A Na’vi Walks Into A Bar….

Friday Night – Out on the Town!

Friday night we headed out to Disney Springs (the “do over” of Downtown Disney) to explore the night life. Wandering the property, we observed that most of the bars were essentially dead. On a Friday Night?

I have no idea why, but that’s what it was. One or two couples or a couple of guys, sitting in each one. The bulk of the tables and bar empty. Often those in the bar were looking at their “devices”. Occasionally a family sitting in the bar with kids (perhaps just as a quiet comfortable place to sit, or maybe Dad had need of a “bracer” at the end of a long day of chasing kids). What it wasn’t was a night out at the bar.

Walking the shops (of which, IMHO, there are now way too many), there were lots of folks walking by, few inside each. In fairness, this was about 11 PM and not prime buying time, but if not there for the bars and night life, what else is there but shopping? Too much overpriced merchandise and not enough buying. Something isn’t quite right with Disney Springs.

There was one hot spot. A mini-rave with electro-beat music in an open space on one street. A hundred or so folks dancing in the disco lights. But even there, traffic in the stores and bars around it was minimal.

There were lots of Asian / Latin looking folks. We heard a fair amount of German, some Danish, and occasional other bits I could not identify. What seemed to be missing was all the 20-30 something Americans. Have we, the Boomers, jaded them on Disney since they have all done it a couple of times with us? Who knows…

It might just be a Disney Springs thing, but if it generalizes, this is not a good trend for Disney Parks.

Visiting a non-park off-site venue, usually populated by park goers from “Hotel Row”, there was another string of nearly empty dead bars. Places we had gone before after work that were lively then. BJ’s Brewpub, TGI Fridays, Buffalo Wild Wings, etc. etc. A few scattered people. Everyone looking bored or into their “devices”. Just spillover from the park malaise or something deeper? Is that a result of the park population shifting, or does the same thing hold across the State or Nation? Hmmmm….

The Next Day in Pandora

Up bright and early the next day, the night before having ended prior to plan…

We took a trip to Animal Kingdom to see the “baby” Tigers. They are now 175 lbs and big! “Mama” was still licking and grooming one of them, but it’s like a Mom combing the hair of her High School kid…. Cute in it’s own way, but not babies any more. We did that after a visit to the newest “land”, Pandora.

At first entry to the park, almost at the open, we scuttled off to Pandora. Lots of hype about a New Land at Disney. Loved the movie Avatar. BIG expectations. It was not to be. Supposedly costing something like a $Billion, the landscaping and decoration is superb. What’s missing is scale. This is really just one little glue on area to Animal Kingdom. It has one river float ride through the fake landscaping (wait time 90 minutes at the open…) and one major ride where you “ride” one of the flying beasts (i.e. it’s a video thing and you get moved around to make it seem more real) with a wait time of 180 minutes at the open. Yes, 3 HOURS to wait. 1/3 of a LONG park day. Standing in a line.

We chose to skip the rides. Unfortunately, other than those two “attractions”, Pandora consists of a snack shack (that was not open yet as we were there at the start of the day), a junk shop where you can buy a ceramic coffee mug for $19, and a small open air stage that had 3 guys in funny costumes banging on drums. Oh, and at the entry there’s a large “Plant pod” that spits on you. Not as bad as it sounds as in the oppressive heat a little water spritz is a cooling touch. But still, that’s the “attractions”.

Yes, it has a “floating” island (clearly held up by steel beams in the “vines” trailing from it. Visually it does look kinda-like Pandora. But there are no 11 foot tall blue folks on stilts. No exo-suit battle machines (other than one 1/2 scale or so static display outside the junk shop). No immersion into an experience or world. Just a ride, a boat, and some shopping to drum music.

Feeling a bit disappointed (and if I’d paid $100 to see it, very disappointed – but we were on a ‘retiree Disney pass’ so free to me as guest) we headed out to the Space Coast.

At The Beach In A Bar

Arriving at Cocoa Beach, the “old haunts” had more high rise “names” along the shore. The prior-free public access point parking was now $2.50 / HOUR to park. We decided to “move on”.

A few miles down the coast we were near Patrick Air Force Base. Nice map on the page here:

We got there about 11 am and easily got free parking. (Leaving a 1 PM parking was full) Spent a bit of time walking on the beach, talking to folks, playing with the water… Nice beach and nice folks. One guy had one of these tarp / lean-too things:

It uses cloth bags you fill with sand as the anchors, so no need for stakes or sand screws. The guy said it was stable even in fairly strong winds. It ought to pack into a very small bag, so on my shopping list for “someday”!

Getting a bit thirsty, and this beach being placarded as 45 Space Wing we figured unlikely to have a bar ;-) we drove on to Indialantic, Florida. Along the way we spotted a typical looking old school Florida Beach Bar. Parked and headed in for some beer and afternoon snacks. We didn’t leave for quite a few hours…

The place is Lou’s Blues


We sat in the middle of this area, at the railing, looking out over the ocean:

Lou's Blues Upstairs Bar Balcony

Lou’s Blues Upstairs Bar Balcony

We had some wonderful “Sweet Thai” wings. Just tangy and spicy enough, not too much. Kona Big Wave on tap (hoppy without being overly so, nice tropical overtones). Somehow the late lunch turned into early evening. My buddy (ex-military) got to talking with a Harley rider with a US Army unit markings on his vest. I got to talking to a Big Black Guy about his Victory Motorcycle. (Not a ‘Biker Bar’, but about 1/2 dozen NICE bikes in the lot with about 2 dozen cars). Seems Victory has gone out of business. These were gorgeous bikes.

His looked like something Batman would ride – all in silver and black tones. His lady was a very nice person to talk with too, and cheerful as could be. I could see they both were happy with cruising the beach scene on a Victory. I could find happiness in that too.

Made by Polaris (snowmobiles) they gave up when 3 of the last 5 years were not at a profit. Wimps.

The “wait staff” were very efficient. They work the whole area as a team, so any need met from anyone near. It worked very well. There were 3 women in tight short pants and “Lou’s” Tees, and one very buff young man who was stellar at hauling loads of drinks in ;-) (Also in tight pants and “T” – so ladies you get ‘eye-candy’ too ;-)

A 30? something guy with a beard plays blues and “standards” on guitar (from about the place where the photo above was taken), assisted by an automated base-line / accompaniment. Decent singing voice, good picking, great choice of songs. All those things that you “connect” with. Hotel California. Down Under (or whatever it’s real name is). and so many more that just ‘clicked’ I can’t remember all the names. Just moody enough, yet with cheerful riffs too.

We never made it any further down the road.

After a few, we crossed the parking lot to the beach. (Some other patrons had done that while we watched and learned). A few taking off their cover layers for a swim, then re-wrapping over the swim suit on the return to the bar. We just sat on the beach a while and enjoyed the evening. At about 7? PM we got back on the road. Somewhere around 8 had ribs at Chili’s (adequate but not as good as Sonny’s…) and was showering off the sand at a bit after 9 PM.

All in all, a wonderful day. But next time we’ll just head straight to Lou’s. As we were leaving, the place was livening up. They have a dance floor “downstairs” from our upstairs balcony. That music was started up and folks were starting to dance and party (more ;-) Now I knew where the “action” was at. Not “Disney Springs”. Not “Orlando Bar Scene nearby”. Nope. It was “At the beach at Lou’s Blues”. Had we not worn ourselves out dashing around Pandora and Animal Kingdom, it would be a great place for a nice evening of “party time”. Dance a bit, have a beer, dance some more, dunk in the ocean to cool off. Rinse and repeat. Their menu had a lot of other things I wanted to try. Several other beers looked good. Might take 3 or 4 weekends to get through them all. Guess what I’ve marked for my next trip? ;-)

So forget commercial Cocoa Beach. Take a short run down the beach, and have a genuine Florida Beach experience. I loved it. I’ll be back.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Economics - Trading - and Money, Food, Human Interest and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

55 Responses to A Na’vi Walks Into A Bar….

  1. p.g.sharrow says:

    Just like everything else they touch, The efficient MBA 3 piece suits ruin everything in their drive for profit. I remember the first and only time I visited Disney in 66, over hyped, over priced carney land. Modern Disney is just a bigger version. But they do manage to pack the place so much that they ruin any fun that might be had. I enjoyed the San Diego Zoo a lot more.
    Now “Lou’s Blues” sounds like more my kind of place, and a whole day with drinks would be cheaper then just the entry to Mouseland. No standing in Lines ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. in the sun for hours to enjoy an expensive 5 min. ride ether.
    M’lady and her son think it would be heaven to spend their day at Paramount or Disney, No telling for tastes! I would consider it a day of hell. Rather spend the day digging ditches in the California sun for a 6 pack of beer, no, maybe a case! ;-) have to be good beer, especially if warm…pg

  2. jim2 says:

    Sometimes it’s good to remember it’s the people in our daily lives that matter and make for a good life.

  3. H.R. says:

    @E.M.: You might want to check out one of these if you’re looking for a portable beach shelter. I snagged one for $40 on sale a few years ago and I like it. It’s a different concept from to shelter you linked to and there will be pros and cons to each. 3 colors available. I got the blue one. It would be half the cost of the one you linked, so there’s a plus.


  4. H.R. says:

    E.M., I think you are right about Disney, Orlando losing its cachet with the 20-30-something crowd. I would expect that there are too many who have a closet full of t-shirts and mouse ears and would like to go somewhere else for a change. And the high prices don’t help, either.

    Your observations seem to bear out what I would guess; that the crowd would be limited to foreign tourists who have never had the Disney experience and some adults with children grown and gone who decided to take in Disney for the day.

    I visited Disneyland in CA 4 times, the first being 1974 and the last time being 1980, and enjoyed it very much. It was just plain out enjoyable to be there and the Main Street parade at night, followed by fireworks, was a very nice production. Oh, and Peter Pan (Tinkerbelle?) flying quite a distance up to Cinderella’s castle was pretty cool. The wire was well hidden and it was impressive even to a bunch of us cynical, smart-ass 20-somethings. We had fun trying to figure out “How’d dey do dat?!?”

    I’ve never had the desire to visit Disneyworld in Orlando and your boots-on-the-ground report makes it almost a certainty that I never will.

  5. ossqss says:

    We have been using one of these for several years. Fast setup and take down into a small package with small wheels. True 10×10 size with a good vented top and multi-level leg positions so you can angle better into the breeze, not like the ones measured with angled legs that are actually 8×8 canopies. I think we paid $60 when it was on sale.


  6. H.R. says:

    @p.g. – Skip the digging in the hot sun and just go straight for the beer.😜

    With those tall trees you have, why don’t you put in zip lines and make your own amusement park? Or you could at least put in zip lines from the house out to the mailbox with a return line back to the house. (Can’t decide if I’m just kidding or not. hmmm… 🤔 I’d consider it if I had your property.)

  7. p.g.sharrow says:

    @ HR; neighbor and I discussed a zip line last week, there is a small swimin hole and his sauna house next to it below both of our houses along our common property line. He is a semi-retired lawyer. He also worried about having such an attractive nuisance around even though it would be a quarter mile from any outsider’s access. Have to install a return rope tow to get home! 200 yards and 80 feet elevation change for both sides. His Idea, not really mine, but I am the builder of things…pg

  8. Ralph B says:

    Way off topic but wanted to pass on a little observation I had while on vacation in Massachusetts. We drove up there and noted about a 2 mpg drop after filling up with New England gas. As I have a newer car the effect was noticeable almost immediately. Once I filled up in Pennsylvania on the return trip mpg jumped right back up.
    It’s a shame, much more expensive gas and lower mpg. Makes me suspicious it is a way to get more tax money.

  9. H.R. says:

    GO FOR IT, p.g.!!! 👍👍

    Time it to release a rip cord and drop into the swimmin’ hole. Better yet, try to hit the hot tub. If you miss, well we all have to go sometime. Do you want to die sucking on a ventilator in a nursing home? Hell no!

    If I can’t die in a zip line accident, I want to be shot in bed by a jealous lover at the age of 106, with a happy, beautiful woman by my side, a half empty bottle of scotch by the bed, and empty room service plates of surf and turf outside the door.

  10. E.M.Smith says:


    Disneyworld, overall, is well worth a visit. It is gigantic compared to Disneyland. The “Magic Kingdom” part (one small part…) is a bigger more gigantic version of Disneyland. Then there’s Animal Kingdom that oerall is a great zoo with entertainment added. Hollywood Studios is great for anyone who can not / has not seen actual Hollywood California. There are dozens of “Resorts”, each with a theme. We had a great time just visiting all the resorts (for free). Boardwalk is a lagoon with lots of good restaurants around it, some good bars, and spectacular hotels. A night of “bar hopping” after dinner there is relatively inexpensive and quite fun.

    Then ther is my favorite, Epcot. While they have destroyed my favorite exhibit (a warehouse sized hydroponics display including palm trees!) and replaced it with a “ride”, it is still a special place. A one mile circle with exhibits from each of a dozen or more countries. Each with local food and drink. A common thing to do on a Friday was “drinking around the world”. Start at one end, have one drink in each “country”, and see if you can make the end ;-) The English Pub alone is a rousing fun spot.

    Now, disclaimer: That was 3 years ago. I’m not checked to see if it has entered the doldrums like Disney Springs. It might be that the replacement of Downtown Disney broke things there, or it might be that it’s the whole place.

    Maybe I need to visit Boardwalks again this week and report back ;-)

    But generally I’d recommend at least one visit to Disneyworld. It takes 20 minutes just to drive across property, it is that large… My disappointment (so far) is only with Disney Springs and Pandora…

  11. mddwave says:

    I was in Orlando in June. I went to Magic kingdom and universal studios with my family. When I compare the two, my mind thinks of Apple and IBM PC (or droid) business philosophy. Both Apple and Disney are mostly vertically integrated with closed architecture. Both IBM PC and Universal Studios are mostly open architecture with multiple different brand names. Although I am biased because I really liked the Harry Potter at universal studios, I preferred universal studios overall.

  12. Richard Bellew says:

    Re: Empty Bars — Also very noticeable here (S of France) supermarkets nearly empty and traffic very light when the (soccer) World Cup matches are playing. Maybe your experience due to this? Have to figure time zones and who would have been playing to see if plausible. Have not done that.

  13. E.M.Smith says:


    Oooohh! Good Point!

    Between millennials not being ambitious enough to actually drive to a bar, and lots of the Rest Of World crowd getting sucked into the World Cup, that could account for the pattern. Only a few “mom & dad with small kids” and some random “not into soccer” USA males left in the bar…

    Next time I’ll have to remember to check a “Sports Bar” ….

  14. cdquarles says:

    I’ve been in the Orlando area a number of times, starting in the late 70s. That first visit was around the time of the big freeze that killed a large number of orange trees that, for the most part, didn’t recover. Disney World was very new in 1979/1980. My next visits were in the 1990s, where annual conventions were being held and I was a regular visitor. I even got married there. As I got older and the conventions were being held in other locations (DC, Montreal & etc.), I visited less often. Then Disney “went off the rails”, and I will not go back; though walking around and hearing the multiple languages being spoken was nice. Busch Gardens in Tampa’s nice. Universal Studios’ park is also nice. In 1983, I made my last visit to California. I won’t go back there, either. Disneyland was nice, though.

  15. Larry Geiger says:

    Here on the Spacecoast we turn in early. Gotta launch those rockets, doncha know. Grills on the river has a hopping crowd most of the time but I don’t know what it’s like at 11pm. Summertime is very quiet and mellow. Warm and muggy. Spring and fall are the best times to visit.

  16. gallopingcamel says:

    I never liked Cocoa Beach and now they charge $2.50/hour for parking! I once searched the beach with a metal detector and discovered that 50% of the bottled beer consumed on the beach was Corona.

    All those free beach access points alongside Patrick AFB are great. We used to go early to make sure we would not have to drive around to find an open parking spot. Soak up a few rays and then home by lunch time.

    Our favorite access point was the one immediately North of the Pineda causeway traffic light (south end of Patrick AFB). My 16 year old jeep still has a Patrick AFB sticker from the days my #3 son was stationed there. We used to watch shuttle launches while sipping beverages on the patio of the officer’s mess

  17. H.R. says:

    @gallopingcamel: Did you ever wander over to the Gulf side very much, or at all?

    ossqss is about 45 minutes south of the general area where my wife and I do our snowbirding, between Clearwater and St. Petersburg along Gulf Blvd. He’s mentioned a few places and areas that I know or know of. He also told us about the Linger Inn, which I’m hitting up this winter.

    Anyhow, if you’ve been over that way enough to recommend some sights or eateries, perhaps a little farther north of Clearwater or south of St. Petersburg, I’d welcome your input.

  18. ossqss says:

    @HR, Berns in Tampa is great, but big $. Columbia in Ybor is also great.

    St Pete, John’s Pass and Pass a Grill and St Pete Beach have many fun and good eat places. Melting Pot was one I did enjoy also.

    Ted Peters smoked fish place place has been in St Pete for 65 years and still going strong and Skyway Jack’s come to mind. Good Luck! There is a bunch to choose from and the internet could help with filtering for tastes. I barely remember going to an excellent place somewhere around Reddingtom Peir, but I wasn’t driving and don’t remember much after dinner. LOL

    Let me know if you ever come South and I will buy ya a cold one at Linger Lodge ;-)

  19. ossqss says:

    Oh boy, with all the typos from my mobile keyboard on that last comment you might think I may have been at happy hour at Caddyshak in River Club. Well, I was ;-)

    Excellent pizza BTW….

  20. H.R. says:

    @ossqss: There some new ones to me, Ted Peters smoked fish place. I love smoked fish. (After I hit ‘Post Comment’ I’m heading to their menu.) Skyway Jack’s is new as well. Thanks for the tips!

    We’ve hit a lot of places up and down Gulf Blvd and a mile or so off of it. I’m glad you mentioned the Columbia because that’s one of my favorites; top notch every time and always something interesting on the menu. John’s Pass is about 10 minutes from where we stay. We’ve tried all of the spots there and I like to fish off the rocks lining the channel. Salt Rock Grill is a good one, too.

    While we’re down this winter, I’d already planned on hitting the Linger Lodge a couple of times, and E.M. already said to use the W.O.O.D. thread if people here want to do a meet and greet when they are in the same area.

    So yep, let’s quaff a few and get acquainted with the person behind the keyboard. I’m sure we can work out a time this winter. We’re booked December through February, so I think we should be able to come up with a convenient day and time, eh?

  21. gallopingcamel says:

    @H.R. 11 July 2018 at 5:29 pm,
    My family lived in Sarasota for four years. Sadly I have to admit we did not attend a single event at the “New Concert Hall”. It is not that we are Philistines……..we used to love live music at the Royal Festival Hall on London’s Southbank. Sad to say we are getting OLD.

    We loved the beaches in Sarasota such as Siesta beach except when “Red Tides” irritated our eyes far away from the water’s edge. My wife worked at the Founders club and I played golf there a couple of times.

    While the Founders club is quite fancy by US standards it is a shabby slum compared to El Rincon or Los Lagartos in Bogota, Colombia, my wife’s home town.

    My #3 son used to work for general Petraeus at McGill AFB. He lived in Apollo beach that had a rather unkempt golf course we both liked. He commuted to McGill on a Waverunner until he had a scary incident with a large vessel.

    On one occasion he was told to meet general Mattis who had been diverted to a satellite airfield near McGill. Mattis handed his bag to my son and then took off running to the control room that was more than a mile away. So much for staff cars with fluttering pennants! Mattis is unconventional in ways that impress everyone whether they are above him or below him. We are all safer with him as Secretary of Defense.

    I used to teach at the St. Petersburg college:

    I also taught at UCF while my #6 son was studying for a five year degree there. The pittance I earned was handed back to UCF to pay for my son’s education. Don’t get me wrong…..I am not complaining. I am the portly instructor in this video:

  22. H.R. says:

    @gallopingcamel: So… you’re quite familiar with the south side of Tampa Bay. Thanks for the beach recommendations. I think we’ll take a few days and check out the Gulf coast around Sarasota.

    Good story about General Mattis. I’m glad that he’s in charge, too. I don’t think the rest of the world is too happy about it, which is a good thing.

  23. H.R. says:

    @gc: Nice video. We need more young people learning how to do things and fewer young people being indoctrinated with things that just aren’t necessarily so. Not only would it not hurt a darn thing if Feminist Glaciology was never taught or mentioned again, but the world would probably be a better place.

  24. gallopingcamel says:

    I have read many books on education but one of the best ever (IMHO) is Bryan Caplan’s “The Case Against Education”. Damn shame that a book like this was not available 50 years ago when my first son started school.

    I would have done things very differently and at least two of my children would not have gone to college which would have been a huge saving for the family and much less anguish for them. Their earning potential would have been much higher too!

    Amongst other things, Caplan points out that our technological society would work better if we invested more in vocational education. It seems likely that more than half of our kids would have better careers if their education included vocational skills leading to lucrative careers in auto repair, construction, welding, HVAC servicing, cable installation etc. rather than doing badly at college studying something that is of limited practical value.

    At UCF I was teaching skills that enable someone with an 8th grade education to earn a six figure salary. This sort of course could easily be done in high school.

  25. ossqss says:

    @HR, check the map before you head to the Sarasota beaches. There has been some Red Tide the last month in varying strengths. GC is on target with not wanting to be around it when present.


  26. H.R. says:

    @ossqss: I’ll bookmark that map so I can check it when we’re down in Florida. Thanks!

  27. H.R. says:

    @gallopingcamel and others: Five hundred years later and we are right back to the Guild system.

    Nowadays, everybody needs a degree or some piece of paper to get a job; barber, hairdresser, HVAC tech, paper-usher in an office, engineer, accountant, and on and on and on. You need that piece of paper to become a Guild member. Plumbers need certifications. Heck, you have to be licensed to sell insurance! However, the new Guild is focused on the piece of paper while the old Guilds focused on developing proven skills.

    I know that a H.S. degree used to be good enough to become an engineer. High schools taught guys drafting (and Trig!) and shop skills. They’d get a job as a draftsman and made the drawings that built America under the supervision of an engineer. They would pick up engineering principles as they made the drawings. After several years they were promoted to ‘Jr. Engineer.’ Usually, there were only a couple of Engineers with degrees in engineering and they were the Chief Engineers and Supervising Engineers. I worked in manufacturing before the days of CAD, and the Engineering departments consisted of 20 or so of which only a couple had Engineering degrees.

    Factory workers out of H.S. used to have a career path; Line worker, Lead man, Supervisor, Manager. All this with just a H.S. degree. Now, it seems every supervisor must have a college degree and because of that, it’s very hard to get really good shop floor supervisors.

    Schools need students, so they are in the business of selling papers to students and they market their students to businesses. Businesses have been convinced into thinking that the piece of paper means something, so they don’t hire unless you have a piece of paper. Job seekers go to schools to get the piece of paper. LOOP: DO UNTIL EVERYONE HAS A PIECE OF PAPER. And you still don’t know if they’ll be any good.

    I’m painting with a broad brush and babbling (quite 😜) a bit, but we (modern society) have been focusing on the piece of paper and not focusing on the basics, reading writing, and arithmetic.

    Some jobs really do need a college education, but the skills for most positions can be learned through experience on the job and/or a few classes of basic training. If you’re good, you can advance. If you’re not so bright, there’s a job out there somewhere that suits the abilities you do have.

  28. gallopingcamel says:

    What you say is really important given that we are wasting tons of money teaching skills that don’t matter while driving our children crazy. For example, to into Cambridge university I had to study Latin or Russian. I chose Latin but Russian would have been almost as useless.

    In Bryan Caplan’s book he presents evidence showing that 80% of education is “Credentialism” which means the certification of the talent a student had before his “Education” started. Imagine two students who followed identical four year degrees. One of them passed the final exam while the other got into a car accident that prevented him from taking the exam. Which one is going to get the job if both are interviewed by the same employer?

    Likewise you can access Harvard courses for nothing and you can acquire the same knowledge as someone who attended the bricks and mortar institution. Who will an employer hire? The fellow with a nice piece of vellum certifying his degree or someone with the same knowledge who lacks that piece of vellum?

    If Caplan is right that still leaves 20% of useful skills that one learns at high school or college. IMHO there is a magic bullet to improve education….we need to put education under local control as advocated by president Trump.

    I was writing a book to make the case for local control of government K-12 schools as in New Zealand when Donald Trump published a book called “GREAT AGAIN”. Chapter 5 is titled “EDUCATION: A FAILING GRADE” and here is an important paragraph:

    “A lot of people believe the Department of Education should just be eliminated. Get rid of it. If we don’t eliminate it completely, we certainly need to cut its power and reach. Education has to be run locally. Common Core, No Child Left Behind, and Race to the Top are all programs that take decisions away from parents and local school boards. These programs allow the progressives in the Department of Education to indoctrinate, not educate, our kids.

    It would be hard to sum it up any better than that so I won’t even try!

  29. gallopingcamel says:

    Here is the text of an email I sent to Bryan Caplan. My timing was bad given that he was probably up to his oxters in papers to grade when I wrote a month ago:
    Your recent book was one of the most impressive I have read on the subject of education and I said so on your blog:

    My reason for wanting to meet you is to explore the possibility of practical applications for applying your analysis to making real improvements in the effectiveness of education. As a technophile I am particularly interested in innovations that involve technology but my efforts to date have not done as well as expected. After reading your book I am wondering if your insights might fix some of the problems. For example:

    I introduced TPRI (Texas Primary Reading Instruction) based on PDAs/tablets to a school in Durham, North Carolina with disappointing results.

    I was educated in the UK at a time when K-12 schools operated a two tier high school system similar to the old USSR. We put college bound kids into “Grammar Schools” and the rest into “Secondary Modern” schools. The big divide was the “Eleven Plus” exam. Back then it was seen as a stigma to fail the “Eleven Plus”. The Eleven Plus was scrapped in 1976 and I see that as a good move. However at the same time we adopted a one tier high school system similar to the US model. We ended up doing a poorer job educating college bound students than the old “Grammar” schools did and also a poorer job of vocational education than the old “Secondary Modern” schools.

    In my opinion the “Eleven Plus” should have been abolished without restructuring UK schools to the US “Comprehensive” model. Parents and students should have been allowed to decide which type of school was best for them. Without the stigma of failing a test I suspect that many would have chosen a vocational education, realizing that it is a better bet than a college bound alternative. An auto mechanic or electrician has better earning prospects than many college graduates and certainly better chances than someone who fails to get a high school diploma or flunks college.

    Fourteen years ago I was convinced that virtual schools would revolutionize K-12 education as you will see if you can spare the time to read Nemo8c.doc attached. The first Virtual Charter School proposal in North Carolina created “Shock & Awe” (it was planned to grow to 70,000 students statewide) so our local educrats fought it tooth and nail in the courts. I was not prepared to wait for the legal battle to be decided so I joined the Central Florida Virtual Charter School Board and submitted proposals to set up five virtual schools in Florida. One (700 page) proposal was approved and the school has been operating since 2013. The school did not do as well as hoped but it is still in operation.

    I hope you will be interested in meeting me and failing that your comments would be appreciated. Given that I spent 12 years at Duke university I realize you are busy right now but I can wait.

    Peter Morcombe

  30. ossqss says:

    @GC, great googly moogly, I would swear you have a twin that was part of my BASA FASA continuing licencing process over the years for part of what I do.. Either way, your efforts are appreciated by more than even know it. I would love to see the attachement to your letter. I am certain it was indeed another good part of your communication. Good on ya bro!

    @HR, I have been solicited to go to the Hurricane restaurant in St. Pete this weekend. Maybe it might make your schedule if you can tolerate some southerners in that territory. Gmail email if interested.

    Side note, this Ad (from my viewed list) from over a year ago cost me. I am a DJI guy, but didn’t fess up for a wine opener. Watch at you own risk! ;-)

  31. p.g.sharrow says:

    @GC; Long ago while a prisoner of several different educational systems. I encountered a number of different educational philosophies. Several educators felt that the best use of a teachers time was to teach Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and the use of a Library. ( pre computer era ) after that they should only facilitate the students exploration and acquisition of knowledge.
    In my experience students will self select the fields they will want to pursue. It is parents and Educators that insist in pounding a square peg into a round hole to fulfill their own Idea of the best interests of the student.
    I am not sure if Academics become teachers and Human Resource directors because that is the only job they can get or they take those courses to get those jobs but most of those courses are a waste of time as far as many of the students are concerned. The demand for those mandatory courses to create “Well rounded students” is just bs to create welfare jobs for Academics. I learned far more, that was of real value in my life, in the vocational classes that I elected to take, rather then all the Academic classes I was Forced to take.
    I my case, language skills, writing was very difficult for me to master, brain wiring?. See Say reading, say the sound was nearly impossible to grasp. But I could memorize the sight, picture, of the word and soon learned to speed read. After that I read every book in the school. Did not need teachers for much of my “Education” As writing was nearly impossible for me, Vocational track was the only one open to me. Thank God for the invention of the personal computer with word processor! After 60 years I can communicate in the written word. 8-)
    A one size fits all concept of education just doesn’t work. The Idea of Education being a Factory delivered training system where all the beans weigh the same is a false one. A teacher should be a guide not a director toward an education.
    Small, local directed schools under control of the teachers and parents work best. As the school gets large control shifts to administration and costs shift to bigger, fancier, facilities.and administration costs. Students become a money resource and not the intended output. If the head teacher, principle. does not know every student by name, the school is too big…pg

  32. H.R. says:

    @ossqss: The Mrs. and I won’t be in Florida until December of this year. We will be down Dec ’18 through Feb ’19.

    Thanks for the invite, but we won’t be able to touch base until December of this year.

  33. jim2 says:

    pgs said: “Several educators felt that the best use of a teachers time was to teach Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and the use of a Library. ( pre computer era ) after that they should only facilitate the students exploration and acquisition of knowledge.”

    That’s close to the way I think about education.

    First, one must acknowledge that not everyone is the same. Once that concept is firmly rooted, then a rational education system can be developed.

    Given the ready availability of on-line educational material, such as on Khan Academy. There should be some minimal language, history, and math requirements each year; but not tested to the point as to hold back the dimmer students. Otherwise, each student should be allowed to go as far as possible on just about any subject (s)he likes. Everyone progresses to the next grade every year no matter what. Courses should include hands-on trade skills supplemented by on-line courses.

    The teacher would supply encouragement and help as requested.

    At the end of high school, a certificate is issued that shows what level was achieved in each subject, and the student enters the adult world on his merits.

  34. p.g.sharrow says:

    jim2 says; “Everyone progresses to the next grade every year no matter what.”
    Biology is the taskmaster, no matter what, people grow up and become adults. Learning can be a challenge as well as fun and give the satisfaction of successful accomplishment.
    I once had a teacher that insisted that learning was not supposed to be fun, It was hard work and it was his job to make it that way! He once got into an argument with my father about the mass of homework he would assign to successfully complete his class. Homework counted for half of the total grade earned. Students that did poorly on tests but did all of the homework assigned got better grades then those that “Aced” the tests but were lax on homework completion. My father insisted that a teacher that could not could not successfully complete his job in the school hours assigned, was incompetent at his job!
    My father needed his number one son working on the farm after school hours and not wasting his time doing assigned busy work.
    “Those that can will learn. Those that can’t must be taught.”..pg
    Anyone that can learn to speak has enough intellect to learn the basics of the knowledge needed to function and do a useful job. Far too much of what passes as Modern Education is just deliberate busy work demands created to make bureaucrats feel important…pg

  35. H.R. says:

    @p.g.: Interest is everything. I was interested in everything so school was fun for me.

    My son, on the other hand, was an ‘A’ or ‘C’ or ‘D’ student. If he was interested, he only had to hear it or read it once and it was locked in. Easy ‘A’. If he wasn’t interested, you needed to smack him upside the head with a 2 x 4 just to get his attention and he’d do only enough to get by; ‘C’ or ‘D.’ He avoided ‘F’s. Why would he want to repeat something he wasn’t interested in?!?

    We wondered if college was a good path for him. He went to the same giagundous Land Grant University I attended. They have good to excellent programs in every topic under the sun.

    Before he started, I walked him around the campus to show him all programs and we’d stop and look at their displays and we asked questions. I was teaching him that because the University was so huge, know one could know all of it, so the people in every college and department just loved to show off and talk about their bit of the campus world to anyone who showed interest.

    I told him to get through the required basic courses and in his spare time, go poke his nose in various departments to see what he’d like to major in. He did just that and when he got into his major, he had high marks.

    He received a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Design. There were lots of classes that required making your designs as proof of concept, which he loved. The surprising think to me was that some basic science classes were required, purely academic, and since he saw the use of them in his major, he did well in those. He would have done poorly, maybe flunked out, if he had to take courses before he picked a major that he was really jazzed about.

  36. philjourdan says:

    “He avoided ‘F’s. Why would he want to repeat something he wasn’t interested in?!?”

    Now that is where your son is smarter than my grandson! It took him a couple of summer school classes to learn that!

  37. E.M.Smith says:

    My grades through high school are an exact match to the “stupid” level of the teacher. Since my LOWEST test score was 86th percentile and that was in “clerical”, it’s pretty clear “it wasn’t me”. (Everything else was 99%+ with several 99.9% “off the chart” – so core competency was not the limitation).

    Teachers with clue and who cared about the students got A or A+, those that were stupid or abusive of power over students got C, D, and the occasional F ( that Freshman English teacher who had abused my sister – psychologically, not physically – and drove a girl to tears at the chalk board my first week in his class AND where I’d asked to be transferred out and was left there… I repeated Freshman English with a newly-graduated teacher of about 5 foot 2 inches and full of life young woman and got a B+. Seems that in the Teachers Lounge – I found out later – they were ribbing him about how she could get me to work and he could not. I hope it haunted him for years.)

    It was at that time that I realized using “grades” to gauge competence was “way wrong” as all it really measures is how much you suck up and have no will of your own. Selecting for idiots who will believe anything for approval and will NOT stand up for what they believe (if they believe in anything). I think we see the result of that in the present Global Warming farce from Politicians to Academics and more. I’ll take a stubborn in my grill C student with attitude who is right; over an A+ student who only wants to know what to suck and how any day.

    I suspect much of what is wrong in the world today stems directly from that mistaken process.

  38. gallopingcamel says:

    Wow! Why should I be surprised by the depth and passion of the denizens of this site when it comes to education? Thanks, p.g. ossqss et al.

    Be careful of what you ask for! I attach the ridiculously verbose NEMO8c.doc file that you requested. I wrote this in 2014 but would not change much other than my overly optimistic views on “Virtual Schools”. Unfortunately the footnotes and links did not copy properly so if you want the exact text email me at:

    FREE is a NEMO that was set up by a diverse bunch of people. The early board members include a crippled Cherokee woman, a retired circus worker (Barnum & Bailey), a Mormon micro biologist, the dean of the Duke university chapel and an agnostic physicist/engineer.

    FREE set up six charter schools…….we managed to open two new schools per year without any shareholder funds (FREE was a 501(c3) non-profit corporation).

    In 2002 I resigned from the FREE board so that I could work at the Carter Community School as the “Reading Coach”. At that time the Carter CS had 190 black students. FREE was operating a segregated school!

    FREE set out so save one school at a time by putting its schools under local control (parents, students and staff). The professional staff were overseen by the (unpaid) FREE board of directors that fired principals who could not win the hearts and minds of the stakeholders. As a board member I participated in the hiring of ~20 principals and the firing of 13. Those firings made me feel dirty but it was necessary. The FREE board protected its employees from “Top Down” mandates…….our teachers were “Free to Teach”.

    You might not expect much from schools run by a motley crew of amateurs but within three years one of our schools became #1 in SAT achievement out of 360 high schools in North Carolina. This school ranks in the top ten every year in North Carolina and it has been ranked at high as #25 in the USA:

    Here is NEMO8c.doc:
    Reinventing public schools
    Like Dr. King, “I have a dream”. My dream is a rebirth of public education in the USA and an end to more than thirty years of “dumbing down”. As in most English speaking countries, the government has steadily increased its control over public education.

    Where the control of education is taken out of the hands of the family and the community, and schooling gets further and further away from the people who have a direct stake in it, the quality suffers. It is that which accounts in the largest part, for the deplorable state of American education today. Yes, the government now controls education…but is it worth controlling?
    Human Scale, page 127, by Kilpatrick Sale,

    Today, K through 12 education is a government monopoly with all the faults and failings that implies. This is the underlying problem leading to sky-rocketing costs, stagnant student achievement and violent alienation as in Littleton, Colorado.
    Since the publication of “A Nation at Risk” in 1983, efforts to improve the situation have made painfully slow progress. How much have things improved since 1983? A recent study by the Koret Task Force on K-12 education1 provides ample evidence that the USA has lost ground in international comparisons. The USA ranked third out of 22 developed countries with regard to per pupil spending but was dead last in student achievement. The USA is falling behind because our efforts to reform public education are too tentative in most states. Other countries with similar problems have taken more decisive action.
    New Zealand considered its education establishment incapable of reform, so it eliminated the Department of Education and handed control to locally elected school boards that compete with one another for students. The initiative called “Tomorrow’s Schools” was implemented in 19892. This bold approach was painful but by 1998, New Zealand was leading all English speaking nations in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) comparisons of economically advantaged countries. For example, New Zealand ranked 3rd behind Iceland and Japan in math, while ranking 16th out of 22 in cost per student. For contrast, the USA ranked dead last in math while ranking 3rd in cost per student3.
    In the United Kingdom, the Education Reform Act of 1988 created charter (grant-maintained) schools and the movement grew at a prodigious rate owing to an initial incentive equivalent to 15% of annual operating funds. Within five years, more than 700,000 students were attending these independent schools. In terms of academic achievement, the grant-maintained schools improved rapidly and by 1991 they outperformed the traditional public schools. Since then the grant-maintained schools have steadily improved and the competition has forced other public schools to improve as well4.
    The reforms in the UK stimulated a rapid improvement in academic achievement, but not rapid enough to catch up with New Zealand even though the UK reforms started a year earlier. According to Walberg, the UK ranked 8th in math achievement and 9th in per student expenditures in 1989. Why did the reforms fail to live up to their early potential in the UK? The main problem was that the Department of Education was not eliminated and it was able to put sand in the wheels of reform. Because the reforms were highly partisan, driven by the Conservative party, “slow progress” changed to “no progress” when the Labour party won office in 1997. The good news is that there has been no major effort to roll back the 1988 reforms.
    The Koret study presents a compelling case for breaking the government monopoly in public education in the USA, but how do you implement the break up? Sweeping reforms such as those enacted in New Zealand or the United Kingdom tend to be very disruptive whereas the cautious approaches to education reform in the USA take too long. We should look for ways to accelerate the pace of existing reforms without destroying what is best in the traditional public schools. The Koret study recommends replacing the government monopoly in K-12 education saying that “A mixed system of democracy and markets may be the best system for education, just as it is the best system in so many areas of American commerce and life.”
    In most states market based reforms as advocated by the Koret study are already being tested in real schools. Instead of the government dictating a small number of models for public schools, there are many models under active development around the nation. Few of these models are new in fundamental ways but most are new in the sense that they have been adapted to local needs. For example, charter school and voucher models in the USA have not slavishly followed the UK models.
    At first sight US charter schools look very similar to UK grant-maintained schools. However, the laws in the UK were written primarily to encourage existing public schools to convert to independent status. In the US, charter school laws are much more likely to favor the creation of new schools. This is why US charter schools are smaller (250 students per school) than UK grant-maintained schools (600 students per school). The UK Education Reform Act of 1988 included a model for education vouchers that was a dismal failure. In contrast, Florida and some other states have developed voucher programs that are showing interesting results5.
    Many market driven models for educating K-12 students have been field tested all around the USA and the time is ripe for these models to compete on a “level playing field” with the traditional public schools. The most obvious obstacles are the laws that still favor the public education monopoly even though these are steadily losing ground in the legislatures, in the courts and in support from the public. My purpose is to look ahead and try to imagine what will happen when the dust clears after the political and legal battles have been won. When there is a “level playing field” will market based reforms create enough independent schools to make a difference?

    Keeping the public schools honest
    In most states in the USA, traditional public schools educate ~90% of K through 12 students. When “Ma Bell” had 80% of the telephone market, our legislators called it a monopoly and seven “Baby Bells” were created in 1984. It is no coincidence that Cisco Systems went public that year and has been a major factor in the transformation of the telecommunications industry.
    In the education arena, the new kids on the block are called “Edison Schools”, “Advantage Schools”, “Beacon Education Management”, “The Leona Group”, “Mosaica”, “National Heritage Academies”, “Nobel Learning Communities”, “Sylvan”, “Sabis” “TesseracT”, and so on. These are the For-profit Education Management Organizations (FEMOs) and they are doing a great job by providing tens of thousands of parents with alternatives to the conveyor belt mentality of traditional public schools.
    Given that FEMOs have been around for more than 10 years, why have they failed to provide the competition that the public schools so badly need? Although the public education monopoly is under siege in many states, the walls of the bastion are still standing. If the legal impediments to competition in K-12 education were removed tomorrow there still would not be a rapid growth of independent schools. The lack of an effective business model would limit the rate of growth. Today, public education is a $450,000,000,000 business with 55,000,000 clients (students). All the FEMOs plus all the independent charter schools have around 685,0006 students enrolled. This represents only 1.2% of the “market”. The scale is far too small to have a noticeable impact on the traditional schools.
    How much will it take to break the public education monopoly and keep the traditional schools “honest”? Reformers have suggested that a market share of greater than 20% for independent organizations running K-12 schools will provide the competition needed. That represents such a huge challenge that existing models for organizing and financing schools are unlikely to meet it in an acceptable time scale.

    Creating a $90 billion industry
    How do you go about creating independent K-12 public schools with an aggregate annual income of $90 billion and over 11 million students enrolled? According to the Center for Education Reform in Washington, D.C., the first charter schools opened in 1992 and today there are over 2,700 in operation in 34 states. At first the rate of growth was impressive. There were only 240 charter schools in 1995 but four years later there were 1,700. Since then, the growth rate has slowed owing to limits on the number of charters permitted in some states and the difficulty of finding suitable buildings. Even if these restraints are removed, the growth of charter schools will be restricted by the lack of a business model capable of supporting really rapid growth on a broad front.
    While there are many models for operating charter schools, the most common approach is to set up a corporation to operate a single school. This approach has the advantage of concurrency so that many schools can be set up simultaneously across the country. The main disadvantages are that fixed costs such as curriculum development are spread over a small number of students. State laws usually specify that the corporation must be a 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, with the result that “up front” funds are limited due to the lack of equity finance. Because no shareholder funds are at risk, leveraged loans are not available.
    There are many important things that schools need that can be purchased more economically for a group of schools than for a single school. Here are a few examples roughly in order of budget impact:

    Health care insurance
    Staff pension plans
    Construction of buildings
    Management accounting
    Curriculum development
    Staff development
    Financial audits
    Staff recruitment
    General risks insurance

    FEMOs aim to run many schools so they are able to spread these fixed costs over a large number of students; they also have the benefit of “up front” funding provided by their shareholders. With these advantages they were initially able to grow rapidly. Today, the leading FEMO is Edison Schools Inc. Edison was established in 1992 and now operates schools with over 80,000 students in 20 states7. Edison has received more than $500 million in loan or equity capital but is finding it increasingly difficult to raise more. While there are many other FEMOs, Edison is the bellwether for the industry.
    In Business Week (February 7, 2000), Edison founder, Chris Whittle was quoted as saying “In 20 years, 20 to 30% of U.S. public schools will be run by for-profits”. Education reformers hope that he is right but only four years later there are reasons to doubt his prophesy. Of immediate impact is the inability of the FEMOs to make profits. There is a lot of brave talk about “economies of scale”. Edison has posted an occasional profitable quarter but overall it has been bleeding red ink every year since it was founded in 19918 and its competitors are not doing any better.
    None of the FEMOs are generating the cash flows needed to hit Whittle’s growth forecast without huge infusions of new shareholder funds; to achieve a 20% market share they will need to attract at least twenty times more investment than they have received so far. Given their track record, FEMOs have no hope of attracting investments on such a scale.
    Market driven reforms are needed to create independent education opportunities for at least one million additional students each year. The best that existing FEMOs can hope to contribute is a few tens of thousands per year unless there is a near miraculous upturn in profitability. FEMOs also have difficulty attracting government support because there is political concern over introducing the profit motive into public education. Will the need for profits affect the quality of education delivered? This mirrors the problems faced by Health Management Organizations (HMOs) where patient care may appear to suffer through pressure to increase profits. Fortunately, there is a business model that may help to change the situation.

    Virtual schools are being developed by a number of new FEMOs and they are showing the kind of growth that the old guard FEMOs were showing a decade ago.
    In virtual schools, technology is used to increase class size. “Wait a minute!” you say, “parents want smaller class sizes and charter schools are delivering.” There is convincing research to show that smaller class size does help to improve student performance particularly when classes consist of 15 students or less. Much as the education bureaucracy wants to pursue this “solution” to improving public education, it is counter productive when applied on a large scale. The problem with reducing class size is that while it works on a small scale in a few charter schools it fails on a large scale because teacher quality is diluted and that effect is stronger than the benefit of reducing class size.
    The most effective strategy for improving student achievement on a large scale is to improve teacher quality. Increasing class size reduces the number of teachers needed and makes it easier to find the money to attract competent people to the profession. Virtual schools are on the right track as they routinely achieve class sizes of 50 plus and thus can afford to pay high teacher salaries without losing profitability.
    Home schooling is the fastest growing segment in K-12 education. Home schooled students already outperform traditional public schools and the gap will grow wherever home schoolers can tap into Virtual School programs. If homeshoolers can sign up for Virtual School programs, they will do even better than today and the stress on the family unit will be alleviated because a significant part of the instructional burden will be transferred to the Virtual Schools. It will be much easier for parents to home school their kids with the support of professional teachers via the Internet. One of the leaders in the virtual school industry is k12, an organization led by William Bennett9. For more general information check out Tom Clark10, a consultant to Western Illinois University or the University of Wisconsin-Madison11.
    Here in North Carolina, proposals for two Virtual Charter Schools were submitted last year. The one submitted by k12 was particularly impressive, showing highly profitable operations from the first year, rapid growth to 7,500 students and annual revenues of over $45 million. The proposal caused “Shock and Awe” in the NC education establishment that was used to reviewing proposals for charter schools with an average of 200 students. Both of the virtual school proposals were rejected and there is not much chance for either of them in the next approval cycle given that the “Cap” of 100 charter schools was not lifted by the legislature, leaving only a handful of charters to be allocated. Even though the two virtual charter schools were rejected in 2003, the concept is already being used as a cost saving measure by traditional LEAs (Local Education Authorities) in North Carolina. For example, Cumberland county12 has a virtual school.
    In all public schools, the largest operating expense is teachers salaries and benefits, so any increase in class size has a dramatic effect on a school’s ability to generate positive cash flows from operations. However, virtual schools have other huge financial advantages because they do not need to provide buildings to accommodate the entire student body or buses to transport all the students to and from schools daily. The “up front” costs required for virtual schools are rather modest buildings, computers for every student and network connections. The cost of the computers and related technology is now so low that the annualized cost is well down the list of major items in virtual school budgets.
    Owing to large class sizes and the other financial advantages, the virtual school model has the potential to generate profits at a level earlier FEMOs promised but have so far failed to deliver. Virtual schools will create opportunities for successful franchise operations because they will generate the kind of returns necessary to attract the substantial shareholder funds needed for rapid growth. The business model is so strong that the only thing that can stop it or even slow it down is government intervention. In North Carolina we have seen what a neo-Luddite government committee can do to impede virtual charter schools; fortunately other states are embracing this exciting opportunity and will reap the benefits.

    Home schools already outperform traditional public schools in academic achievement and the gap will widen rapidly wherever virtual school technology is applied. Virtual school technology will also make home schooling viable for more parents by reducing the demands on them in terms of time and expertise. The combination of home schooling and virtual schooling will revolutionize public education.
    Ten years from now there will be states that have more than 20% of their public school students educated in independent schools and in those states the traditional public schools will be improving rapidly. They will be improving because if they do not, there will be no way to stop the spread of home schooling backed by virtual schools.

    Peter Morcombe, Hillsborough, July 17, 2004

  39. cdquarles says:

    @gc, that would be a good thing, too.

    A long time ago, I noticed something. Back before some of the latest fads took place, local schools all had tracks: College prep or trade prep with overlap. Now-a-days, not so much, it seems. Maybe that’s because the Feds and even the States, had less say over local schools. The ultimate gist is that education is personal. You get as much education as you want to get. I also note that class size doesn’t matter nearly as much as is thought. Having taught others, one-on-one and in groups, you can see that in action. Those who want to learn, will. Those you don’t, won’t. Those who want to learn will approach you. Those who don’t, won’t.

    I also remember this: See one, do one, teach one. If you don’t understand the topic, you can’t do the sequence. Punishment, alone, will not result in motivation beyond that which stops punishment. Prizes and punishment, though, will result in extra motivation, if and only if, the person is interested in the subject. Remember, you can’t make me do something that I do not want to do. At best I’ll be indifferent. At worst, you’ll have to kill my body.

    Back in my day, good teachers taught you what you needed to know. The best teachers taught you why you needed to know it and how to learn it. If you learned it, you passed the tests. Now-a-days, it seems, you are taught ‘how to take the test’ and nothing more. There is some value in that, but there are adverse consequences. My local high school, for instance, the scale was: A = 94-100, B = 87 – 93, C = 80 – 86, D = 73 – 79, F, below 73. Think what that means when other schools were using wider ranges. I wonder if they can still use that, more rigorous, grading scale.

  40. E.M.Smith says:


    The “track” system fell out of favor due to some hair brained idea of it being unequal. We all must believe we can be Medical Doctors & Lawyers, after all… So since higher education was the (obvious…) path to riches, we all had to be pre-college “track”. Or so the thinking seems to have gone.

    IMHO, the real purpose was to remove youth from the labor market for 4 additional years (or 6 to 8 for the brightest going for higher degrees) while assuring nearly 100% exposure to extended Socialist indoctrination. Lately there seems to have been layered on “transfer massive wealth to the left Wing Institution and massive debt to the future citizens via student loans”.

    In reality education has become a racket with poor outcomes for most and a general detriment to the society at large (given the largely dysfunctional belief system it pushes).

    “Back when”, the track system was directed at the goal of preparing folks to make a living with what they had. My school had Home Economics classes largely filled with girls who would end up getting an Mrs. degree anyway so might as well be good at it. It was what they needed, and wanted. Now we have welfare queens who can’t cook so buy frozen fast food on EBT cards. This is better how? Similarly, guys who took shop ended up working as local mechanics, plumbers, electricians, home builders, etc. etc. Now we expect to import folks who can do that from Mexico.

    BUT, take what comfort you can from knowing your unmarried daughter can pass her Gender Studies class and has a B.A. degree in something irrelevant; and that your son can get a job at Burger King at $15 / hour (at least until the robots arrive since a mandated $15 minimum wage is enough to fund burger flipping robot development…)

    Oh Well.

    The Stupid in it will prevail until it collapses. Then something else will come along…

  41. p.g.sharrow says:

    You have here at the Chiefio’s blog a most remarkable group of village elders to add their insight to this problem of educational systems.
    Mr. Smith and I both experienced California public schools when they were the finest in the world and watched them being destroyed by creeping bureaucracy. We can discuss every facet of cause and effect in this devolution of what worked then, that now does not. However, creation of the future is more important then the past. “He that does not understand the past will be damned to repeat it.” We must learn from the past in our creation of the future. Education of our youth has been the most important job of Humans from the very beginning. Even before there were humans, educating the young is a primary function for insuring the survival of the species.

    Number one, you can not fix the existing system. It has far too many deliberately built-in flaws to be patched. Every one of those flaws is a feature created and defended by the group that benefits from it’s existence. Just as the American strategy to reduce the Japanese Empire was to by-pass their strong points and starve them rather then waste energy reducing them. You must By-pass and starve the entrenched bureaucracy, they produce nothing of value. They get their power to destroy through their control of public money. As long as you crave their money they control you. This is how they destroyed the original working system. They took control of the public collected funds, taxes, and then required of the locals, change their working models of education to “The New Way” or the funds would not advanced. Every change required for funding of this “free money” had strings attached. Put the money into features that the bureaucrats required and eliminate those old ways that did not fit in their “New Way” of efficient Factory Style Education.
    The people know, from personal experience, the things that are required knowledge to live their lives. Real lives, not the Ivory Tower dreams of the Educated Elites. Local control of the curriculum will result in the most beneficial fit for the most people. Even those that pursue an Academic future benefit from vocational and general life training that is no longer covered in the Factory School model. Do not try to take money from the Bureaucrats hands, you will lose every time. It is their game. They waste money, as proved, so get politicians to reduce their funding and power. Do not beg for funding, they will own you.
    “We don’t need them!” “The Internet is the Future.”
    The Gutenberg printing press took access to knowledge out of the hands of the Elite. The Internet puts communication of knowledge into the hands of everyone. Today anyone that wishes can communicate with every person on the globe in real time and in their own language thanks to the most wondrous invention of the modern age, the World Wide Web and the modern Personal Computer. Education can return to the old model of local personal effort, enhanced by access to all of the knowledge in the world through the Internet.
    “The New Age will Begin with a Net That Covers the World”.
    Time to get with the new age…pg .

  42. philjourdan says:

    @P.G. – just out of curiosity, what was the “golden” age of California education?

    I started out in April 1966, last quarter of 4th grade. That was down in SD and it was good. I then went to another school (where I was in the Principals office more than not, so it was good as I did make honor roll). Ran up the coast to Oceanside for Jr High and then up to SF for Fresh/Soph HS. By then it was the early 70s and that schools system (Marin County) was what set me back to when I moved to Virginia for the second semester, Sophomore year.

  43. pouncer says:

    Regarding contemporary schools, it’s been fascinating to me as a homeschooling father and short time member of the local public district’s school board (and wasn’t THAT an issue during the election campaign!) to see the rise of on-line classes. Khan Academy as the premier example, but many others.

    These offerings, most free of charge, have led districts to up-end their whole idea of instruction. They suggest the student take lessons / lectures from somebody else (in Khan’s case, not even a “certified teacher”) outside of the classroom, on class time, with butts in seats as the State of Texas pays for. Lessons happen at home. Then, supposedly, discussion and group work and projects and application of the lessons “facilitated” by “the guide on the side” (certified holder of various “teaching” credentials) is supposed to happen in the room. If the bored, the bullies, the bimbos, and the other distractors don’t unduly interfere, maybe.

  44. Larry Ledwick says:

    I think the big failure in schools was the demise of the common knowledge view that different pupils had different aptitudes and interests and life goals. Partially a legacy of the family occupation, like E.M. his family had been in the “smith” business for generations. How much of that was genetic aptitude and how much was life skills taught at home and picked up father to son, is hard to say, but it worked.

    My father was a mechanic and I was helping him fix cars from the time I was old enough to identify a 3/4 inch wrench from a screw driver. He had general mechanical aptitude, he could fix most anything, if he could study the mechanism to figure out how it worked, he could take it apart and put it back together, and fix little “manufacturing flaws” so that it worked better than new most of the time.

    The school system did not try to force the artist to become a mechanic, or teach a girl that loved to cook and bake, how to do accounting when there was not chance in the world she would ever get a job as an accountant. The kid that liked to play with chemicals in his chemistry set took chemistry and physics, the kid that loved math took math, the folks that loved to read and write took classes that stressed those skills. They allowed the students to “self sort” into skill sets that they not only excelled in but had an interest in.

    Sure there were a few odd balls that did not fit any of the social niches but by and large the majority of the students got the skills they needed to get the jobs that they could at least tolerate if not take satisfaction in to earn a living. More importantly a mechanic or an electrician was still seen as a valuable member of the community and the deification of white collar work had not yet reached the point where everyone wanted to be a middle manager or an engineer.

    People still asked questions like how are you going to make a living with that college degree, rather than just being impressed that they had a degree in historical bird watching technology.

    People still wanted the student to have a “fall back” skill if they had difficulty getting their dream job.

    That whole practical mindset of the post depression cohort slowly disappeared and was replaced by the “Graduate” style “get into plastics” approach of chasing a hot job category even if you sucked at it. Now everyone wants to be a lawyer because that is where the money is (sort of legalized corruption and gun for hire) where you could rip people off and make good money at it while also being acceptable to the country club crowd, even though the guy who fixes air conditioners or fixes your plumbing can make more money honestly.

  45. E.M.Smith says:

    I’m not sure when California “golden years” began, but I’d guess it was at least back in the 1940s. Maybe earlier. It was great in the ’50s to 70s. (I graduated high school early ’70s but in a rural area slow to adopt new things). But by the ’90s it was clearly toast. I remember from the early ’70s discussions in my home town of the “desire” to do things like remove Home Economics classes and get rid of shop “for the risks”. To move all that “stuff” to “trade schools”. It was implemented some time after I went off to college, so in the ’80s it was a done deal.

    My spouse is 5 years younger than me and says that Home Econ was in schools in Silicon Valley in 1976 but it was “long gone” by the time our kids went to the same schools in the late ’80s to ’90s.

    So I think that’s roughly your bounds. Don’t know if you can extend it back through the Great Depression and into the “Roaring 20s” or “Gay 90s”… but maybe. Yet in the 1800s this was Gold Rush country so unlikely to be educationally exceptional until the 1900s…

  46. gallopingcamel says:

    “Number one, you can not fix the existing system. It has far too many deliberately built-in flaws to be patched.”

    How true! Time after time reforms fail because of cowardice failed to cleanse the Augean stables. Enough Educrats remained to put sand in the wheels of progress. The only way to true reform is drastic action as was taken in New Zealand with the “Tomorrow’s Schools” legislation. The NZ MoE (Ministry of Education) was abolished and each school was handed over to the control of a locally elected board, thereby eliminating all intermediate bureaucracies.

    In the USA we have a federal Department of Education, we have state Departments of Education, and we have school district administrations. Often counties are involved in financing school construction. In New Zealand the government schools are run like private schools and like private schools they have to compete for students. Competition is the key to giving customers (or taxpayers) value for money.

    An important general principle to understand if you want to keep inefficiency, waste and corruption at bay is the idea of having accounting and auditing functions independent of executive functions. In New Zealand the schools are managed by local boards but their funding is controlled by the NZ Treasury which is much more powerful than any school. Power to the AUDITORS.

    Back in the days when the “Robber Barons” were becoming too powerful the solution was to break up large organization using the Sherman and Clayton acts. Today we have oligarchies like “Big Pharma” and “Big Education” that are much more powerful than Standard Oil ever was. The solution is COMPETITION with a level playing field open to all. The challenge is to bring this about when K street lobbyists have bought almost everyone in the House and Senate.

  47. gallopingcamel says:

    OpenSecrets is a great source of information:

    Lobbyists target legislators. Specifically 100 senators and 435 house members. In 2017 lobbyists controlled $3.37 billion dollars which amounts to $6.3 million per legislator. To have a chance to be re-elected every legislator has to raise $10,000 per week and to be confident of re-election $40,000 ($2 million per year) is required. See “Tailspin” by Steven Brill.

    Those statistics explain why your vote does not matter. With a handful of exceptions senators and house members have been bought by the lobbyists which explains why voters are betrayed after every election.

  48. gallopingcamel says:

    “I’m not sure when California “golden years” began.”

    In 1962 I was the Chief Engineer in a small telephone factory in England. My boss and mentor was Norman Smart who told me that he was about to retire to San Francisco. Norman claimed that California was the greatest place on earth and he told me why in great detail.

    In 1970 I had the opportunity to visit Coherent Radiation Laboratories in Palo Alto and the Stanford Linear Accelerator located on the San Andreas fault. I was totally gobsmacked. I can’t stand French champagne but I love Californian champagne. You get the picture……I loved everything about “Laser Valley” except for the crazy prices for flimsy houses.

    Maybe we should ask when Utopia morphed into Dystopia (and why). It seems to have happened quite suddenly.

  49. gallopingcamel says:

    @Larry Ledwick,

    Wendell Berry’s supports what you said:
    “The child is not educated to return home and be of use to the place and community; he or she is educated to leave home and earn money in a provisional future that has nothing to do with the place or community. The local schools no longer serve the local community; they serve the government’s economy and the economy’s government. Unlike the local community, the government and the economy cannot be served with affection, but only with professional zeal or professional boredom. Professionalism means more interest in salary and less interest in what used to be known as disciplines. And so we arrive at the idea, endlessly reiterated in the news media, that education can be improved by bigger salaries for teachers–which may be true, but not, as the proponents too often imply, by bigger salaries alone. There must also be a love of learning and of the cultural tradition and of excellence. And this love cannot exist, because it makes no sense, apart from the love of a place and community. Without this love, education is only the importation into a local community of centrally prescribed “career preparation” designed to facilitate the export of young careerists.”…………….

    “The Work of Local Culture” by Wendell Berry

  50. Larry Ledwick says:

    It is my theory that the rot set in as the flower children anti-war hippies of the early 1970’s graduated and began to systematically work the system from the inside. This was nothing short of an intentional sabotage of every level of society by the extreme left. It was reflected in politics with the candidacy of McGovern and the entry of communist shills like John Kerry and HRC into politics, aggravated by the 18 year old vote introducing a cohort of voters with no life experience who itched to remake society into their ideal (after they brought down the “Man”) You had people with radical left pasts like Bill Ayers move into education, though leaders like Noam Chomsky (who I had never heard of until his name started popping up on young adult discussion boards in the early 2000’s. The young kids thought of him as some god like figure who preached non-stop about how evil the US is. It first I just thought these kids were idiots but it eventually dawned on me that while I wasn’t looking higher education had suddenly taken a hard left turn about the time of Reagan and the collapse of the Soviet Union. All of a sudden the USSR and Communism was no longer a threat to our very existence and everyone relaxed. Just a decade later public school students were becoming open fans of socialism and seeing democracy and capitalism as evil systems which could be cured by the implementation of and “enlightened” modern Democratic Socialism like in northern European countries.

    All those forces came together at the same time (as if it was a planned attack) Communism did not disappear, it simply went underground and hijacked the green global warming and environmental movement and rebranded itself as a socially conscious alternative to predatory democracy and capitalism and it happened at the young adult level so the older generations did not notice until 10 years of students had swallowed this line of bullshit hook line and sinker.

    Suddenly their mascots were fluffy baby seals and polar bears in distress, and clear cut Brazilian forests and no one dared to oppose those good works of making the environment better, which cut off effective counter discussion for 10-20 years starting with acid rain and the population bomb and Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring seasoned with the Exon Valdez oil spill and lots of oil soaked seals and sea birds.

  51. jim2 says:

    Pouncer, While Khan did start the website alone, there are now 150 staff, many of which are PhD’s who author the material. Khan is still the primary presenter.

    Years after I swapped careers from chemistry to programming, I wanted to brush up on math and physics. I found KA videos to be well explained and illustrated. Actually, I love the site. It is a relatively painless way to learn or relearn math, chemistry, physics, and thermo.

    I think it would make a great core for public education, leaving the teacher free to help those who need it and more time to deal with the side issues students have. When it comes to disruptive student, out they go I say; and serial disrupters should be banned for entire school year.

  52. p.g.sharrow says:

    I was asked. When did California’s golden age begin and end? Well in my opinion the second “gold rush” began during the Depression when the Central Valley Project of water management began in earnest with major construction projects and greatly expanded farming. Californian Leaders knew how to create economic opportunities for everyone. It began to fall apart in 1957 in Sacramento when the Communists took over control of education in the newly created “Unified School Districts” mandated for all Californian school systems to qualify for state funds.
    I remember this, as I started 6th grade, Baseball was outlawed on school property. Far too dangerous to have little kids swing bats and throwing hard balls at on another. From hence forth we could only play foreign games, hint Soccer was recommended for school yard games.
    Our teacher who was a Scotsmen, suggested Cricket to the class, So we set up a 3 team Cricket league. And played that for the school year. Screw that Soccer bs. 8-), Soon Edmond “PAT” Brown, “moonbeams” father, was elected Governor. Californian. Education was made into a “closed shop” under the control of Communists lead Unions that were married to the Californian Democratic Party. Other state agencies quickly followed. The Ecoloons were brought in with “Moonbeam” “Jerry” Brown’s first time at bat in the early 1970s. All funding for infrastructure construction was curtailed in the pursuit of the Ecoloon agenda….pg

  53. E.M.Smith says:


    Ah, that explains the “Unified School District” in the name of my high school. As I had all of 140 some kids in my graduating class, I always wondered with whom was our isolated farm town “unified”?… Now I know. It was an administrative requirement so it “unified” with everything inside the city limits… of about 2 miles diameter ;-)

  54. p.g.sharrow says:

    In Surprise Valley where I spent 9-12 grades, 2- one room schools, 1 three room schools and a new 8 room school, became one. and joined the local high school to become a Unified District of about 300 students still under local control. This really pissed off the County School district as they had planned to roll up the entire county…pg

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