Posts Tagged ‘economy’

Are we accomplices?

May 5, 2013

We are allowed to drop students who miss more than a week of class, if we have it in our syllabus. The student gets a W grade for withdrawal. I’ve rarely done so, because I feel the student’s transcript should represent what he has done. The F says the student flunked or didn’t care enough to withdraw. The W might be because he had issues that had nothing to do with the particular class. For example, his job might require him to work when class met.

Students who are on visas or receiving financial aid usually need to be full time students. The student who disappears after a few weeks of class might be fooling the someone about his status. Although we report the last day a student attended, a student could appear in class at the end of the semester. His record wouldn’t show that he missed months of class.

By not dropping them, we are fooling the government agency that issues visas or the source of the financial aid. The financial aid situation is clear cut. If the student doesn’t get financial aid, it will probably go to someone else. If the ones who cheat are eliminated, there is more room for the ones who actually benefit from it. The visa situation is harder, since many students need full time jobs to support their full time education.

Some students are simply fooling their parents, who think they are spending their time in college. I’m not all that concerned about that, although I feel sorry for parents who pay for college and get partying.

Should I drop students who stop showing up? I don’t know.


Greece’s problems

June 18, 2012

We visited Greece recently, and two tour guides gave me a clue as to why the country is in trouble.

The first one was happy that she bought a lot of clothes before all the trouble started, because it means she doesn’t need to worry about having enough clothes while she has a reduced income. Wouldn’t she be better off with money? I can understand her saying she is glad she bought clothes rather than something else, but I suspect that she would be better off with more money than with more clothes.

The second guide told me the following:

1. He chooses whom he works for and will not work for some companies. The implication was that he could work more if he chose to do so.

2. He has three or four tours a week. Our tour was a four hour tour.

3. He does not work when it is not the tourist season.

4. He considers himself to be working full time.

5. He was required to take three years of school (presumably after high school) to be a tour guide. His attitude suggested that he felt he put a lot of work into qualifying for the job.

The guides both were knowledgeable and spoke excellent English. But between the two of them, they gave a picture of a country that doesn’t work very hard and doesn’t believe in saving for the future.

How Should Social Security Be Improved?

April 29, 2012

First, make the social security tax be on all income, not just salary. This would add to the revenue stream immediately.

Second, eliminate the cap on the income. As income goes beyond the maximum to contribute, which is about $110,000 per year, Social Security is still collected. No matter how much income someone has, social security is taken from all of the income.  However, a person who contributes twice as much to social security doesn’t get twice as much income. He gets one and a half times the income, and further contributions would lead to a lower rate of return.  People would still get something from the additional money, but not a proportional amount. This would mean the NFL player who goes broke later in life can still look forward to a reasonable amount of income.

I have no idea as to whether this would solve the problem, but it would help.

When Teachers Cheat

March 29, 2012

Last time when I was evaluated, the dean commented that in one of my classes, the students thought I was unclear. My own reaction was that it was the worst class I ever had in that particular course. Obviously, I was unclear, since  I wasn’t reaching them. The evaluations were realistic. I knew they would be low, but sometimes that happens.

If someone’s job depended on these evaluations, the way they are given where I work is a joke. The teacher is responsible for giving them and for seeing that they are brought to the office. There are many ways to cheat. For a teacher in danger of being fired, the temptation must be high.

In primary and secondary education there is a a great deal of evidence saying that teachers cheat. The evidence also suggests that honest teachers get fired, because they don’t improve the scores of students whose tests were artificially inflated the previous year. The way the system is set up, honesty is punished.

It may be insulting for someone else to come into my classroom and give the evaluations to my students, but I prefer being in a system where people are not trusted to being in a system where cheating is rewarded, particularly when it is so easy to cheat.

The good old days weren’t good

January 28, 2012

“… the productivity of U.S. workers has increased fourfold since the 1950s. Put another way, as of 2000, employees work one hour to produce what it took four hours to create a half-century ago. Meanwhile, the buying power of wages has remained stagnant…” 

I don’t believe it. Not that I don’t believe the figures. I am sure that someone figured out that it would take the same number of hours to buy a 1950 car as a 2011 car. But the average age of a car on the road today is over ten years, and in the 1950’s five-year-old car was an old car, while the wealthy changed their cars annually. Tires? They advertised tires that lasted 3,000 miles. Housing? Only movie theaters had air conditioning, and coal furnaces weren’t unusual.

Medical costs have gone way up, but so has life expectancy. Neither mammograms nor colonoscopies existed in 1950. The polio vaccine was first tested in 1952 and the measles vaccine came in the next decade.

If we wanted a 1950’s lifestyle we could do it much cheaper than they did it then, but it wouldn’t be a safe or comfortable society. Not only did 1950’s cars not have airbags, they didn’t usually have seat belts. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t drive them as fast, because Interstate Highways didn’t exist. Air travel was for the rich, and jets were for the military, not for civilian travel.

Instead of cell phones, in the 1950’s people used operators and often had party lines. Calls outside of a small area were very expensive. Of course, there were no personal computers.

Perhaps the rich get richer, but the lower middle class lives much better today than most people in 1950.

How much help should be given?

January 27, 2012

Students with disabilities are given special accommodations in classes. Most of the time, I completely approve of what is being done. A student with a vision problem should be given tests in a larger font, and if the font is sufficiently large, be given extra time, since a large font takes longer to read. One of my students needed a 44 point font. Other disabilities require extra time, and that’s fine with me. I will leave the judgment of what students need the extra time to the experts.

Yet I wonder if we are being fair to the students. I know of a case where a speech teacher, not where I teach, was required to give a student the opportunity to take speech without actually giving any speeches. How realistic is that?

Do the students who get degrees with these accommodations think that they should be considered as equal to the students who don’t? The law might say yes, but would a boss say yes? Should someone who takes twice as long to do something be paid the same as someone who is faster? Can the nearly blind student do the same work as a sighted person? Sometimes the answer is yes, but often it is no.

In an attempt to make things fair, are we making things unrealistic? The student who is used to double time on a test will still have to rush to make a deadline on a job. I am not trying to fight the system, but I wonder if the students who are in the system are able to cope when they leave school.

The Pennsylvania Turnpike

November 27, 2011

A few years ago, while driving to Michigan, I noticed the Ohio turnpike had closed every other rest stop to rebuild it. This year, most of them are rebuilt. We traveled east on the Pennsylvania turnpike, from Ohio to Breezewood and found there was 100 miles between rest stops. Not surprisingly, the lines at the women’s restroom and the gas pumps were very long. Pennsylvania did not learn from Ohio’s sensible approach. I hope the people in Pennsylvania realize what this is doing to the money people spend in tolls, on gas, and on food at these rest stopes, because the next time we visit Michigan, we will probably fly.

Downwardly mobile or upwardly mobile?

September 7, 2011

A study was reported in today’s Washington Post, claiming that many people with middle class parents were not in the middle class. One of the criteria for moving down was they were below the 30th percentile in income. There were other criteria that would make them considered downwardly mobile, but I’m  only going to look at this one. Middle class was defined as the middle 40 percent of income: people whose incomes were between the 30th percentile and the 70th percentile.

This is a relative scale. If everyone’s income were increased by $50,000 per year, the bottom 30% will still not be middle class. This means that for everyone whose income dropped below the 30th percentile, someone else moved up. Percentiles don’t look at an absolute scale. If everyone in the US were put in a line by income, taking people out of the middle 40% and putting them further back in line invariably moves other people up. Using the same data, the change in percentile of middle class people, one could equally argue that the lower class people are moving up.

But that is good news, and less likely to be reported.

Not everyone pays interest

July 16, 2011

For the past couple of weeks, the debt ceiling crises has been a major news story. One story I’ve heard repeatedly is how it is going to effect everyone by the increased interest rates. The story goes on about credit card debt, car loans, and mortgages. News flash: not everyone is in debt.

A quick Internet search found a conflicting figures (of course.) Taking the middle number of three, 20% of American adults are not in debt. They not only don’t have credit card debt, they don’t have mortgages or car loans. Twenty percent is a large enough percent so that the talk about how everyone is going to be affected seems like an exaggeration. Another website said that more than half of Americans have no credit card debt.

I realize there are indirect effects. If business has to pay higher interest, prices will go up. But this is not what the commentators are telling us. Television news is increasingly watched by older people. Advertisers know this: just look at the ads. Older people are more likely to have paid off their mortgage and sensible people decrease their debts before retiring. Are those who write the news stories aware that so large a percent of their audience is not included in the “everyone” they are talking about?

My husband has commented when watching the news that he hopes the interest rates go up, because we are getting miserable returns on CD’s.

Broken promises

February 20, 2011

When an employer offers health care, there are difficulties. Health care costs have increased much faster than inflation, and there is no way that most employers can offer the same level of benefits without increasing their costs. Unless times are very good, the increase in cost has to be passed to the employee.

Pensions are a different matter. One of the considerations in accepting a job can be the pension. To tell an employee that his years of service is not going to give him the pension that was part of his employment package, is breaking a promise. The federal government, in both the military and civilian branches, got around this problem honestly. They decreed that all new people would be under a different system. So far, they’ve kept their pledges to those in the old system.

Wisconsin is trying to break their promises, and should follow the model of the federal government. All new workers would be under the new system. I believe in today’s economy, they would have no problems finding new workers. It wouldn’t solve the immediate problem, but rescinding the recent tax cuts might do that.