Friday, August 13, 2010

Top Chef, Prop 8, and Education - Random Thoughts Blogging

Rather than a long intro, here are few of my thoughts about things, I kinda, sorta, care about:

This Season of "Top Chef" is Mediocre

Readers of this blog (all four of you, Hi Mom!), will note that I am an avid watcher of "Top Chef" on Bravo.  Thus far, I have watched all the episodes of every season. . .okay, I'm a foodie nerd.  Anyway, I haven't commented so much on this season of "Top Chef" for one reason - its been pretty mediocre.  Don't get me wrong, its not awful, but none of these chefs are remotely as talented as the finalists from last season.  Last season, the chefs were routinely producing dishes that, not only could I not cook, but I couldn't even possibly conceive.  This season, its been pretty much blah.

Judge Walker's Decision May Go to the Supreme Court, But. . .

On Wednesday, Judge Walker issued a ruling with regard to his stay that said effectively, I'll give the Proponents of Prop. 8 a week to ask the 9th Circuit for a stay.  Okay, that much is known.  However, lost in translation from legal opinion to news story is the part where Judge Walker indicates that he doesn't think the Proponents have standing to appeal, because the State of California wants out.  If he's right, and he may be, then the 9th Circuit, and the Supreme Court may very well walk away from the decision on procedural grounds.  And that makes sense - after all, why make a Defendant stay in the case when it's thrown in the towel?  I could readily see Kennedy sidestepping the issue of same-sex marriages by saying that, with good authority from the Conservative members of the Court, that because the Proponents of Prop. 8 have no standing, there's no appeal.  So, keep an eye on the case from that prospective, if you can.

Failures of Public Education

My Mom is a public school teacher, and a damn good one.  Unfortunately, the public school system she works for is a mess.  There are lots of reasons for the mess from lack of funding, to mismanagement, to outside social factors, but there's a big factor no one talks about.  Economically, the value of a high school diploma has dropped significantly over the past thirty years because we've moved from a manufacturing economy to a service based economy.  When I think about the jobs available to high school graduates, as opposed to high school dropouts, I can't really think of any difference. 

To compensate for this fact, schools have been pushing students towards college.  But the cost of college is so large that, for many students, its beyond their means.  Or, worse yet, they're burdened with a mountain of student loan debt.  Having $85,000 or more in student loan debt is okay if you are, like me, an attorney making decent money (but even I can't afford to buy a house).  If you're a college grad making $30k per year, that kind of debt is staggering.  Plus, graduating from college is no guarantee of a high paying job anyway.  So, from the perspective of a kid growing up in a poor area (inner city or rural area), college is a complete fantasy, and so there's no reason for them to stay in school.  Not surprisingly, these areas have huge dropout rates.

So, to fix education in this country, we need to make the high school diploma more valued.  Not, a mind is a terrible thing to waste value, but actually worth more in an economic sense.  Until that happens, the education system is going to be problematic.

Case in point, in Chicago a few years ago, they had a voucher program where kids could choose to go to a public school, a private school and a trade school.  The kids in the public and private schools performed at the same levels, which were generally crappy.   But the kids who went into trade school outperformed everyone by a lot - even in areas that had nothing to do with the trade they were learning.   The reason, to me at least, is obvious - the kids were told that they needed to do x and y to get a good job, not in an abstract sense but in a literal sense, and they were motivated.


  1. Wait a I reading this right? Have you jumped on the Voucher Bandwagon?

    There is plenty of room up here. Me and Al Sharpton may take up a lot of space, but we are open to ALL who want to jump on!

    And the schools are not underfunded...they are mismanaged. You know as well as I do that mismanagement can hide a lot of things, including the appropriate level of funding.

  2. No, that's not what I'm saying. Even if you have vouchers, poor kids will still drop out of school and have crappy schools because the schools are selling a product that the whole community knows is unobtainable. But if you had trade schools, those would do well.