Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Education

An American Class Divide: The Aristocrats v. The Professionals

In the United States we usually don’t like to think about ourselves as members of economic classes. Most of us, when asked, identify as middle or upper-middle class. But of course there are class differences, and in recent years we’ve started to talk about them a little more. People like Thomas Frank have drawn attention to “the professional class” as distinct from “the working class”. The professionals go to college and get degrees in things like engineering, medicine, law, finance, business, or computer science. They get access to those prized STEM and management careers, to the jobs in the court rooms, on Wall Street, and in Silicon Valley. In contrast, members of the working class often don’t go to college. In recent years they sometimes get uneconomical degrees and end up underemployed with lots of debt. But while the professional/working distinction is important and needs to be drawn more often, I’d like to take some time today to draw another distinction, between the professional class and what I’d like to call the “aristocrats”.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Republicans are Trying to Use the Tax System to Attack Their Political Enemies

We’re seeing lots of good pieces which point out that many of the claims the Republicans are making about their tax plan are not true, that the plan favors the rich at the expense of the middle. But today I want to make another point about the plan, one that doesn’t seem to be getting the attention it merits. You see, it’s not just that the Republican plan helps the rich and hurts the middle. Those distributive consequences are real, and they matter, but this goes deeper than that. The Republican plan specifically targets liberal and left-leaning groups in the country for tax increases. It is an assault on the political neutrality of the tax system.

Read the rest of this entry »

Could Corbyn Cancel All the Student Debt? Yes–But He Has to Bend a Rule

There was a row this week in the UK over Labour’s plan for the university system. Individual Labour politicians have in the past talked about doing something about student debt, but this week Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn distanced himself from outright debt relief:

What I said was we would deal with it by trying to reduce the burden of it, we never said we would completely abolish because we were unaware of the size of it at that time.

Some in the British press are trying to portray this as a U-turn, but the Labour manifesto did not itself make any firm pledges on debt relief. It promised to eliminate tuition fees, but the debt issue was left to one side:

The average student now graduates from university, and starts their working life, with debts of £44,000. Labour will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and we will abolish university tuition fees.

Corbyn indicated this prior to the election–Labour was still trying to figure out the debt issue:

Yes, there is a block of those that currently have a massive debt, and I’m looking at ways that we could reduce that, ameliorate that, lengthen the period of paying it off, or some other means of reducing that debt burden. I don’t have the simple answer for it yet – I don’t think anybody would expect me to, because this election was called unexpectedly; we had two weeks to prepare all this – but I’m very well aware of that problem. And I don’t see why those that had the historical misfortune to be at university during the £9,000 period should be burdened excessively compared to those that went before or those that come after. I will deal with it.

So instead of playing he-said he-said, let’s take a look at what Labour could do about student debt and see if we can help Corbyn figure it out.

Read the rest of this entry »

Suburban Decay: A Theory of Decline in Towns

Some years before I was born, my parents lived in Michigan City, Indiana. But this was only briefly–before too long, they ended up in Valparaiso, the town I grew up in. Since 1970, Michigan City’s population has fallen by a quarter, while Valparaiso’s has increased by a third. Today Valparaiso has more people than Michigan City does, and nearby Chesterton’s population has doubled its 1970 level. Another nearby town, LaPorte, has stagnated:

Why do Valparaiso and Chesterton grow while Michigan City and LaPorte decline or stagnate? I’ve been thinking about it, and I have a theory.

Read the rest of this entry »

Teach for America Tricks Young People into Being Scabs

Last month, we talked about how Mike Pence ran down the schools in Indiana while he was governor, slashing state educating spending by about 11.5% (relative to GDP) and creating a massive teacher shortage as good teachers defected to neighboring states and fewer Hoosiers elected to go into education. Today I want to talk about the pivotal role programs likes Teach for America play in aiding and abetting these efforts to annihilate the public schools.

Read the rest of this entry »