American Culture

Democracy & Elitism 4: equality, opportunity and leveling up the playing field

Part 4 in a series.

Pulitzer- and Emmy-winner William Henry‘s famous polemic, In Defense of Elitism (1994), argues that societies can be ranked along a spectrum with “egalitarianism” on one end and “elitism” on the other. He concludes that America, to its detriment, has slid too far in the direction of egalitarianism, and in the process that it has abandoned the elitist impulse that made it great (and that is necessary for any great culture). While Henry’s analysis is flawed in spots (and, thanks to the excesses of the Bush years, there are some other places that could use updating), he brilliantly succeeds in his ultimate goal: crank-starting a much-needed debate about the proper place of elitism in a “democratic” society.

Along the way he spends a good deal of time defining what he means by “egalitarianism” and “elitism.” A particular concern for Henry, and one that’s critical to the discussion here, has to do with the nature of equality, which is distinguished from egalitarianism. In specifically addressing equality of opportunity versus equality of outcomes, Henry believes (as do nearly all American “conservatives” that I know and have read) that we have in recent decades overemphasized the latter. That Henry was a lifelong Democrat, a “card-carrying member of the ACLU” and Northeastern liberal cultural elite of the first order (arts critic for The Boston Globe and Time) adds a bit of spice to the argument.

If you’ve read the previous installments in the series (part 1, part 2, part 3), it should be clear that I see elitism, properly understood, as an important key to a more enlightened society that better serves interests of all of its citizens. This argument has perhaps taken some unexpected turns so far, and there are more twists still to come. For the moment, it’s critical that we understand the following premise: performance elitism, which is necessary to the long-term health of a society, depends on a level playing field.

The concept of “level playing field,” then, is central to our ultimate goal. What do we mean by the term and what do we not mean?

Equality of Outcomes: Bad in Principle, Impossible in Practice and Nobody Believes in it Anyway, So Why are We Talking About It?

In Principle: I’m not sure this argument even needs making to a rational audience, but it’s important to dismiss the popular straw men that the privilege elites and their allies like to trot out in order to distract us from the real issues. For the sake of form, then, here goes.

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a human society that wasn’t hierarchical in some way. So let’s begin by accepting that rigid egalitarianism doesn’t come naturally to the species. But is it a good idea? It’s easy enough to paint a pleasant utopian vision where we’re all equal, so long as we’re all equally prosperous. The problem is that it’s hard to imagine how we get there from here. If we’re to suppose a philosophy that’s grounded more or less in plausibility, then we have to account for what we know about the human animal.

The individualistic/free market/classical liberal premise regarding egalitarianism is that people are motivated to work for personal gain, and the cynical contemporary conservative/Randian corollary is that if the end result is that the guy who innovates and busts his ass has to give it all away so that the lazy guy who refuses to work can have just as much, then nobody will work. Ultimately we’ll all be equal, all right – we’ll all have nothing.

The relative truth or falsity of this belief system aside for a second, this is an awfully dim view of the human spirit. It alleges that people won’t produce for the common good and that people won’t pursue achievement for intrinsic reasons. These conclusions, taken as absolutes (since they’re usually presented that way), have never been demonstrated and are suspect on their face. However, it’s easy enough to accept that they’re valid to some lesser degree. While I might argue that most of us have enough personal pride that we’d never lay down and quit just to spite the system, and while I might also also argue that as things hypothetically got bad enough we’d all pitch in and at least try to survive, the less there is in the way of return on our effort, the less we’re likely to produce – at a macro level, at least. The curve isn’t linear, but there’s no doubt an effect.

Conclusion: Given what we know about human behavior, the radical pursuit of purely equal outcomes would fail to maximize the potential of the system. Fair enough? Good. Moving on.

In Practice: Again, I can’t imagine that this point really needs making, but: assuming a cadre of extreme radical egalitarians somehow seized control of the government (and understand that at present, the most liberal elements of the Democratic Party don’t have a representative in DC who comes anywhere close to fitting this description), how would you enact the measures needed to bring into existence a purely egalitarian society? There are too many people who oppose it, these people have too much money and power, there’s no mechanism by which this money and power could be quickly be stripped, the reformers have no apparent allies in the military or on the Supreme Court (or even the federal circuit bench), and there are simply too many ways by which the haves could circumvent the new regime.

Conclusion: Some people have more than others and it’s impossible to imagine a day in our lifetimes when this will no longer be so. This means that some children are going to be born into better circumstances than others. They’re going to have access to better schools, and when they graduate they’re going to inherit a network of social connections that provide them with better and more lucrative opportunities, regardless of their qualifications. Period.

Nobody Believes It Anyway: In most cases, equality of outcome is equal parts bogeyman and straw man. To be sure, there are social and political movements and philosophies that seem to push in that direction if we insist on misunderstanding them in their shallowest forms (and this is America, so that’s precisely what we do). If all you know of the world comes from shout radio, for instance, feminism doesn’t seek equality of opportunity for men and women, it wants to render men and women the same in every ludicrous way imaginable, so either we outlaw urinals or have government-financed programs teaching women how to use them. And so on. Am I being unfair to conservative shout jocks? Well, I’m coming closer to fairly representing their views than they do the views of feminists.

Sure, there are members of the feminist movement (and this goes for members of all -ism movements) who hold radical views, and there are very likely a few who do propose policies that would result in something like a pure equality of outcome based on gender (as I’ve noted before, there are 300 million Americans, and it’s hard to imagine a proposition that nobody would embrace). But the .01% most radical members of a movement do not comprise, no matter what a media pundit may tell you, a majority, and in fact they are just what the numbers would imply: a very small minority. The majority of feminists, and multiculturalists, and gay rights activists and civil rights activists and so on are bright enough to grasp basic social realities.

Conclusion: A level playing field has nothing to do with a mythical forced equality of outcomes agenda or the non-existent hordes conspiring to inflict them on us.

Equality of Opportunity: A “Fair Chance”

In 2006 I wrote an essay on a man who was born with every advantage imaginable, but who had evolved a self-image that lacked anything remotely like self-awareness. I called the man “Bob,” and it shouldn’t take anyone who knows anything at all about my hometown more than a couple of seconds to realize who Bob really is. Here’s a bit of what I had to say in that piece:

Life is a 100-yard dash. Despite Jefferson’s horsewax about all men being created equal, the truth is that some folks begin with a 99-yard headstart. I get it. I understand that’s how life is. I run as hard as I can and I try not to begrudge anybody their advantages. I also try to keep a clear head about my own advantages, because while I began at the starting line, I know that some people began the race at the bottom of a hole 20 yards back.

Here’s what I’m over, Bob. I’m sick of guys who started a yard from the finish line writing self-absorbed books lecturing the rest of us on how to be better runners. Getting there first in your case proves that your daddy was fast, not you. So take your win for what it is and shut the fuck up.

I know dozens of people as smart as you or smarter, Bob. Maybe hundreds. And a lot of them are struggling just to get to the finish line because of how guys like you have rigged the game. This much I’d bet my life on: had you grown up where I did, you’d be pumping gas. Or, let’s give you some credit. You’re still pretty smart and have some attitude about you, so maybe you’d own the gas station.

I continue to like the 100-yard dash metaphor for its ability to convey proportion. Its limitation is that we can’t take it too literally because a race only has one winner. And as I note above, the reality of life is that some people are simply going to get a head start, while other unfortunate souls are going to have to run with a few handicaps.

When I insist that our society’s public policy must assure a “level playing field,” I don’t mean that we need a Harrison Bergeron-style Handicapper General to make us all “equal”: we don’t need to worry about completely eliminating head starts, even when they overprivilege halfwit douchebags like our most recent former president (although a productive policy would perhaps cultivate a strong progressive tax structure that limits inheritance privilege more than we do at present).

I also don’t mean that we need to obsess over what it means to win – it’s okay if a particular “race” has many winners. The business world has lots and lots of individuals who we’d consider winners. The same goes for the academy. And the world of arts and letters. And sports, and music, and theater, and film, and so on. What matters is that everyone is afforded an opportunity to achieve to their highest potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth. If some are born into advantage, so be it, so long as all have a fair chance to succeed.

To this end, America’s public policy needs to:

  • provide a minimum baseline of opportunity; this policy set would largely focus on education, although in some cases it may also take into account other factors;
  • the goal of the policy should be to assure that young citizens of noteworthy ability who are willing to dedicate themselves to educational and professional achievement can reliably earn their way to the top of their professions (we can argue about the nuts and bolts of this policy later – for now, we’re discussing broad goals and objectives);
  • to the extent that children of privilege can attain higher degrees of success despite inferior capabilities, the system would not be deemed a success.

Put more succinctly, when we look at the upper echelons of a given industry, profession or organization, we should see a higher correlation between success and merit than between success and privilege. Until this is the case, we have not sufficiently leveled the playing field and our culture will continue to underperform its potential, to the detriment of all of us.

Egalitarianism, Equality, Democracy

Henry attempted to distinguish between equality of outcome, which he called egalitarianism, and equality of opportunity, which he called democracy, and his use of “democracy” in this context was a little unsatisfying, for a lot of reasons. Still, it’s significant that he linked opportunity and democracy. They’re not the same thing, but one depends on the other.

Perhaps the more important point to make is that we can have democracy without having anything worth having. After all, if we all have a voice and we vote to usher in an age of unparalleled self-degradation, that’s democracy, even if it represents an undesirable state of existence. We can also use our democratic power to vote ourselves into a new era of serfdom – something we’re far closer to doing than makes rational, self-interested sense.

What we mean when we wax eloquent about democracy is a higher-order ideal of self-determination where we all have a shot at prosperity that hinges on our abilities and our willingness to work for a better life and where the fate of the nation rests in the hands of those who legitimately comprise our brightest and best. That sort of democracy is something that doesn’t exist in the United States at present, if it ever did. If we are to achieve this enlightened society someday, then we must maximize the fullest potential of each citizen, and this can only be accomplished by bolstering the default level of opportunity.

So when we say “leveling the playing field,” what we’re really talking about is raising up the low end so that the least fortunate among us still has a reasonable shot of succeeding alongside the most fortunate.

More in the Democracy & Elitism series…

79 replies »

  1. Let’s say I’m a 99-yarder. Why do I care about the playing field? Why should I chip in to support your liberal welfare state? What does it get me? People who babble about “altruism” always seem to want to spend someone else’s money to promote their own idea of good…


  2. Sam. Sam Sam Sam.

    Without an empathetic comprehension of a wide variety of viewpoints, how will we ever reach any kind of deeper consensus or undertake meaningful action? Mustn’t we understand in order to compromise? For the love of all that’s holy, where is the humanity in humanism?

    Or maybe I just wanted to see what it felt like.

  3. Although seriously, I’ve never seen a workable plan for selling equality of opportunity to the majority of 99-yarders… next installment?

    • Well, I have ideas. And if someone handed me a magic wand I have specific policy proposals. But let’s face it, there are how many unscalable walls guarded by how many powerful brazilianaires between me and the promised land?

      If there were a major political party in the country that tolerated progressive ideas I suppose I could join and try and use it as an engine to promote these ideas, but the most liberal party we have in the US is to the right of Nixon.

  4. Excellent article. I was definitely a 100 -110 yarder….somewhere between lower to middle class, born of hillbilly parents. If it weren’t for public education, I would have probably had no formal teaching (I’d like to think that I would have educated myself but who knows). If it weren’t for VA benefits, I would have probably not gotten a college education. Without the college education, I know I wouldn’t have succeeded in my work life as well as I did. So I can attest to the effectiveness of leveling the playing field through equality of opportunity. However, over the last 20-25 years it seems as if we’re slipping back to the old aristocratic system of trying to ensure the success of the 90+ yarders.

    I haven’t yet but I will be reading the earlier articles on this subject…..very interesting.

  5. Hatter – welcome to S&R. I don’t have the military component, but without public ed and various scholarship programs I wouldn’t be where I am today. There are others around here with similar stories, I know.

  6. Thank you. I’ve been visiting this site for the last couple of months….really good stuff.

    In the end, the success of our form of government comes down to a good secular education for as many as possible, doesn’t it?

  7. In the end, the success of our form of government comes down to a good secular education for as many as possible, doesn’t it?

    Yup – that’s my big argument in a nutshell.

    By the way, what happened to Terry Hargrove? Will he contribute any in the future?

    I think he’s probably relaxing a bit over the holidays. He better be back, is all I can say….

  8. And there is no reason why this nation shouldn’t be able to provide a good, secular education for everyone. It would be the rising tide that actually does raise all boats.

    In most cases, equality of outcome is equal parts bogeyman and straw man. To be sure, there are social and political movements and philosophies that seem to push in that direction if we insist on misunderstanding them in their shallowest forms (and this is America, so that’s precisely what we do).

    And therein lies the problem. The word “equality” has been twisted in this nation so that it connotates a perverted idea of the Soviet Union, which was itself a Stalinist perversion of Lenin’s perversion of Marxist philosophy put into action. (You can use “adaptation” instead of “perversion” if you insist, but the leaps that each step took away from the original – be it good, bad or just ugly – suggest perversion to me.) And what’s most perverse is the idea that everyone was equal in the Statist USSR, or that they would be in anything but the most radical and small-scale communist experiment. As Doc says, it isn’t possible.

    In the pertinent case, the USSR, a more exact analogy would be the stratification of a corporation. Usually, the CEO’s son doesn’t have to start in the mail room and VP’s have an easier go of life than those in the secretarial pool or janitors.

    So we can’t even have an honest discussion of the issue in this country, it’s been ruined by the fear mongering of the Cold War. Which, unfortunately, leads me to believe that Marx had a point. A certain class of people in America have purposefully frightened and brainwashed an ignorant populace in order to keep them subservient…limiting equality of opportunity and hence protecting themselves from competition.

    It is, in many ways, similar to the actual situation in the Soviet Union. I expect the result to be, in many ways, similar as well.

  9. Sammy, I suppose I’d regard myself as 1/2 privilege elite and 1/2 performance elite. I’m only saying this for the sake of full disclosure because I think you believe that point of view derives from one’s position in the “social matrix.” But, to be honest, the whole issue of equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome leaves me cold. In fact, I prefer equality of outcome because equality of opportunity sounds a bit too strenuous. Also, I think this whole equality of opportunity thing belongs to the rhetorical arsenal that’s used in promoting the education establishment. That might be more palatable if measures could be taken to limit compensation of teachers and faculty. Another advantage of the private school sector over the public schools is that its teachers are paid considerably less. Those people have a sense of mission. One has the sense that people seek employment in public education as a form of overpaid sinecure.

  10. Yes, yes, YES! Sweet Jesus Tebow, YES! We have to find ways of paying teachers LESS. Also, we need larger class sizes. Because when it comes to educating our future hope, you can’t be stingy enough.

    *ahem* It always amazes me how the basic laws of economics, which predict that the best and brightest will migrate to the fields that offer the best compensation, apply to everything in the world except education. What we want THERE isn’t great, highly qualified teachers. No, what we want there are passionate, committed types earning a salary that qualifies them for food stamps.

    Of course, then there’s that other wrinkle. People with a “sense of mission” tend to be passionate and driven by pro-social ideologies. But damn, when they display some of that ideology, we want them to shut up and teach.

    Larry, we appreciate your willingness to engage the discussion, but as long as you insist on talking about public school teachers being overpaid, you’re going to have a hard time getting anyone to take you seriously. Bottom line, most of us simply KNOW too many teachers to reply with anything but laughter…

  11. Larry, what do you think a fair salary would be? Give me a number for a hypothetical teacher with 10 years of experience and a master’s degree.

  12. Yeah, i’m tired of those fat cat teachers ruining things. They’re supposed to be educating the nation’s children, not worrying about how to improve their gated communities.

    But the times they are a changin’. Since the communities that they teach in can’t find the funds to properly endow the basic needs of educating the community’s children, all that surplus value that the teachers hoover up can be spent on buying basic school supplies for the classroom. This will clearly have a knock-off benefit for major, American corporations (and their hard-working CEO’s of course) and the Chinese crayon manufacturing sector.

    We must find a way to keep public school teachers from hoarding their $52,308/year in off-shore bank accounts. And the only model that will save us is industrialism, because that will allow us to push wages down. Could we possibly off shore this service? I’m sure that there are Indians willing to do the work at a fraction of the cost. That’s the route i’d go, because what will be most important is that the new School Inc. mega-corps show ever-increasing quarterlies and a robust bottom line. We simply must keep the idea of share holder value firmly in our sights.

    Or, what if we send the children to India or China for the duration of their education. That would clearly reduce School Inc.’s overhead obligation and then, perhaps, the children could not only make their own damn crayons outside of learning hours, they might turn a tidy little profit for School Inc. on the side.

    It may not be quite there yet, but we should shoot for turning the world into a Dickensian ghetto.

  13. According to Lex figures of teachers making $52,000 a year, that’s not a bad salary by any stretch of the imagination. Teachers get 10 weeks off a summer. They get a week off at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring break. Most get 5 sick days a year, and in my district they also get 5 personal days off a year. Plus they get off all holidays such as MLK day, and a couple others off. $52K for working 37 weeks a year is not very bad, and if you break it down, that averages to $35 an hour for the actual time working. Not bad for the union gig they have plus they get great benefits befitting employees of the public sector. However, most teachers aren’t in it for the money anyway, so I don’t see why all the bellyaching going on.

  14. I don’t mean to offend anyone here, but it’s always been my impression that teachers (the public school types) are drawn from the most unintelligent and underachieving quartile of the student bodies at 3rd and 4th rate universities (the teachers college and former teachers colleges). Private school teachers tend to have some of the Peace Corps mentality, which is a different problem altogether. In any case, the teachers (as in “the teachers’ union”) enjoy extraordinary job security (tenure anybody?) and generous pensions. In every community where they work, their level of compensation is far above that of the median for private sector employees. Remember, these are public employees. However you might like to glorify them, it would be improper for public sector employees of any sort except the most “elite” to be compensated above the private sector median for their communities. How much should a teacher with experience and a masters be paid? Well, start by subtracting $20K for the valueless masters that only exists to limit the supply of people coming into the field.

  15. I don’t mean to offend anyone here, but it’s always been my impression that teachers (the public school types) are drawn from the most unintelligent and underachieving quartile of the student bodies at 3rd and 4th rate universities (the teachers college and former teachers colleges).

    While there is much to unpack in this particular bundle of assumptions, let’s begin by assuming, for the sake of argument, that this first part is true (it isn’t, but let’s pretend anyway). If you didn’t know we were talking about teaching and I were to say Larry, there’s an industry that only draws applications from the underachieving bottom quartile at 4th-rate colleges. Without knowing any more than that, what do you suppose could be the cause?

    If you were at least a relative smart person, you’d immediately suppose two possible causes: first, there’s no money in it, and all these people are the ones who can’t compete for the jobs that the smart kids are after; and second, the job must really be undesirable.

    Jeff is having all kinds of fun revisioneering reality here, but the bottom line is that yes, Virginia, the laws of economics do apply to the public sector. You may not be able to solve our ed problems by throwing money at them, but oddly that’s how we tend to approach banking leadership problems, isn’t it?

    All this said, money isn’t the only problem we have in education by a long shot. In fact, I wouldn’t even argue that it’s the #1 problem. That honor goes to “anti-intellectual culture” (which, of course, helps explain why we spend so little money educating the children (cue: up patriotic, sentimental orchestra music) that are our future.

    By the way, Jeff, if you adjust pay and hours for the whole year, $35/hour is more like $73K. Not many teachers make that kind of cash. In order to arrive at your figure, we have to assume a part-time job where you work 60+ hours a week. And “actual time working” is a canard as well. If you’re obligated to a place for 10-12 hours a day, that’s actual time working whether you like it or not.

    I know some teachers, and based on what I know and see I’d hypothesize a number in the $20/hour range (and I’m not even sure I don’t think that’s high) for a job that comes with insane levels of administrative and parental grief, class loads that can exceed 35 students six to eight times a day, no meaningful weekend recovery time (because you have to grade those papers SOMEtime), and butt-stupid public expectations about performance (remember, you’re not allowed to actually teach – your life is about test prep, which also takes a bite out of intrinsic satisfaction level).

    I love the how very AMERICAN this thread has gotten. Vague perceptions stand in for facts, strongly held opinions derived from fuzzy misconceptions, a general assumption that teachers aren’t doing work that’s as important as what their friends in the corporate world are doing. No fucking wonder we’re in the mess we’re in.

  16. Larry, you do realize that most of those M.A.’s are mandated as “continuing education” right? Teachers, especially young teachers get to spend their “generous” amount of time off going to school.

    Now, i believe that 2.5 consecutive months off for teachers and students is anachronistic, a throw-back to a time when America was agrarian and all that. I’d prefer to see that length divided up into two or three shorter vacation periods. But as one who has spent time in front of a classroom, i can tell you that time off is absolutely necessary as teaching is the most emotionally draining job you can imagine. How many parents spend 6+ hours/day with their own kids, much less 35 kids.

    And Doc’s right about the pay/hour. Teachers spend a lot of time outside the classroom working. Many of them (especially the young ones who aren’t making $50,000/year) also end up working at another job during their generous vacation time if they’re not going back to school.

    Here’s the thing. You get what you pay for. If you can afford a brand new car are you going to buy a rust-bucket 20 year old Escort to ferry your children around in or are you going to buy something new with DVD players, umpteen airbags and crumple zones? Me, i’d think that providing our children with the absolute best in education is a sound, long-term investment. Then again, i love America (i’m not sure why, she’s fat, ugly and ignorant on the whole but love isn’t rational)…maybe that’s where i’m going astray.

  17. Sam, I’m not adjusting or extrapolating anything, just dealing with the numbers Lex presented. The time off is the teacher’s own time and if he wants more money, there are summer jobs, etc in which he can add to his gross. If things are so bad for teachers, there are always other jobs they can do..after all, they are college educated professionals, and those skills translate to other fields. I’m curious about something you said in an earlier response. You earlier said, “, but without public ed and various scholarship programs I wouldn’t be where I am today.” Just exactly who are you and where are you today? Have you transcended your “Grapes of Wrath” upbringing and are a great success…..if so, kudos to you. Perhaps you’re contribution to society would be to teach others in abject poverty to model after you and enjoy the same fruits of success.

    Lex. America is not fat, ugly and ignorant…it’s just that most people disagree with you.

  18. @DrSlammy: You want facts. OK then, let’s pick a city. Make it either yours, NYC, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore or DC. Then let’s consider the average public school teacher income (including generous benefit accruals and an exceptionally early retirement age) in comparison with the median for the population. Yes, I may be a dumb guy and your ad hominem may be warranted, but the facts are indisputable: teachers are exceedingly well paid. If ironclad job security is also considered, a career in teaching offers the best possible the best possible career for the average person. Why don’t “better” people go into the field? 1) The work’s just not attractive; and 2) The only hurdle in becoming a teacher is to endure an unchallenging bureaucratic process: no barriers to entry. It would be as easy to become a garbageman.

    • Larry – how, precisely, are you going to attach a monetary value to “early retirement age?” I’m not saying there isn’t a way, only that I am having a hard time imagining what it is (everything I can think of has major problems). As for choosing a single city, that’s not a statistically valid sample, and your claim (“teachers are exceedingly well paid”)only holds if it applies to a statistically valid sample.

      I imagine others will be diving into this a bit more than I will at the moment, but I’ll have more to say on this in the next day or two. Gotta finish crunching the data first, though.

  19. I’m not concerned with whether people agree with me or not.

    Have you been out in public recently, Jeff? Americans are beyond mildly pudgy. On the whole, we are fat. A good many of our compatriots cannot find Afghanistan on an unmarked map, some of them struggle to find the US on an unmarked map. Many are unable or unwilling to consider that charging consumer purchases will require paying back the money borrowed at 30% interest, and just what kind of financial situation that leads to. We are ignorant. (i won’t clog up this thread with more examples)

    Ugly, ok, that’s subjective.

  20. Lex, are you including yourself in the ubiquitous “we”? Or are you something else, something better, a shining light, so to speak?


  21. Ha. I’m not a shining example of anything, nor do i care to be one. But i can find Afghanistan on a map. I don’t have any CC debt. And i’m not fat. Ugly, yeah, i’ve got that one down.

    I certainly don’t make up silly little fairy tales about my chosen career being a matter of dispensing justice. Is that the kind of “shining light” you speak of?

  22. The work’s just not attractive.

    Of course, no one with an appreciable level of drive, determination and intelligence would enter an unattractive field. “Sense of mission,” indeed.

  23. Lex, your misguided thought that teaching is the most draining profession in the world just shows how much you don’t know. I’m sure the police, combat soldiers, paramedics, emergency room workers, and nurses would all disagree with you. My little blood sucking profession is one of the most draining profession in the world, because my livelihood is on the line, at risk, every day.One mistake, and I’m out. By the way….I have taught college level chemistry and can speak from experience about teaching

    • Jeff says: “One mistake, and I’m out.”

      I’m no investor, but I’ve heard people talk about this strategy that might be of use for you. I think they call it “diversification.”

  24. Lex, I’ve never actually seen, smelled or tasted a fresh apple, but I’m going to tell you all about them, including their relative worth, natural life cycle and optimal growing environment. I will then leap upon an incautiously-phrased description in order to make you defend the intrinsic merit of apples versus, say, oranges, lemons and bananas. Finally, I’ll attempt to assume an air of authority by mentioning my extensive experience with a slice of apple pie. If all else fails to crush your upstart spirit, I will quote Ayn Rand on a topic completely unrelated to apples. As you struggle to make some kind of rational connection, I will lead you so far into the labyrinthine workings of my personality disorder and perpetual cognitive dissonance that you will forget the original argument and I will win, Lex. I will win.

  25. Uh, Jeff, teaching college level courses is somewhat different than having 35 6-year-olds all day long…just a little.

    Ok, you got me on a technicality. I meant to say “one of the most” and didn’t. That doesn’t change the drain and the emotional resources that teaching requires.

    Your livelihood is only about you. You don’t have an societal responsibility (besides that stupid “justice” thing you like to go on about) in your profession. You’re not charged with caring for other people’s children, educating them and preparing them for life in society at large. Or making sure that they pass certain tests mandated by a guy who can’t even complete a proper fucking sentence.

    • As for “draining,” I have some perspective. I never taught high school, or the gods save me, elementary school. University undergrads drained the hell out of me, and my best guess is that I wouldn’t last 15 minutes at any level further down the ladder.

      Some days my current job is draining. In fact, though, it’s not as draining as what 99% of the people on the planet do to survive in a given day, so I try not to lose focus on how comparatively lucky I am.

      Now, since this has gotten a little threadfuckish, I’d like to swing back around to Jeff’s earlier question, snide thought it may have been, about “where I am in life.” Where I am is a mixed bag. I’m nowhere near the level of success I think I ought to be at, and the blame for this unhappy circumstance is in part mine. I have not always made the best decisions and at times I’ve allowed my attention to wander away from the prize. Also, like SO many people out there, I’ve had to fight the battle between my idealistic and practical sides. On the one hand, I’d love to be a poet and a professor. On the other hand, well, I’d like to be able to afford food and shelter, and since I grew up without a lot I’ve made some money-leaning decisions that paid the bills but that did not make me happy as a human being. I wish I lived in a society where what I’m best at was valued enough that I didn’t have to choose between happiness and eating.

      By some measures I’m pretty successful in my career, which is more or less professional communications. In fact, I can lay out a case that I’m incredibly successful if you’re willing to accept effective execution of responsibilities as a measure of success. But that isn’t how I measure myself. I hold myself to a different set of standards, and by those I’m barely successful at all. In truth, I regard S&R to be my most (and lately, only) meaningful contribution to the world. My goals were modest enough – bring together the smartest people I could find and try to enable a more intelligent conversation than is found most places on the Net. I think we’ve cleared that bar, but hey, our advertising doesn’t always cover the cost of our hosting. So if you want to be harsh about it, call me a vanity press operator.

      Whatever value you assign to any of this, though, my remarks had to do with a comparison: where I am vs where I’d be without the opportunity afforded by public educational structures which your political allies are tearing down. Where would that be? Well, what kinds of job ops are out there for southern working class boys with no money and no connections? I might have made manager at McDonald’s by now, or maybe I’d have wound up in some sales gig that doesn’t require a degree. In other words, I’d be living the same kind of life that a lot of other people are, people who either never had my educational opportunity or who, for whatever reason, passed on it.

      I wasn’t the greatest college prof ever, but I know for a fact that I touched some lives. I’m not WB Yeats, but I’ve written things that I think are pretty good (and others have agreed – some of it has even been published in very fine lit journals). My status in the biz community will no doubt improve if I can figure out how to become one of the people getting rich off of my work.

      That’s “where I am now.” And I wouldn’t be here if I’d grown up in the world that people like you are trying to engineer.

  26. Sam, I’m not an investor, and my diversification is in areas outside the markets such as farm land, check cashing places, surf shops, museum quality art, plus owning a good percentage of the local bank. Still, that’s chicken feed, and the bulwark of my capital is used to run my trading operation, which incidentally provided the best return in years and I try to stay delta neutral and let the spreads do their thing.. You’re right for investors to not keep all their eggs in one basket.

    Still, with the methods I employ, with margin, one can lose more than they initially put down. All of this is good as the markets provide societal benefits beyond the scope of the general public. The Wall street guys deserve the big bucks just for putting up with the huge positions they have to manage. If an average person had to put on a 10,000 bond position, I strongly suspect that he’d lose a lot of sleep at night A pro will forget about it at 4PM and get on with life. After all, life is meant to be enjoyed.


  27. Lex,

    Why must you go on about Bush….he’s yesterday’s news. I thought your savior was going to correct things immediately.

    That being said, you’re not a teacher anymore….don’t you play with plants somewhere in the cold north? I think you need to get out more. Didn’t you give up after your failures? Well, I’m not about failure, but am for success…for anyone who seeks to grab the brass ring. Anyone who doesn’t go for the brass ring deserves exactly what they get. No matter what government program is in place, no matter how much money you will throw at things, there is a large segment of people in this country that are lazy by their own choice. Add that to those who “Gave Up” and I suspect a large amount of readership on this blog is in that category.

    I’ve noticed a common thread with progressives. They whine about inequality, then seek to take money from the producers in order to equalize things. Money that they did not earn, and is not there’s. I suspect that it’s mainly a jealousy thing, especially at the lower level of society. It’s not about fairness, it’s all about power I’m sure if the progressive agenda was carried out to the fullest, we’d see the same status quo with the body of people toiling away while the elites getting preferential treatment, medical care, and shopping experiences…much like the uSSR in the 60’s-70’s.

  28. Sammy, People like me are trying to engineer change through individual effort and not relying on government. I endowed a scholarship fund at my undergraduate school. I send my son, nephew, and 5 other deserving kids to college, full expenses paid. . It’s nice to pontificate and bloviate, and insult others in which you disagree with, but how many kids are you sending to college and putting your money where your mouth is? Out of curiosity, on another subject, what percentage of your gross income do you donate to charity? It is tax deductible you know. Some talk the talk, and some walk the walk, or Money talks, Bullshit walks. What category are you in?

    • I thought your savior was going to correct things immediately.

      Would you be so kind as to point to the place where Lex, or ANYBODY ON THIS STAFF, ever said anything that comes remotely close to this? And by remotely close, you don’t even have to get into the same neighborhood – show me something within a light-year.

      Anyone who doesn’t go for the brass ring deserves exactly what they get.

      What do people who deserve who, at no point in their lives, no matter how hard they try, can’t get close enough to the brass ring to grab at it?

      No matter what government program is in place, no matter how much money you will throw at things, there is a large segment of people in this country that are lazy by their own choice.

      Can you show me where anybody on this staff is lobbying on behalf of those who choose to be lazy and not work to their best of their abilities? Or are you just going to keep making ludicrous shit up out of thin air?

      Never mind, that was a rhetorical question.

      Add that to those who “Gave Up” and I suspect a large amount of readership on this blog is in that category.

      You “suspect.” Based on what evidence? I ask, because we know from basic stat tracking that a vast majority of our readers never comment, and also when we see Alexa demographic breakdowns on our readership (I have no idea what methodology they use, but there it is) we see numbers that don’t always support our own theories about who’s reading. If you have evidence that we don’t, I know I’d love to see it.

      I’ve noticed a common thread with progressives. They whine about inequality, then seek to take money from the producers in order to equalize things.

      “The producers” – that’d be an article of dogma, not the pure fact you’d like us to think it is. You carry on like every time you make a trade on wheat that you’re the guy out there on the tractor in the hot sun.

      It’s not about fairness, it’s all about power

      Well, again, “fairness” is not an objective thing about which there are no arguments to be made (on multiple sides). You use the term like it’s objective and your view of it is gospel. So how about we all stop stop trying to sneak contended issues past each other as though they were settled fact?

      That said, I’d certainly agree with you that much of this argument is about power. I’m of the opinion that power should rest largely with the meritocracy. You’d pretend to agree with that, except that your measure of merit is synonymous with size of bank account (and some horsewax about genetic superiority, all of which ultimately leads back to the bank account). That is, you’d pretend to be a performance elite (and once upon a time you may have been) when in fact you’re as brazen a case of privilege elite as we’re likely to find this side of Kennebunkport.

    • I send my son, nephew, and 5 other deserving kids to college, full expenses paid.

      You’re to be commended. And they’re lucky to be well-connected to a wealthy member of the privilege elite.

  29. Sam, that’s the problem with self described intellectuals like you. You are so blinded by your own sense of self righteousness that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Somehow, since you have a high opinion of yourself and out of control hubris, you can’t stand that lesser people can do better in this world than you do. I feel very sorry for you.

    Enough wasting time on this useless thread as it’s costing me money.

    Here’s you on 2007 when you were going to ntake advantage of others misery

    you said


    I hate to be a vampire about it, but honestly I’m waiting for the bubble to burst. It’s going to be ugly as hell, but I’m trying to get myself positioned so that when it happens I can buy what I want at a price that’s something like actual value. I’ve lost money on a couple houses so far and next time I’m going to be the guy taking advantage.

    It’s a godawful state of affairs when a guy who’s intellectually, emotionally and ethically constructed like I am winds up talking this way. I just hope a lot of stupid developers and the weasels behind all these mortgage gimmicks take the brunt of it.

    • Sam, that’s the problem with self described intellectuals like you. You are so blinded by your own sense of self righteousness that you can’t see the forest for the trees. Somehow, since you have a high opinion of yourself and out of control hubris, you can’t stand that lesser people can do better in this world than you do. I feel very sorry for you.

      That’s a buttload of ad hominem and attacking the speaker right there. I wonder if anybody besides me noticed that you didn’t address any of the actual arguments?

      Enough wasting time on this useless thread as it’s costing me money.

      Ah, well, at least you’re ignoring the substantive points on the table for a noble reason. I hope someday I’m rich so I can be as fully actualized as you are.

      Here’s you on 2007 when you were going to ntake advantage of others misery

      you said


      I hate to be a vampire about it, but honestly I’m waiting for the bubble to burst. It’s going to be ugly as hell, but I’m trying to get myself positioned so that when it happens I can buy what I want at a price that’s something like actual value. I’ve lost money on a couple houses so far and next time I’m going to be the guy taking advantage.

      It’s a godawful state of affairs when a guy who’s intellectually, emotionally and ethically constructed like I am winds up talking this way. I just hope a lot of stupid developers and the weasels behind all these mortgage gimmicks take the brunt of it.

      So it comes as a surprise to you that I want the people who created the mess to be responsible for it?

      Sometimes it’s like you don’t know me at all.

  30. Sam, You never did mention what % of your gross income that you give to charity. You can easily check on line 21 of your last year tax form. You accuse me of not addressing things you write about, but then you neglect to answer a simple question…..perhaps you’re embarrassed?

    Perhaps you prefer to give other peoples money away to suit your agenda.

    • My finances are none of your business, and my grandfather would have beaten my ass until my nose bled had I ever asked such a question. Perhaps etiquette was taught differently in your neck of the woods.

      For purposes of this discussion, you feel free to assume whatever you like, especially since nothing I’ve ever said would suggest that I give a fuck about those less fortunate then me.

  31. So Sammy, well, you just answered my question. The fact that you got steamed just reinforced it. you don’t give squat or you’d answer. Perhaps next year, you will open up your check book and help those lest fortunate instead of thinking you are doing your part by bloviating about the inequality on the internet. As I earlier said, some talk the talk and some walk the walk. Words don’t help. only actions, which is what self proclaimed intellectuals like you need to learn.

  32. Wow. Bragging about how much we give to charity, huh? Well, my theory all day has been that if I kept you talking, you’d eventually make a point for me that I could never make myself.

    Thanks. We value your contributions more than you will ever know.

  33. @Brian: Without any other information, I can absolutely, positively state that the cost (added liability to an employer) of an annuity accelerated by n years increases by a factor of (1+y)^n-1, where y is a long run rate of interest (called the settlement rate in actuarial circles) and n is the number of years accelerated. Getting it sooner counts for more than the additional years, which is a more complex and annoying expression. I’m sure you realize that a sample size of between five and ten geographically dispersed cities would be statistically conclusive. I only suggested that DrSlammy choose one city in the WLOG sense of the word one.

  34. Pft. Sorry I’m late, gang.

    Shorter larrybruce: “Look, school teachers are glorified babysitters. This is why we ought to pay them like babysitters. To put it another way: A monkey could educate my kids. Hell, let’s not even pay those greedy, University of Bob-educated leeches in currency–let’s just have private companies round ’em up with the hippies currently in their employ and pay them in bananas and patchouli incense, and if they don’t like it, well, they should’ve gotten real jobs. Hold on, my second grader is–Kayla. KAYLA. **KAYLA!** STOP THAT! FOR THE LAST TIME, THAT WAS A *MOVIE!* THE WALLPAPER DOES NOT HAVE A FLAVOR, AND IT NEVER, EVER WILL!”

    Shorter Jeff Watson: “Money talks and bullshit walks. Also, anything that’s not money is bullshit. I’m a socially conscious career gambler!”

  35. $52K for working 37 weeks a year is not very bad, and if you break it down, that averages to $35 an hour for the actual time working. Not bad for the union gig they have plus they get great benefits befitting employees of the public sector. However, most teachers aren’t in it for the money anyway, so I don’t see why all the bellyaching going on.

    Student contact time may be 37 weeks a year, but that fails to include professional development days, workshops, and continuing education classes which are required. Not to mention that most teachers do spend all or parts of their “breaks” planning lessons and/or grading papers. I did the calculation a number of times during my teaching career–my husband and I put in about the same number of hours per year. While school was in session I was typically working 55-60 hours per week with 45-50 of those hours being in the school building. Sure, I didn’t have to report to work in the summer, but I did commonly put in a few hours a week doing things like scoping out museum exhibits for field trips or making sure that the interesting new lab I wanted to try actually worked right.

    By the way, $52k a year in my area would be the salary for a teacher with about 8-10 years of experience and a significant number of post-graduate credits, if not a master’s degree. A teacher fresh out of school with just a bachelor’s degree would earn around $33k.

  36. How much should a teacher with experience and a masters be paid? Well, start by subtracting $20K for the valueless masters that only exists to limit the supply of people coming into the field.

    I’m thinking you’re pulling figures out of thin air. For one thing, the value of a master’s degree on a teacher salary schedule is only $3-5k/year during the first few years on the job. For another, a master’s degree is not required of a first year teacher and cannot therefore limit the supply of people entering the field.

    Do you have some figures comparing the average intelligence and scores of these “unintelligent and underachieving” teachers to the superior intellect and ambition of their counterparts in the private sector? I’d be interested in looking at the source for that.

  37. A bit tangentially, Sam, it’s a funny thing about that “producers” idea.

    If we measure “production” in terms of making money or making things that sell for money, a significant percentage of the human labor on this planet must therefore be non-productive: things like child-rearing, maintaining homes, subsistence farming and animal husbandry, producing edible food from raw materials…

    There are newer systems of measuring prosperity which at least attempt to take “domestic labor” into account, but no one pays much attention to them. No one really important, anyway.

  38. I wouldn’t be too impressed with anything a former lackwit, overpaid parasite and current unproductive baby machine says, Lex.

  39. Jesh. It took a while, but I finally got through the thread (I’m a slow reader). And here’s my conclusion. I wish to hell I was alpha enough to sit Slammy and Jeff down in the same room and FORCE them to answer the questions at hand. Slammy’s got the ideas. Jeff’s got the practical finance experience. Maybe bring Ann along to keep things sane (now, THAT’S an idea). Now, STFU and work together, damn it. Holy fucknockers, boys, you are BOTH smart as hell. But every time you two go at it, it boils down to a pissing contest and I get annoyed.

    Look. You both agree education is important and paramount to success. Work with that and move forward. Jeff, come up with a way to make that idea financially viable. Slammy, come up with a way to quantify “success” that isn’t necessarily linked to finances. Go with your strengths. Here, I’ll take a stab at it. And yes, I know it’s ludicrous, but it’s a freakin’ start. Four steps:

    1) figure out five independent methods of measuring “effectiveness of teaching” and fire everyone who sucks and refuses to learn to become a more effective teacher in, say 2 or 3 out of the 5 measures. Give ’em something like 5 years to demonstrate skill/improvement. And if they can’t perform, really fire their asses. Don’t just shuffle them off into another government job.

    2) Kill the health care bill , social security, medicare, etc. as it now stands.

    3) Give “public services” like teaching, police, firemen, military, etc the BEST possible health care coverage EVER.

    4) Sit back and watch.

    Now, quit bitching to each other and make it work.

  40. And another thing. Larry, you’re being stupid. Education is SUPPOSED to improve things. You don’t WANT average. You want Better Than Average. That requires teachers who have better than average skill, will, and imagination. And that’s going to require better than average Pay. Think about this logically, please.


  41. Ummm, Uber, you’ve solved all our problems except one. Now that you’ve run off all the “bad” teachers (many of which would be a lot better if they weren’t being put in such an untenable position) how exactly is it that you’re going to attract good ones to replace them. Best I can tell, you’ve done nothing to alleviate the conditions, class sizes, ridiculous testing policies, out of control helicopter parenting, even more out of control entitlement, and remind me one more time why I’d want even MORE pressure on top of what I have for, as best I can tell, no more compensation?

  42. Slammy, Haven’t some here been arguing that health care is one of the biggest costs for everyone? 🙂 Fine, add funds for training to part 1 and add teacher salaries to part 3. I meant to do that anyway, but got carried away. And we can do that because of all the cuts in part 2. All that stuff about bureaucracy can be added to part 1 and hold the admin to the same standards (with, perhaps, a few other measures). There, problem solved. Besides, as I said, it’s a start. I asked that you design practical model. Not a pie in the sky wish list. Of course, part 2 is just that, which is why I asked Jeff to make it financially viable. I’m nothing resembling a money guy.

  43. Let’s stay clear of the threadfuck. Specifically, the threadfuck is OVER. There is a point to this post and to some, if not all, of the comments.

    I want to follow up and clarify some stuff that I suspect got lost in the muck.

    The BIG point here is the SYSTEM. Jeff clearly believes that a top-notch education is a good thing, and on this we agree completely. However, he only believes that opp should go to those who can afford it. Or who are connected to people who can afford it. He doesn’t believe that there should be structures that assure that level of opportunity for the less fortunate (no matter how brilliant they may be). And I’m not erecting straw men here. I’m representing, as faithfully as I can, the philosophies that undergird what he has said in this forum.

    I believe that America is better when the brightest and best get a shot even if they’re born poor and unconnected. Our “conservative” (actually classical liberal/libertarian) types believe that the shot should be reserved for the wealthy.

    Oddly, this whole ideological structure goes hand-in-hand with their definition of “fairness.”

    Also, Uber – Jeff has no interest in making things like this financially viable. His goal is to come as close as possible to eliminating all taxes, government programs and regulations.

  44. As usual, Sam gets it wrong. Free education is available to bright students, period. Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all offer free education to students who’s parents make less than $75,000 a year. My son went to Phillips Exeter before college. Exeter, in their own words says,
    “Exeter originated the system of instruction known as Harkness teaching in 1931. In the spirit of its charter to foster both goodness and knowledge, Exeter offers a free education to any admitted student whose family income is $75,000 or less. The school meets all demonstrated financial aid needs of its admitted students. Read the Facts booklet for more information”

    Andover and most other prep schools offer the same thing. They are able to offer this opportunity because guys like me make sure that they can. We don’t pontificate, we give.

    • It’s great that these schools have scholarship programs. I wasn’t aware that this was ever in question. Still, your answer encourages us to believe things that are not necessarily accurate. For one, an uncritical reader would walk away from this quote believing that any kid in America can go to Exeter.

      Which is hardly the case. You have to be admitted, and when we’re talking about admissions processes at elite institutions we have to circle back around to that “connected” thing. You don’t HAVE to be a Rockefeller insider, but strong family connections damned sure don’t hurt anything.

      For my part, I think we’d be best served by a system that assured kids the optimal opportunity. That’s a different thing from having a system where they’re allowed to APPLY for the optimal opportunity.

      In the final analysis, I’ve argued over and over and over that we Americans are HORRIBLE about confusing the rule with the exception. If I can show you a case where a guy succeeded against one-in-a-billion odds, somehow that becomes proof that the system provides everybody with a fair shot. The correct answer, of course, is that if only one talented guy in a billion is succeeding, your system is well more than 99.99% fucked.

      I’m not arguing that it can’t be done, and I’m not arguing that it never is done. I’m arguing that we have a system where opportunity is all too often the exception when it should be the rule. If there’s a genius out there who can develop a cure for cancer or HIV or diabetes, I’d like to know that he or she is going to wind up in an outstanding research lab instead of slogging through a community college and finally winding up as an insurance adjuster because he/she had financial necessities that could no longer be ignored.

  45. Whether it’s Jeff’s way or yours, DrSlammy, I don’t care for the idea of a society in which economic and political enfranchisement depends on the number of years in school. It’s an arms race in academic credentials. That problem is usually understood under the rubric of “economic rents.” Students (and their unfortunate parents) pay for schooling in order to purchase a license to collect economic rent: additional income from formal and informal barriers to entry from jobseekers who lack the required credential. The educational system claims a share of this income from parents in the form of exorbitant tuition. I sense that the time’s not far off when jobs in “social media marketing” will go to candidates who possess a degree in the field: mere marketing or communications won’t be specific enough.

  46. It can be done by everyone. It’s just that things aren’t going to be handed out on a silver platter which is what you want. There is opportunity, but there is work in finding the opportunity and real hard work in creating your own opportunity. As an aside, my son did his Exeter application all by himself, without any interference, old boy network help, alumni help, assistance or whatever.

    • Jeff: I have no doubts whatsoever that your son is more than worthy of the opportunities he’s been given and I have no doubt that he will succeed in whatever profession he chooses. This discussion is not about you, or your son. It’s about THE SYSTEM. That should be clear from the fact that I’ve said that a couple times now and even all-capped it once before. I would suggest that he was probably asked to list references – I’ve never seen an academic app that didn’t require them, and I think we all know that refs from impressive people help a great deal, don’t we?

      Also, anybody who knows me is probably laughing pretty hard at the idea that I want it all just given to me. I’ve worked my ass off my entire life and there’s no end in sight. And if you’d fairly represent the things I have said here, you’d note that I always emphasize that the recipient of the opportunity has to WORK HARD. Seriously, I make that point ALL THE TIME.

      By the way, it’s on the record, so if you can dig back as far as you did yesterday in an attempt to find a quote that makes me look bad, it shouldn’t be too hard to quote me on something I say nearly every day, should it? Or is intellectual dishonesty easier?

      Larry: Jesus H Tebow, what the hell are you talking about? How did “we all benefit when the system provides each student with a chance to maximize his or her potential” become “we all need to spend as many years in school and accumulate as many degrees as possible”? An ed system that does what ours needs to be doing isn’t about the MOST years, it’s about the right program. Some people won’t need a lot of post-secondary at all, and if you can educate yourself to where you need to be and want to be, fine.

      That said, are you really sure you’re ready to stand behind the argument that there’s no correlation between amount of education and achievement?

  47. Jeff, you’re thinking too small. I won’t argue that the opportunities aren’t there. But look at the numbers. I suspect the amount of funds available through the programs you are describing doesn’t come close to educating the numbers Slammy is talking about. Slammy is talking about educating the entire society, focusing on those with talent and skill. You are talking about educating a very select few.

  48. What early childhood programs do you support? After all, a full-ride scholarship to Exeter is only useful to someone who meets the academic entrance requirements. And that achievement gap between rich kids and poor kids doesn’t start widening in high school, middle school, or even elementary. By age 1, my kids had already had more books read to them than many entering kindergarteners in the school district I was teaching in. Pit my preschooler against the typical poor kindergartener in a letter/sound recognition contest and I can tell you where my money is. It’s not just because he’s a bright kid, it’s because that raw brainpower has been nurtured both at home and at the preschool we are able to afford to send him to.

    If we really want to see a leveled up playing field, we need to invest our money and time in programs that offer working parents an attractive and affordable preschool alternative to the free babysitting that Grandma provides while she watches Jerry Springer.

  49. Larry, i think you’re missing the point. I can see why and how you would, because the situation you describe is effectively what we have today. It is almost impossible to gain entry into something we like to call the “middle class” without a university degree, but that situation has the perverse effect of diluting the value of a university degree and pushing the barrier into post-graduate degrees. Just a few decades ago having a uni degree was considered rather special, today it’s expected.

    Counter-intuitive it may be, but my feeling is that raising the basic (and required) education of children and young people across the board would be the most effective method to realize the situation you’d like to see.

  50. Sam, you can work hard, or you can work smart. Sisyphus worked hard and where did it get him? It’s one thing to brag about working hard, but quixotic struggles don’t matter these days. Working smart is what counts in these times. If S&R is your self described shining moment, then I will pray for you.

    • So let me see if I have this straight, Jeff. I don’t want to work hard, I want to have it handed to me on a silver platter. But, in case I DO work hard, I’m a loser because working hard is for putzes.

      I know you don’t mean to be so transparent, but we appreciate it just the same.

  51. Apparently, intellectual honesty, the courage to examine uncomfortable ideas and a good-faith commitment to rational discourse are for putzes as well.

  52. @DrSlammy: Seems to me you’ve been gulled by Larry’s ad hominem. You could well ask him Why he spends so much time on the site if he values it so little?

    • You mean Jeff, I take it?

      We know why he spends so much time here. At least, to the extent that we can take him at his word. He has said, both here and on his own site, that he enjoys antagonizing the libruls.

      So the answer is that he’s a troll.

  53. It’s a long story, Larry. Please don’t be put off. I may not agree with everything you say, but you’re willing to hang in there and you fight fair. It’s nice to have you here.

  54. Yeah, I meant Jeff. BTW, I’m not trying to take sides between y’all; I’m just somewhat intrigued by the paradox.

  55. Sam, I’ve noticed that if one disagrees with you it’s either a threadfuck, or a troll. I was also wondering why you go by the nom de plume. Dr Slammy. Most of us with PhD’s don’t advertise the fact and don’t really care how we’re addressed as we’re secure in our accomplishments and feel no need to brag. I don’t go by Dr. Jeff, although I could, and I have a real PhD from a good school in a real major that requires real research, not bullshit, and not a gut major from some 2nd rate school out in BFE. Perhaps you have some deep seated inferiority issues??? Maybe you stepped up to the plate once and struck out, I don’t know. Perhaps you have aging issues, as your picture suggests with your feeble attempt to look young and hip. Not for me to try to explain, but you certainly do have personal issues that require professional help. I’m only saying this because you feel free to throw ad hominem attacks in my direction and I figure that you probably have broad shoulders to take whatever is thrown in your direction like a man. If you need help, I can suggest the best in the world, and she would be glad to help. I sent her your posts and she called you a classic case…..whatever that means,,,,I;m no psychiatrist,

  56. Hi guys! Public school teacher here, from third-rate university, 3.128 gpa earned a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. I don’t really have anything to say. I’ve had to defend my profession so many times, the broadsides we take just bounce off the scars. OK, one thing. Any public school will be as good as the community it serves demands that it be. The same is true for the teachers who work in that public school. Yep, that’s about it. And Mad hatter! Thanks for missing me! I was gone for five days before the Mrs. knew I wasn’t under my Snuggie.