presidential popularity begs a lot of questions. The most important question at election time is what candidate gets the most Electoral College votes, making the popular vote only interesting. Presidential approval begins with inauguration day and can be less than 50 percent to start, as with the administrations of Kennedy, Carter and “W” Bush. Between 1961 and 2001, voters changed their opinions widely about the eight presidents who occupied the White House. They disapproved of all of the presidents and demonstrated that economics drives public opinion more than current events.

Gallup has been tracking presidential job approval since Harry Truman took office in 1945. The Gallup Presidential Job Approval Center shows President Obama with an all-time high of 69 percent, when he took office in January 2009, and a to-date low of 40 percent recorded at the end of July. He is about two months shy of being in office 1000 days and his average approval is 50 percent. Regardless of how one interprets the data, one thing is abundantly clear: an awful lot of people disapprove of a president most of the time. Who is in office does not really matter.

JFKImagine becoming president with barely half of the vote by any measure. In 1960, Democratic Sen. John Kennedy became president by defeating Vice President Richard Nixon with a 0.1 percent margin of the popular vote, 49.7 percent to 49.6 percent. Since JFK’s overall approval is 70.1 percent, he is assumed to have been well approved by Americans. That was not the case at the time. People who did not like him personally despised him. In the South for example, I remember seeing Ku Klux Klan bonfires burning to celebrate his assassination because Kennedy was a Catholic and a pro-Civil Rights president.

JFK also sent the first US troops to a country few people had ever heard of: Vietnam. During his 1036 days in office, JFK’s budgets ran deficits to finance his New Frontier programs. His approval ratings scored a high of 83 percent and a low of 56 percent. They had been trending down when he was murdered.

JFK’s Vice President Lyndon JohnsonLBJ assumed the presidency and then won the 1964 election in a landslide, defeating Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. LBJ also won the popular vote by a margin of 61.1 percent to 38.5 percent. Johnson’s overall 55.1 percent approval rating ranged from a high of 79 percent to a low of 35 percent. He used his popularity when he had it, too. His administration submitted 87 bills to the 89th Congress and LBJ signed 84 of them into law.

”This country,” LBJ said, ”is rich enough to do anything it has the guts to do and the vision to do and the will to do.” His Great Society is still with us ”in Medicare and Medicaid, in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the rivers and lakes we swim in; in the colleges our students attend; in the medical miracles from the National Institutes of Health; in mass transportation and equal opportunity,” as former Johnson advisor Joseph A. Califano has stated. LBJ also expanded costly US involvement in the Vietnam War. With his approval ratings in decline, Johnson did not run for reelection.

As a private citizen, former Republican Vice President Richard NixonRichard Nixon won his second campaign for president in 1968 defeating two other candidates: LBJ’s Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who ran as an Independent. Wallace captured 13.5 percent of the popular vote, leaving a 0.7 percent margin between Nixon and Humphrey, 43.4 percent to 42.7 percent. Although Nixon won reelection in a 1972 landslide victory and 60.7 percent of the popular vote, he resigned the presidency under the threat of impeachment and saw his approval numbers fall from a high of 67 percent to a low of 24 percent. Nixon had an overall term and a half approval rating of 49 percent.

Nixon inherited a weak economy from the Johnson administration but delivered a balanced budget in 1969. However, inflation, rising energy costs and high unemployment troubled Nixon’s administration. Despite wage and price controls and other measures that did not work, Nixon’s budget plans included using large deficits to marginally improve the economy. Although Nixon called upon “the great silent majority” for support, continued expansion of the Vietnam War, including bombing Cambodia, and the costs of War in addition to the Watergate scandal further degraded his approval numbers.

After Nixon’s resignation, Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the presidency Gerald Fordand served its remaining 845 days only to lose his subsequent election bid in 1976. During his time in the White House, Ford gave Nixon a presidential pardon and concluded US involvement in the Vietnam War. His overall approval rating scored 47.2 percent for the time of American discouragement with politics that followed the highly publicized Watergate hearings that contributed to Ford’s becoming president. Ford’s approval ranged from a high of 71 percent to a low of 37 percent. Despite the Ford Whip Inflation Now (WIN) program, 7 percent inflation and growing unemployment continued to weaken the economy that had slipped into recession and further eroded his approval numbers.

The next presidential race was so close, many voters stayed up until the early morning Jimmy Carterhours to see Georgia’s Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter win the 1976 election. A US Naval Academy graduate and peanut farmer, Carter won the election with a less than 2 percent popular vote margin: 50.1 percent to 48 percent. Elected by just half of the voters like Jack Kennedy, Jimmy Carter only earned an overall approval rating of 45.5 percent that ranged from a high of 75 percent to a low of 28 percent. The federal government was in deficit every year of the Carter presidency. Slow recovery from the ’73-‘75 recession, fuel shortages, double-digit inflation and 9 percent unemployment plagued the Carter administration which lasted one term only. The American hostage situation in Iran exacerbated disapproval of Carter.

The country turned to a former Hollywood actor and spokesperson in the 1980 election of California Republican Governor Ronald Reagan,Ronald Reagan who won with 50.7 percent of the popular vote to Carter’s 41 percent and Independent Congressman John Anderson’s 6.6 percent protest vote. Reagan got his landslide reelection four years later, defeating former Vice President Walter Mondale by 58.8 percent to 40.6 percent. While Reagan’s overall approval rating is 52.8 percent, it ranged from a high of 68 percent to a low of 38 percent.

Reagan survived an assassination attempt and took credit for the end of Communism with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although he railed against the debt ceiling, it was raised 17 times during his eight year administration. His supply side Reaganomics, which his critics called “voodoo economics,” created more new debt than the combined deficits of all previous presidents. While Reagan said he was committed to reducing government spending, it rose by $321 billion during his presidency, to more than a trillion dollars. He also raised taxes seven times. Only his age and the 22nd Amendment prevented Reagan from running for a third term.

George H.W. BushInstead, with a revenue improved economy, the enormous popularity of Ronald Reagan and relative world peace, Vice President George H. W. Bush won the presidency by defeating Massachusetts Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis by a popular vote margin of 53.4 percent to 45.7 percent. Best known for his famous pledge, “Read my lips: no new taxes,” a recession began. Rising deficits, a declining economy plus a growth in mandatory spending began to further increase the federal deficit. Bush’s approval ratings ranged from a high of 89 percent to a low of 29 percent.

By 1990 the deficit had grown to three times its size in 1980. The federal government shut down for three days and the Democratic majority in Congress eventually forced Bush to raise tax revenues. But events of the Gulf War pushed economic issues out of the news and Bush ended up with an overall approval rating of 60.9 percent for his term in office, second only to Kennedy.

After three Republican presidential terms and the economy again in recession, two candidates ran against President Bush in the 1992 election: Arkansas Democratic Governor Bill Clinton and Independent businessman Ross Perot. Bush’s 89 percent approvalBill Clinton ratings following the Persian Gulf War made him look like a certain winner, but the economy trumped his approval ratings at the ballot box. Clinton prevailed with 43 percent of the popular vote to Bush’s 37.5 percent and Perot’s 18.9 percent. Ross Perot capitalized on the economic woe in his 1992 campaign and ran again in 1996. He siphoned an 8.4 percent popular vote as incumbent President Clinton defeated Kansas Republican Sen. Bob Dole 49.2 percent to 40.7 percent.

The Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus between the years 1998 and 2000, the longest economic expansion period in US history. Only the second president to be impeached by the House, the Senate failed to muster the constitutional two-thirds majority requirement to convict and remove an officeholder. Despite the impeachment and another government shutdown, Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any US president since World War II at 60.6 percent. His highest approval rating scored 73 percent and his lowest recorded 37 percent.

Economy tends to trump political events no matter how much of a splash those events create. Kennedy’s high rating occurred because he died in office before his first term ended. Reagan’s approval rating of 52.8 percent falls behind the 55.1 percent approval rating of LBJ and Bill Clinton, who tie for 3rd place. George H.W. Bush comes in second to JFK at 60.9 percent. Those are the numbers.

Here are some more. Take a look at the disapproval ratings for the eight presidents I’ve discussed. Keep them in mind the next time approval ratings are brought up as some kind of data being foisted off as something significant.

  • John Kennedy:          56       
  • Lyndon Johnson:       35
  • Richard Nixon:           24
  • Gerald Ford:              37
  • Jimmy Carter:            28
  • Ronald Reagan:          38
  • George H.W. Bush:    29
  • Bill Clinton:                 37 

The public changes its mind with regularity and presidents are just not that popular. Why anyone would want such a job is another question.

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About Tommy Mack

Tommy Mack began his career in broadcasting and is a US Army graduate of the Defense Information School. He worked in Army Public and Command Information and earned a BS in Liberal Studies from the State University of New York, Albany. A marketing communications executive, Tommy became a business management consultant for a major international consulting company and its affiliates before establishing Tommy Mack Organization, a business consulting practice specializing in organization and communications management. A professional writer and blogger, he writes about politics, business, and culture.
  • Cannonshop

    wow…good article.

    I agree, the breathless ‘reporting’ of approval polls is basically of no use, anyone that is going to be effective in any leadership position, is going to be disliked by SOMEONE.

    Which is why I felt no hint of shame at mocking the President when he was whining about people being mean to him-it comes as part of the job, with the Resolute Desk and that nifty round-ish office-Presidents are there to be disliked.

  • Very interesting article, Tommy. We do tend to get too caught up in individual weekly poll numbers, but the trend over several months does tell a story.

    I don’t know what Cannon is referring to…the president made some defensive remarks about Fox News and Rush Limbaugh early on, but in general, “whiny” is not a word that would apply. And the outrageous hyperbole of negative rhetoric he has been subjected to is nearly unprecedented, including ludicrous speculation about his birthplace and religion.

  • William Waite

    As always Tommy, I enjoy how you bring a perspective based in history to most of the topics you write about.

    It’s still a very, very long time until November of 2012 and it remains to be seen if Hillary will yet be called upon to carry the progressive standard but until then, let’s all have another big glass of that kool-aid…

  • Clavos

    And the outrageous hyperbole of negative rhetoric he has been subjected to is nearly unprecedented, including ludicrous speculation about his birthplace and religion.

    Poor Obie.

    Those mean ol’ voters just be pickin’ on him soooo much…

  • Arch Conservative

    “And the outrageous hyperbole of negative rhetoric he has been subjected to is nearly unprecedented”

    I was going to ask if you were in a coma from 2000 until 2008 but you did say “nearly unprecedented” and not “unprecedented.”

  • Cannonshop

    “…. And the outrageous hyperbole of negative rhetoric he has been subjected to is nearly unprecedented, including ludicrous speculation about his birthplace and religion.”

    No moreso than the outrageous hyperbole from the left for the period from 2000 to 2008, (actually longer, since everything that failed after is, according to the Left, Bush’s fault.)

    Then again, I suppose by Democrat lights, calling someone “Hitler” over and over and over again (Bushitler, get it?) is neither outrageous nor hyperbole, the man is, after all, a Republican, and not a pet Repub like McCain..oh, wait, that’s right, it’s okay to hate McCain now, because he ran against “The One”.

    Civility in American politics is a polite fiction, mostly engaged in by those whom find they do not enjoy their side being the recipient of the sort of slanders they themselves engaged in with vigour and joy mere months before.

    Oh, and, ah, Handy? The questions about Birthplace and Religion came from OTHER DEMOCRATS during the Primaries. Expecting your opponents and opposition NOT to run with such juicy tidbits of your OWN campaign tactics seems a little naive.

  • “Juicy tidbits” that were totally imaginary, fictional speculation. Are you actually defending this nonsense? The Clinton campaign may have floated the rumor, and shame on them. But the hysteria came entirely from the right, and you know it.

    For the record, neither I nor anyone I know would compare George Bush to Hitler. As if that justifies the birthers anyhow.

    You, as my mother would say, would argue with a fencepost…if you perceived it to be a Democrat.

  • zingzing

    we all seem to have very short memories. cannonshop can’t even make it much more than a day without forgetting.

  • The Clinton campaign may have floated the rumor, and shame on them. But the hysteria came entirely from the right, and you know it.

    Not entirely. Philip Berg, one of the most prominent birthers and a persistent courtroom pest, was a frustrated Hilary supporter.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    I realize it really ticks you off when we keep rubbing BC conservatives’ noses in what Dubya did…

    …because even now we’re paying over a hundred billion taxpayer dollars per year in interest ALONE directly due to what Dubya did…not to mention a couple of wars that are still going on, if you’ll remember.

    Now, since you want SO bad for us to lay blame on Obama, I’ll ask you exactly what it is that you want us to blame him for? The stimulus that you hate him so much for? ONE-THIRD of it was tax cuts…and as a result, you and I both have a lower tax burden than taxpayers have had since the Truman administration!

    The lowest tax burden we’ve had (taxes vs. income) for fifty years and you think his fiscal policies aren’t Republican enough for you????

    Do you want to blame him for the skyrocketing deficit? If you’ll look, our spending didn’t increase by leaps and bounds, but our REVENUE took a nose dive and THAT, sir, is what drove our deficit so much higher.

    “Obamacare”? Thanks to him, my oldest son will have access to health care that he didn’t have before…and thanks to the individual mandate (which was pushed by the REPUBLICANS in the 1990’s and by Romney as part of his health care reform in Massachusetts), “Obamacare” is actually projected to CUT the deficit!

    So I’m having a REAL hard time finding something to blame Obama for that comes even close to what Dubya did: two wars, Medicare Part D, and the tax cuts for the wealthy.

    Show me something that Obama did that even approached ANY of these, and then we’ll talk. But until then, I’ll keep placing the blame where it squarely belongs – on the Republicans and on Bush.

  • The thing Obama isn’t doing is unleashing the DOJ on the Tea Party members of congress as the racketeers they became when they succeeded in lowering the US credit rating to make money off of a stock manipulation scheme.

    But it is hard to get cooperation from people when you have them investigated, indict a few under the RICO Act and yank them into court.


  • Clavos

    our spending didn’t increase by leaps and bounds, but our REVENUE took a nose dive and THAT, sir, is what drove our deficit so much higher.

    No, that was only half of it. The other, and more important half, was the total failure by Obama and his czars to react and rein in spending sharply in response, as an offsetting countermeasure to the drop in revenue.

  • Clavos

    “Obamacare”[sic] is actually projected to CUT the deficit!

    Not quite. According to Forbes,

    Well, the Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently put out its annual projections of national health care spending. And, contrary to the President, the actuaries find that Obamacare will dramatically increase the near-term growth rate of health care costs. In 2014, the actuaries find that growth in the net cost of health insurance will increase by nearly 14 percent, compared to 3.5% if PPACA had never passed. The growth rate of private insurance costs will rise to 9.4 percent, from 5.0 percent under prior law: an 88% increase.

    Forbes also noted:

    As P.J. O’Rourke memorably put it in 1993, “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

  • O’Rourke also noted, “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

    Well, you said.


  • Clavos

    That’s the joy of O’Rourke, Tommy: an aphorism for every situation.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos 12/13 –

    Try crunching the numbers. See how much Obama increased spending in the 2010 budget over the previous year (since 2010 was the first one he submitted).

    You are not a simplistic person, but your crack about reining in spending exemplifies the simplistic thinking of conservatives – “oh, it’s simple, just cut the spending and voila! the budget is balanced!”

    No, Clavos, it doesn’t work that way. When tens of thousands of teachers lose their jobs, its our country’s future that suffers much more than the taxpayer money we ‘saved’. Same thing for the cops that lost their jobs, and the trash collectors, the bus drivers, all the hundreds of thousands of government workers (including your favorite boogeymen from the IRS and the USPS) whose jobs DO help the infrastructure of this nation function.

    And instead of continuing to help the nation function, those people are now in the unemployment line, providing a fiscal burden where once they provided a very real benefit that significantly outweighed the taxes that paid for their jobs.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clavos – when it comes to the cost of free health care for everyone, wait till health care is free for no one! Let’s you and me find a country where NO taxpayer dollars go to help pay for health care…and then you can see how expensive it is when there’s NO “socialized” health care.

    But that’s the disconnect here – the conservative sees the dollars flying out of his pocket and is outraged because those were HIS dollars and there was so much more he could have done with them, like investing more in his business…

    …but he never thinks that just as a rising tide lifts all boats, a population that is healthier overall is a HUGE benefit to business – because those people are healthy enough (and alive!) to earn money to spend at that conservative’s business.

    Clavos, “many hands make light work”. If we all give some (and we’re giving less now than we have since Truman was president, remember), we ALL share in the benefits. Sure, most conservatives will say that smacks of communism…but every nation must have a government, and a government must have taxes in order to operate. If you refuse to pay what the government needs in order to operate well, then you’re going to get a broken government…and if you keep taking the funds away, the government will only get MORE broken.

    The education system is the best example – if the education system sucks, you DON’T fix it by slicing-and-dicing its budget! That will NOT fix it – that’s like telling a surgeon to save the patient but the only surgical tool he’s allowed to have is a hammer!

  • just as a rising tide lifts all boats

    Except the ones with holes in them.

    [runs away giggling maniacally]

  • Clavos

    – if the education system sucks, you DON’T fix it by slicing-and-dicing its budget!

    If, as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch point out in their trenchant book, The Declaration of Independents, your education system’s “budget” has more than doubled since the 1970-71 school year (from about $4500 per pupil to over $10,000) and tripled since 1961-62, with no improvement in results (as measured by testing the students) you had better start looking to tracking the money and cutting the obvious fat.

    Gillespie and Welch point out the two principal problems with the public K-12 education system:

    1) It’s mandatory.

    2) Unlike in higher education, there is virtually no consumer choice between competing alternatives.

  • Our education system is failing because teachers are being forced to educate science students using the bible, and are being told that real scientific fact is only “theory” because it contradicts “god”

    Is it any wonder the U.S. is falling behind?

    Biology teaches how organisms evolve-which is contrary to what right-wing born-agains want taught.

    History teachers are telling students that this country was founded as a god-fearing theocracy instead of by people fleeing from religious oppression in England. Pat Robertson insists that George Washington was sent as a “2nd Jesus” to save the new world from the heratics.

    Astronomy is being mis-taught because if a student is taught that a star is a million light-years old (the distance light travels in a million years) it can’t possibly exist- the scientists are wrong because god didn’t create the universe and Earth until 5,000-10,000 years ago-so how can light travel that long when it didn’t exist until god created it in Genesis and pronounced it good?

    It’s no longer being taught who really made that midnight ride to warn the colonists that “The British are Coming”. Why? Because Born-again bigots don’t want someone with a jewish-sounding name connected with it. Paul Revere only rode 19 miles. The real rider was Israel Bissel who crossed four states to give the warning.

    When is america going to grow up and stop having school’s teach from facts, instead of from an outdated 2000 year old text book based on fairy tales and mis-translated bullshit??????????????????

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    The problem is, the conservatives are making the cuts willy-nilly. They are NOT taking care to FIRST identify the problems and then saying, “this is where we need to make cuts”. Instead, they’re saying, “We’re cutting X billion from the education budget – YOU figure out where the problems are.”

    The problem with that approach is that the conservatives are ASSUMING that spending more on education is automatically a bad thing. For instance:

    – in 1961 were schools addressing sex education? No. But now they are – and the results are that the states that do not do so have higher rates of teenage pregnancy.

    – in 1961, were schools teaching about computers?

    – in 1961, were schools having to deal with a pace of scientific advance that essentially makes science books obsolete after two or three years?

    – in 1961, did schools have ANY clue about ADD/ADHD, or were they having to deal with the greatly-increased rate of autism spectrum? If you’ll recall, it was quite common then for severely-disabled kids to be kept at home out of the public view – but now they go to school where public schools (but VERY few private schools) provide nurses and caregivers for them.

    – in 1961, when schools provided sports equipment, they provided basic stuff at best – but have you seen what they are expected to provide now even to be allowed to compete with football? Sports is FAR more expensive now than it was before…and NO, Clavos, the answer isn’t “just get rid of the sports”.

    – in 1961, was multiculturalism a concern of schools?

    In 1961, Clavos, American schools were behind what many third-world countries teach NOW. If we went back to the budgets we had then, well, you get what you pay for.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    And Clavos –

    We need to spend MORE – yes, MORE – on our schools because we need to get rid of the summer vacation…and in order to keep our students in school year-round (except for the breaks here and there), you’ve got to fork over the money needed to do so…

    …because many other nations are already going to year-round education, while our students spend the first four to six weeks in September relearning what they forgot over the summer!

    And to address your other statement – if YOU want to spend your personal money to send a kid to a different school, that should be your choice. But don’t take MY taxpayer dollars to pay for some kid to go to a religious school. That’s simply not right…but that’s what your fellow conservatives want to do.

    And what will happen if you get rid of the national standards imposed by the DOE that you despise? Do you really think that schools would raise their standards? They’re encouraged to do so RIGHT NOW. What would happen, Clavos, is precisely what happens in any industry when the requirements to meet standards are taken away: the standards are either lowered or remain stagnant as the years go by.

    I know you want the best for kids, Clavos – but your approach would leave our education in even worse straits than it’s in right now. If we want to make our education system better, we must:

    (1) give the school boards more authority to get rid of underperforming teachers

    (2) get rid of summer vacation

    (3) STOP tying school funding to property taxes, for such on ensures that rich areas get rich schools, and poor areas stay poor

    (4) Significantly raise the salaries for teachers to the same level as doctors or lawyers (as it is in the countries with the best education systems)…and at the same time hold them to much higher standards and continue to increase those standards.

    You don’t save a patient by bleeding him – you save him by fixing the problem with little regard for how much it costs to save him.

    You get what you pay for, Clavos – and this idiocy of “slash the education budgets” i.e. “save the patient by bleeding him” is NOT going to save our schools.

  • Clavos

    The problem with that approach is that the conservatives are ASSUMING that spending more on education is automatically a bad thing.

    No. Spending more on education without a commensurate improvement in results is what conservatives are objecting to — and rightfully so.

    Budgets have doubled and tripled in the last 40-50 years and the quality has plunged.

    We have listened to and acted upon the recommendations of the teachers (more money — always more money) and their unions long enough; it’s time to start running education in a fiscally sound manner and give control of the system back to the consumers — the local districts and the parents.

  • Clavos the quality hasn’t plunged because of funding, it’s plunged because of what today’s teachers are being forced to teach, vs reality.

    Are you smarter than a 5th grader?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Willya please apply the logic you insist upon to your own claims? You addressed not one of my points – not one! Instead, you continued on the same tired old talking point.

    And that’s been the pattern for conservative complaints for years – not only about education but about government agencies in general: such-and-such is broken so let’s just slash its budget or defund it altogether.

    That is simplistic thinking, and you are doing yourself a disservice by not thinking things through, by not paying attention to the details, to the permutations, to exactly what needs fixed.

    Instead, it’s “throw the baby out with the bathwater” by slashing spending or outright defunding.

    And where does this attitude come from? If the majority of PhD’s in a particular field say something, who’s more likely to believe them, and who’s more likely to call them “elitists”? You know what I’m talking about, and it’s seen when it comes to climate change, to economics, to education.

  • Clavos

    Instead, you continued on the same tired old talking point.

    No, it’s the reality of the educational system, which fails to educate yet gets more and more money thrown at it with miserable results to show for it.

    But it’s coming to an end. Even liberals like Davis Guggenheim see the system’s broken — largely because of the stranglehold on it by the NEA and AFT.

  • Clavos

    And I didn’t address your points, Glenn, because they are strawmen having nothing to do with what I said in # 23; you merely attacked my “logic” (according to your interpretation of it) and proceeded to unload all your own “tired old talking points.”

  • zingzing

    the major problem with education mostly comes down to bad parenting and lazy students. when a two students have the same teacher and education, yet one student comes out educated and the other one does not, the teacher isn’t teaching two different things.

    clavos’ suggestion to put education in the hands of the parents would probably lead to chaos and lots of unintended consequences.

    some of glenn’s suggestions (ending the connection to property taxes, raising teacher pay at least 3 or 4 times over,) just aren’t going to happen.

  • zingzing

    hrm. if my point’s not clear in that first paragraph, it’s that people seem to want to address the problems of our education system without address the major issues at home. if your kid is failing, and you don’t take an active part in your child’s education, you have no one to blame but yourself. of course, it may already be too late.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Strawmen my fat arse!

    All you are doing – ALL you are doing – is repeating the same talking point and assuming that there’s no good reason for the increase. That, Clavos, is NOT logical. Go back to your book of logical fallacies, willya? You’re not even trying to discern WHY there was an increase – all you’re doing is saying there was a huge increase with no improvement in results, and that that is in and of itself justification! But you’re being intellectually dishonest by not even trying to discern the very real reasons why there was such an increase…despite the fact that I GAVE you several of the reasons!

    Your assumption on this issue – and your refusal to discern the reasons behind the issue – are too simplistic by half! You can do better, Clavos, if you’d only try.

    But then, if you did really delve more into the issue and actually tried to look at both sides of the issue, you might start down that slippery slope to that dreaded state of liberality….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    zing –

    It’s also absence of parents, much of which was brought about by the desire to keep-up-with-the-Joneses-so-both-Mom-and-Dad-work.

    That, and a massive increase in single-parent households (and the attendant latchkey kids) where the parent (nearly always the mom) must work while her child’s at home alone.

    And zing – I realize that few if any of my suggestions will ever be implemented. I knew it when I typed them. But those are how we could help bring our educational system back up to the level of the better education systems in the first world nations.

  • zingzing

    glenn, it’s true, it’s true, and it’s kinda mean to blame the parent that stuck around, but at some level, that’s a choice that parent made. but if more parents took a bigger role in their child’s education, that would immediately solve far more problems than any suggestion you or clavos could make.

    unfortunately, no one wants to look beyond the school system in order to fix education (maybe because they confuse the school system with the totality of education). i can see why… it’s a whole lot easier to blame “the system” than it is do take individual responsibility (grumble, grumble…).

  • GLENN! You’re talking politics with Clavos and trying to invoke logic?

    Someone needs to go over to Mr. Contrarian’s house and feel his forehead.

  • Clavos

    it’s a whole lot easier to blame “the system” than it is do take individual responsibility

    And that’s exactly what my wife did 22 years ago: take individual responsibility and notify the state she would not be sending her children to their schools. She has been educating them herself ever since, and with enormous (and very gratifying) success — they are bright (as are she and their dad), and way ahead of their various age groups in all disciplines.

  • Even liberals . . . see the system’s broken — largely because of the stranglehold on it by the NEA and AFT.

    As a card carrying ACLU liberal [the laminated card works as a business card protector and intimidates conservatives], I suggest that the system isn’t broken as much as it is out of date. The “stranglehold” of unions is a conservative obfuscation because it is conservative platform language. Substitute the word “influence” or the words “outdated collective bargaining agreements” and I can agree.

    The Johnson era and Reagan era are over. Those presidents are dead. US policy is not. The question is, what are we going to do about this?


  • zingzing

    clavos: “She has been educating them herself ever since, and with enormous (and very gratifying) success — they are bright (as are she and their dad), and way ahead of their various age groups in all disciplines.”

    that’s fine when it works out. but not everyone is suited to it (or has that option).

    both of my parents worked, but they also made sure that i did well in school. i did well enough that i was put into advanced classes (the school wanted me to skip a grade, but the parents balked at that idea), and they made a bit of a mistake in putting me in advanced math courses. it quickly became apparent, to me at least, that math wasn’t quite my strong suit.

    my dad’s a professional mathematician (statistician really), and pretty much a genius in the area. but he’s no genius teacher, i can tell you that. they stuck me into college-level courses by 10th grade, and i floundered. he tried to tutor me, but i became very frustrated with both math and him. it became a subject of much contention (which got played out in my relationship with my mother, oddly, but the psychology of a teenager will do silly stuff like that), and i’m not sure i benefited in any way. i’m pretty sure i would have been better off in normal math classes and without having to sit there for hours listening to my dad yammer on about theoretical math i did not understand.

    i’d say many subjects, especially the liberal arts, all come down to reading the right books and learning critical thinking and expression. but math and hard science can be rather difficult to teach if you don’t have a very firm grasp on the subject yourself… and are good at explaining those ideas to others.

    i’d think a great portion of the would-be homeschooling population would struggle with the more advanced stuff most kids get in public high schools. i’m sure there are programs for that kind of thing though.

    also, homeschooled kids run the risk of underdeveloped social skills, although that’s quite avoidable too. plus they don’t have to survive the scars of middle school. shudder.

  • zingzing

    and i’ll notice that you said “wife” up there, so i guess you didn’t leave her at the alter. congrats. where was the honeymoon?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Like zing said, not everyone is suited for home-schooling.

    Furthermore, given the state of our high schools, do you really want our children to be home-schooled by someone who has only a high-school education? For a few that would be good – for the rest, disastrous.

    Oh – I forgot – it would save you a few tax dollars, and that takes precedence over aught else.

    But it only saves you money in the short run but not in the long run since such ill-educated people – once they enter the workplace – do not contribute a great deal to the GNP…which has a direct impact on your business.

  • Clavos

    A week in Tuscany, zing. Loved it. Would move to Italy in a heartbeat if it weren’t so expensive. Had a rental car; first time I filled it up, I still had 1/4 tank, the 3/4 fillup cost USD $120. Second fillup, also 3/4 tank, was a bargain: only USD$117.

    Seriously, beautiful place, wonderful people, but their economy’s in sorry shape, too.