Waiting For Superman

I saw this film last night. It made me angry and upset. Go see it. It will be in the theaters on Sept 24th.

And if you have the time after watching that trailer, please read my friend John Heilemann's longer piece on the film in this week's NY Magazine.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Hank Williams

    My fiancé is an education professor and researcher and so I have been like a fly on the wall for months as the whole education community has been talking about this movie. I cant wait to see it. Education is the biggest problem we face in this country. The issues are a complex mix of social, economic, and political, but I feel we do not dedicate nearly enough of our treasure to making sure that our next generation is, in relative or absolute terms, as educated as current or previous generations have been.

    1. fredwilson

      the two big takeaways for me is we need more choice for parents and more accountability for teachers

      1. Hank Williams

        Well, yes, but (as I have come to learn) its more complicated than that. For example I am a big charter school fan (putting me in the same camp with Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich) but one of the problems is that charter schools get to be selective in various ways, not just by lottery. So the more choice you have, the more general public schools end up being the dumping ground for the kids that for economic or social reasons, need the most help. Our problem is not how do we educated the kids with the most social capital, and the best, smartest, or most engaged parents. The issue is how do we give *all* kids a great education. Choice may help improve allocation, but it doesn’t do anything for the kids at the bottom of the social pile.The accountability for teachers is a *huge* issue. The issue is how do we measure it. In today’s NYT there is a great room for debate issue on tying teacher evaluations to student assessment. This is something we *must* do, but we have not implemented good systems (because it would cost more). Linda Darling-Hammond, I think, has a very clear explanation of the problem today in the NYT piece here: http://nyti.ms/9qaY90.Generally speaking, student assessment is the biggest issue in education world today. As I said above, My fiancé is a researcher in this field, and is working with a great organization that is studying and creating incredibly innovative models for assessment. They’ve been funded by Gates, Ford Foundation, and others. If you are really interested in this subject, we should talk offline.

        1. fredwilson

          i am with you hankthe gotham gal and i went out to dinner after the movie and talked aboutthisthe more charter schools we have the more we have to fix the public schoolsthat remain

          1. Evan

            does this mean you’re a fan of the LATimes’ publication of stats for every public teacher?http://www.latimes.com/news

          2. fredwilson

            yes as long as it is a fair hearing

          3. Petteri Koponen

            Fred, somewhat counter-intuitively, publishing stats for teachers and/or schools can actually worsen the situation. For instance, in the UK this has caused a vicious circle for the worst schools because good teachers are not interested in working at low-graded schools. In addition, the high-ranking schools are stressful for both teachers and students due to the focus and energy that needs to be spent, not necessarily on learning, but on maintaining the high rank. Furthermore, the teachers get fired easily, and rectors have a relatively high suicide rate.

          4. Aaron Klein

            Can you imagine if this kind of rhetoric were used in the private sector?”Counter-intuitively, you shouldn’t review your employees’ performance in a startup, because those who work on the hard problems may not want to work on them. And people don’t want to spend the energy keeping their performance up. And people get fired. And people who get bad reviews have a higher tendency to commit suicide.”Not measuring performance and letting mediocrity be the norm is indefensible, no matter how much you spin it.

          5. Petteri Koponen

            Aaron,Being an entrepreneur (and kind of an investor), I find it both interesting and surprising that the key principles of the Finnish system (#1 ranked in PISA tests) are almost opposite to those of an efficiently run startup:- Grading is not that important; on lower classes, students don’t even get numeric grades.- Schools or teachers are not compared against each other, neither are their rankings published.- Children start school at the relatively old age of seven.- School days are short (my 7-year-old has a 20h week) and include several 15-30min breaks.- Almost 100% of the schools – and almost all the best ones – are public.There are some similarities, however:- Teachers are very well-educated (masters degrees) and appreciated, but not that well-paid.- Creativity and problem-solving is emphasized.- Despite of the lack of direct incentives, such as bonuses etc, teachers truly care about results.I’m the father of 10 and 7 year-old daughters who have gone to school in both Finland the the UK and my experience is that the Finnish system works well and doesn’t “let mediocrity be the norm”; in fact, when Finnish children move abroad, they tend to find school quite easy / boring.(Unfortunately, our system doesn’t work that well on the university-level, but that would be a longer story…)

          6. Aaron Klein

            Grading doesn’t appear to be that important in US schools either. You can pass the California high school exit exam by getting a “C” on 8th grade level Math and English.Somehow I doubt that if we just had kids start school at seven, with shorter school days, and we eliminated the limited measurement tools we do have, that would magically solve the problem with the US educational system.I don’t question the veracity of what you just stated, but the Finnish system is either a dramatic anomaly from everything else we know about organizational behavior and human performance, or there is some underlying measurement and incentive system that we don’t know about.Either way, I don’t see that model solving our problems here.

          7. Alex Murphy

            More likely that the parents of the Finnish students take a more active role early in life to help their children get ahead. We educate our children today for much more time than they were 50 years ago, yet we are not getting ahead … why?

          8. Aaron Klein

            Parent participation is key, without a doubt. But it’s not the only missing ingredient in our schools and it’s often a cop-out.

      2. baba12

        If you give choice to parents who are stupid you only make it more difficult. This notion that choice = freedom should be put in parenthesis with a exclamation point.To be able to have choice means the individual has the ability to think and discern what is best for them. Unfortunately most folks don’t have that ability, your argument would be if they don’t have that ability then they should pay the consequences This is where it breaks down as one group feels giving individuals choice absolves them of any responsibility and transfers that completely on the individual.That would be fine and dandy if everyone played by the rules and were fair but that is not the case.Accountability for teachers is a fair argument as long as you also hold parents and politicians accountable in the delivery of quality education.

        1. Aaron Klein

          I will trust the wisdom of parents who deeply love their children over the cold, silent control of a government that only sees numbers and dollar signs.Any day of the week.

      3. Toshi O.

        What if instead of the billion dollar solution, we had a thousand little fixes?Culturally, after you get your education, the next step is to get a job, move out of your parents house and start a family somewhere.I envy the countries/cultures that keep family close and allow a family/community to raise a child and not a system of inputs and outputs.The ULTIMATE responsibility has to be put on the parents, doesn’t it?

      4. Pat

        How about more people willing to pay taxes for a quality public education?California’s decline can be directly traced to the hole Prop 13 punched in school budgets.The nonsense about “not throwing money at the problem” is just that – nonsense. People need to get paid and treated with respect. Teachers are constantly being told that they don’t know how to do their job and are low paid.Why should anyone be surprised that good quality people abandoned teaching for something else?You want to fix the education system? Start by being willing to raise your own taxes to make it possible for a teacher to own their own home, instead of expecting them to live a life of poverty.Take a look around a public school – notice how many teachers are in their upper 40s. Ask yourself – why the heavy skew to the older teacher?Answer: Because the younger teachers get squeezed out by the layoffs. Many teachers got layoff notices in Mountain View, Ca and a few were rehired at the last minute. At my daughters school there are empty classrooms and more crowded classes. Yeap Mtn View, home of Google, is downsizing the education system.Yet for some reason it is the “accountability for teachers” — excuse me? No *sane* person would put up with this.P.S. my mom is a teacher

    2. ShanaC

      What is the most important thing she’s found so far? Biggest change that would cause highest correlation of most problems disappearing?

  2. Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

    I hope I’ll be able to see it in France.Education is a subject near and dear to my heart, and it’s not perfect everywhere — our education system #@~§ed me more time than I can count.I think kids can get a better education in the US — if the parents can pay.#whyihustle

  3. Dave Pinsen

    In the spirit of yesterday’s post on contrarian investing, here’s a contrarian take on the education issue, “Bad Students, Not Bad Schools”.

  4. William Mougayar

    Yikes. Hey Fred, we’ll trade you lessons between Canada and the US: your VC & Entrepreneurship vs. our Education and Healthcare. (I meant Canada the country, not the author)

  5. Dan Cornish

    I keep meeting more and more people who home school their children because of the mess of education. These are not religious nuts or crazy people, but professionals who believe their primary responsibility in life is their children. Currently in this economy to accomplish this you need two parents, one of which who makes enough money to keep the other at home. Also in many states the teacher’s unions have put in place laws which make home schooling difficult or impossible. The argument about the need to socialize children as a reason against home schooling is nonsense. I would argue it is almost child abuse to expose children to the rampant bullying, incompetent teachers, drugs and sex in schools. Parents who home school are just trying to hack the system.Imagine, if we could apply technology to this problem like we have in other areas. The classroom has not changed in 200 years. Teacher in front, students at desks with books and paper. How about grouping students according to their ability and then identifying the best teachers for this cohort of students. Create web conferences and recorded lectures guided learning, distance learning etc.. Of course this will never happen because of the powerful interests aligned against innovation. Teacher’s Unions, vendors, construction companies, and others. If you look at the money spent on poor and minority schools, which in many places is twice what private schools spend per pupil, you could begin to argue that there are other larger and more dark agendas at work other than the best interest of the children.Imagine if the tech industry was unionized. How many startups would people like Fred fund? Imagine if every startup was required to pay the same salary and benefits as teachers get – healthcare for life at no cost to the employee, retirement after 20 years, rules which make it next to impossible to fire employees, stifling work rules, and little if any accountability. Imagine is the internet was regulated as much as schools are. To create a startup the founders had to be certified by the government and fulfill all sorts of reporting requirements and be subject to political calculations of too much competition.Innovation is why colleges and universities are so successful and primary and secondary public schools are so bad. Unleash the same level of creativity and innovation in education and the problem will be solved quickly.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      We’re currently home schooling 3 girls (well the 2.5 year old mostly just plays).”Parents who home school are just trying to hack the system.”I’m stealing this line.

      1. fredwilson

        yuphome schooling is very much part of the hacking education movementit may be the leading edge of it

        1. Tereza

          Look, if I had the time/inclination and were into it I could home school my kids. It’s not my cup of tea. But cool that others do it if that’s their thing.But for the parent to teach, s/he needs to be sufficiently educated and have a point-of-view of where the child should land.Many of the parents in this trailer do not have that.Perhaps they could shepherd their kids through a program run by someone else (a school) and follow the instructions.I don’t see home-schooling as a scalable option for any of the kids in the trailer.

          1. ErikSchwartz

            As I mentioned elsewhere there are two discrete problems here. Horrible schools in the inner city will not be saved in this generation by home schooling.Clearly the parents have to be well enough educated to make home schooling work well as an educational tool. My wife who is taking the lead on our homeschooling efforts went to Stanford. There are really two groups of home schoolers. The group we’re in is generally college or graduate level educated people who are not happy with what they see in the public school systems and decide to do it themselves. The other large group of home schoolers are fundamentalist christians who believe that things taught in public schools are not acceptable. Some (although not all) of those parents are frightfully uneducated. I fear for their children.We pay a large financial price for home schooling. A second income would buy us a lot of luxuries.As far as “hacking the system” in concerned as taxpayers we can use various aspects of the local public school system (that we’re paying for). Our kids can do classes there a la carte or join sporting teams. There’s a great home school coop that meets once a a week right across the street from us. Parents teach occasional classes in their areas of expertise.

          2. Fernando Gutierrez

            Eric, I’m curious about the system. Do your kids have to pass exams with other kids? is there any kind of minimum quialification for the parents to apply for home schooling?

          3. ErikSchwartz

            There’s no qualification on parents in Maine.Other requirements vary on a state by state basis. Kathleen (my wife) is on top of all the various rules. I asked her and she wrote the following…”In Maine, in order to be allowed to homeschool, you need to prove to a certified state teacher each year that your child is being appropriately educated and has shown acceptable progress since the previous year. Every June, parents present a portfolio of their child’s work. The teacher signs off, and then parents submit the approval letter to their local superintendent, along with a formal letter of intent to continue homeschooling the next year. Compulsory schooling begins the school year the child turns 8.In California, beginning when their children turn 6, parents can either a) declare themselves to be a private school, in which case the state never needs to hear from them again; b) join a state charter umbrella school, in which case they are not officially homeschooling but are registering into the public school system and are required to follow their charter school’s (mandated secular) curriculum and take the California standardized tests along with all other students; or c) certify themselves as a private tutor (or hire one), which requires the tutor to hold valid state credentials for each grade level taught. Not surprisingly, most parents christen their home St. Brutus’ Academy and educate as they please. The attractive part of choice b) is that parents are often compensated by the school district for educational costs, in amounts depending on the budget of the charter school in question — often in the neighborhood of $1000-2000 per child per year. I believe several other states (and Canada) also have options which pay parents to homeschool.In some states (like Texas), children who never show up for school are simply assumed to be homeschooled, and are never checked up on in any way. HSLDA has a map showing various states’ levels of oversight by color: http://www.hslda.org/laws/

          4. Fernando Gutierrez

            Thanks to both of you! Really interesting info. I love some of the flavours, but like you said, I’d also be worried about some kids. I guess this kind of education can be amazing for them when done right and terrible when not.

    2. baba12

      Technology is not a solution to the problem at hand, at most technology can alleviate the suffering, it is not the panacea for the education system that is broken at many points.

    3. Tereza

      I’ve visited a bunch of schools for my kids and not one still puts desks in rows with the teacher in the front.The model, as it has been in most places I know, for many years now, is clustering kids’ desks or having tables where they work together.And the teachers group the children — either by ability (so that similar children are together), or by temperament or diversity of ability (so kids can teach each other).I can’t think of a single classroom I’ve seen where the teachers is not running multiple things at the same time and not providing multiple forms of exposure to the material (e.g. aural, visual, verbal, written, tactile).And most have smartboards and use multi-media in the class. Lots of projects, independently as well as in groups.And most of the teachers develop custom lessons each day, even while they’re keeping up with state requirements.Granted I live in an affluent area. And here the state requirements are but a base minimum requirement. But your description does not hold.If you dig in and look, you will probably see some different things happening.

    4. Tereza

      My issue with home schooling as I’ve observed it — and I do think it’s a positive choice for many — is that I keep seeing kids with behavioral issues being pulled from school and then home schooled because “the school did not know how to deal with him”, and that “He’s too smart for his own good”.Then you talk to other parents and learn that he was biting kids, etc.Then in the home-school environment the child is a little too isolated and doesn’t work through the social challenges.So he shows up at summer camp and still bites.Learning how to interact socially with a wide range of people is also a critical part of education and that’s the piece I see falling down a lot in home schooling.

      1. Yule Heibel

        Parents who opt to home-school because their kids need help on the behavioral front are not helping their kids, they’re just caching the problem(s).I’m also not a fan of over-protective parents.But to say that schools socialize children is, imo, ridiculous. How would any sane self-possessed adult feel if s/he were told, “From now on, for the next 13 years during the work week from 8 to 4, you may only interact with people exactly your own age. Oh, we’ll throw in a warden or two who might be older.”Seriously, there is something very very wrong with how schools socialize children.You can see it in the fear that elementary school kids often (not always) have of “the older kids,” and you can see it in the disdain that the those older kids have for the “little guys.”Show me the middle-schooler who is “man” enough to be the “big buddy” to a first-grader, and I’ll you the potential real man. Instead, most middle-schoolers are too busy sucking up to image of the high schooler, and wouldn’t be caught dead walking hand-in-hand with a six-year old. And why are they like that? Is it natural? In the genes? No, it’s socialization, courtesy of schools. (Sorry, but the toxic peer pressure that schools have generated, where a superficial obsession with labels and toys reigns, as well as nastiness toward more vulnerable peers, makes me less than sanguine about schools’ alleged benefits.)

        1. Tereza

          Well, you are much further along on the parenting spectrum than I and I’ve only dealt with a few data points.There were some private schools we looked at that put a lot of effort into teaching children specific behavioral/interactive skills. We were really drawn to it but it was ridiculously expensive so not an option.I do agree with you — U.S. schools — particularly middle and high schools, are really weird with their own social hierarchies.I spend a bit of time living in Europe and it seemed like they lacked that strange dysfunction. I could be wrong; but I wasn’t sensing the stereotypes that we have here — the Queen Bees, the jocks, the goths, etc. It seemed a lot less meanspirited.But that’s a guess, I could be wrong.

          1. BillSeitz

            Rob Paterson had an interesting series of posts on reform ideas recently, and a few specifically looked at the management of cultural norms via methods like mixing ages, etc. http://webseitz.fluxent.com

          2. Tereza

            We’ve had mixing ages work for us and interestingly enough I went to a mixed-age middle school.My observation — not grounded in academia but purely personal — was that it can be really energizing for the younger kids. For the older kids, it really depends on the teacher to keep them challenged. I suspect requires a low ratio (or highly engaged homeschooling parents) to make it work so a bright older kid doesn’t get bored.

        2. Tereza

          Yule you are much further along on the parenting spectrum than I and I’ve only dealt with a few data points.There were some private schools we looked at that put a lot of effort into teaching children specific behavioral/interactive skills. We were really drawn to it but it was ridiculously expensive so not an option.I do agree with you — U.S. schools — particularly middle and high schools, are really weird with their own social hierarchies.I spend a bit of time living in Europe and it seemed like they lacked that strange dysfunction. I could be wrong; but I wasn’t sensing the stereotypes that we have here — the Queen Bees, the jocks, the goths, etc. It seemed a lot less meanspirited.But that’s a guess, I could be

      2. Dan Cornish

        What you are not seeing are the thousands of high achieving children who never interact with the system until it is time for college. Many parents who home school their children, probably would never send them to Summer Camp. These kids may be elite athletes (swimming, gymnastics, etc..) or high achieving children. Public schools are programmed not to teach up to their level or to really deal with exceptional students. Also you might be in a state which has passed many laws against home schooling therefore you might not be exposed to many people who are successfully doing it. In Texas, a small government state, you find many kids home schooled in very affluent neighborhoods as well as small towns. As I said home schooling is a hack.The problem with public schools is the lack of innovation. I was at Capital Factory Demo 2010 today in Austin and saw 5 really great start ups. As I was watching the demos, I kept thinking that this kind of free wheeling innovation could never happen in the education system as it stands today. What a disgrace. One of the few places people can innovate is at home. It is not for everyone, but not everyone can start a company. You need a support system, you need to sacrifice a large part of your life and income both for a startup and home schooling.Is outsourcing education to a large government bureaucracy the answer? I think not enough people are asking this question.

      3. Rick Wingender

        Tereza – there should be a dislike button. I know people who home school their kids. These kids get more quality time with their parents than most kids do. I know the parents teach until they KNOW the child has mastered the lesson.These kids also play with other kids in the neighborhood. They socialize with other kids in soccer practice, swimming lessons, and so on. The only thing I think they miss out on is those barely-supervised Recess breaks where they could have learned how to bully other kids or be bullied. Oh well!!

        1. Tereza

          I think the challenge with debating education is that we each are exposed to our data points. I called what I said “my observation” and did not position it as 100% representative in any way. And your exposure to your data points — real and valuable, but we do not know how representative of the whole either.I didn’t say I was against home-schooling. In a separate comment I said if other parents pick it I support it.I did want to express an alternative that no one else had said — that in some cases I have seen a second side of the same coin that was quite different from the message being pushed out from the parent.And I also know homeschooling parents who are doing an amazing job.In every strategy, there is variation in quality of execution.

      4. BillSeitz

        Note that the structure of current/traditional schools can create/exacerbate behavioral problems. See this bit about ADD: http://webseitz.fluxent.com

        1. Tereza

          Especially for boys. Lots of good literature on that.Have you read the book Raising Cain? The documentary is supposed to be fantastic, although I have not seen it.

    5. Rick Wingender

      Great post Dan. It almost seems like our educational system would have fit in nicely in the USSR. Of course, that didn’t work out so well….hmmm….

      1. PeterisP

        USSR actually had a pretty high-achieving and effective education system. Free enterprise was a bit stifled there (just as in all other areas), but it actually got very good academic results out of a quite underfunded system.

  6. ErikSchwartz

    I look forward to seeing it.You already know where I stand on the problem

  7. KirstenWinkler

    I think the situation is pretty much the same across the globe but seeing such a rapid decline in literacy and other topics is frightening. Not sure if there is a quick fix for this from the government but it is good to see that this issue is discussed more and more openly.There are a couple of great startups out there trying to support or change the system but this can’t be the only answer. As long as politics don’t care about long term investments but only focus on short term results, e.g. what can be “fixed” in a election term they won’t do much but talk because even if a child would get first class education starting today we would see first results for the economy in 10 or 15 years from now.

  8. marfi

    Fred, it is a global tendency.Stupid people are easier to govern.Knowledge set us free, free people are dangerous.I am not saying we are all part of a plot for producing dumbness… yet.

    1. Vax

      Well said Marfi. The true point of education is not to make As it is to gain the confidence and skills to ask the hard questions and formulate your own opinion that has some rooted merit. Andy comments about diversity, how diverse can we really be when we take a STANDARDIZED test to enter institutions and only liked minded [per the results] gets to attend certain schools?

    2. Peter Beddows

      I would humbly suggest that “stupid” is the incorrect adjective to use here though the principle described is most likely correct.Try “Uneducated people are easier to govern”: Reduce the ability for the masses to learn critical thinking and you reduce the potential for the masses to realize when they are being duped by the ruling elite.The real problem however, regardless of whichever term one uses here, is that the result of under or missing education clearly leads directly to an increase in crime and gangs as well as adding an enormous cost burden on our society at large never mind also hindering our future ability to compete and protect ourselves in the world at large.

  9. Aviah Laor

    Maybe off topic, but never off topic: Shana Tova everybody (have a good year)

    1. fredwilson

      same to you aviah

      1. Aviah Laor

        thanks, Fred

  10. Harry DeMott

    I suspect that many of the issues in this film are lost on the readers of this blog – who are probably self selected to be much more educated – and thus, much more involved with their children’s education, and in many cases have the means to move to areas where schools are great.I’ve been fortunate to be the product of a great education, and the schools where I live are fantastic. My younger child, who goes to the local public school, has computer class, language class, 2 and sometimes 3 teachers and assistants per class of 20 – massive parental involvement, smart boards, etc….The question is how do you duplicate this sort of experience without a massive amount of parental involvement – which is not always possible when you have 2 parents working – and no incremental resources in many areas.It is a tough problem – with a lot of gatekeepers (to pick up from yesterday’s conversation).what I don’t quite get is the fact that it is pretty clear what kids should be learning at what ages – people tend to agree on that. Why shouldn’t we have great teachers from around the country going through these curricula via the web – with local teachers there to reinforce and work with the kids that are not picking it up.

    1. andyswan

      The main problem is that there is not one parent that is at home most of the time, making sure their kids do well and do the right thing. Both parents work because they want this and that for themselves, or (more often), they weren’t together in the first place or are divorced. That’s tough for any kid to overcome.80%. EIGHTY!!!!!!!! of black children are born out of wedlock. It’s the one stat I see that is the most alarming in society. I’d love to see a frank, logical and positive conversation about a solution….because after 40 years of rubber-stamping hope-hippies into office in these areas….it’s clear that gov’t ain’t got one.

      1. Harry DeMott

        That is a frightening statistic. What’s scary is that it is not the school’s fault – and certainly not the kids fault – yet both suffer from the situation.Having both parents at work is tough for any kid – outsourcing parenting is very tough.I’m sure many would disagree with your assertion that the dual income families are doing it because they want something for themselves rather than out of necessity these days – but be that as it may be – there is a distinct difference between kids with involved and active parents and those without.If I can see it in an affluent suburb with fantastic education and resources – the problem has to be a ton worse in far less fortunate places.

      2. ShanaC

        Alright Andy, I’ll get married and go into the kitchen, will that make you happy?Real wages haven’t risen enough. To buy the same amount of material goods as say the 50s, you need to have a two income family. The BLS if I am not mistaken now does hedonics in such a way where they compare steak to chicken, rather than premium steak to non-premium steak. So the cost of everything is now hidden away and we pretend that costs are not rising so fast. Real wages suck. Remember that.Further, I’m actually fine with the out of wedlock problem. A nuclear family structure doesn’t resolve the issue of who is responsible for the kids and are those people really responsible. Other family structures can work as well, and have worked for generations. Is grandma and extended family able to pitch in and help? (I’ve seen real cases of yes, and real cases of no). Are our secondary and tertiary support structures for ALL families reinforced? In many cases, no. We’re disinclined to fix that problem, despite it being the root of all evils involving childcare. If there are more hands that are both capable and culpable to make a different- and we disincentivize!If this bothers you so much, then realize that Childcare, good quality childcare, is a huge expense. And that it takes a community to raise a child.Realize that there is a delay in marriage for economic stability- but that may not be the case for having kids.As for black kids- ever wonder why white guys are considered hot by the media- they’re considered stable with a stable income over time. Already frightening when getting married into an independent household is probably more expensive than it was for my parents generation…

        1. PhilipSugar

          No Shana you are wrong. Real wages have risen. http://www.workinglife.org/…The issue is people expect to get more…..look at the size of the average house built in the 1950’s versus today. Priorities are how much can I have versus what am I doing with my family. Argument over.I struggle with this issue myself.Not having a stable family unit to take care of a child before having one shows complete and utter disregard for human life, and therefore that child should be taken away, not rewarded for in increased government handouts.Finally personal responsibility and drive need to be accounted for….there is no luck.My wife was abandoned as a child that’s right ABANDONED. Had to find places to live which included friends places, grandparents, and even sharing an apartment with another friend in high school. Did she wallow in her pity….no, she bar-tended nights while doing work study during the day and has an Ivy League Masters degree. Was there luck or the need for government help?? To say that is to spit in the face of her grit and determination.

          1. ShanaC

            277 (2004) is less that the 1972 peak of 310. In the 1990s that numbers were in the 250s. Coupling that with changes in hedonics to calculate CPI, I would say we’ve stagnated.Yes, I have seen the recent numbers where BLS is claiming that for Feburary of 2010, real weekly was $293.28 for non-supervisory and $348.89 including those supervisors for non-farmworkers. Those numbers are starting to get fishy, mostly because I don’t like the idea of so much hedonics in the CPI measurements, even it is true that all sorts of people substitute. I want to see subsitutions because it is in or normal, not because of the fact that my age group has ridiculously high unemployment…Further, abuse hits upper class, upper middle class, and middle class homes with the same frequency as it does in lower middle class and lower class homes. You are just far less likely to be suspected of something in an Upper middle class home, and families are likely to stay together for the sake of appearances and the community. Further, in more traditional homes, economic dependency is a big problem.I know plenty of people who should have been raised by extended families and were not because of this sort of communal pressure. Beware of blind eyes.

          2. PhilipSugar

            “To buy the same amount of material goods as say the 50s, you need to have a two income family”That is just wrong. I know you were not living during this age, but there was a reason walk in closets weren’t even considered in these houses. Nobody could imagine owning that much stuff.More than one TV??? More than three pairs of Toughskins?? More than five or six toys?? Not sharing a room with your brother???This is coming from somebody who grew up in the seventies and father was in charge of computer modeling and buying oil fields for a top five oil company….No we have just gotten more materialistic.

          3. ShanaC

            If the price of cheap things go down, ok, that’s good. Rent has gone up though. And so what if there is more stuff stuff that is easily buyable at lower pricepoints- what about the basics, food, water, shelter, school, and medical. Proportionate to income, that basket has gone up, and not by a little, but by a lot. if TVs are now cheap and buying 5 is easy in a middle class life but buying health insurance is not, then we are screwed up. No amount of being frugal will save against those margins

          4. PeterisP

            Rent rise goes hand in hand with increased expectations in living space – as philsugar said “not sharing a room with your brother”. I haven’t seen statistics on how average rooms or square feet per person has changed over the years, but I feel that there has been a big increase.

          5. Alex Murphy

            Just because you have a bigger house with more stuff doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make your kids share a room. My two sons are in bunk beds in the same room.

          6. Tereza

            I’m sure someone could do a data pull from Move.com of all homes sold in the last year (or 5 or 10).Average all SQFTs for a given year, Year on X axis, AVGSQFT on Y axis.I guarantee it would run up and to the right and I suspect you’d see a step change increase around 1995.

          7. ShanaC

            That doesn’t for everyone in the same area- a certain group can push up rents for those who can’t afford in the same area.

          8. Tereza

            In my area the average house that was built in the 1950’s up through the late 70’s or even later was 2000. 2600 was considered pretty large.Try to buy a house up here that was built from 1995 onward. They are minimum 5000 sqft.

          9. PhilipSugar

            5000 sqft houses used to have Servants Quarters. A couple things I don’t buy into are that people HAVE to have two incomes. You do if you want a certain amount of stuff. I also think stuff owns you. http://www.paulgraham.com/s…Controversially I think that most people are where the are because they deserve to be there. This is the one that really sets people off including politicians and church leaders. I think if you have grit and determination you can overcome your situation. I don’t think we can overcome people’s situations through government.Finally if I could think of a project I would do for society it would be to clearly lay out and expose how many administrators and bureaucrats there are in government versus actual workers. I don’t care if you are a policeman, fireman, teacher, streets worker, water department technician, etc…..the problem is the amount of overhead. My school district has 1/5 the amount of administrators per teacher than the bloated in the next county, not 20% less 80% less. Guess which has better schools?

          10. Tereza

            There is a reason Newport mansions went empty for decades after the Great Depression.All-in carrying costs were completely out of line with the economy that succeeded it. You are exactly right, they had servant’s quarters and a ton of servants.Today we outsource it but it’s still the same thing. Very high carrying costs.I’m still not (obviously) anti-dual careers, as I come from a long line of dual-career moms. But they did things where they applied their creativity and flourished, worked in large part from home, and were re-charged at work so they were not exhausted at home…on the contrary. Ready and thrilled to be with the family and do fun stuff with the kids.Big difference for everyone in the family if the parents are doing something they love, versus clocking in to drone-like jobs.

          11. ShanaC

            And for the record, I’m not for abandoned kids, I’m for more flexible family structures where you see help and support for extended family and friends to easily help raise kids in those sorts of situations. I’m fine with the idea of 2 women with 2 kids each renting an apartment together and figuring out how to coraise children together with their apartment neighbors helping along because it makes life easier. I’m not fine with the fact that this sort of setup is penalized by taxes when compared to a nuclear family setup.

          12. PhilipSugar

            Seriously have you heard of the marriage penalty???Financially you are stupid to get married. That is the primary reason I am for gay marriage.If you’re married and one person works and makes $60k and the other doesn’t no aid.If you’re not married the one person and the kids are on almost $60k worth of government aid and the others taxes don’t go up.The penalty applies equally at the high end. God forbid if you make more than $250k….your spouses marginal income is devoured.

          13. ShanaC

            It doesn’t apply to the rough middle, further, those at the bottom don’t get to develop long term wealth.You’ll be penalized tax-wise because you won’t know your deductions well, and you’ll have the government hold your money when you could have kept it and invested it or used it for something else. something much more common at the low end of society than at the upper end

          14. Alex Murphy

            Kudos to your wife! She sounds like a rock star to me.

          15. PhilipSugar

            She is a rock star. And she has completely forgiven both of them and we see them and their families (both divorced and remarried several times) twice a month. I cannot even fathom this other than to realize this is what it truly means to be a Christian.

          16. Alex Murphy

            Sounds like the Prodigal Parents.

          17. Tereza

            Wow, Phil.

  11. Mark Essel

    I think you’ve found your next investment thesis Fred.

    1. Harry DeMott

      One word: gatekeepers!Question is how to hack education on a supplementary basis – so legions of parents and children opt in – and when the movement becomes strong enough – you don’t care about the gatekeepers anymore. But until that point – you need the deal with the school bureaucracy – just ask Scholastic how difficult it would be for a competitor to start a book club at their schools!

      1. fredwilson

        that’s the whole hacking education thrustyou have to go around the system

  12. Dan Vidakovich

    This is another great movie produced by Jeff Skoll (1st employee of ebay). He is an amazing example of a very wealthy American who wants to make a difference and bring our problems front and center (he also produced Food Inc).

  13. andyswan

    The reason our schools are failing is because the government runs them. Their priorities are NOT the same as ours.Just look at THEIR objectives:Diversity (not of thought, but of skin color)Self-esteem (earned or not)Collectivism over individualismEntire days devoted to learning how to use different light bulbs or not using aresol cans.An impossible to fire, lazy and pretty stupid voting block called the teachers unionThe list goes on and on.Meanwhile, private schools that I’m currently looking at spend less $ per student focus on:Individual empowerment and achievementLogic and reasonMath, science and the power of experimentationPhysical fitnessEXCELLENCEetc etcTHOSE are my priorities….my dollars keep it that way.My kids will be a great addition to any school they attend….and the public school system is doing everything in their power to keep my kids out, because I’m actually interested in my kids’ success and development.

    1. Harry DeMott

      Andy: I had this exact conversation with a friend of mine on the way to work today. Everyone is special now – everyone gets a trophy – everyone feels great about themselves (high self confidence) – but few have achieved anything.I went to great schools for high school and college and beyond – and the best lesson I ever learned from all of my education was this: think for yourself – read all sides of an argument and come to your own conclusion without all of the biases that people bring to a situation.You don’t see that taught in too many places.

      1. zackmansfield

        Andy and Harry: I read a book last year from a researcher who has done a bit of research on the subject. Book is entitled:Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled–and More Miserable Than Ever BeforeThe title basically gives you the gist of the book – I’m still relatively young but can totally see the effects in the “generation” just behind me…the teens to recent college grads.

      2. Rick Wingender

        Harry – you made great comments – we seem to be on the same page. I was complaining the other day to a friend that our kids these days are not taught – and have zero capacity for – critical thinking skills. I hate it when I see people commenting on the so-called “news” these days on TV – and they take everything at face-value, they don’t stop to think about the spin that almost every “journalist” (ha-ha) puts on every story these days….most people under 30 these days can’t detect bullshit even when it’s staring them in the face.

        1. Harry DeMott

          Yeah, it’s funny how people are willing to abdicate the responsibility tothink to others. I happen to have an hour commute each way every day to andfrom work on a train – so I have the benefit of being able to read a lot.Every day I pick up the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, the FinancialTimes and The New York Post and read them on the way in. At night – when Iam not reading research, I pore through magazines like The Economist,Forbes, Fortune, Businessweek, Bloomberg, etc…If you want fair andbalanced – check out all the opinions – then come to your own conclusions.I’m hoping that the iPad catches on big with readers of information so thatthe enxt generation will be excited to actually read the news – rather thangetting it from Yahoo’s front page.

        2. Tereza

          Everyone knocks strategy consulting but I’ll tell you I really learned how to think there.It was my post-Doc.

    2. Denis

      Private primary education is a privilege. How can working class parents afford it?Added: The problem is not with government but with bureaucrats running education. Putting lifelong educators who know what it feels to be on the front lines in charge of educational policymaking will solve a whole lot of issues.

      1. andyswan

        Well, perhaps if they weren’t pumping so much of their paycheck into the unsustainable welfare state of redistribution, they could afford it. Or if they got a voucher in the amount that the government is spending on their child to get a mediocre education, they could have CHOICE and vote with THEIR dollars.There is also a HUGE problem with parents. Putting all of the blame on gov’t or schools or teachers is unfair. If your kids aren’t YOUR priority, why should they be ours? We’ve developed a parasitic class of recipients that expect everyone else to take care of them and their kids. It has to stop.

        1. Denis

          Before we get into the argument of wealth redistribution, let’s compare government spending on the military/defense projects & on social projects. Now, let’s end the argument here because military budget is larger than many social programs combined.It’s true that school vouchers discount the cost of private education. But do they make it accessible to everyone?Besides, privatizing education creates even more opportunities for low quality education. Just look at for-profit higher education institutions: most people know that they are crappy, yet, they thrive because there are plenty of people fooled into believing they are getting something of value.Why do you blame it on parents? The USA is a consumer culture that tells kids from early age that in order to be happy they must buy things. In order to buy things, they need money. The logic then goes happiness = money, and then onto: if you want to become happy quicker you need to make more money quicker. That’s why so many naive people still fall prey to scams. That’s why kids drop out of school to join organized crime. They simply want to be happy faster than everyone else.

          1. Vax

            Well said Denis!

          2. andyswan

            That doesn’t bother me at all. Providing for the common defense is actuallyone of the very few things our federal government is supposed to do.

          3. Jonathan Peterson

            The founding fathers had a clause that followed “provide for the common defense”. Surely a well educated population is a critical element of “promoting the general welfare”?

          4. Keenan

            Maybe we need to re-define the word defense. I agree with J. Peterson a well educated population is no doubt in our defense.Who is going to create all these innovative, state of the are weapons.

          5. andyswan

            I actually agree with you in some ways. I go “extreme logic” for the sakeof making great points that are not really debatable in the realm of reasonrather than emotion.WE do have to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves. It’s amoral and societal obligation that I take very seriously.What I will not do, however, is outsource that obligation to the federalgovernment, which has neither the Constitutional authority (IMO) or thecompetence to deliver the results that I want for my neighbors and mycommunity. In fact, I believe that much of the plight of the inner city(and extreme rural areas) is due to the over-promising of thegovernment….which creates a culture of dependence internally….andperhaps just as dangerously, creates an attitude of “they’re already beingtaken care of and look how they act” externally. It’s crushing thecharitable spirit that comes from lifting and celebrating the individual.This is a “whose role is this” conversation to me…..and for me, the bestanswer is almost always “the more local, the better”. I have no problemwith local governments getting as large or small as their citizensdesire…..mobility is the ultimate check on tyranny and anarchy. What Ihave a problem with is the “haves” of Fredland and elsewhere being solimited in their thinking that the automatic answer for what WE can doalways lies with the federal government. At that point, I’ve given thepower of redistribution and confiscation to an entity that controls myultimate mobility and has the authority of the biggest guns.In short — I do NOT believe in an “us vs. them” world. I believe in a”every man does everything he can for himself, but leave no good manbehind.” world.Leave education local…..private if you can, but always always LOCAL.

          6. andyswan

            Let me know as soon as federal guidelines in education start removing CFLbulbs and polar bears and start teaching the value of state of the artweaponry and the science and technology behind them.We’re literally teaching kids how to put condoms on bananas and how toorganize for earth day 20x more than we’re teaching the basics ofquantitative sciences. The public school systems are political entities. Just ask the sierra club, the NRA and NOW.

        2. Prokofy

          I don’t mind if my taxes go to public education. The government *should* fund education, and extremist libertarian solutions don’t show any signs of working any better than the Marxism we’ve had to date.What I do want to go with my big cash outlay, however, is more democratic participation. I want to be on site in the schools observing and participating in my child’s education, instead of banished from the premises. I want the community to turn the schools into all-day/all-night facilities that help young and old alike with information, teaching, libraries, skills classes.I’m not a parasite but I’m not wealthy enough to have a libertarian utopian ideal like yourself so that I can put my kids in private schools.

        3. Keenan

          Andy, theoretically and emotionally your frustration and us (the non parasitic) vs them (the parasitic) classifications makes sense. However what your position misses is these “parasites” are members or our community. They are our neighbors. They are American citizens. We can not just ignore them or create a get on board or suffer the consequences mentality, because as they suffer we all suffer.The “parasitic” will be an even greater drain on the system through crime, disenfranchisement etc, if a system of us them grows.I think your intentions of accountability, ownership, self-help etc are fantastic, but your apparent approach based in us them, yours, mine, will not bear the fruit you are looking for.

      2. Chris

        Vouchers. Instead of tax dollars getting fed into general school funds, students can take the voucher to whatever school they want which reduces the cost dramatically. Check Reason’s excellent video and discussion here:http://reason.com/blog/2010

        1. Kevin Morrill

          Vouchers are just fascism instead of socialism. Government should be out of education entirely. If you think government will suddenly stop doing stupid things because they only regulate instead of run the system, look at healthcare and finance to see how messed up they are amid crushing regulation.

          1. Aaron Gibralter

            Kevin, what about all the other countries with better healthcare and education systems? Are they free-market paradises?

          2. morrillkevin

            There’s no actual capitalist country right now to compare to. We have not had free markets in healthcare, finance and education for at least 50 years–realistically more like 100.

          3. Aaron Gibralter

            Is there really such a thing as a free market?

          4. Jonathan Peterson

            You utopian religious beliefs are undermined by even a tiny knowledge of history.100 years ago, free market healthcare amounted to unlicensed quacks chopping off anything that smelled bad.100 years ago, free market finance gave us the long depression and the panic of 1873http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…100 years ago, free market education gave us 20% illiteracy among whites and 80% illiteracy among blacks.

          5. Prokofy

            This sort of fake historicism is really annoying.Your utopian leftist beliefs are undermined by even a casual look at history.100 years ago medicine was not as advanced, and the people who did doctoring also cut hair and served as undertakers. It was not a “market” but a badly paid service.The free market is not the cause of the depression, that’s a-historical. There are many complex factors, and the first world war is a big factor.It is not the free market that gave us the illiteracy of blacks, but the after-effects of slavery and racism and segregation. That is not rooted in capitalism, as your leftist ideology dictates, but merely rooted in hatred. Communists are just as capable of hate.Not even 40 percent of the black kids in New York City are graduating today. That isn’t the result of “capitalism” but if anything, socialist ideas pushed on the schools for 25 or more years with outdated and discredited social theory.

          6. Keenan

            You can’t have complete free market health care or educations systems.Free market is based on the premise of winners and losers. When it comes to healthcare and the education system we can not afford to have losers. The losers are the kids born to the wrong parents in the wrong environment.The legal system is a great example where free-market reigns and there are clear losers. The poor get far, far, far less justice and access to legal protection than the rich.

    3. baba12

      You condemn schools because they are run by Government.If private enterprise runs and does a better job at everything then we would never have had a bail out by Government ( the one you seem to dislike) required by private enterprise. This notion that somehow private enterprise and markets can monitor themselves and do the right thing is a view that does not hold merit.Sure there are problems with the current education system and possibly all the points you make are valid but blaming it solely on Unions ( formed because private enterprise only cares about profit maximization at all costs) and the Government.It is very easy to critique a system you don’t participate in and have shielded yourself from cuz you have the abilities to send you children to a private school with a lower teach to student ratio.Instead of criticizing public systems it would be better if you were involved in the system and making it more effective.

      1. ErikSchwartz

        Sorry. I’m not sacrificing the education of my children to make the “system” better.

      2. Bunnykins

        Run on sentences, using “cuz” instead of “because”…obviously government educated.

        1. baba12

          Yes proud to be Government educated and funded through a Government program called the National Science Foundation.

      3. andyswan

        Private enterprise “needed” bailouts because of government involvement ( http://andyswan.com/blog/2008/09/23/blame-congress-not-capitalism/ ), and even then I opposed bailouts and always will. Failure is important. Like most rich elites and office-holders, my kids will not be sacrificial lambs for the good of “the system”. Unlike those hypocrites, at least I have the guts to say that I reject it!

      4. andyswan

        Ps my mom “involved” herself for 30 years as public school teacher and me aspublic school student. The verdict is unanimous…..avoid! It’s onlygetting worse and these morons keep making it about social justice insteadof excellent education.Thanks!Andy Swan

      5. Chris

        The problem with government is the incentives are to perverted by bureaucracy to be effective in their stated purpose. There is too much room for obfuscation between the performance for the stated purpose and the methods by which a school’s effectiveness is actually measured and held accountable.The fact of the matter is that individuals (families) can make better choices about what’s best for their children than the state. There are far too many variable and such a wide variety of specific talents and needs that need to be considered.The government did not help by bailing out the imprudent companies. The prudence of private enterprise is heavily dependent on the disincentives of failure. Take that away and you might as well be government.

      6. Dan Cornish

        We should have never bailed out private enterprise. We should have let them fail. We also should close schools that fail instead of pouring more money into a black hole. We should treat failed schools like Fred treats failed companies, shut them down and move on.

        1. S. Pandya

          A sane comment in a sea of insanity

        2. Rick Wingender

          Dan, you must be a Milton Friedman fan. I am. For those of you who don’t know, Friedman, in one of his writings, once said that Chrysler shouldn’t have been saved. Yes, he said, it would be painful in the short run – lost jobs, lost taxes, and so on. But in the long run, it would have been better for the country because those resources – human, financial, and other – would then be free to flow to other, more profitable uses, other businesses. So, we hurt ourselves – as a nation – when we bail out losers like AIG or Chrysler.

          1. Tereza

            I have long believed that Chrysler should not have been saved. It bought us 20+ more years of dysfunction.

        3. fredwilson

          I thought so too. But the turnaround at GM has been remarkableOn Wednesday, September 8, 2010, Disqus

    4. Aaron J. Ruckman

      Andy – Everything you just wrote (all true) applies not only to public schools, but the nation itself. It’s the same sickness.

      1. andyswan

        Gimme gimme gimme…..I deserve it!

        1. Aaron Gibralter

          Do the children of the privileged deserve whatever they want by virtue of being born into the right families? Did I “deserve” the kick-ass education I got because my parents paid for private schooling my whole life?

          1. baba12

            Yes you deserve it sure, but in the end it comes down to your conscience asking you if it is fair and if not how you can use the kick ass education to find a way to make it fair.

          2. Aaron Gibralter

            What does it mean to “deserve” anything then? Why doesn’t every child deserve the same education I got?

          3. baba12

            Sure in a perfect world you would want everyone to get the same start in life. But that isn’t the case.The conscience in many of us is always trying to find a way to make the environment we live in fair as best as we can. That has and will always be something many of us will grapple with.

          4. Aaron Gibralter

            So again, I’m curious. What is it to “deserve?” I am especially curious what people think it means for a child to deserve something. Conservatives seem to waiver between charity/compassion and the hardline…

          5. Mark Essel

            If I believe nature, none of us deserves anything.But many of us are granted incredible blessings by those who care about us.How can we care enough to extend these blessings to all children?

          6. Aaron Gibralter

            I totally agree! I feel so lucky to have had a loving and supporting family. My point is… that perhaps “deserve” is not a good word to use in a discussion on the scale of society. It’s a great word for, say: “Wow, I worked so hard at the gym today… I deserve a delicious smoothie.”

          7. Mark Essel

            “Sure in a perfect world you would want everyone to get the same start in life”. That’s a loaded statement baba.In a perfect world I’d want people’s decisions, and actions to matter. By breaking the connection between actions and quality of life we are condemning the education system to break down.Can we entice parents to care more about their student’s education? Not everyone, but probably most people.What can we do to inspire differentiation in teaching? Reward learning and curiosity at every turn. Reward our teachers by empowering them. Their best habits and teaching philosophy should be shared rapidly throughout the nation.

          8. Dave Pinsen

            After reading a few of your comments here, I’ve come to the preliminary conclusion that no, you did not deserve the private school coddling you received your whole life. As a graduate of public schools, I am prepared to relieve you of your guilt though.First, we will negotiate suitable reparations from you to me, to account for the privilege you accrued but didn’t deserve. Second, we can arrange to have you belatedly experience some of the things you probably missed out on as a private school student, such as (I’m guessing here) having black friends, getting in fist fights, getting mocked by classmates in a cafeteria hurling creative insults at you, etc.

          9. Aaron Gibralter

            This is exactly my point. Nobody “deserves” such nice treatment based on luck-of-the-draw.Also… “black friends?”

          10. Dave Pinsen

            Does anyone “deserve” to have any advantages based on the lottery of birth? And yet children are born with different levels of potential. How do you propose to remedy that “injustice”? Should we hit smart kids on the head with clubs until they don’t learn any better than less-smart kids? Should we hobble more athletic kids so that they don’t beat less athletic kids in sports? “Also… “black friends?”Yes, it’s possible to have black friends. I had black friends when I went to predominantly black public schools.

          11. Aaron Gibralter

            What role should “potential” play in the organization of society? Do we know whether potential or environment plays more of a role in success? If we were able to assign a score to this potential and measure it at birth… would you advocate for a system that just put children on set tracks for life?And… my mother is African American…

          12. Dave Pinsen

            There are no “set tracks for life” but I do think we’d be better off if we didn’t try to shoe-horn ever kid into a college-prep track, and instead pursued policies that made it increased the chances that hard-working young adults could earn a livelihood in a dignified manner without going to college. The “Yale or jail” nonsense is part of the problem.There are two broader problems with discussions such as these, which I will address in a separate comment.

          13. Aaron Gibralter

            I’m pretty sure we agree on a lot here. However, I think the world is advanced enough to allow any interested person the right to a non-professional, generalized, liberal arts education before settling on a “dignified job.” I think most people would be happy to work if they did not have to worry so much about providing education and healthcare for their children. I really do not believe that negative reinforcement and punishment is the correct system for motivating a society to be productive; i.e. I think “if you do not work hard, you and your children will starve” is a counter-productive incentive system.What’s important is that we design a society where the most people can be happy and satisfied and dignified.

          14. Dave Pinsen

            We may agree on a lot, but perhaps not on how ‘advanced’ the world is. We don’t live in the United Federation of Planets. There are parts of the world where people still need to learn how to not crap where they eat before worrying about getting generalized, liberal arts educations.

          15. Aaron Gibralter

            Advanced enough to know what we need to fix. And I believe we can do just that.

          16. PeterisP

            A big motivation driver in doing more&better stuff after I’ve achieved much and became happy&content with my role in life is to provide a noticeable advantage to my offspring in their lives. Is it not morally right for me to pour as much resources as I have into making my childrens education and development as good as it can be?

          17. PhilipSugar

            You deserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That is it period.

          18. Alex Murphy

            These are ‘among’ the unalienable Rights endowed by your creator.”We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”Key here, our Gov’t derives its authority by our consent. If you don’t like it, work to change it.

          19. Keenan

            I find the arrogance of those born to privilege (not saying all are arrogant) interesting. John Stuart Mills accident of birth has merit in my book.Is it not a form of “family” welfare, when a child has their school paid for, their car paid for, and their apartment paid for until they can do it themselves?Everyone gets some kind of “welfare.” To suggest anyone has done it all by themselves is disingenuous at best.

          20. Aaron Gibralter

            I’m not sure I follow… do you think I’m suggesting this: “To suggest anyone has done it all by themselves is disingenuous at best.”

          21. Keenan

            No, I was agreeing with what I believe was your premise. That those born to children of privilege did nothing to deserve their place.

    5. Aaron Gibralter

      Do the other countries that rank above the United States in education not have powerful unions?

      1. JesperBergmann

        Speaking for Denmark which I believe spends the most per student in the world, there are very strong unions. Basically, they refuse to be held accountable in any way.Additionally, Danish students suck particularly in math and science compared to our peers.Interestingly, Finland has one of the best public school systems in the world and one of the ways the have achived this is by making the teacher into a 5-year university education that is prestigous and well paid (in Denmark there is low status in being a teacher and barely any GPA requirements).

        1. fredwilson

          the john heilemann piece which i linked to does a great job of talking about teacher recruiting and training which is really a key piece of fixing the schools in the US

          1. Prokofy

            It does no good to recruit good teachers when they will find themselves in a teacher’s union that will care more about promoting politically correct 1960s leftist ideologies than ensuring good outcomes for kids.

    6. GlennKelman

      I’m glad you can afford private school for your children Andy. But is there any country in the developed world where the government has no role in educating children? And what about the magnificent job that many public schools pull off in the better-funded, more-motivated suburbs? Some of the best schools in the country are public schools run by government employees in Mercer Island, Washington or Newton, Massachusetts.The inner-city schools are a different matter. I spent a year between Plumtree and Redfin volunteering at inner-city public schools, with Dave Eggers’s 826 Valencia. I am concerned about teachers’ unions, and believe that the government could do a better job educating children. The movie seems to cite many inner-city liberals who have gone to war with those unions.That said, it just isn’t true that public schools spend more money per student: the infrastructure is crumbling, wages are low, lunches are shocking. And the biggest challenge public schools have that private schools don’t is that they have to educate everybody, not just the motivated, English-speaking, no-behavioral-disorder children of motivated, engaged parents.I wish you cared about those students more than your own ideology. And I would respect that ideology more if the modesty about government competence and bungled good intentions extended to the military, particularly since most of the wars we have fought in the past 100 years have been justifiable on many grounds but not as a simple matter of defense.

      1. andyswan

        How do you know it doesnt extend to military? Or which wars I supported?Awfully arrogant assuming you’re doing there.The fact is, it is precisely because I do care about this country and itschildren that I have the ideology that I do, and that our founders had aswell. My compassion is not limited to the insane and greedy view that thesolution must come from federal government, through the confiscation ofother people’s earnings.We cannot continue to bailout the bad decisions of the expanding recipientclass under the false guise of compassion. It is destructive. The evidenceis overwhelming in those areas that have been the recipients of this socalled compassion for decades.The solutions are painful, but that doesnt mean we should continue to doubledown on failure.

        1. SD

          so what’s your point – do you think families that don’t have the ability to pay for private school should be left to a second-class education?

          1. Mark Essel

            Good question, but is that what most kids are getting now anyway?

          2. ErikSchwartz

            You can always buy something better by paying more for it.You want to see really screwy? Look at the other end of the spectrum. Look at Exeter and Andover and the doors schools like that open.

          3. Keenan

            What is “screwy?” about those schools?

          4. ErikSchwartz

            The benefits of the network of which you become a member far outweigh the quality of the education you get.

          5. Keenan

            Access is the by product of a lot of things, not just education.The internet is changing that piece.

          6. Rick Wingender

            SD – NO. They should be given vouchers and tax incentives so they can go to the school of their choice.

        2. GlennKelman

          Andy, I know that that you care about this country. I just don’t know what your immediate solution is for parents who can’t afford to send their children to private school. My own experience is that liberals and conservatives treat this as a political issue rather than a practical one.My comment about defense should have been made in response to a different comment. It was based on your statement in a comment on this same post that “providing for the common defense is actually one of the very few things our federal government is supposed to do.”I assumed based on that comment that your advocacy for a significantly smaller government does not apply to defense; that assumption may be wrong but it isn’t arrogant. Was the assumption wrong or not? And I don’t pretend to know which wars you have or have not supported. But one reason I’ve respected other libertarians is that they have favored a smaller government, with more modest aims, on all fronts, not just in social policy. I was stating my own opinion about the size of the military, which is governed in part by how often the wars we fight are truly defensive.

          1. andyswan

            The immediate solution would be painful for some. Taxes would lowerconsiderably and help people pay for education. In addition, socialcharities would focus more on primary education, which is now ignoredbecause “we’re already paying for that” and “the government takes care ofthem.” Just look at the discrepancy between private scholorships forcollege vs. primary education…it’s astounding and completelybackwards….a result of government intervention.I am of a libertarian bent, for sure. I believe the military should be ahuge chunk of our spending, that our military should be the most powerful inthe world by as much of a margin as possible, and that we should only use itwhen we absolutely have to, and when we are willing to completely destroythe enemy (you’ll find those two criteria to be very consistent.)

          2. Rick Wingender

            LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this comment Andy. I’m a card-carrying Libertarian. Maintaining a strong, flexible, responsive military is the one thing I want us to always do. Having been an army officer, and having been through enlisted basic training before that, I can say that there are significant benefits to the nation in having a strong military other than the obvious ones. When I was a pre-army 18-year-old, I was a cocky, arrogant, no-nothing punk who thought the world owed me something. Basic training, all by itself, taught me more about life than 12 years of public education ever did. Society owes the US Army a debt of gratitude for turning me into at least a semi-respectable, responsible human being. ALL young men should be required to go through army training; and if I had a son, you damned-well know he’d be a soldier before going on to the next phase of his life.

      2. ErikSchwartz

        What does “more-motivated suburbs” really mean?It means years and years of well connected, well off parents who give a shit will raise holy hell and damage local pols if their issues are ignored.

        1. GlennKelman

          I totally agree. And I agree that engaged parents make a bigger difference in a child’s education than anything else, including a great teacher & a well-run school. But there’s still the practical question of what to do with children whose parents are not as engaged. It’s hard for me just to write them off.

          1. bridgetwi

            I think the definition of engaged is the question. I think there are lots of misconceptions about low-income parents and engagement. The parents I know may not be chaperoning the field trips or on the PTA or helping build that killer science project but they care deeply about their kid’s education. And the schools make it very hard to stay engaged day to day. No returned phone calls, no email, no place where homework is posted, a timer during parent teacher conferences (3 minutes), etc. etc.

          2. Rick Wingender

            Interesting Bridget. But, actions speak louder than words. How can you say they “care deeply” when they don’t chaperone field trips, be on the PTA, or help with science projects? Actions speak louder than words. I do agree many teachers are impossible to work with (see below). But, what these parents CAN do, without teacher / school participation, is help their kids at home. For example, as a 5th-grader, I personally taught my kindergarten sister how to read and do simple math. Why can’t ALL parents do that? Relying on teachers is really stupid.I agree with you about lack of returned phone calls. When I was in graduate school, I volunteered through Junior Achievement to teach personal finance to high school juniors in Richmond, VA. Hell, it would have given those teachers an hour of free time while I instructed their kids about money. You’d think they’d jump at it. Unfortunately, the teacher refused to allow it, and was nothing more than a roadblock. Never returned phone calls, didn’t show up for a meeting, refused to communicate with me or JA. That’s the quality of teacher you get when you have a teachers union that’s more interested in protecting its income stream than in holding teachers to high standards.

          3. bridgetwi

            RE engagement: Helping kids at home, absolutely! Making sure your kids are reading, having a healthy breakfast and enough sleep and are stimulated by other things than TV/PC. That is engaged. That is what we should expect of every parent. For poor parents, the types of jobs they hold do not lend themselves to days off for chaperoning or leaving early for the PTA meeting. And really, many feel very intimidated by the school system.

          4. Kim @Money and Risk

            Rick,I had the same experience with JA. I don’t volunteer there anymore but with the foster children systems.

      3. Rick Wingender

        Sorry Glenn, I’m not buying what you’re selling. I know public schools waste money left and right. I do feel sorry for the kids that actually want to learn and the teachers who actually want to teach (and have to buy school supplies themselves). Unfortunately, the teachers union controls the government – the government doesn’t govern the teachers’ union – and that results in permanent employment for crappy teachers, no direct financial accountability, no motivation to be efficient nor effective. We should be at war with that union. I went to public schools 20-35 years ago, and they did a decent job where I was. Not anymore. The kids coming out of my schools today are less educated, less motivated, but certainly don’t lack confidence; i.e., they’re ignorant about what they don’t know. The simple bottom line is that until public schools become accountable, and until everyone has a choice of what school to go to (vouchers!), we will continue losing ground in international rankings. Outlaw the union!!

        1. GlennKelman

          Neither of us is an advocate for the position teachers’ unions have taken, so I’m not sure where we disagree. We both want accountability and choice. Maybe our disagreement is this: I believe that government has a role in educating children, even those whose parents are a member of what Andy calls the recipient class. This seems like a simple premise, one shared by every country ahead of us in the rankings, and many below too.

    7. ShanaC

      Too many private schools kill all private schools because of the structural costs that go into building a school. Bergen county yeshivot are at the point of near insolvency with rising tuition rates for ok schools. You hear parents screaming- reality is the problem that they under-built and when they built more, they built more individual schools rather than tried to go along with each other and expand what they had (as an actual district would do) Competition is not a means to every end.

    8. Dave Pinsen

      Interesting that Disqus interprets “priorties… my” as a hyperlink.

    9. Skywaterbanjo

      Charter schools are free, lottery based, and making a difference. If you are interested in changing our education system, get involved.

      1. andyswan

        I am involved. I promote the attendance of the schools that have the bestpriorities for the individual children that attend them, and that get thebest results. Around here, those are private schools….they are doing areally good job and I love being involved with them.

  14. awaldstein

    Accountability is key in everything we do…why not for teachers and the educational system?

  15. Jon Sarley

    If this were tech, we’d already have a bunch of Michelle Rhee clones.The great thing about paying more for better teachers is that it doesn’t have to increase the overall cost. We can just allow class sizes to swell back to their early 1970s levels.

  16. Denis

    As much as I hate this way, throwing money at education is the only way to fix it. Many talented people do not become educators because they cannot sustain themselves and because not everything can be taught with just a chalkboard effectively.And I do distinguish between teachers who transfer basic skills and educators who teach how to think.

    1. Bunnykins

      Why is it that in so many low performing schools, expenditures per student is much higher than in schools that consistently perform better (like charter schools and private schools)? Throwing money at a problem does not solve all problems, especially this one.

    2. Chris

      Money has already been thrown at it. We spend more per student (~$11k) than nearly any other education system in the world and we are still failing miserably. The problem is incentives, not resources.

      1. Denis

        It’s not how much is allocated per student, it’s where the money goes. They can hire a whole lot of administrators, serve the best food, and have brand-new desks every semester, but it won’t improve education.

        1. Pat

          Really?In the school district that my kids go to – they are laying off teachers left and right. Yeap home of Google can’t keep teachers.No one in their right mind would want to be a teacher – low pay and high job insecurity.

          1. Denis

            With such an attitude from parents toward teachers, no wonder kids are not getting quality education.Teaching is one of those trades where people need to go because of a higher calling not because of financial gains. Though this doesn’t mean that we should pay pennies to great teachers.

    3. Gorilla44

      Denis – do you have kids?Parents have much more influence on kids than teachers do.

      1. Alex Murphy

        Amen.While I understand the desire to have duel incomes. The reality is that if you have duel incomes you aren’t raising your kids, someone else is. Raising children takes sacrifice. Look in the mirror, what are you going to sacrifice?

        1. pat

          So you think having 2 incomes is optional? Give you a hint – it isn’t for most kids that I grew up with it wasn’t. I was a latch key kid at age 6 because my parents had no choice. And no they were not living the high-life. Unless powdered milk is living it up.

  17. ErikSchwartz

    We’re really looking at two discrete problems here.The first problem is in really poor and underprivileged neighborhoods. The second problem is the quality of education in middle class public schools. In the latter the big problem is the parents. In the former, the big problem is the schools.The other thing that should also find its way into the conversation is vo-tech education and what it means in the 21st century.

    1. fredwilson

      i think you’ll enjoy the movie Erikit covers a lot of this ground

      1. ErikSchwartz

        It’s probably not playing up here in the woods of maine, but I’ll catch it on one of my Boston or NYC trips.

  18. Chris O'Donnell

    Based on just the trailer and New Yorker article, the powers that be (and most here in the comments) are focused on the symptom, not the problem. We can make all the teachers millionaires, but without active, engaged, involved parents, it’s not going to matter much. Fred is right, parents need more choices. But those choices have to go way beyond a better selection of schools. They need to choice to not be a stressed out two income family so that at least one parent can actually focus on the kids and their education, particularly in the K-6 years.Another point, the adults my kids have learned the most from are not the best paid, best educated teachers. They are the most passionate about what they are teaching.

    1. RichardF

      completely agree about the best teachers being the most passionate about their subject

    2. fredwilson

      all truebut read the NY Mag article i linked tothere is some interesting data about using salaries and training to improve the quality of teacherswe need more of the best teachers

  19. kagilandam

    Everyone is equal in my world…but i am special and i will do the following.Blame the road for the accidents.Blame the teachers for me and my kids bad.Blame the neighbor if i am not bailed out.Blame the system and government for everything.There is no time for parents to sit with their kids over looking their education.Many parents are self-absorbed in what they are doing and how much they will make…(amI an exception no!!).In some of the good schools (in my neighborhood) they insist on both parents to be minimum-graduate (must) and one-of-the parent preferably (like button)not working until the kids gets out to university. Minimum yearly salary (love button).Good quality and smart teachers are hard to find in many part of the world now.Quality never comes cheap … r we paying the teachers enough?anyone wants their kids to be teachers?We have a say in this part of the world” good for nothing fellow? … become a teacher”.If this is the kind of world we live in… where is the scope for public schools.

  20. baba12

    I take a totally different view on why and how our educational system has gotten to where it is.There are strong correlations between the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the current state of our educational system in the large cities of the country.Most large cities from L.A to Washington D.C., Atlanta, Chicago and NYC etc have the highest numbers of students in the public schools system. Most of the large cities also happen to have the highest concentrations of minorities ( African American, Hispanics and others).Once the civil right act was passed and how we fund education primarily through property taxes, you see a decline in the quality of the education being delivered. There has been a steady decline since 1970’s in what is part of the curriculum. Whether done sub consciously or done in a calculated way, we have diluted the value of the education meted out in most major cities. If it became illegal to discriminate a person based on color how else to discriminate, why not use education. Let us dumb it down and when it comes time to hire someone we can disqualify them on the basis of lack of basic abilities like arithmetic and comprehension.To think otherwise is being gullible. We participate in it day in and day out. Minority kids form the single largest block in the NYC public school system as they do in Chicago, LA and Atlanta. In NYC we have 1.1 million kids in the public school system ( here are the demographics http://goo.gl/Wj4S).Most of the people who read this blog either got their primary school education out of this country or in private schools in this country. If they were educated in a public school in the U.S. then generally they went to schools in predominantly white suburban schools like in Westchester or Inverness etc.It is not the amount of money that is spent on a child that makes the single biggest difference.Money is needed yes but the biggest contributors to a good education are parental supervision and a solid curriculum taught by quality educators.In the areas we as a society control in educators and the quality of the curriculum we have done a really poor job in large city schools, as most of us have washed our hands off as we don’t send our children to those schools. As it pertains to parental supervision — If you are born in a single parent family or in a broken family or live in conditions that don’t help frame your mind properly especially in the key gowning ages from 1 through 6 you are more than likely to be maligned educationally.So the big question is how do you solve this problem at hand? Money is not going to do it alone.You have to seriously ask yourself as a individual if this system is not good enough for my children why is it good enough for “them”. If you want to bring about change then you have to immerse yourself in the problem at hand, and I doubt many are willing to do that i.e. gamble with putting their children in a public school system that will only lead those kids not going to Wharton or Harvard etc and then everything falls apart. Those kids can’t be working in a startup tech venture or work at a place like USV etc etc.It is up to us individuals with a conscience to see clearly how we have contributed silently to marginalize a certain group of people and sustain the balance of power.To think otherwise is naive and pathetic.Mr.Wilson says watching this film made him “angry and upset”. But I wonder if he sent his children to the Public schools in NYC. Seeing this film may shed some light on the situation at hand but to effect change you have to be determined like say the Jewish people said “never again” after the holocaust. They have steadfastly held to that belief and lived it so far. This situation with our education system is a Holocaust of children who for no fault of theirs will remain marginalized and occasional one shall make it out to keep the American Dream ( Anything is possible if you work hard) alive.

    1. Aaron Klein

      It is not the responsibility of those who want to reform and fix the system to sacrifice their children to it if they feel it won’t serve them well.And hopefully the “voting with their feet” will shake our K-12 system awake and make them EARN the support of parents. Innovative public educators everywhere aren’t afraid of earning the right to teach kids – they make it look easy (even though it’s not).I sit on a community college board of trustees. We have rigorous competition in the form of Heald, ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, etc. Competition makes us better.Let me say that again. Competition makes us BETTER.We have some of the most innovative people at our college because we have competition and it drives us to do more than go through the motions, and think through how to achieve better results for our students.

  21. Gorilla44

    It comes back to the parents. My parents came to the US from Europe in 1963 with 3rd grade educations. They got blue collar jobs, worked hard and raised their family. If my brothers and I screwed up in school, we got hammered for it. We were taught accountability and respect.The school we went to did not have great resources. There were computers. There were 30+ kids in a class and only 1 teacher. But the vast majority of my classmates came from families just like mine.My brothers and I all graduated from college (2 of us have masters degrees). One of my brothers is a rising executive in a Fortune 100 company, the other is a teacher in junior high, and I am a CEO of a biomedical company.By the way, my parents with the 3rd grade education, own real estate and are easily worth over $1 million and are enjoying a comfortable retirement. They got that all through hard work and saving their money.You can fix the schools all you want, but it comes back to the families. If the parents don’t care or are not there, it doesn’t matter how much resources you through at the schools.

    1. Gorilla44

      I meant to say that there were NO computers.

    2. andyswan

      Absolutely right on. Awesome

    3. Aaron Gibralter

      Lucky you. Lucky parents. For every account of people pulling themselves up there are many more of people taking virtually the same *exact* steps and getting “unlucky” along the way. Of course everyone loves to post-rationalize and say, “yeah… we deserve this.” Is this how the world should be organized? How about designing a world where we’d be happy to be born anywhere?

      1. Gorilla44

        Aaron,I have no idea what you are talking about. Luck had nothing to do with my parents’ or my brothers’ success. It’s offensive for you to even mention the word luck. No body in my family won the lottery.My father wasn’t lucky to wake up at 5 am every day to go to his crane operator job. My mom wasn’t lucky to sit in front of a loud sewing machine all day. My older brother wasn’t lucky to go through Army ROTC to pay for his college. I wasn’t lucky to go bust my ass to get a scholarship for college and then another scholarship for business school.No luck involved at all. We had/have problems just like everyone else. But we don’t blame anyone for them and expect the government to save us.Luck my ass.

        1. Aaron Gibralter

          Think of the millions, if not billions, of people in the world who work just as hard, if not harder. Are they not “doing it right?” Guess they deserve to rot in poverty…

          1. Gorilla44

            There are ways for people to come to this country legally, just like my parents did. I have absolutely no problem with LEGAL immigrants. Two people that I co-founded my current company are LEGAL immigrants.Are all current immigration laws perfect in the US? No. But I’m not an anarchist. Everyone needs to abide by the laws and work to change them like Brad Feld and his crew are doing by lobbying Congress to change certain immigration policies.Since you brought up world poverty, how much has been spent on aid in Africa in the last 50 years? I looked it up – $2.3 TRILLION. Why is Africa still largely a Third World cesspool with wars, ethnic cleansing, systematic and brutal rapes, widespread poverty, etc?Should more be spent in Africa? No. But money should be spent more wisely and certain African cultures need to change. We can’t just throw money (that we don’t have by the way) at everything. People need to change.(Africa is just an example. You can probably also make similar points about Afghanistan and other chronic Third World countries.)

          2. Aaron Gibralter

            “LEGAL” is whatever we decide to make it. That means we can make it illegal now to do what your family and my family did. I see tougher immigration laws as pretty hypocritical.Whatever money has been given in “aid” to Africa pales in comparison to the wealth that been plundered from it. Same goes for Latin America. Check out this book: http://www.amazon.com/Open-….I’m all for efficiency, believe me. I do not advocate for throwing money senselessly at problems. I believe in smart and thoughtful solutions. But we (you and I) have completely different understandings of the way things are and why they are the way they are…

          3. Keenan

            I get your point, but Africa is probably a terrible example. Africa is in the shitter because of colonialism. African countries are no different than European countries that were divided up by an imperialistic nation, who then left and expected people of varying ethnic backgrounds to figure it out. Yugoslavia is the perfect European example.Africa is a cesspool with wars and ethnic cleansing etc primarily because of European imperialism and colonialism.

        2. Aaron Gibralter

          Also, what do you think of immigration today?

        3. Aaron Gibralter

          Oh, I really mean no disrespect when I say “lucky” — it’s a good thing to be lucky in my book. I feel very lucky — my family had similar experiences, but generations before yours. Different people have different world views, and I could understand how you might take my comment out of context… I apologize if that is the case.

    4. Garrett Smith

      Great story.Thing is most parents these days are too concerned with “giving their child everything they want” than “giving their child what they need.”It is no coincidence that the rise of dual incomes and single parent homes corresponds with the degradation in child academic performance. Today most parents are too busy working all time (or must work all the time to stay a float), to have the time to dedicate to enforcing/reinforcing the materials children are exposed to during the day because they want to “give them everything they never had.”They’ve sacrificed their child’s intellectual wealth for material wealth. Over time it creates generations and a nation more concerned with what they have, than what they know.It’s sad, but true.And the only way to reverse this is to return to the days where what you know is “cooler” than what you wear or what things you have.

    5. Rick Wingender

      I love the part about “getting hammered”. Me too! My parents taught me accountability and respect. Unfortunately, too many parents these days want to be “friends” with their kids, which is easier than doing any real parenting. And to top it all off, teachers aren’t allowed to discipline kids like they were in bygone eras…and society suffers as a result – kids don’t learn accountability and respect, and thus, we have more incarcerations than ever before.

  22. Vax

    Education is failing us all the way around and it has more to do with the rotting of society’s moral fabric. Like it or not, few are concerned with the greater good as the dollar reigns supreme. It is easy to point a finger and blame teachers and public school systems, government etc, etc, take a look in the mirror. We all have placed more importance of vanity that anything else and success is often judged by the size of your paycheck not MEANINGFUL impact on lives. Take venture capital, how much of what gets funding will actually have a meaningful impact on the lives of children or solve some world problem? Instead we fund that which is most likely to be acquired and put some well deserved money in our pockets. Michael said it, it starts with the man in the mirror. As per affirmative action, Andy while there is some truth to your reasoning please remember than it was the color of the skin that denied many the privilege of a good education in the past, hence some of what still lingers today was implemented to fix ills of the past.This is a great topic Fred, but not one you can assess based on a window of data… I ask this question all the time and until I get a sensible answer I am sticking with education has failed on all levels: The investment banks on wall street hired the brightest from the best schools — why did they lead the US to the edge? It is more than education “schools” that is broken… and if you say otherwise you are simply believing your own little white lie and that is exactly the reason the problems we see have polluted our education system for as long as they have.

  23. Aaron Salis

    Is it just me, or is that an incredibly powerful trailer? It caused my eyes to start leaking some kind of fluid near the end there.

  24. James Green

    Good parents can take a poor system and make it work for their kids. We need a better system but parents are the key. Turn off the TV and help your kids read. Help your kids learn to problem solve. Help your kids with their homework. Get involved!!!

    1. baba12

      So what is a single parent who has to work 2 jobs at minimum wage do about good parenting. You may say that is the choice the single parent made and so they should suffer the consequence ( very Libertarian/Republican view). The Democrat would say lets put some programs in place that would help the single parent in some ways like a After school program etc. TO fund it there would be a compromise and it would be run by a private enterprise that will milk the state/Federal government running it but the services provided will be well below what was agreed upon, but due to the campaign contributions to both parties they will never get reprimanded,. We will pour more money and still get pathetic results. We will continue to fight about how individuals are responsible for their actions and should take responsibility and will sustain a vitriolic dialog that never has any real solutions that we care to deploy, cuz once we resolve the problem we wont have anything else to do.This is how we manage our affairs.

      1. James Green

        A single parent with 2 jobs certainly shouldn’t say I work hard and that’s good enough. Its hard to be a parent. It requires sacrifice (as any single parent knows all too well). You find a way to give your kids all they need to succeed. Find other parent groups that can help. It certainly isn’t easy but when you become a parent your number one responsibility is to make sure your kids are taken care of and have everything you can give them to succeed in life.

        1. ShanaC

          The question is more how do you parent when you are not there because you have ridiculous hours in order to make barely enough cash? Who is in charge of the kid

          1. Guest

            My question is “should you have a kid if you cannot afford to take care of them?”

          2. Tereza

            While I do agree with you, Satish, over time I’ve also evolved my thinking to believe we should have kids earlier in life than is trending. I don’t mean teens, but 20’s. Babies to preschoolers don’t have to cost that much. Our expectations create that, and it doesn’t really add value to the kid.My parents were older when they had me — although ages that are totally comparable to what people are doing today.As a result my kids don’t have grandparents, I don’t have childcare backup, and I’ll still be actively raising kids in my 50’s.I say, spend the money on education, lower the standards on worthless materialistic items and have kids earlier. I think that over the long run the parents and the kids will be much happier.How’s that for contrarian?:-)

  25. Alex Murphy

    Fred, thank you for bringing this into this forum.Although several people like to jump on the idea that the problem with our education system is the fact that it is run by “government.” That is the problem – its “our” government that is the problem. The education systems in the countries that are passing us are largely run by their respective Governments.The problem is how we have painted our governing process into a corner. Public opinion is swayed by media campaigns rather than by facts. Pollsters take a quick survey and then drive the direction of the debate with talking heads at both ends of the spectrum getting all of the attention. 90% of the population listens to the fringe to determine what to do. And since the 90% are really moderates at heart, they end up getting pulled in one direction or the other in some sort of bi-political roller coaster.A perfect example of how this is affecting our education is in Washington DC. Chancellor Rhee was brought in to run the failing school system in 2007. Her appointment was revolutionary. Kudos to Mayor Fenty for having the courage to appoint her. 3 years later, Rhee is at the end of the spear because she has done what she said she was going to do, she has rewarded good teachers and managed out the bad ones. She is actually firing the bad teachers. In 2006, Anacostia HS in South East DC had a graduation rate that was below 25%. This isn’t a conversion form, this is the percentage of students that actually graduated high school.Here is an article about what she started out to do from Time …. http://www.time.com/time/ma…Fast forward to today and Fenty is likely going to lose the Mayoral race in DC, in part if not largely due to the controversy of Rhee. Reforming our education system will take a generation or two or more, just as it has taken several generations for it to degrade to the point where it is now. So, the question is how do you do that considering the way the “system” is set up?

    1. fredwilson

      i am hoping this film will “out” so much of this bullshit that goes on

  26. bridgetwi

    I am probably one of the only people on this thread with children in the NYC public schools. They are 11 and 15 and have been in the schools since kindergarten so I have a pretty grounded perception of what is going on. My kids are getting a decent, not great education, and that is only because of where I live and my ability to fight fight fight. I am sophisticated enough and high-income enough to work the system, demand special treatment, call-out poor performance. And yes, it is exhausting. They are succeeding but the level of parental involvement required for this is staggering. If I were poor, or uneducated, or was not English-speaking or had a less flexible job, or lived in a less desirable NYC neighborhood, my kids would be totally and completely screwed. This is not about poor parents not caring. This is about a rigid, unaccountable, dysfunctional system. The parents know which schools stink and we work to stay away from those. But those with no connections and no savvy are stuck with them. The parents know which are the worst teachers and we all cross our fingers that our child doesn’t get that teacher…year after year. And if they do, we higher- income parents budget some money for tutoring. And everyone else falls behind. Why are we protecting this system? This system sucks. Blow it up. Start over. And for those that think that they don’t have to worry because their kids are in private schools, this is a civic issue. Education is the single most important thing we can do to propel our country forward and instead we all play nice or ignore the problem. Totally maddening. Charter schools are not perfect and not the only solution but right now, what else do you have, other than give us more money, reduce class size, let’s try harder, incremental change BS.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree that it is a civic issue and that everyone needs to pay attention to it

      1. Chris

        Being a civic issue begs the question what “public” education should the public receive?

    2. Tereza

      Really appreciate your insight here Bridget.We considered staying in NYC and trying the public schools but my impression was to do that with optimum effect then you needed a stay-at-home parent to spend all days working the system.Success shouldn’t be exclusively contingent on “working” the system.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Appreciate your perspective here. One thing that leaps out at me is what you are saying about parents who do not have the savvy to fight for their kids or even know that this is an option. My sister is an urban middle school principal and sees this daily. It is amazing how much time she spends with parents because they discover that she actually cares and have never before had someone to serve as a guide through what they consider to be an impenetrable system. They latch onto her with a sense of desperation as someone from the system who cares and that they can relate to. Their sense of helplessness is heartbreaking.

  27. David Semeria

    Few things makes me sadder than seeing bright, eager kids not being able to realize their potential.Web-based learning could potentially be the net’s greatest gift to humanity.

    1. Tereza

      I totally agree.But whatever role the web plays — and I’m a huge believe in it — kids still need places to go and be kids interacting with kids, and working out who they are relative to each other.We have to make sure it’s not a panacea and that it’s woven the right ways with real, person-to-person interaction.That type of interaction and learning can only come with practice. If you ignore it it does not go away.

      1. David Semeria

        Sure.But as a child I learned much by taking things apart to see how they work. We need to find a way to allow kids to take things apart over the internet For example: send us a photo of your dismantled doorbell. And now use the trigger mechanism to explain why you will never be able to see the fridge light go off. You know, that kind of thing.Curiosity is the best teacher.

        1. ErikSchwartz

          Never mind children.”What was the last thing you took apart and fixed?”is one of my standard interview questions for start up employees.

          1. David Semeria

            Agreed.But good traits are best picked-up young. And curiosity is one of the best.

          2. Dave Pinsen

            What’s your reaction if the applicant says he’s taken apart more things than he’s fixed?

          3. David Semeria

            Learning tax.

          4. ErikSchwartz

            It’s cool.I’ve taken apart way more things than I’ve fixed.

          5. Dave Pinsen

            I took a year of auto shop in high school. I learned enough to take apart a chainsaw and two mopeds, but fixing them and putting them back together was tougher.________________________________

        2. Tereza

          I can totally buy that suggestion. It’s a good one.

  28. Alex Murphy

    Thought I would throw this into the discussion …We are a consumer culture. We buy stuff and sit in front of the TV from a very early age. Baby Einstein at 2 weeks old and it doesn’t stop from there.When I was a kid, I had to go outside and find something to do, when I was bored, I would pick up a book. Books are where kids learn. I read about all sorts of things like the power of 10, Europe, and the Hardy Boys.My wife started adding something into the routine for our two boys, “forced boredom.” No TV, no structure, no games, no Wii, just find something to do. Go play legos, pick up a book and read it, play with your imagination. It is a painful first 20 minutes, but then they are off on their own for hours, thinking, playing, reading, and learning.The intelligence of our children is not just about our schools or our government, but the environment that we set up for our kids. Read to your kids, play with your kids, be engaged.To read more on this thought, go here – http://www.newsweek.com/201

  29. aarondelcohen

    I’d like my next job to be in hacking education.

  30. Steven Kane

    Sorry Fred, got to call you out here”angry and upset”ok, so tell us why.your lack of explanation is a screaming loud omissionyou are trying to have your cake and eating it too?everyone is distressed by failing public education. and everyone is heartbroken by kids not being served.duh.but what makes you upset, fred?the teachers unions seeming choke hold on reform and the democrat/liberal world refusal to call them on it because of the massive political monies involved?or the seeming tarring and feathering of the teachers unions by the republican/conservative world’s taking politically fruitful aim at unions and the public sector?me, i am very very against teachers unions in their current formand we send our kids to public school. i’m not a drive-by public school supporter like “superman” filmmaker guggenheimbut the refusal of the left of center to admit the corruption and regressive nature of teachers unions and their stranglehold on the democrats makes me want to SCREAMyou?

    1. fredwilson

      me too stevethat is why i am angry and upsetbut the reason i didn’t want to explain all that is i have seen the film and most of you have notwe’ll have that conversation in a few weeks

  31. Kyle Pearson

    I started out in private education for my k-9th grade years. After my freshman year of high school I transferred to a public high school, where I took a lot of honors and AP courses. The difference was unbelievable. I’m pretty sure my intelligence declined substantially every year after my sophomore year.Don’t get me wrong; I had great teachers in both systems. The difference was in the system itself. In private school I was pushed to be better and achieve as much as I could at my own pace. In public, I was required to go along with everybody else at the same level. Sometimes I was way ahead and other times I got behind, depending on the subject.Easy fix? No, I don’t see one. I do think more charter / private schools with a voucher / tax credit system can work well from what I have seen in my limited experience.

    1. fredwilson

      that is one of the takeaways from the film

  32. Jon Birdsong

    “The problem starts well before the university. In the recent Silent Epidemic study[7] funded by the Gates Foundation, 47% of high school dropouts said a major reason for dropping out was that “classes were not interesting” and they were “bored”” – http://bit.ly/aKiU6s

    1. ShanaC

      Well, classes are boring. I had to fight off kids with comic books. I always thought quality comic books should be included in the curriculum. Nothing wrong with a kid reading Maus to learn about literary style and visual elements in a story.

  33. ShanaC

    1)Ok, first off, I think we have some crappy data on the subject. I think the best way to resolve this is to start comparing students in districts where there is a lot of middle, upper-middle class wealth AND the parents have opted out of Public school for whatever the reason (My district is an example of this, there should be a number of districts like this in Bergen County, NJ) What happens to the students in the entire district no matter if they went to public or private school? What factors went into a college degree? No college degree? High school completion? Math, science and Language arts proficiency?2) Anecdotally, too many private schools in a given area creates falling test scores in the public school, and problems for the private schools (as there is too much competition on “nonreal” bases) While I may have a politically disadvantageous district to talk about- private schooling costs have shot up to the point of ridiculousness where I live, because there is too much competition among Orthodox day schools/yeshivot to teach the same material. Meanwhile, the public schools have emptied except for the poorest areas, and this one tiny area that just seems to buck the tide of neighborhood change. Test scores have mostly fallen off and have stabilized at a level below what they were before.Before the neighborhood really changed my understanding is that it had a top notch public school. We still have the smallest class sizes (or maybe second smallest) in all of NY state. We pay the teachers more than most districts in Nassau, NY.Parts of the yeshiva system in this area have taken on the “education honors slack,” not fully though. That’s the troubling part- is it a religion thing? Is it a private school thing? Or has education overall in this district no matter where you go? So it won’t matter if you send your kid to a public or a private school?That’s the kind of questions I want to know…you can’t solve the problem without even knowing what questions to ask. Maybe we need a stronger basic curriculum that teaches practical thinking skills (once you sit down and compare, is that the problem?) Maybe it is a lack of parental involvement? Maybe there is such thing as optimal class size? Maybe it is preschool?

    1. fredwilson

      go see the film Shanathe questions you are asking and your desire for data will be at least somewhat answered by the film

      1. ShanaC

        I will, but if we only have some of the data, how are we supposed to not fly blind into an even worse storm?

          1. ShanaC

            thanks satish

  34. Tony Alva

    With the major scandals going on here in the Atlanta School system of which I’ve followed closely, I look forward to the shit storm this film is going to create. It is far past the time to change things up. I’ve read everything posted here, commsnts links, etc… and appreciate it all.The K-12 education issues ARE multi- layered and interdependent with socio-economics, but there is no reason not to fight a battle on multiple fronts so to speak.I like Michelle Rhee. Her career path is quite remarkable and I think she is moving in the right direction with her efforts is DC.Sadly, the other component I’m not so bullish or optimistic at all about. As some have already pointed out, 70-80% minority kids being born to unwed mothers is the genesis and root of MANY of the problems facing education and America at large. K-12 education REQUIRES parental involvement and for these kids they barely get one parent to give a shit.The truth that is professed to be spoken in this film MUST find it’s way to the problem with runaway single mother births amongst minorities. We simply must find a solution to this problem. I would argue that the leadership amongst the minority communities have acted as poorly, if not worst, when it comes to addressing this catastrophe.The data fully supports what we’ve known all along for a millennium, we DON’T need any more studies: Two parent families provide the best foundation for success, particularly when it comes to education. There’s a lot that goes with this I know, but THIS is the other half of the education problem IMHO.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree with everything you say tonybut some of the successful schools that the film chronicles are dealing with exactly the kids you talk about and their results are remarkable

  35. Aaron Klein

    Fred, thank you for posting this trailer. As one of the few California community college trustees who believe we need deep and dramatic change in our education system, I applaud your putting the focus on this film and this cause. It’s critical to our future as a country.There’s another recent film (which had a very limited theatrical release earlier this year and I didn’t get to see yet) that followed four families in the lottery at Harlem Success Academy. I blogged about it earlier this year: http://www.aaronklein.com/2

  36. SD

    I haven’t seen any comments that talk about the influence of peers – in poor neighborhoods, the kids have to overcome not only their own parents failings, but also their friends’ parents failings.

    1. Aaron Gibralter

      Ohhhh, I know! That’s still the parents’ faults because they are stupid and live in bad neighborhoods.*sarcasm*

    2. Tereza

      I believe there are various studies which say a child’s peers are the more influential factor than even the teacher.

    3. fredwilson

      very important pointthe greatest value of a good school (or a great school like MIT) is the peerinfluences you get there

  37. Garrett Smith

    The root of the problem is that the majority of schools do not teach the skills that contribute to you being successful in life. Instead we spend years and years beating kids to death with subjects, rather than skills.There’s very little, if anything, in the curriculum’s about things such as:1. How to learn/apply a skill2. Managing finances/work with money3. Sell something/such as yourself4. Manage time5. Creative thinking7. CommunicateShow me someone who can effectively do the above and I will show you someone who can be put into a position to be a very successful in the life – both personally and professionally.

  38. Dave

    The sad part of this story isn’t the disappointment on the children faces at not being picked in the lottery, it’s the room full of people who resign their children’s fate to the movement of a random plastic ball.Seize your own destiny and you will never be a victim.

    1. BillSeitz

      I agree with the reaction to that lottery. It’s the equivalent of lining up for toilet paper.

  39. Judah

    I’ve been listening to Bill Gates, Sr’s book, Showing up for Life and had never really thought about education and early childhood development until now… I was home schooled, so the thought never really crossed my mind. If America is to continue to be a great nation, education — and particularly early education — needs to be at the top of our list of priorities. I agree with Gates when he says that competition at all levels of K-12 education (similar to the competition that keeps our university system #1 in the world), from students to teachers to staff, will help turn around our decline. We are failing our young Americans. And that needs to change.

    1. fredwilson

      gates is great in this film

  40. Laurachodos

    One clear and wonderful fact about our nation – is that we have a never-ending debate on the quality of education and the dismal failure of our public schools- at least those in inner cities and other poverty locations. The debate raged even when NYC public schools were also producing more Nobel Prize winners than any other city in America.I have spent my life on public policy development for education, school finance reform, after-school programs and inquiry into children’s learning behaviors. I also pushed buttons for Home Schooling, School Choice for children in failing schools, and for reform in teacher preparation.Our schools are a reflection of us. neighborhood by neighborhood.We absolutely need a cultural shift to improve the direction of American education and values. Education is lifelong, and its ultimate purpose id to improve society. It is never too early to help young children develop a habit of evaluating their own performance, thinking about how they can do better and what new things they want to learn.I like Gorilla 44’s point on learning accountability and respect. Parents have to care and set an example that is worthy of emulation. We know that most values are “caught” not “taught”On teachers – so many great ones and sometimes the only one in a child’s life who cares. Visit a school in 2011. Laura83

  41. Aaron Gibralter

    I think about these issues a lot. I’ve noticed that many people seem to hold inconsistent beliefs regarding what is fair for children and what should be done with the education system. How linked should children’s fates be to the actions of their parents?”Is it fair that children should benefit because of the achievements of their parents?” (http://agib.me/9QDemn)”Is it fair to hold children accountable for the crimes of their parents?” (http://agib.me/btKblW)Yes, crimes is a strong word, but how are these two results so orthogonal??

    1. PeterisP

      As with many other issues – it’s considered ok to give, ok not to give, but not ok to take away from others.If nobody interferes, children aren’t being held accountable for their parents crimes.If nobody interferes, children benefit from the achievements of their parents (assuming the parents want to help them).

  42. Rob K

    For those who said turn off the TV and read to your kidshttp://www.raisingareader.org

    1. Tereza

      Absolutely. If you do nothing else, read to each child 15 minutes a day.Have books everywhere. Treat them like toys. Have them accessible to the kids. (ground level).you want them flipping through books themselves, without you.And nighttime reading is sacred time.

      1. Donna Brewington White


  43. Tereza

    This trailer made me cry.The systemic acceptance of mediocrity is unacceptable.Relating to entrepreneurship and AVC, I’ll say this weaves into my life in the following way. As an entrepreneur and parent in your 30s/40s (and over time more and more of you will be!) — having superior options in public school will be something that helps the innovation sector.Why? The money for private school tuition versus funding an ultra-light startup — it comes from the same place — my bank account.Hmmm….$30k/year for one kid’s tuition? That’s just about what it costs to outsource development of a light web service and bring it to market.I postponed starting up my biz for 2 years while paying private school tuition. Our district generally has excellent teachers but they had one parked in Kindergarten who was a total dud but protected by tenure and was a non-starter so i had to pivot to make a change.So I’m curious if the need for private school killed any startups before they happened.Incidentally I just put her on the school bus yesterday, for Grade 2 at the same school. Fantastic teacher, although 23 kids in the class.Incidentally, I went to through this exact public school system a million years ago. And while lots has changed, to me most of it is better than ever. It’s interesting to watch the comparison.Since I’m sitting on the public/private divide, stay tuned and I’ll keep you posted.An initial difference I’m seeing in my hometown is the private school kids are a bit more spoon-fed. The adults do a lot more for them. The public kids of the same age are significantly more independent. It was interesting to observe them come together at summer camp. The private kids had a tough time figuring out how to get from Pt. A to Pt. B. The public kids were slightly sassier. I think who does well in what environment depends a lot on the kid.The thing that gets my goat most of all in public education is tenure. It is a huge damn problem and they’ll never give it up. To them it’s a birthright.All of that said, all of my whining about white suburban schools is tempered completely by the despair of these poor kids and their parents.I am choosing between “great” and “excellent”. They are at a dead end.

    1. Yule Heibel

      Made me cry, too, Tereza.I’m one of those liberals who always thought I’d opt for public education, but when push came to shove, I opted for private school (K-8 one-room school house, where every kid could work at his/her level: no “factory school” assembly line approach). When that unique private school stopped working for my kids in 2000, I looked all over the state of Massachusetts (where we lived at the time) for an alternative, public or private. We even bid on a tear-down piece of junk bungalow in a telephone real-estate live auction, going up to $950K – the “house” was in an allegedly “good” school district (thank heavens our competitors outbid us). When I saw that there was nothing that would work, we opted for home-schooling.I was an academic at the time, and that effectively took me out of the market for good (been trying to figure out what next ever since). So, factor that into the equation with regard to start-ups, too: people take themselves out of the work force to educate their children, to edu-punk the system, as it were. There’s definitely a cost associated with that.Then, in 2002 we moved to Canada, where we continued to home-school – but now with the support of British Columbia Provincial Ministry of Education resources. My understanding is that in Alberta, support for home-schooling and distance education is even better, but I’m very happy with how things turned out for my kids in BC. They managed to have all the resources, including a distance education school, while doing work totally outside the factory school setting. (They accelerated their learning, too, and my son is in his 3rd year in the Entrepreneurship stream in the University of Victoria’s B.Com program while my daughter just started her second year at the University of British Columbia. They are 19 and 16, respectively, and no one here batted an eyelid when they were out and about around town during the “school day” or when they started university early. For all that the US is so entrepreneurial and innovative, there’s a horrible lock-step mentality associated with raising (and educating) children. We used to get funny looks in the US if the kids were seen during the school day (perfect strangers thought nothing of asking them why they weren’t in school), and I bet the newspaper would have run a story on a 15 year old starting university. Really people, get over it. The factory is so dead.When Davis Guggenheim narrates the shocking statistic about US kids’ math scores in the trailer, did you notice the ranking for Canada? #5, pretty much up near the top.Teachers’ unions are mighty strong here (the traditional union teachers really hate all the distance education innovation that BC and Alberta managed to pull off – not least because it has the potential for downsizing “their” captive audience and their facilities), and I’m the first person to criticize any kind of “one size [or age] fits all” factory school approach. But Canada (at least the West, where I am) seems to have pulled off some successful hybrids, while still under the umbrella of Provincial Ministry of Education criteria. (Mind you, in Canada the system is so …um, polite?, is that the right word?, that even private schools, including denominational ones, are supported by tax dollars, something that boggles my mind, given that they’re charging about $18,000 tuition for a year of middle school. The private schools are actually covered for ~$2K per student by taxpayers… yikes…)When, in the trailer, the parents of one child tell Guggenheim that if their child does not win the lottery, there is no hope for him, it makes me weep. Parents have options – you can revolt against this system. It will cost you (a career, for example – minor detail, haha /sarcasm), but you don’t have to take it lying down. Read John Taylor Gatto, edu-punk the system, do what it takes. And boy, it sure doesn’t help that parents really do think of schools as “free” babysitting so they can pursue their own agendas. As Guggenheim said (in Heilemann’s article), it’s time to get tough on the adults – all of them. Everyone has been using this system in (as operating instructions might warn) inappropriate ways: that voids the warranty!Letting your kid rot in a lousy system with toxic peer pressure is not an option.Anyway, I’ll stop now. Read the article this morning, then saw that Gotham Gal had blogged it, and now saw Fred’s post & watched the trailer. I’ll probably just write a blog post about it later tonight. 😉

    2. Donna Brewington White

      Although the difference between great and excellent may be what empowers our kids to be part of removing that dead end for someone. At least, that’s where I’m putting my money. Literally.

  44. Dave Pinsen

    There are two general problems with discussions such as this one, in my experience. The first is that people tend to forget that many reform ideas have already been tried. For example, some will argue that if only we spent more money on public schools we’d achieve better outcomes. These individuals may be unaware that this experiment has been already tried in Kansas City. The second is that I get the sense that individuals who went to private schools where nearly every one of their fellow students went on to college may have difficulty appreciating that not every high school student has the aptitude for college (in fact, many don’t have the aptitude for high school, which is why some of them dropout). I went to two public high schools, one that might be euphemistically called “inner-city” and another that was one of the top public schools academically in the state. Even at the second school, there were some students who were not college-bound, and no one had any delusions that this was due to a lack of school funding, government programs, or what-have-you.

    1. Aaron Gibralter

      1. You’re citing *one* experiment?2. What is aptitude? It is notoriously hard to define. Do you mean… family income (http://economix.blogs.nytim… Also, I know plenty of kids who went to private school who were lacking in what many consider “aptitude” and “motivation;” not a problem: just throw in 10s of thousands of dollars for years of one-on-one tutoring and you’re golden… go on to a good college and get a high paying job.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        1) I cited one *enormous* experiment. Disqus tends to block comments with more than one link. Read the link and then feel free to comment on it here. 2) Aptitude is measured all the time. For example, SATs measure aptitude for college work. MCATs measure aptitude for medical school. The ASVAB/AFQT measures aptitude for military vocations. Do you think that there’s no correlation between performance on those tests and subsequent academic or military performance?As for correlations between family income and SAT scores, these are unsurprising, but not for the reason you suggest. Many high earning parents had high aptitudes for academics, which enabled them to enter high-paying careers. It’s not surprising that they would have children who have similarly high aptitudes.As for the students you knew in private school, I doubt you had exposure to students with as broad a range of aptitudes as I did going to public schools. The lack of exposure to a diverse public school student population seems to plague the thinking of some elites when it comes to education, as I noted in a post on my old blog, “What Jeffrey Sachs doesn’t get”.

        1. Aaron Gibralter

          I agree that they are unsurprising. Why even make kids take the tests then? Why not save money and admit students to universities based on family income?We clearly have very different understandings of the world. Arguing about branches of our beliefs is so inefficient when our roots differ so much.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            “Why not save money and admit students to universities based on family income?”Because there are students from affluent families who have low aptitudes for academics, and there are students from poor families who have high aptitudes for academics, and the way to find out who has what aptitudes is to test the students. I’m not sure what you find so complicated about that.

          2. Aaron Gibralter

            I understand the idea. I just believe that aptitude and merit are self-fulfilling prophecies.

          3. Dave Pinsen

            I don’t even understand what that means.Look, in the real world, we’re all better off if people we rely on in various professions are the ones with the highest aptitudes for those professions. That’s one reason it’s important to measure aptitudes.Consider the case of the late Patrick Chavis, the famous affirmative action admit to the medical school at U.C. Davis. Liberals such as the late Sen. Ted Kennedy patted themselves on the back about him being an inspiring example of affirmative action, because he went on to work as an OB-GYN in poor area of Los Angeles, but he turned out to be a sub-par physician and injured several women in botched liposuctions, one of whom died from her injuries.

          4. Aaron Gibralter

            Again, this is quite useless–you could cite endless examples and I could do the same with opposing examples. For example, see The Black Jacobins by CLR James about the Haitian Revolution–James gives examples of slaves, who were thought at the time to be subhuman, out-performing mediocre officers from colonial armies. How about the *countless* (many, many more than any positions afforded by affirmative action) heads of companies and state who have their jobs purely due to nepotism?”Look, in the real world, we’re all better off if people we rely on in various professions are the ones with the highest aptitudes for those professions.” Sounds suspiciously close to pre-destination and caste-based societies…

          5. Dave Pinsen

            What does the Haitian revolution have to do with this discussion? And who is arguing in favor of nepotism? And how are aptitude tests — which enable poor kids with high aptitude to qualify for scholarships to top schools — anything like “pre-destination and caste-based societies”?You are throwing a lot of spaghetti against the wall, but it’s not sticking.

          6. Aaron Gibralter

            Where did affirmative action come in? Why did you mention Patrick Chavis?

          7. Dave Pinsen

            I mentioned Chavis because he’s an example of the consequences of downplaying the significance of aptitude tests, as you have been doing in this discussion. Without affirmative action, his low MCAT scores would kept him from being admitted to the U.C. David medical school.And had he not been admitted to medical school, despite not having the aptitude for it, he wouldn’t have caused the harm he did to patients.

          8. Aaron Gibralter

            I don’t think that aptitude tests are useless. However, I do not believe that aptitude tests are an appropriate way to rationalize the way wealth is distributed.

          9. Dave Pinsen

            How (and whether) wealth should be distributed is a separate issue from whether admittance to schools should be based on aptitude.

          10. Aaron Gibralter

            They are by no means orthogonal.

          11. Dave Pinsen

            The Chavis example shows the folly of your line of thinking. Even if you are in favor of redistributing wealth, surely there are better ways to do so than putting under-qualified individuals in positions where they can cause others harm.

          12. Aaron Gibralter

            I never suggested that. (these are getting very skinny…)

          13. Dave Pinsen

            That seemed to be the implication of this comment of yours, “I do not believe that aptitude tests are an appropriate way to rationalize the way wealth is distributed.”

          14. Aaron Gibralter

            Does that necessarily mean “putting under-qualified individuals in positions where they can cause others harm?”

          15. Dave Pinsen

            Necessarily mean? No. But you can see the implication, right? If not, let me know and I’ll explicate it for you.

          16. Aaron Gibralter

            Please see my other comment regarding “agree to disagree.” I can see how you might mistakenly conclude that, but it would take far too much effort to continue “disqus” this. I cannot tell you how many times I have explored this argument since college with intelligent people who I generally respect.

          17. Dave Pinsen

            Just as well, I have to run out for a late dinner. Have a good night.________________________________

          18. Aaron Gibralter

            The Black Jacobins runs counter to your beliefs about and criticism of affirmative action. I was just showing I could bring up a random example like you did.

          19. Dave Pinsen

            Feel free to explicate how you think “The Black Jacobins runs counter to my beliefs about and criticism of affirmative action”. You haven’t made a point yet.

          20. Aaron Gibralter

            At every stage of our history we have certain understandings of what aptitude and merit are. Time and time again we learn our beliefs are mistaken and that our post-rationalization about who has what in society is misguided. The Black Jacobins explores the history of slavery in the Caribbean. The colonists and slave traders held certain beliefs about the slaves and what they were capable of. They were wrong.

          21. Dave Pinsen

            I’m still not seeing the relevance to this discussion. Perhaps it might be relevant if anyone were arguing that an individual can’t have certain aptitudes because he is the descendant of Caribbean slaves, but who is arguing that? There are top-notch professionals that come from all sorts of backgrounds. All the more reason not to discriminate against (or for) anyone based on his or her ancestry.

          22. Aaron Gibralter

            We are on completely different wavelengths in our understanding of what aptitude is, where it comes from, and how it should be measured. I agree with your last statement on a surface level. I am making a meta argument here about how there is always a status quo understanding of what aptitude *is*.

          23. Dave Pinsen

            I’m not sure you’ve made a coherent argument here, meta or otherwise. A lot of rigorous, empirical work goes into designing and refining aptitude tests. Aptitude — whether it’s for college, law school, or med school, or for military careers — isn’t that fuzzy a concept. It can be measured by objective tests, and the relevance of those tests can be measured by comparing the subsequent performance of test-takers with their test scores. There is a whole field of study dedicated to this called psychometrics. That French colonials may have underestimated the military prowess of Haitian rebels 200 years ago has no bearing on the validity of the SAT, the MCAT, the ASVAB, etc. today.Your argument, as best as I can follow it from your comments, seems to be that it’s not fair that students who don’t do well on aptitude tests tend not to get into fancy schools and tend not to get the prestige jobs they lead to. It’s true that that’s unfair, I suppose, to the same extent that life is unfair. But you have failed to offer a fairer alternative, or to acknowledge that, historically, attempts to enforce equality of outcomes have caused a lot of harm. Aptitude tests may be unfair in the sense that some individuals have higher aptitudes than others, but they are probably the fairest selection method there is.

          24. Aaron Gibralter

            A whole lot of effort goes into trying to determine what is “objective” aptitude and we are consistently confronted with contradictions. Aptitude tests are better indicators of socio-economic status than any “objective” or innate aptitude. Furthermore, given rigorous tutoring and preparation for aptitude tests later in life most people would perform better on these tests. By preparation, I mean everything from early childhood influences and parental attention to specialized schooling and tutoring. Who hasn’t raised their score 100 points with Kaplan?Our system is unjust, and that is what makes me angry and upset. More private schooling does not strike me as the correct direction for society as a whole. Beyond that, we must agree to disagree.

          25. Dave Pinsen

            Kaplan gives super-hard practice tests to make you think you improved your score 100 points. In reality, test prep generally doesn’t improve your performance anywhere near that much. Again, there’s a whole field of study related to this. I suggest you explore it if you are interested in learning more about it.________________________________

          26. ErikSchwartz

            If you’re throwing out affirmative action in admissions you should also throw out legacy admissions.

          27. Aaron Gibralter

            Agreed, but he would probably say, “I don’t believe in legacy admissions either.” This is getting out of hand and going nowhere. Have to unsubscribe. Thank you all for the discussion… kind of…

          28. Dave Pinsen

            Fine with me.

    2. Dave Pinsen

      Incidentally, for those who didn’t click the link, here’s the executive summary of that report on the Kansas City experiment:Executive SummaryFor decades critics of the public schools have been saying, “You can’t solve educational problems by throwing money at them.” The education establishment and its supporters have replied, “No one’s ever tried.” In Kansas City they did try. To improve the education of black students and encourage desegregation, a federal judge invited the Kansas City, Missouri, School District to come up with a cost-is-no-object educational plan and ordered local and state taxpayers to find the money to pay for it.Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil–more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.The Kansas City experiment suggests that, indeed, educational problems can’t be solved by throwing money at them, that the structural problems of our current educational system are far more important than a lack of material resources, and that the focus on desegregation diverted attention from the real problem, low achievement.

  45. paramendra

    Great topic you picked to blog about. There can be no knowledge economy without strong educational foundations.

  46. Yulian

    I wasn’t comment on this issue but I came across this article today and figured it accurately portrays a lot of the things that are wrong with out education systemhttp://online.wsj.com/artic…

  47. Peter Beddows

    Perhaps there is also another option worth exploring to find another way for resolving the issues preventing effective education of our children. This from a recent TED presentation certainly offers food for thought.Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education | Video on TED.com http://bit.ly/dfFpN3

  48. Petteri Koponen

    If you’re interested in a very different educational system that works well in Finland, check out the excellent WSJ article “What Makes Finnish Kids So Smart?”:http://online.wsj.com/artic…I’m not surprised that nobody on this thread has proposed experimenting with a similar system in the US; An entrepreneurial person, such as most readers of this blog, probably finds it counter-intuitive that short days, little peer pressure, and relaxed environment could provide stellar results. However, the article argues this quite well and even compares the system with the (surprisingly more expensive) one in the US.A quote from the article: “In most countries, education feels like a car factory. In Finland, the teachers are the entrepreneurs.”(I discussed this with Aaron K. way down the comment tree, so I took the liberty of repeating myself.)

    1. Evan

      We have these. They are called Montessori schools. heh.

  49. Evan

    Since this has become a general education thread, I’m surprised no one has mentioned that we should throw out geometry and trig and replace them with statistics and programming.

    1. ErikSchwartz

      It’s really hard to program games and augmented reality stuff without geometry and trig.

      1. Evan

        good thing most people still go to college? 😉

  50. BillSeitz

    I think there are a couple fundamental layers of issues:Narrow: I think the biggest fundamental barrier to schools meeting their currently-design-for goal of creating functional worker-bees is parent/culture. Note that lots of successful first-gen immigrants had 2 parents working long hours, so I don’t buy the “2 jobs makes it impossible to parent” story.The 2nd barrier is the decision to design schools as if the first barrier didn’t exist. Which leads to the lack of tracking, the self-esteem woo, etc.Broad: we’re facing a huge change in the structure of society and its economics. Schools are designed to win the last war. We don’t need worker-bees, we need thinkers, creators, merchants. The whole structure and design of schools is totally wrong for helping students move into the new world. If you watch Ken Robinson’s TED video, you’d conclude they’re actually *harming* students by *reducing* their natural ability to think for themselves.I think that the Michelle Rhee, assessment, and accountability models are all wrong, all oriented toward optimizing the old factory model. Likewise the belief that we need to push/prepare more students for college-as-it-now-works.We need a period of divergent experimentation and free choice. With lots of transparency. Power at the principal-level to design/manage schools, power at the parent level (vouchers) to pick from the market. http://webseitz.fluxent.com…An interesting example school: http://webseitz.fluxent.com

  51. John

    60 minutes did a piece on this on Sunday (I think it was a replay) and they had another piece similar to this on PBS also.There are definitely no easy solutions, but the real missing component I see is the families of the students. My wife and I just mentioned yesterday how bad we felt for those kids in my child’s class that don’t have parents to teach them and help them learn how to be students. If we can’t solve the parent issue, then everything else will just be patching a sinking boat.

  52. Alex Hernandez

    I’m excited to see outstanding charter school organizations highlighted in Waiting for Superman. I work for the Charter School Growth Fund, a venture philanthropy that invests in charter management organizations, and we see a couple trends:1) Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) like Aspire, YES Prep and IDEA Public Schools continue to get better as they get bigger. Right now, Aspire runs 30 schools serving over 7k students and it outperforms nearly every district in California. These CMOs are proving that schools can successfully serve low-income students at scale – no excuses.2) CMOs are modeling what great organizations can look like in K-12 education. A successful entrepreneur in our portfolio says that great educators find a hundred 1% solutions, not a single 100% solution. In this type of environment, great organizations matter and we continue to be impressed by the evolution of leading CMOs in the last couple years: professional management teams, strong cultures that put student achievement first, incredible execution across multiple schools, systematic investments to develop great teachers and principals, and a deep commitment to quality at scale.I love that WFS begins to educate the public on some of the issues affecting public education over the last 40 years. I hope with more awareness, we can move past the popular red herrings like:* Having standards forces you to teach to the test* Real learning can’t be properly assessed * Evaluating teachers based on student impact is disrespectful to the professionOur innovators have moved well beyond these manufactured controversies – of course you need a great teacher in every classroom and a great leader in every school. Our educators are focused on how to get students prepared for college. We’ve learned that student success based on state measures rarely means that students are prepared for higher education. Further gains in achievement will likely be driven by more individualized support enabled by technology and increased academic rigor beyond the minimal state standards. That said, I agree with Fred that there is plenty of room for outside disruption that goes around both districts and charters.I’m excited about the next 10 years… If you want to make a difference in K-12, now’s the time.

  53. ErikSchwartz

    My wife Kathleen further chimes in…”I have had to make peace with the concept that homeschooling, which I wholeheartedly believe to be providing the best possible life for my children, hurts the whole.  Any option that removes families with parents who are educated, affluent enough to have a stay-at-home parent, and passionately involved in their children’s educations (and this applies equally to private schools) are removing themselves and their bright, curious, generally well-behaved children from the public school system.  Those parents care enough to make a real difference in the public schools, and those children would otherwise become a positive peer influence in the classroom.I once tried to argue to Erik’s parents that by removing our children from the system (while still paying taxes), homeschooling and private-schooling parents are “freeing up a desk” and allowing the public school system to function better, with more resources available for the students who really need the attention.  My father-in-law (a professor of education at Harvard and Tufts) and my mother-in-law (who trains aspiring teachers at Lesley) promptly put me in my place.  The quality of parental involvement (both during school hours and at home with their children) and the quality of the students in the classroom are a huge factor in teacher morale and retention, and in school performance overall.  Public schools function better with the support of the types of parents who often opt out.”

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      I agree that you two + kids would be a great catch for any public school. But you should,’t be asked to do something that you feel is not the best for your kids. I believe that we all have obligations to society, but family comes first. I will gladly make some sacrifices if I’m the one who actually makes them, but I won’t make my kid do them until he can decide by himself.

    2. bridgetwi

      It sounds like survivor’s guilt. 🙂 Fear not, even though my children are in the public school system and have these positive attributes (says the mom), am I helping the system? It certainly does not feel that way. I started out fighting all the battles and slowly, I have just focused more and more on my kids’ needs while blocking out all the looniness beyond. I just can’t take it on. And I am sure you wish you could do something from outside the system, but what is that something?So, Kathleen, how about adding a teen and a pre-teen to your classroom?

    3. Dave Pinsen

      I think you’re wife shouldn’t feel too guilty. Chances are, if your kids were in a public school they’d be in gifted classes and ‘at risk’ kids would not look to them as ‘positive peer influences’. It’s possible your kids might emulate negative peer influences instead (incidentally, that’s a recurring theme with one of the main characters on Freaks & Geeks, which I didn’t catch the first time around but am watching Friday nights when IFC is replaying the series).The only place where I could see a public school gaining materially from your involvement as parents would be if you or your wife did the sorts of things Sandra Tsing Loh wrote about doing at her kids’ Los Angeles public school a couple of years back in The Atlantic (working the bureaucracy to get stuff like classical music training for gifted kids, etc.).

    4. Donna Brewington White

      Erik — I appreciate Kathleen’s thoughts on this. Our situation is somewhat different although I did homeschool my eldest through the middle of second grade and now temporarily homeschool another due to special circumstances. We are actually in a community with an outstanding elementary school and high level parental involvement, yet, after 5th grade, we have made the decision to send our kids to private school. I won’t expound the reasons, but I am unapologetic in this decision because of the vision behind it. The main reason I responded to your comment is that I don’t think the answer to problems in schools is for parents to “sacrifice” their children to the system. I believe that we can do far more for society by providing our children with the best education possible and combining this with teaching and reinforcing values that involve helping those less fortunate and making a difference in the world. Without a strong educational foundation, they will be less equipped to make this difference.

  54. SD

    I do think that much of our focus in “solving the education crisis” is on the “sell side” of education — ie: what does a school teach, and is it enough to satisfy the demands of a knowledge economy?What is not addressed is the “buy side” – what “seals of approval” do employers look for to feel comfortable that someone has the requisite skills (eg: an employer reference, an MD, a JD, a Harvard MBA, etc.).I think this is where new services (potentially delivered via the internet) can play a significant role — skill certification and reputation development. But the challenge is how to convince “buyers” (employers) of RELEVANT aptitudes….I dont follow this sector at all, so forgive my ignorance, but it seems like there is business opportunity in (1) finding ways to help develop better aptitude measurements that employers use, and (2) developing new pedagogical formats (outside of the traditional classroom) to help students DEVELOP these aptitudes.I think if you can find more targeted formats, and can take more of the learning out of the classroom, then some of the big costs go away (if you have fewer schools, then the costs go down). I would argue that both quality and fit of education are also likely to go up.

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  57. Toshi O.

    Eerily love the high confidence and poor ranking of Math and Science.I hope this move doesn’t end with a question mark, please tell me that Mr. Gates has a product launch queued up.

  58. scottythebody

    Wow. I rarely have much time to read all the comments on your posts, but this A VC community is definitely one of the best on the web. It’s not that this particular thread is so great, they are all pretty much awesome. This level of civility, thought and discourse on the interwebs is rarer than spotting a Zune in the wild . Even when its nutty and heated, one can still learn a thing or two here. Amazing.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Very true. A truly remarkable community that Fred has sponsored and cultivated.

  59. Lance

    Fred,Thanks for posting this. As some of the other commenters have mentioned, education is an extremely complex issue, and even more so at this point in time in our history. In my experience, parents are the primary critical success factor in a child’s education. In other words, a child can attend a poor school with average teachers and still at the end be educated and go on to college.If parents are involved, focused, organized, and disciplined with their children’s education, and the ‘culture’ of the family reveres education, then their children by and large will do well, irrespective of the schools they attend.Here is an interesting op-ed in the Seattle Times by a public school teacher:http://seattletimes.nwsourc…Being involved, focused, and disciplined means as families, we turn off the TV, the cell phone, and the video games. It means we schedule time each day to education, from helping with homework to to finding knowledge beyond a textbook and sharing it with our children.I look forward to seeing the movie. In addition to examining the ‘system’ and teacher quality, does it also focus on parents?Lance

    1. Alex Murphy

      Great Op Ed.This make me think … how many people read the op ed section of their news source?How many parents get their kids to read the op ed section of their news source?Parents are the key. Teachers are a resource for the parents. Parents are the CEOs of the family, it is their job to raise their kids to be outstanding young adults. Teachers (about 20+ of them over the child’s school years) will help, but they are not the key, Parents are the key.

  60. Farhan Lalji

    My wife and I are both products of public school educations, both single parent families, low incomes, hard working families that implored the benefits of education, both went on to good universities and great schools for masters degrees and I know many people who are in the same boat. People who went on to the premier educational establishments in the world from a basis in public education. So it can be done. But now that we’re parents with the means to afford a private education for our children we’re torn.Public school educations won’t improve if the best and brightest are taken out – or will they? While in principle we believe that education is a right and that a public school education should be good enough to get you to the best higher education institutions and becoming contributing members of society as well as leaders.We’ve debated with home schooling – my wife’s a primary school teacher. However, I’m not sold, I have a hunch that leaders need emotional intelligence and need the social learning that comes from being in a classroom – I could be terribly wrong, it’s just a hunch based on my very limited interaction with a couple of people who have been home schooled.The solution I think is three fold.1 – smaller class sizes – no teacher, no matter how great, can teach a class of 35 or so students and do them all justice.2 – larger rewards for teachers – banker, lawyer, doctor and teacher should be comparable in esteem and in salary. So tired of people telling my wife she’s noble for choosing a career in education.3 – empowering teachers – love the work that donor’s choose is doing and love reading stories like this http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-b… (donor gives every California teacher’s wish on the site).Thanks for highlighting this film and for the debate on your blog Fred.

  61. Brandon Thomas

    Interesting Post

  62. Rick Wingender

    This is probably my single biggest area of study and interest since grad school. Ever see the movie Idiocracy? It’s a comedy, but it’s no laughing matter – it is in fact, a sad, sad vision into our future. If I were king, the first thing I’d do is go Ronald Reagan on the Teachers’ union – one of the most evil, yes evil, organizations in the USA. Then, I’d get the state and federal governments OUT of the public school business, by eliminating them, and instead fund private schools, mostly through voucher programs. When I was a 37 year-old graduate student and research assistant at a major public university, I proctored and corrected exams for undergraduate classes. I can safely say that 90% those kids were simply stupid and didn’t belong in college. The concepts I knew as a high school kid were lost on these kids, and the standards they were held to were ridiculously low. That, my friends, is the result of No Child Left Behind (the dumbing-down of curriculums and lowering of standards), and also many professors’ desire to be “popular” with their students.

  63. Mike Su

    Season 4 of The Wire really delves into this with gut wrenching, heart breaking accuracy. I’ve seen it first hand the kids I used to coach in basketball in South Philly. Total failure of the system, administrators more concerned about election cycles and PR than actually dealing with the facts. Recently, the federal government ruled unfavorably against the Philly school district for incidents of violence against Asian students. I’ve seen this sort of violence first hand, and while paying lip service to helping the kids, the school district also went out and retained a top tier law firm to fight the ruling. Actions and money speak louder than words, and instead of spending money to improve the situation, the district went out and hired lawyers to fight the charges. This is what happens when we forget who it is we serve. In large companies, we forget that our customers are our users, and instead serve our own corporate bosses. This leads to decision making that optimizes for boss happiness at the expense of user happiness. In schools, this means administrators serving the politicians instead of the students, serving their careers at the expense of the students they are paid to serve. It is pathetic and if we don’t fix it, will be our downfall.

  64. Peter Beddows

    Just like a few other commenters here, the picture painted by information shown in the trailer brought a lump into my throat and near tears to my eyes. What an incredible indictment, not just of our educational system but of all of us American Citizens as citizens of our great country. A country’s children are its future: All of us carry this responsibility; unfortunately, we have all seemingly been asleep at the wheel, mindlessly allowing and tolerating the decline as if there would never be a consequence.From the trailer I see that the UK is now #18. Certainly better than #25 but for me that is just as shockingly below par as it is incredibly sad to see the even lower ranking of the US: What the heck has been going on here? My own children were respectively 9 and 11 when we moved to the US from the UK in ’79. Even though that was now some 30+ years ago, already the American Education system was in trouble.Both of my children were immediately placed into the Gifted Children’s programs of the NJ schools that they were placed into because they aced the standards in those schools based upon the standard that they demonstrated they had already achieved by comparison in their UK schools. My son graduated HS and joined the American Marines followed by gaining an engineering degree from Rutgers. For HS, we placed my daughter into the then second highest ranked (private) school in NJ from which she graduated just shy of Valedictorian and with a full scholarship to Rutgers. Their mother and I are both college educated in the UK and had professional careers which means that we both worked yet somehow we almost always managed to not have the children growing up without at least one of us present for most of that time whenever they were at home. I now worry about the future for my grandchildren.So how come it has taken us so long to get around to recognizing this dreadful decline? In particular, given the critical self-defeating impact on our society and nation that will inevitably ultimately arise from our tolerating this situation for so long in which each of our successive younger generations have been, and will be, increasingly facing the prospect of leading life without the benefit of effective education, we must make change now. The alternative could be a nightmare for all of us: In due course, our upcoming youngsters will become the equivalent of our jailers – metaphorically – as our generation ages and becomes more and more dependent upon those behind us who no longer have the faculty for critical thinking and/or decision making based upon wisdom and educated evaluation of choices. In other words, we are casting a die that will seriously backfire against us unless we radically make change for the better of our children – and ourselves – immediately … no time to lose.The hope is that the film, along with this terrifically informative, creative ideas laden, debate sponsored here in AVC will lead to some strategic changes being implemented immediately in response. Not yet another round of experiments or another rush to throw more money at the problem but a real systemic change starting with bringing intelligent governance and change to the Teachers Unions along with establishing inviolable rules having some real teeth applied to teacher-accountability. But hope alone is not enough since hope is not a strategy; can we effect the necessary change? How can we effect the necessary change?Our future and our children’s future lies in the choices and demands we make now given the stark reality now being very clearly revealed through this debate and the movie. It is time to act.

  65. Alex Murphy

    Having digested this now for 24 hours and having read most of the comments, I have started to ask myself, what was it in the trailer that moved me? Frankly, it was probably the lottery more than anything else. So, I am starting to wonder why?Just being born in the US vs somewhere else is a lottery. Born to rich or poor families is a lottery. Getting a disease or not is a lottery. The lottery doesn’t stop at birth, it continues. What if you get hurt, get a disease, or end up in a family afflicted by divorce. Life is a series of lotteries. We do our best to game the system, but it really is largely out of our control.Look at macro factors like life expectancy and birth rate and you can see that we have been gaming the system. Even so, there will be people at the top and people at the bottom. All we can do is try to make every day, every child, every parent better than they were before. If everyone does that, then we will succeed, at life.

  66. Chris Waldron

    I went home (Detroit) over Labor Day weekend. My friend who teachers kindergarten was going to possibly lose his job in the school district. He was up against a peer he was close with so it was going to be bitter sweet.The district decided who stayed by a coin flip.I am so thankful that I had a family who loved me and the drive to get out of there. The Detroit Public School system was my biggest obstacle to overcome in my entire life. Statistically speaking I have a better chance of getting $ from Fred than being on a successful path if I was still in school.

  67. Martinowen

    I am a bit late to this debate. First you should appreciate that the location of the USA in the league tables compared with compared with other education systems. Andy may care to note that the league tables include private schools. Then you need to look at the top of the tables and find Finland. Finland does have some private schools however they are not allowed to charge fees and they must admit students on the same basis as any other school.So what makes Finland top? In early years grading may be limited to verbal assessments rather than formal grades. The start of numerical grading is decided locally. Up to the age of 15 kids get free health care, a school meal covering 1/3 nutritional needs, free books and materials and free school trips.From 15-19 there are high schools and vocational schools – but you can take classes at both schools at the same time. You still get your lunch but you buy your own books.Doesn’t sound like a tea party solution. Maybe we pinko Europeans rigged the tests. (PS UK with a high proportion of private schools is only 19th)

    1. Yule Heibel

      I’m not sure, but I’m guessing those stats are PISA stats, which means they’re probably middle school (and standardized test-based).As for the Brits: they’re doing something really weird, imo (and I keep half an eye on it, because Canada tends to emulate them a bit too much). The UK has big social problems – one of my nieces taught in public school. She left when she was slapped by one of the students, …and got no help from the administration or the parents, who act like they’re entitled to the free babysitting and god-knows-what-else that schools provide these days. From her description – as well as my sister’s, who has to deal with hooligans in the ‘hood – it’s exactly the sort of left-liberal social experiment run amok, as per Prokofy’s impassioned comments. The lunatics are running the asylum, and the state keeps coming up with programs to “fix” things, except one wonders how they can do anything but make things worse.It sounds like Finland has mechanisms in place that are flexible enough to make sure that the kids can find a good fit.A lot of places don’t trust kids. But it’s very important to start there, imo.

  68. Donna Brewington White

    Fred — Thanks for keeping this before us. While you first gained my attention through your approach to VC, it was also your involvement in Hacking Education that initially drew me in. Entrepreneurship and education — two of my passions.At first, I couldn’t respond to this post because it just raised too much emotion and too many thoughts rushing together, but I did show the trailer to my own family at dinner and will definitely see the film.This subject was fresh in my mind because a few nights before, at a dinner party, I spent time talking with a woman who once ran a large fashion company and now is intimately involved with running a charter school program in Los Angeles. I was fascinated by what she shared — including success stories — and love the idea of people who have run successful businesses translating those skills into the education arena. I firmly believe this is part of the solution. One of my sisters has devoted her life to public education. Trained as a social worker, she is now Principal of an urban middle school — she doesn’t tweet much but her Twitter handle is @lovescitykidz which says it all. Even though she is part of a school system that has been plagued with problems over the years, she is PASSIONATE about “her kids” and their families(!) and was promoted to this role after only one year as an assistant principal because her superintendent recognized her talent. The superintendent represents another interesting story…someone determined to turn her school system around and taking no prisoners.I know that something is dreadfully, dreadfully wrong, but I don’t believe that this is a problem without a solution. And while my sister tells me stories about kids and their families that break my heart, at the same time her passion and hope are contagious.

  69. Prokofy

    Yes, Fred, 25 years or more years of leftist social engineering ideas such as those of Ivan Ilich’s “Deschooling”t, or even more most Marxist extremes, coupled with union selfishness and general diabolical indifference, have indeed led to the ruination of our schools.So we might agree about the diagnosis, but we definitely don’t agree about the cure. You’re advocating even more leftist extreme ideologies, Constructivism or Connectivism or whatever the latest opensource/collectivist fad is all about, fetishizing computers, child-centric, and touting “all knowledge on the network” without troubling your head as to where it will come from and how it will be reliable. But the collectivizations will bring only more ruin and destroy the foundations of what remains without replacing it with anything solid.Do you send your kids to New York City schools? No, of course you’re don’t! I do. I’m not rich.And here are the results, which has led me to call for the closing of Norman Thomas School.http://3dblogger.typepad.co…So do you know what you’re talking about, beyond touting a politicized ideological utopia? No, you do not.What a film like this does — as well as the kind of boostering you do — is make it seem as if this is a problem “beyond” race and class. But in fact, the school issues are deeply, deeply embedded in race and class and you do no one — least of all the races and the classes — any service by pretending it is anything otherwise.Except for a handful of the top schools that people kill to get into it, most New York City schools are predominantly black and Hispanic, with a handful of new Asian immigrants (and a few schools are nearly exclusively Asian). If you don’t believe me, go on the websites of all the schools and look at their racial statistics: they tell the story. Look at the failing statistics: they tell the story. The white middle class has fled them for the suburbs or for private schools or for the best of the public schools.These schools, where children are bussed from their neighborhoods for an hour or more a day for a fake integration that doesn’t exist, all suffer from hard-core class of criminalized youth that everyone is afraid to challenge, because to challenge them and their indifferent or criminal parents would look like racism.I’d advocate a federal civil rights agency intervention in the New York Schools, not only to check on issues of fairness among races and ethnic groups in chosing for the top performing schools — something that liberals advocate exclusively — but to see why all the other schools are essentially minority-segregated and pushing out the middle class of whites due to the violence of some minorities that the minority leadership now in the schools refuses to cope with.Monitoring the schools impartially and using social media tools to publicize the crimes in the schools very, very publicly is the first step.

    1. Yule Heibel

      Holy smokes, Prokofy, I just read your blog post. What a story…And it prompts me to wonder what in the world possessed you (and your son, who – as you write – does NOT want to go to these schools in the first place) to continue with these horrible school situations (as you describe them in your “Norman Thomas High School Must Be Closed” post)?If he’s old enough and capable enough to hold his own most of the time in gang-, drug-, crime-infested, rotten, no-learning situations like the ones you describe in that post, then he can easily hold his own as an independent learner – he does not need a school to get credentialed. Eg., Grace Llewellyn’s Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education. (Although, I suspect that, traumatized as your children must be by what they’ve been subjected to at school – the arbitrary “authority,” the violence, the on-off switch of pedagogical attention: a Kafkaesque nightmare – that both your kids will need literally years to decompress from this. Which kind of prompts the question: what was your end goal in sending them to school in the first place?)Approaches like Llewellyn’s aren’t a panacea (and, yeah, you’re gonna hate her – and I brace myself for an onslaught of your mordant tongue, which will cut my “bourgeois” liberalism to ribbons). Yes, Llewellyn and her lot are not providing an answer to the mass problem that schools and education and educational jails without windows present these days, but c’mon, this is your kid. Are you going to continue putting him (and his sister) on the line in some social experiment in which the only options are a toxic public education versus an unaffordable private one?I am tempted, seeing your affinities with certain thought-processes, to channel Obi-wan Kenobi and say (tongue-in-cheek), “Use the dialectic, Prokofy!” There’s got to be a third way. (I guess I’ll duck now! 😉 )

      1. Prokofy

        You see this story through the eyes of someone who a) doesn’t have children or b) is affluent or c) both.Children are required to go to school *by law*. You can’t *not* send them to school. It’s a serious matter when they become truant — they literally can go to jail. Now, you say, why don’t you home-school them? Well, it’s actually quite hard to home-school, and it requires a parent who has the time to devote to it. I’m a single parent who works — I can’t home-school, it’s not practical. You also have to get permission to homeschool, it’s a hurdle. Furthermore, when my son was originally put in the city school system, he had an IEP and he was diagnosed with learning disabilities, and the theory was that the public school would be able to supply him the professional support he needed. This was a whole other complex side story I don’t wish to go into now because it simply violates my privacy and my son’s. But the point is, he was “magically” diagnosed as not having these disabilities, or having them overcome, and then the IEP was taken way.I myself took a year as an independent student in high school but that was in a place where it was supported. It isn’t in these high schools. Llewellyn is facile and — again, not poor. She doesn’t get it.I don’t take part in social experiments. I do have to engage in social necessities. In the end, my son simply switched to a GED program, that can be hard to get into but we got a ruling and he finished school early with the GED and now has applied to colleges, so it’s all good. My daughter is a completely different story.There is a third way for those with money and/or time. People spouting remedies about education who have no children or who are affluent haven’t lived what it’s like and I don’t appreciate their spouting.

  70. Prokofy

    Fred, since you invest in Disqus, maybe you could get them to retire this awful geeky concept of forums management that involves diminishing ideas by forcing them into narrow columns the more back and forth there occurs in discussion.That’s really sinister stuff, as it implies that blog posts should get only one comment, and should never argue. But debate is the lifeblood of democracy.

  71. Alex Murphy

    For those that are interested in this topic, you should tune into Oprah now to see the guy who coined the term “Waiting for Superman”

  72. Hank Williams

    Yes. Early childhood education is a huge issue. One of the problems is that until recently there hasnt been any hards statistics proving that it worked. But recently there was a study which demonstrated that *life outcomes* for kids that had great kindergarten teachers was significantly better, even when controlled for other potential variants, as discussed in this NYT piece: http://nyti.ms/ckkXi6

  73. Dan Lewis

    We have to think outside the classroom. I work for the non-profit behind Sesame Street, and am still new (started in January), but not a day goes by where I don’t see something else going on which blinks with that flashing LED sign screaming “opportunity!” It’s unbelievable.I’m sitting here at my dining room table writing a blog post and my son — two and a half — is watching the “Where the H*ll is Matt” video on my iPod, asking me “where’s that?” as the scene changes. He got the iPod to play the video himself. He moved to that after playing a game which teaches him shape recognition. Before that, he was watching Sesame videos with me. He woke up an hour ago.Preschool starts in two weeks, but he’s been learning for an hour.

  74. Aaron Klein

    Charlie – I’m dealing with many of the same problems here in California on the community college board I sit on.The insanity of “pensions, healthcare and contractual salary increases” in a year where millions of Americans not lucky enough to work for their government are losing their jobs and homes is immoral and just plain wrong.The best picture of how wrong? Look at the difference in job losses between the protected class and the private sector in California: http://www.aaronklein.com/2

  75. Tereza

    Good luck, Charlie.I’ve done a ton of reading on the topic too and I think the evidence for juicing up ed through that age — some call it “changing of the teeth” — is a key developmental milestone and money/time/effort invested early pays back later.The second period of time I repeatedly hear is middle school….which we can probably all remember is somewhat radioactive. Kids can swing in all different directions from this pivot point.In both cases I’ve heard this in the context of several types of resource allocation: funding (public), whether you go public/private, as well as if mom is going to stay home and focus on the kids.

  76. Fernando Gutierrez

    Totally agree about the need of all society getting involved. I don’t know the American system very well, but in Spain we have also a lot of problems with education (in fact in one of the graphs that appear in the trailer Spain is next to the US).Improving schools is a must, but the problem is usually much bigger than that. It starts when, as a society, we don’t recognize education as important. And we don’t. We pay a teacher a fraction of what we pay to any sportsman or celebrity-without-known-ocupation. We say we care but then anything is more important than helping a kid with homework. We say that the budget for education should increase, but then nobody blinks when it’s cut.I think that education is the single most important policy in any country. I would cut pensions before education. If an adult is in a bad position he/she usually has some responsability, but a kid doesn’t. If you want equal opportunities you need decent education for everyone.

  77. RichardF

    Absolutely Charlie, parent accountability as well as teacher accountability is essential. My wife is a teacher and here in the UK at her school she is fully accountable, the same cannot be said of the parents. I hear it all the time from her that the difference (in behaviour and academic results) between the children whose parents are engaged and supportive and those who are not is self-evident.You cannot abdicate final responsibility for your child’s education to a school.

  78. zackmansfield

    learning for an hour next to a parent who is a) next to him, cajoling, encouraging, etc and b) has an iPad/resources to help him learnit *feels* like such an insurmountable challenge to replicate this type of development (either in school or out) with kids who don’t have a) and b)

  79. ShanaC

    FYI, I want to congratulate you. You guys have the best children website I have ever seen in my life. Abnormally cute, and it uses repetition and reinforcement techniques inside a clear storyline. Super engagingIf you want to build an education startup, you need to see what they did. Their website is truly the hurdle you have to jump.

  80. Dan Lewis

    Fixing part B is easy. There’s a ton of free content out there — infact, everything I mentioned in my comment is freely available. Thedistribution devices out there aren’t expensive. Infrastructure (wifieverywhere) is one part. Devices is another. But really, except forthe poorest children, both are there or at least attainable.Fixing part A comes by changing our attitude about learning. Learningisn’t an activity. It’s a fact of life. Every time you do something,hear something, read something, see something, etc., you learn.But we’re hung up on “learning” being an activity. For example, we asa society try and make learning fun and engaging. That’s backward.We should be making fun and engaging things educational. iPods arefun. Videos are fun. Etc. I didn’t tell my son to go play theshapes game on the iPod. He picked up the iPod, found the game, andstarted playing all by himself. He wasn’t trying to learn and, moreimportantly, I wasn’t actively trying to teach him. He was trying tohave fun and I was happy that my little kid was enjoying himself whileI wrote a comment on a blog post.And now he knows what about 20 different shapes look like. Byaccident (kind of).

  81. Tereza

    It’s a mindset. The same people who are charismatic managers and train their people on the job are probably also the same raw material for being good teachers. You need to have a clear view of the outcome you want but be flexible about the child’s path to get there and let it happen.

  82. Dan Lewis

    1) Everyone is a teacher.2) No one can stop being a teacher.I think that’s easily demonstrated, so I won’t do so here. If you’reskeptical about that, do me a favor and accept it as true, for sake ofargument.3) Most adults know how to engage children, even if it’s by delegatingto a toy/TV show/game which doesn’t engage us.4) We, as teachers, impart more than just knowledge, which ispositive. The other stuff we teach (habits, attitudes, etc.) could bepositive or negative.5) Number four is also true when we delegate engagement to toys/media.If I’m right, then we shouldn’t be looking for the best teachers.It’d be foolosh, because we outsourcing the teaching, which Ipostulate doesn’t work, instead of improving the value of what weteach, which I assert is possible.