Friday, March 15, 2013


Cum hoc ergo propter hoc, post hoc ergo propter hoc, hic hoc dickory doc, and the fallacy of exclusion all rob kids of the one small pleasure of being a kid: recess.

Just the facts, ma'am:
  • Recess is being cut, nationwide
  • Mean scores on standardized tests show geographical heterogeneity (see chart below)
    • Mean scores from the US below mean of all OECD scores in mathematics, statistically indistinguishable from average in science, slightly above average in reading.
  • Annual national income accounting shows that the US is a chronic net importer of foreign goods.
  • Manufacturing employment is declining in the US, particularly as a share of all nonfarm private employment.
  • Public Law PL 107-110, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has been on the books for just shy of 11 years now.
My memory is a little hazy, but I seem to recall the Bush administration selling NCLB as being some sort of pro-competitiveness measure. The Chinese were eating our lunch when it came to manufacturing output (false) and it was because they were kicking our butts in school or something? It's hard for me to recall for at least a couple of reasons: (a) political kayfabe tends to sap my attention (b) the arguments were based on frivolous mercantilist reasoning rejected centuries ago and (c) I was living overseas when the bill was being debated in Congress. Furthermore, even if you accept the weird proposal that trade is somehow a zrto-sum game and China's prosperity will somehow come at the expense of Americans, and if you accept the equally perplexing proposal that diverging statistical moments somehow account for whatever arcane measure of prosperity you've chosen, you'd still be left with the Herculean task of demonstrating that (1) the appropriate scale for policy is national and (2) political elites are sufficiently wise and capable of prescribing appropriate remedies. Experience appears to reveal this as the false hope it is.

But still, education is not euvoluntary. Something must be done. Anything. Even if it means forcibly depriving children of play time. And hey, if they get all rambunctious in class as a result, fill 'em up with amphetamines, that'll quiet those rascals down.

It was probably a wise move to refrain from calling NCLB a "war on ignorance" or something similar. But the effects are similar enough to the wars on [drugs, terror, poverty, et al]: innocent consumers get swept up in the hysteria surrounding a perceived imperfection, cowed by burnished intellectuals and herded by pompous political elites. Meanwhile, cash is shoved by pitchfork into the maw of well-insulated special interests. Rah rah, Sylvan Learning Centers everywhere.

Country Namereading mathematics science
OECD average493496501
Shanghai-China 556600575
Korea-South 539546538
Finland 536541554
Hong Kong-China 533555549
Singapore 526562542
Canada 524527529
New Zealand 521519532
Japan 520529539
Australia 515514527
Netherlands 508526522
Belgium 506515507
Norway 503498500
Estonia 501512528
Switzerland 501534517
Poland 500495508
Iceland 500507496
United States 500487502
Liechtenstein 499536520
Sweden 497494495
Germany 497513520
Ireland 496487508
France 496497498
Chinese Taipei 495543520
Denmark 495503499
United Kingdom 494492514
Hungary 494490503
Portugal 489487493
Macao-China 487525511
Italy 486483489
Latvia 484482494
Slovenia 483501512
Greece 483466470
Spain 481483488
Czech Republic 478493500
Slovak Republic 477497490

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?