Reinventing Education

Alibaba founder Jack Ma has announced that he plans to retire at age 54 and turn his attention back to education. He started his career as an English teacher.

It seems, from reading the piece I linked to and a few other news reports, that Jack Ma is inspired by what Bill and Melinda Gates have done.

So am I.

Bill Gates attended AFSE, a school that the Gotham Gal and I helped to start seven years ago, this spring and he wrote this recently about that experience.

Many have criticized the work that the Gates Foundation has done in education over the years.

But my view is different.

Bill and Melinda are investing, learning, evolving, and adapting their efforts.

Just like we all do in life.

Bill’s visit to AFSE showed him something he liked. He was inspired by it, wrote about it, and I suspect it will influence the way he thinks a bit.

Like Jack Ma, Bill and Melinda are relatively young and have so much capital to invest in education and their other target areas.

The impact people like Bill, Melinda, and Jack can and will have on education around the world is immense.

And we need it.

Education is provided very unevenly on planet earth.

A high-quality education is easy to come by if you are wealthy and/or live in a wealthy country.

But even in the US, a very wealthy country, we have much of our population receiving a poor or uneven education at best.

I see this in the NYC public school system where I do most of my education philanthropy.

We have 1.1 million public school students here in NYC and many of them are not getting the education they need and deserve.

The reasons for this are many and the solutions are hard.

But I see amazing things happen in the middle of this mess and I know that we can help more kids get a better education and we are doing that.

Reinventing education requires not just working inside the established systems, it means working outside of them and ultimately rethinking them and replacing them.

But all of this has to happen in parallel. We cannot let the existing systems falter and fail our children while we are busy finding better ways.

At USV, we have a number of exciting portfolio companies that are rethinking how education should work. Companies like DuoLingo, Quizlet, Codecademy, Skillshare, and Top Hat.

Part of the answer is backing entrepreneurs like the ones behind these companies to come up with better, less expensive, and more available education solutions for our globe.

And part of the answer is changing the way employers think about education. At USV, we do not require any sort of degree to work for us. But we require skills, knowledge, and curiosity. Many larger companies are starting to do the same.

The internet and technology writ large are making it a lot easier for someone to learn something. But we have barely scratched the surface of what is possible. Twenty-five years after the emergence of the web browser and the commercial internet, education still works largely like it did back then.

That is going to change, is changing, and I am very excited for it to happen.

And I am happy that massively successful people like Bill and Melinda Gates and Jack Ma are focusing their capital and productive energy in this area.

I am too.

#hacking education

Comments (Archived):

  1. jason wright

    “A high-quality education is easy to come by if you are wealthy and/or live in a wealthy country.”Another reason why the ‘UK’ is on borrowed time. A Scottish student’s university fees are paid for by the Scottish government. An English student’s university fees are not paid for by the English government (or anyone else but the English student, unless from a wealthy). There is no English government, no English parliament, only the UK parliament at Westminster. English people have no equivalent independent democratic representation at the country level. How fucked up is that? Very, but i digress.Scottish students can come to English universities and have their fees paid for from the taxes of the entire UK population, the vast majority of whom are English. An English student on the same course as a Scottish student at an English university has to (again unless their family is wealthy) take out repayable loans to cover the course’s fees. Two British citizens studying on the same course but with totally different economic conditions applying. How fucked up is that? Completely.In England, a wealthy country the last time i looked (but wealth highly concentrated in the hands of an elite few), you either come from a wealthy family and avoid student debt, or you don’t go to university at all unless you want to risk being crushed by debt and never ending repayments.I did meet an American student in France about ten years ago, Mike from Washington state (or was it Oregon?). He’d just finished a multi year course in the US and had debts of $350,000. A boat anchor.

  2. Mike Zamansky

    I’m one of those critics.Sure, we needed more small schools in NYC but killing all the larger ones was devastating to music and arts programs.Stack ranking teachers and high stakes testing has killed morale.Evaluating teachers by test scores? That’s another winner.And when the damage has been done, Bill Gates said, “I guess education’s harder than I thought” and then doubles down on not common core while not engaging real teachers.All the while, wealthy philanthropists tell teachers what education should look like and then send their own kids to elite exclusive private schools with small class sizes and knowledgable experienced teachers.The original idea behind charters would have been the way to go had it not been corrupted by money, politics and greed. Originally charters were supposed to be labs that took the hardest cases, developed best practices, and they’d then share back to the public schools. It never happened but it could have worked.

    1. PhilipSugar

      I didn’t know they did stack ranking in addition to tests……how awful.Stack Ranking = Hey can you give me help/feedback/collaboration on this curriculum? Best case: I’m really too busy. Worst case: Give you wrong info, and then report it to make sure your ranking goes down and mine goes up.Evaluating by test scores = I game the test, I teach for the test, I’ll do anything not to get kids who don’t take standardized tests well or are not motivated not to be in my class.

      1. Mike Zamansky

        Many business + money people tend to think that schools should be run like a business and that teachers are motivated by profit.100% wrong on both counts.

        1. PhilipSugar

          Uumm no good business would do either. Low performers do earn much less. I’d look at colleges.Now the issue is tough because what it does mean is that those kids who are not motivated and or pushed by parents and or have hard time getting transportation are in for a worse time.And that is tough. No different than business you are defined by the quality of your bottom quintile. If it is really low it drags everyone else down. We saw this in Delaware before they stopped busing and got magnet schools. The issue as you say is motivated parents would put kids in private school, it was so hard to get them enrolled people literally camped out in line. So the top left, the bottom got worse and schools sucked.After the change private schools have gone out of business and are begging advertising for students. Kind of telling.But fundamentally it’s hard. In our area they try and solve by reserving spots for certain groups. Now that’s well and good until your kid who is better qualified doesn’t get in.That’s the hard discussion. If some get better some will get worse. And it will be a feedback loop. That is really hard. One way to help is programs like Mike Rowe http://profoundlydisconnect… but teachers seem to hate that too.

          1. Mike Zamansky

            You’d have to look at colleges that have open enrollment policies and even then I don’t know how much you could compare them.Is the purpose of K12 education only to prepare students for jobs? To create informed, functional citizens? Encourage creatives? All or some of the above and more?How do you judge if a teacher is effective? Over 27 years I’ve had plenty of kids do poorly in my class only to come back later citing me as a big part of their later success. What did I do that’s measurable to impact their future success? Why did they struggle with me first time around? Was it my fault? Theirs? Their parents? The school scheduler? The History teacher that gave 3 hours of homework a nitght that semester?It shows a great deal of hubris for people like Bill Gates to push their pet beliefs on school systems when it’s clear they didn’t do due diligence.

          2. PhilipSugar

            See my comment. Do an undercover boss. Teach for a semester with nobody knowing who you are.

          3. Mike Zamansky

            Love this!

          4. PhilipSugar

            You have to be able to understand before you can fix. And this is a really hard problem. You are right what is the purpose? I’d say give people the chance to learn not make them learn, because you can’t make somebody learn. Horse to water.And yes you are right is it you MikeZ that is responsible for making somebody successful in that moment? That so brief moment in time.Let me tell the story of two interns.One “Bob” viewed internship as a vacation. Sorry I stayed at the beach an extra day. I forgot about that, I was out late last night so I’m late. He asked for a letter of recommendation. Jim said I would have fired you but Phil said you had only another month let’s salvage what we have. He was crushed. He came back in two days later and literally thanked Jim and said that was a wakeup call and a lesson.Another “Bill” put together some of the best dashboard screens we post on a big screen in our office about the Billions of transactions we process, people love them. When other execs come I make him stand up and explain what he did as that is an important skill, he is very shy. We never did because well we were busy worrying about processing Billions of transactions. Yes, I have heard somebody tell him: “look junior bird man, they might teach you that in school, but here is how we do it, and if you touch that third rail section of code you are out of here so fast (it was something worse than that)”He asked: “my parents don’t like me working during the semester but I showed them I learn so much here maybe can I get some hours?” Name the times Bill.Same place, same people, both had learning experiences but very different. That is what people don’t understand. Did I provide a good learning experience for each? I’d argue so, but certainly the outcomes in that moment were different.

          5. LE

            Yeah but that’s n=1 experience. One semester? [1] Also many things actually change because people having ideas and making decisions are not jaded by what can’t be done they don’t know what can’t work. So they forge ahead and often what they are doing (for lack of ‘jade’) ends up being a great idea. Because the creativity is not sniffled by ‘that will never work’.[1] Reminds me of the ‘Curb’ episode where Larry David thought he could sell cars better than a car salesman. He could probably but he would have to stick with it for a long time for that to happen.

          6. PhilipSugar

            No we argue about this all of the time. Were you as good as your best pressman? Know what a shitty day was like for them?Probably not but at least you had an idea.

    2. Rob Underwood

      The core issue I see it is that too many of the wealthy individuals, well funded non-profits, and corporations in this space exhibit all of the following characteristics:1. They do not take the time to personally visit schools, especially in tougher to get to locations and/or less safes areas, to hear from school communities (see my comment elsewhere re our host not making this mistake). You can’t know what’s really going on in schools if you can’t make the time to visit and hear from school leaders, teachers, parents, and students.2. Related to this first point, the hubris of what I call “Ready. Disrupt. Aim.” — the idea that schools and teaching is being done so wrong that it needs to be disrupted w/o gaining any context for why things are the way they are. Sometimes that are as they are for very good reasons, though it might not seen so at first.3. And, the granddaddy in my mind, is the lack of skin in the game. To generalize, many/most of the philanthropists, non-profit execs, and edtech company execs are affluent and white. The schools they are targeting to “disrupt” are often Title I and majority students of color. Simply put, the schools the philanthropists and executives want to “disrupt” are not the same schools to which they send their own kids. There is not so subtle sense of “Well, of course, I’d never send my kids there” but “I know best what these schools need”. If you want to disrupt public schools, it’s a lot better if your own kids are in those very same public schools, not segregated away in private schools (or in the case of NYC, a small 5-10% subset of majority white public schools that through screens and zoning effectively act as a private school system funded with public dollars that operate in parallel with the overall school system). In NYC this “do as I say not as I do” theme is closely related to the affluent white “progressive” parents who are among the loudest voices for desegregation in public and yet privately segregate their own kids off to (and/or protect the admissions policies of) schools like PS 199, PS 87, PS 321, Booker T. Washington (the irony!!), Eleanor Roosevelt, and Beacon High School. I’ve shared this tweet from Nicole Hannah-Jones before because it really nails:

      1. PhilipSugar

        We agree completely. I’ll go farther when you helicopter in for a really nice presentation that has been prepared, rehearsed, and choreographed, with everybody saying how badly they’ve been treated and there is no personal blame or responsibility because everyone is a winner, and give me money and we’ll treat you like royalty. That’s a joke. You sit in there and teach for a semester with nobody knowing who you are, then you talk.

        1. Rob Underwood

          Much like the sushi chef who must make the rice for years before touching the fish.

          1. PhilipSugar


          2. Vasudev Ram

            In Indian classical music training, students are made to practice just scales and then simple tunes, for months or maybe years. And they are supposed to keep practicing for many hours a day, even after they become skilled and start giving performances.

        2. Pete Griffiths

          Like Betsy.

      2. LE

        Simply put, the schools the philanthropists and executives want to “disrupt” are not the same schools to which they send their own kids. There is not so subtle sense of “Well, of course, I’d never send my kids there” but “I know best what these schools need”.Read my other comment in short it’s in order for their kids to be around the right people and influences and not honestly about the education. That matters but not the way you think. [1]I don’t take any issue at all that they do that either. You can have an idea to change or disrupt and it doesn’t mean you have to do it for your own kids or even for yourself. For one thing your kids are going to school today and changes like this can take a generation to play out. Maybe decades.They have earned the money (I am no Gates fan in any way I will mention) and they should be free to do what they feel is in their best interest instead of doing what the peanut gallery will pat them on the back and say ‘great they walk the walk’. And honestly having your kids not around some of the trash in public schools and a target because of who they are is a valid reason. You should be protecting your kids. Not being some (fucking) hero at their (potential) expense. That is your job. To do what is best for them even if you get derided for it. That is 100% what I would do. But then again I am selfish like that.I mean seriously. Say I am a rich guy and I want to help public schools. And I have kids that are middle school age. So I can’t help those schools or come up with ideas that will take time to actually work unless I am willing to be the guinea pig for the ideas that I have? Ok I will give my money to a hospital or buy another Yacht instead great. Actually private jet that is what I will spend the money on.[1] And once again that learning environment is key where most students are focused on school work (not nonsense) and kids can get kicked out if they aren’t acting appropriately. Teachers aren’t lifers with a union and can get fired. And the parents care because not only are they paying (there are people on scholarships but those parents care as well) but they tend to be the types that generally are more disciplined in their own life with respect to how they view appropriate behavior by their children.

        1. Rob Underwood

          In your example, I’d suggest the philanthropist give her/his money to a non-profit that is already working in schools and run by people who know what works (i.e., have themselves taught or led schools AND also have their kids in the school system) — i.e., passive philanthropy. Let (and trust!) the experts – people in the schools themselves – direct where the money is used.That is different from I think some of us here are critical of today — the activist philanthropists (or edtech companies; one very very large tech company making a big move into education comes to mind as well) who thinks she/he knows better what schools need without any first hand experience as a student, parent, teacher, and/or school leader in the system. Too much education philanthropy is done based on totally dismissing out of hand the views of school leaders, teachers, and parents. It’s repugnant.I pointed out in another comment that activist philanthropy can work even w/o skin in the game (your own children in the system) if the activist philanthropist takes the time, a lot of time, to really go out and listen to what the school’s challenges are and what they need — i.e., an open minded listening tour w/o pre-suppositions already formed about how the schools need to be disrupted. This is what Fred did (see my other comment) and what I think some are worried Bill Gates did/does not – that Gates already has pre-disposed views of what was needed before going out to schools (I am not quite as strident in my criticism of Gates as Mike Z is, but I do share the general concerns with a number of the ideas he and his foundation have pushed upon schools).

          1. LE

            In your example, I’d suggest the philanthropist give her/his money to a non-profit that is already working in schools and run by people who know what works (i.e., have themselves taught or led schools AND also have their kids in the school system) — i.e., passive philanthropy. Let (and trust!) the experts – people in the schools themselves – direct where the money is used.If that is a good idea and if it actually makes sense and can be backed up in a convincing way then it should be something that the non-profits can sell proactively in order to get the job done. It is nothing more than a sell job at the core. Trying to convince someone to part with their money. If anything a business person should be the easiest person to sell with a logical argument. Most would tend to be grounded and listen to common sense or can be manipulated.However that takes effort and it takes creatively. My guess (and this is really just a guess) is that the people that work in these organizations don’t even come close to being able to pull that off. Their brain simply does not work that way. I am sure they are already doing a version of this as it is with limited success. But probably not world class enough to get the money that they need.And yes I know about grants and grant writing and all that jazz. However that is a beauty contest and the idea is to get to someone without having to compete with others for their attention. Maybe before they even think they will have a foundation or even do anything for anyone. Not once they are established and everyone is nipping at the heels for a treat. That is the way I would do it.

      3. Vasudev Ram

        >what I call “Ready. Disrupt. Aim.”Sounds like the VB programmer’s motto: “Ready. Fire! Aim”.Caveat. I like VB. The joke is a joke because it implies they do no design or planning, just slap anything together.

      4. ShanaC

        it would kill housing, but public school funding should be nationalized away from local control. If all schools get the same amount of money, you’d see how schools can comparably perform

        1. PhilipSugar

          Nope. Go teach in one of those schools. Frankly the myth is they don’t get the money. The reality is that teachers don’t want to teach at a place where parents don’t give a SHIT about their kids education or discipline. And kids put in that environment that might want to learn and they quickly start to turn into to those that don’t give a SHIT. And the teachers either leave or don’t give a SHIT.My son said something unacceptable in the Lunch Room of his school. He was disciplined. The teacher emailed me. I explained that I was embarrassed and ashamed and here were the things we discussed, the actions I would take and please make sure I am informed if this ever happens again.She said that is why I stopped teaching in the inner city. Parents would yell at me, not thank me and work with the child. Tell me its my fault.That is the harsh reality. Go teach for a semester. I give you five to one you get assaulted in some way.

          1. ShanaC

            I have helped teach in one these schools through the Neighborhood Schools Program can tell you that a south side school in chicago is wayyyyyy underfunded compared to a northside one, because the ptas in the northside schools basically raises enough to supplement the city budgets.You see the same drivers in NYC schools as they change, as well as their relationship to local housing prices. If that fundraising by the pta wasn’t needed because all schools were funded at the same high level, you’d normalize housing

    3. LE

      send their own kids to elite exclusive private schools with small class sizes and knowledgable experienced teachersWell speaking only for the school that I went to the teachers by and large (the majority as I remember it) were not ‘experienced’ in any way. They were actually in their early to mid 20’s. But many of them weren’t ‘lifers’ either and there was no union. They were there either because they liked teaching or they were on their way to something else. So they taught for a short time it wasn’t a career. They were just passing through. However that combined with a small class size (7 to 10 students) and a diverse mix of ‘nice kids’ and (for lack of a better way to put it) and importantly no ‘public school riff raff’ (where you often feel threatened) made it a great learning experience and a very comfortable learning environment. Table cloths in the lunch room. Wide expansive campus in the woods. Make up your own schedule just like college. The teachers ate with the students. Class were often at their apartments most teachers lived on the campus. Nothing not to like. It was great. No way you can duplicate all of that in a public school on a wide scale basis. I mean you could in theory and it is being done (say with AFSE) but not in a regular large public high school.That said the reason why people like Gates send their kids to private school has nothing to do with the education. It has more to do with having their kids around ‘the right crowd’ and away from bad influences. And obviously so they can have a better chance to get into a good college. Once again not for the education, but so they can be around the right people. After all when money is taken care of for you how good does the education have to really be?This is also consistent with how they behave in other parts of their life as well. They don’t frequent the types of places that regular people go to and they often don’t do the same things. Why should education of their children be any different?Gates of course went to a private school because his parents and his family were successful. With his drive and intelligence he would have ‘made it’ even if he went to public school. He would not be ‘Bill Gates’ and we would never have heard of him but he would definitely have had a successful career impossible to think that wouldn’t be the case.

    4. JamesHRH

      commented, reconsidered.

    5. TeddyBeingTeddy

      Pubic schools are about employment, not education.

  3. PhilipSugar

    I think a big thing that needs to be thought out is that technology has fundamentally done a massive seismic shift on what is knowledge, intelligence, and what you need to learn.And I mean in the last decade just a hard to grasp how large shift.I can look anything up on my phone.I think anybody that got past the ridiculous headlines and watched yesterday’s video saw Elon Musk really think about that, a huge amount of intelligence is in the cloud accessible by your phone.

    1. Andrew Cashion

      Education is a game until you’re supposed to do something with it.My experience is that guessing was one of my best talents. I’d use YouTube to Frankenstein problems together that we’re going to be given to us from older different books for the test.If that didn’t work I’d use a human usually a smart person usually female that sits in the front row to explain it.By the end a dynamics course which I timed took me only 7 hours of study time to pass the course.Resources were one other smart person and YouTube.

  4. Pointsandfigures

    interjecting competition into the American educational system will make it better. if we stand pat and do what we have done the past 40 years, nothing will change and it will continue to be bad. You cannot get a decent education at a typical public school in an American city.

    1. Mike Zamansky

      How will this competition work? I’ve been hearing this for decades but have yet to see an example of it working in a way that benefits all students.

    2. PhilipSugar

      We have that at the college level where surprise: So good tons of foreign students come here. Think about that.What does surprise me is that at the lower levels teachers are super opposed to this, want tenure, etc. Sometimes you reap what you sow.

      1. Mike Zamansky

        I don’t see how this competition has improved education at the college level other than allowing the institutions that are perceived to be at the top to cream from a larger pool of students who will already be successful.True we have more kids attending college than back in the day as costs skyrocket but I suspect that’s more due to the availability of student loans combined with society telling everyone that college is a must. Both are real problems.So, we do have colleges moving up and down the assorted rankings that gauge things that may or may not be relevant to an undergrad but lets look at things where the rubber meets the road – in the classroom:We’ve got more and more schools using greater and greater numbers of adjuncts over which there’s little quality control and at the same time, at least from what I can gather from the CS Ed conferences I’ve attended over the past few years, there are indeed a few academics pushing for better teaching practices but by and large they’re researching and “discovering”: practices that have been employed by K12 teachers for a decade or more.

        1. LE

          College rankings. Worst thing in the world. WSJ the other day. See attached photo. List of 500 colleges ranked. Usual suspects (including the one that I went to) in the top 10. That’s great. But the idea that there is some meaning to being 75 vs. 77 is absurd.Disagree a bit that having the top degree isn’t of benefit just for the branding. It is. It definitely is an added boost. Well worth the money for many people. I laugh when I see people arguing over average pay from various colleges and completely ignoring soft issues that do matter… https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  5. obarthelemy

    My family is long on public teachers.From what I gather of their discussions, what’s needed is, mostly, boots on the ground: class sizes have been inching up forever. Then, getting GOOD boots on that ground, teachers maybe should earn a living wage, especially since there’s no real career progression path.There are side issues, such as integrating special-needs kids (a nice endeavour, but a complication when the autistic 6yo starts wailing at least twice a day, and his chaperone isn’t *always* there); lots of unpaid voluntary stuff (my fellow 50yo professionals are getting tired of spending their Wednesday afternoons working not only for free but with increasing pressure and decreasing funding); a few rotten apples spoiling the fun for everyone; and tech+admin stuff mightily getting in the way (that might be age talking… but my sister seems to be the only one in her school using the interactive whiteboard, and even her tech support person is fed up with it).I can’t help but think the problem is rather simple: money and accountability. As often.Edit: maybe politicians having to send their kids to random public schools would create motivation ?

    1. Mike Zamansky

      Funny how there’s lots of money for everything but decreasing class size.

      1. Richard

        True but there are two ways to reduce class size, one is to increase the number of teachers. The second is to reduce the number of incoming students. Parents need to have much more skin in the game.

      2. LE

        NYC has a massive education budget already. That said real estate taxes in NYC are very very very low. If you want to know how low take 3.6% and multiply it by the value of the property that you live in. That is what I pay in taxes vs. my property value where I live. My guess is in NYC everyone is paying less than 1%. At least from what I have spot checked.So yes you could (in NYC) increase property taxes a bit and pay teachers more and pay for more teachers. But if you had more teachers you’d also need more buildings and more infrastructure as well. Right? If you lower classroom size, are there spare classrooms just lying around that could be used? And would a drop from 30 to 25 make a difference or does it have to be 15? And at 15 are there enough classrooms? Probably not. Plus then you have building costs and need more janitors and more this and more that.My point. No way you are raising taxes where I am to pay for lowering class size or building more schools. Development is already stunted because they don’t want more homes and more kids to use the schools. (This is one of the reasons why developments that are 55+ are built that way no kids and no more burden on schools).

        1. Richard

          This isn’t rocket science, In the mid 60s California had the best public school system in the country. Today is is ranked near the bottom. Compare and contrast the differences and you’ll probably find the principal components of what makes a school system successful.

    2. Mike Zamansky

      Accountability is the real trick and I’d start by looking at principals and course measures. Principal’s frequently don’t have any real skin in the game nor do superintendents.All to often accountability is a euphemism for “how can I fire teachers.”

      1. obarthelemy

        I’m OK with teachers being fired, for professional reasons. I’ve had a few useless drunks.Not for political/religious/sexual reasons though. I’ve had the gamut of individuals during my school years: from communist to far-right, aggressively antitheist to illegally devout (French law prohibits any religious stuff in public schools), asexual to flamingly gay… It’s a bit unsettling in the moment, but with time, it wonderfully humanizes the whole gamut of lifestyles. And it really, really, REALLY had no correlation with their effectiveness as a teacher.

        1. Mike Zamansky

          Yes – I’ve taken part in documenting teachers so that they could be fired. No one wants bad teachers but the truth is, the majority of teachers are doing good work under untenable circumstances.

  6. Marc-Oliver

    You would love the book ‘Natural Born Learners’ – tons of great insights from Alex Beard.

  7. Guy Lepage

    Education is the most valuable gift you could ever give anyone. Thank you, to all those who educate others.

  8. kidmercury

    Gates is using his money to keep pushing common core, even though the data says it sucks and is generally despised by teachers, students, and parents. Gates himself isn’t sending his kids to common core schools.…Common core is really about centralization of education. For all the hype about decentralization, Gates is clearly using his money to push an agenda moving in the wrong direction that people have been pleading to have stopped.Is this philanthropy? Or is it a rich guy buying public education, much like how other industries are purchased?This is very different than real charitable educational endeavors, which is probably what fred does. Conflating the two does a disservice to all.

  9. Matt Zagaja

    In a couple months I will begin year three of doing “technology transformation” work in a government organization. Transformation work is some of the hardest (and at times most rewarding) work you can do. Any time we see unevenly distributed innovation the opportunity to make a difference and have an impact seems to shout at you. At least it did at me. I was naive but I think you need to be naive when you’re starting out in any innovative venture.The funny thing is before starting where I am I did all my homework. I studied up on best practices. My previous gig involved doing software engineering for a product that is a feature of Google search. I thought I was ready. How quickly I learned that being at a large institution with the wind filling the sails at your back is much different than working for an organization that has you spend your days rowing against the current.The good news is once you have been in a place for a year or so and have gone home at night crying a few times because it’s all so damn exhausting you can put your best practices on the shelf and start addressing the real issues. It is especially humbling to realize the neglected things or ugly hacks your predecessors used were not from lack of experience but based on the best decisions they could make given the situation.Once in a while you get lucky. Sometimes a philanthropic organization injects capital and gives you space to experiment. Sometimes the organization hires someone for work that doesn’t exist, and you happen to make friends with that person and learn they want to learn about what you do and so you start feeding them projects and advice under the table.Scripture tells us to “run with endurance the race that is set before us”. Two weeks ago my manager gave her notice. I am the last in the cohort of people from my group that was there when I started that still works at my organization. The sprinters have burned out, so I’m looking for a marathoner to run my group. I am also looking for interesting opportunities to transform and improve government services. We have vehicles to take funding from most sources and the ability to partner and contract with government entities without going out to bid. You can tweet me if you are or want to be in Massachusetts (@mzagaja).

  10. Rob Underwood

    Something I wanted to share that a few of us (e.g. Mike Zamansky) know but I’m guessing our host is too modest to share … when Fred was ramping up his involvement in NYC schools and conceptualizing CSNYC, he personally went all around the city visiting schools to do a listening tour with principals, teachers, and school communities, to get to know the reality on the ground. Critically, he didn’t just limit his visits to schools conveniently located to his home and office, which would have correlated to more advantaged school communities. He went out to elementary schools in neighborhoods like Cypress Hills and high schools in the south bronx. Since starting CSNYC, he’s been generous with his time for follow-up visits to speak with school, teacher, and parent communities about CS education, and, again, does not his visits to just the easier to get to parts of NYC. This has really impressed me. Too many philanthropists and “do-gooders”, including and especially in the CS space, try and do their work without getting their hands dirty with actual school visits and the hassles of getting out to inconveniently located schools. Not Fred.On a loosely related note, One essential element, still missing in many schools, especially in NYC, is high speed internet. I recently completed a report for the Heckscher Foundation on networking connectivity in NYC schools. If you’re interested in this topic, check out http://www.heckscherfoundat…. Headline is that the city is spending $250M – right now – to upgrade schools’ last mile connection to 100 Mbps per school (from 10 – 50 Mbps currently). Folks on AVC, who know tech, will recognize why upgrading schools with sometimes 2,000 concurrent connected devices to 100 Mbps is a mistake. My headline recommendation was that the city should be upgrading to at least 1Gbps.

    1. Mike Zamansky

      I was about to comment on this – big difference between Fred’s approach and vs most of the people who “know how to fix education.”

      1. Rob Underwood

        Yup — see my reply to you below on the 3 attributes I see of too many who are looking to “fix” education.

    2. LE

      Too many philanthropists and “do-gooders”, including and especially in the CS space, try and do their work without getting their hands dirty with actual school visits and the hassles of getting out to inconveniently located schools. Not Fred.I think it’s great that Fred did this and it’s (to your point) exactly what someone should do. Gather information prior to an attack or implementing a strategy.However just like we don’t know that Fred did this (I didn’t) we can’t assume that some of the others did not do it as well. And we just don’t know about it. Not everything is public knowledge and out there.

      1. Rob Underwood

        That’s fair, though for some of who do work in edtech and education philanthropy we know people and organizations who get engaged in education, ever ready to disrupt first before getting a lay of the land, and hence why Fred’s efforts to listen first are in fact remarkable and unusual.I’ve shared before one incident in particular that stuck with me of a company that is moving ever more into edtech and using its market power in particular to push aside, and indirectly destroy, worthy CS ed orgs, both for profit and non-profit — see

    3. Michael Elling

      See my comment to Pete G above; they need low-cost connectivity everywhere. I’ve visited with iZone and been to enough ed-tech meetups to know that this is a bigger issue. Many students have to leave the digital tools at the door on their way out.

  11. Richard

    It’s starts with respect for the educators and education. PARENTS need to step up their game and stop acting like kids. There was a time when educators were revered and professional athletes were viewed as entertainers. We need to return to that time. Only then will the champion educators return to the profession and great leaders lead the profession.

    1. JLM

      .The champion educators are all working at private schools. My kids went to a school wherein the average education of the teachers was a PhD from middle school on up.Those are not the schools which need to be fixed.It is the schools nobody wants to work at. How does one overcome the physical danger of those schools? It isn’t with a PhD.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    2. obarthelemy

      It’s an externality though. I doubt the parents’ attitude and behaviour can be changed, especially quickly.

  12. William Mougayar

    Yet, the influence of parents on their kids education is not to be understated. You can send 2 kids to the same school and one could outshine the other because their parent’s relationship was different.

    1. LE

      Agree 100%. I am actually seeing that now even within families (my family). My wife and I have two different ideas on how the kids should spend their time. I want to be more like the Ester Dyson model ‘we discussed things at the dinner table’ or even bargaining for play time by having to watch something educational with questions (or discussion) afterwords. My wife (a highly paid and educated professional) will have none of that. She doesn’t think it’s needed. So since they are my step kids I have to step back and do nothing. Can’t imagine if they were my kids the fights we’d have over this type of things. Easy for me to do that I am a big believer in the pecking order.So yes parents play a very large role. I am where I am today because my parents made education at the very top above everything even family. You find that a great deal in immigrant families. Anything I wanted that was something I could learn from I got. Toys that had no value (or sports) I didn’t get.Or take for example the case of my wife’s nephew. Eagle Scout. But not going to college. Going to Boston to try and pursue a music career. And honestly not only is he not good, he sucks. Really. It’s a joke. However his parents (my sister in law) think he should just follow his passion and skip a year of college. Smart kids, dumb parents. Not providing the right direction. Really stupid.

      1. William Mougayar


      2. Vasudev Ram

        > I want to be more like the Ester Dyson model ‘we discussed things at the dinner table’ or even bargaining for play time by having to watch something educational with questions (or discussion) afterwords.This reminds me vaguely of Montessori schools [1].…Don’t know a lot about them but had read that education is somewhat more freewheeling and self-directed (or even teacher-directed, but less rigid) in them, Also had read in some book about Google (maybe The Google Story) that the 2 Google founders went to such schools, or maybe only one of them (Larry?) did. Interesting concept. I myself went for some years to a school that had more flexibility and freedom than the traditional British-colonial-period-influenced Indian schools [1].[1]. See:

        1. LE

          My kids went to Montessori for a small amount of time. The secret sauce was more the small size of the class and once again a self selected group whose parents sent them to Montessori. There were other benefits but that seemed to be the big thing to my other points.Anyway yes for sure education is to rigid in terms of everyone being expected and judged on the same material and ranked and so on. Not allowed to flourish as different individual. Part of that may be simply because that doesn’t work large scale.

  13. William Mougayar

    Kudos to anyone that helps advance or improve education. I would do the same given the same powers. (actually I did it another way by writing a book to make it less of a burden for others to learn) But this statement feels a bit pompous and empty, really. Retiring earlier is not related to the results he wants to achieve. It a vanity metric.“There’s a lot of things I can learn from Bill Gates. I can never be as rich, but one thing I can do better is to retire earlier.”A more humble statement might have been, “I’m not as good as Bill Gates, so I needed to retire earlier to get this done.”

  14. Tom Labus

    Make sure you go with your kids to the local library a few times a week. Make sure they see you reading and always looking for new ideas and info.

    1. JLM

      .Reading is the single most important skill any parent can empower their children with. There is nothing in second place.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  15. Pete Griffiths

    One of the most tricky factors influencing education is the ongoing segregation of neighborhoods. We have moved from a society where schools had a varied intake to one in which students are doing facts segregated. It’s a hard thing to fix.

    1. Rob Underwood

      In NYC the segregation of schools is worse than even the segregation of the underlying neighborhoods. Look at pairs of elementary schools blocks apart in adjacent zones in the same neighborhoods and the underlying census data. School pairs/groups like PS 199 and 191; PS 8, 307, and 287; PS 58 and 32, etc. This was the key insight of the New School report. See…A big driver of this is affluent, white, “progressives” who talk a big game about segregation at public hearings, but then, in private, send their own kids to segregated “quasi-” public schools. Again, this tweet …

    2. JLM

      .Bit of hard truth – in that segregation, we are producing excellent schools in the white areas. In these areas, the student has the best teachers, best physical plant, and averages more than two parental supervisors – most with excellent educations themselves – plus grandparents plus unlimited access to tech plus incredible enrichment.In the minority areas, the student has the worst teachers, the worst physical plant, and averages a single undereducated parent engaged in subsistence wage endeavors. They have no access to tech outside of the school library and no chances for enrichment.That is the real world.What is driving a lot of this is simply the economy. This is why keeping score on black and minority unemployment is important.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Exactly.But what is less well understood is that this economic segregation is accelerating and deepening the symptoms you describe.

    3. Michael Elling

      Something that can be solved with ubiquitous low cost broadband. And I’m not talking fixed or fiber, but ubiquitous; as in everywhere that a student might be.I am implementing such a network in the S. Bronx. One school has English and Math proficiency that is 15% and 11% of NYS average. 32% of the students are chronically absent. The same holds for medicine, btw.

      1. Pete Griffiths

        I’m sorry but I completely disagree. I wish you were right but technology won’t overcome the challenge of a school that has been stripped of motivated kids with supportive parents. There is a huge amount of research on this.

        1. Michael Elling

          How can you say this? Where is the empirical proof that with low-cost, 2-way HD video conferencing one couldn’t set up virtual classrooms that would benefit students and parents alike and remove the barrier of location?

          1. Pete Griffiths

            I don’t know of any empirical Prof that the specific scenario you describe will not be successful. But they’re is a huge amount of work that had been done on the overwhelming significance of community and class composition and indeed work done demonstrating that technology sooner is no solution.I’m all in favor of using technology to improve the classroom experience. But we shouldn’t for ourselves that it will be sufficient to overcome serious social problems.

  16. Vendita Auto

    Education is Opportunity plus a sprinkle of star dust be it a refugee, Colin Kaepernick or Stephen HawkingReminded of the wonderful quote by Muhammad Ali:“A rooster crows only when it sees the light. Put him in the dark and he’ll never crow. I have seen the light and I’m crowing.”

  17. sigmaalgebra

    Gee, I did some things in “education”: Got a STEM field Ph.D. from a world class research university. Taught STEM field material at three universities. K-12 to Ph.D. and teaching, I saw some good and a lot wrong.Dad did some things in education: He was Educational Consultant to the Director of Training at NATTC in Millington, TN. NATTC abbreviates Naval Air Technical Training Center. Since the Director of Training was a career Naval officer there for only 2 years or so before being reassigned, Dad was really the chief educator. NATTC was a big deal: (1) At any time, there were about 40,000 students. (2) The Navy quickly understood how well the schools did because, if they didn’t do well, then airplanes would fail to get into the air or fall out of the air. It was technical training, yes, but it worked like a Swiss watch.Lesson: Such education really is possible; how to do it reliably on a large scale is well known and proven.Setting aside Dad’s technical training, here are some summary remarks on education:(1) There is a famous book, John Dewey, Democracy and Education. Of course, a first challenge in that book was to define education. I believe I remember correctly Dewey’s definition:Education is passing down from the older generation to the younger one.So, this definition sets aside a lot of the usual detail and gets to one of the main issues and realities.E.g., in some countries, education will be forced to be about defending the sacred grounds of the holy graves of the ancestors against the infidel unbelievers or some such!!!!E.g., education in NYC is the passing down from the older generation in NYC to the younger one. So, if don’t like the education, then look to the older generation. Or, that education will not be just four walls of a building with classrooms, blackboards, books, and teachers.E.g., Dad knew enough about education to assert that could do good educating in a one room school house with a pot bellied stove in the corner. He was right. Or, Dewey’s “passing down” is from the older generation to the younger one and not much about bricks and mortar.E.g., I have a sister in law in South Carolina. Their area of South Carolina destroyed their public schools. So she quit nursing and home schooled her three kids. It appears that there is a lot of home schooling in the US, with guidance, materials, etc.E.g., she got her education in a small school in a tiny town, just a crossroads, in rural Indiana, farming country. She got a good education, enough for nursing and home schooling. Why? The education was passed down from the older generation to the younger one, and in that farming community the older generation really CARED. My father in law was Chair of the local school board — he cared. His oldest daughter was Valedictorian, PBK, Summa Cum Laude, a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, got a two year fellowship to graduate school in one award, and got her Ph.D. at a world class research university.E.g., the county seat for that tiny town took education much more seriously. One niece of mine was first in her class, made PBK, Harvard Law, Cravath-Swaine, and later MD and now is practicing medicine.Lesson: Some families and communities are eager to “pass down” good educations. In particular, it is commonly accepted in education that the most important part of education of a child is the attitudes about education of the child’s parents. Families and communities that want good schools can have good schools.(2) Some of my experience is that much of education is “not a spectator sport”. The best learning I did was with a good book, in a chair, with some paper and pencil, in a quiet room. I got started with this in high school plane geometry: The teacher was obnoxious and offensive, really nasty. I REALLY liked the subject. No way did I want her to influence my learning. So, in class, I slept. When she walked around checking if people did the homework, I ignored her. But likely I did the most homework of anyone in the class: I started with the exercises for the lesson that day and worked from the hardest exercises down to the easiest ones until I got to the trivial ones. Then I turned to the more difficult exercises in the back of the book and did ALL of them, never once missed one for the whole year. Yes, on the state test, it appeared that I came in second in the class, just my class of about 30 students or all the sections of plane geometry in the school, instead of first — it had to be a close call. The guy who beat me later also beat me by a few points on the Math SAT — we were #1, #2 in our graduating class of 150 or so.From that plane geometry success on, my best progress in education was studying alone. Some good courses provided good guidance and the best texts were crucial, but nearly all the work was alone. My Ph.D. dissertation I started on an airplane flight. I finished the research independently in my first summer in grad school.This stuff about learning mostly alone is necessarily standard for nearly everyone in academic research. It is also very important for a lot of technical training in many fields, e.g., auto repair, computer programming. So, as we can easily see, such learning works.Lesson: People who want to learn can find ways to do that. E.g., they can get some good guidance and some good books, etc., study, and learn.In particular, for NYC, the older people are “passing down” to the younger people. If the education looks awful, then look first at the older people.Gee, a county seat of 40,000 people in rural Indiana can have a terrific K-12 school, send a graduate off to college to get PBK and continue to Harvard Law, Cravath-Swaine and then an MD.Moreover, fifteen miles south at a rural crossroads, they can have a K-12 school, one school for everyone in the community, that can send a graduate to a Big Ten college, make straight A’s right away, and get PBK, etc. But poor, poor little, broke, helpless NYC is having trouble with their schools!!! Poor NYC!The basics of education have been known well and with little change for 100+ years. In particular, when education is poor, we know just where to look for the cause. So, passing out information about education is like trying to teach a pig to sing — it irritates the pig and exhausts the teacher.Same thing for giving rational information to people screaming about global warming.Shortage of good, rational information is not the problem.Knowledge and rationality have limited efficacy — the target audience has a really simple, highly effective response, just refuse to pay attention. Why refuse? Because the audience has other interests. Okay by me.

  18. Imene Ghernati

    I would love to see an approach that shows more understanding than “I know how to fix education, or reinventing Education.” Education is always going to evolve. We just need to listen to what educators, parents and students are telling us. Then, yes we can make less mistakes. Then yes, we can evolve together. Then yes we can stop trying to control something that cannot be controlled. Education will continue to evolve and I hope that one day we will include everyone in that evolution without reinventing education. Education has already been invented. It just needs to evolve by including everyone in the process.

  19. SteveMassa

    I’m someone who wants to be more involved but don’t want to waste resources on those who aren’t ready to make changes. School district officials don’t have the vision to implement new systems and teachers are overwhelmed even thought they are the ones who can articulate what needs to be done. Employers want to be more involved but can’t be seen as the problem solvers. Let’s not forget the other important forces such as Mike Rowe, and [email protected] who are creating their own momentum to disrupt educational / workforce pillars.

  20. JLM

    .Before we “fix” schools, we need to define what we want as the finished product.I think the finished product is:1. The ability to think critically.2. Intellectual curiosity.3. A bankable, marketable skill.4. The ability to tie the monkey’s fist knot. [OK, this is just for me.]I wrote about all of this some time ago here: http://themusingsofthebigre…America is transfixed on the “college prep” approach to education while the elephant in the room is that we need tons of well trained craftspersons – vocational training.I live in Texas which is uninhabitable without AC. I have three AC units which I just replaced after 15-20 years of loyal and faithful service. [The old units were cutting edge for their time. A new unit is unbelievable with precise humidity control and much lower energy cost. Much more tech involved. Now, the coil doesn’t go out, the motherboard does.]The guys who came to install the new units were invariably led by an “older guy” but the actual workers were all 20-30 year old guys. Once the job was laid out, the young guys did it. Revelation: the young guys were twice as tech savvy as the older guy. They knew it. He knew it.I chatted them up — all 6 month tech graduates. The older guy tells me he can’t get enough qualified labor and that they make a smooth $85,000 per year plus weekends and OT.If you live in Texas during the 100F summers, you can get as much OT as you want. You could work from dusk on Friday to dawn on Monday at doubletime.He says all of his guys make $100K+. I listened to their stories – wife, kid, bought a house, new truck.This is a great outcome and we are masking this to turn out more college kids with degrees in bullshit subjects they will never get a job doing with a mountain of college debt.Let’s take a minute and define education. Not everybody is going to be a VC or an entrepreneur.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. sigmaalgebra

      ForThe older guy tells me he can’t get enough qualified laborthis is necessarily a quite general situation with a long known and practiced solution:First the context. The crews are installing some commercial products, in this case, recent and at least somewhat technical.Okay, these are commercial products. If want to know about them, e.g., what to use them for, how they work, how many BTUs of cooling they provide, how many KWhs they draw, how to install and maintain them, what other products they work with, etc. then do the usual: Go to the documentation and technical support provided by the manufacturer. Don’t go to some Nobel prize winning theoretical physicist at a leading research university, or any university, or, likely, any college. Maybe not any technical school.Employees. So, John reads this story — $85,000 a year plus OT, buy a house, get married, have kids, etc. Terrific! John wants to get in on that. So, how will John do that? Maybe if he has a father or uncle in the HVAC business. But otherwise, John has no real access to the information, e.g., the technical support of the manufacturers. So, John can’t become “qualified labor”, and the HVAC installer can’t hire John to alleviate their shortage of qualified labor.Solution. The HVAC company needs to train John, maybe hire him for a minor role, as an apprentice or trainee or some such and hope to train him and promote him into the position the HVAC company needs.Education. So what is the role of education here? Teach the details of products from Carrier, etc.? Likely not.But it will help a lot if John understands high school physics and maybe college freshman physics. So:Refrigeration. John should understand in broad terms how most refrigeration systems work. Basically take a gas, ammonia was used and can still work but various fluoro-carbons are used now; just why is some interesting thermodynamics, maybe a junior level course for a college physics or engineering major. This gas is the refrigeration “working fluid”.Outdoors, compress the gas, thus, raise its pressure and temperature, and put into a pipe. Via the pipe, let the gas flow through a radiator, the condenser, and cool down to a little above outside air temperature and maybe have a “phase change”, that is, become a liquid. Run the pipe indoors and through a small hole and into another radiator, the evaporator, where the pressure drops and the temperature falls. Use this radiator to cool the inside of the building. If humidity is high, then water will condense on the evaporator. So, catch this water and, likely, discard it, that is, let it run down the sewer connection of the building. Then run a pipe from the evaporator back to the compressor outside.Can adjust this system to get both desired temperature and humidity. There are some choices and, thus, opportunities for optimization, that is, using less electric power for the compressor and the fans on both the condenser and the evaporator.It is fair to expect that John would learn this little lesson, along with at least the gas law and maybe the latent heat of evaporation, in a beginning course of physics.Electricity. Since the compressor and the fans are run with electric power, it will be good for John to understand basic electricity, e.g., coulombs, amperes, volts, ohms, watts, electro-statics, electro-magnetism, capacitors, inductors, alternating current, electric motors, and power factors.Electronics. Since the control systems are electronic, it would be good for John to extend his understanding of electricity a little to basic electronics, for the architecture of the system, e.g., sensors, communications, diagnostics, user interface.So, for the basics of refrigeration, electricity, and electronics, there is a role for an academic course in physics. For the rest, say, details from Carrier or some such, that is for the HVAC company to teach John based on information from the technical support of the vendors.For such physics courses, the US is just awash, in high schools, community colleges, four year colleges, and universities. There are stacks of beautifully written books. No doubt there is a lot available for free on the Internet. And with the books and Internet, an interested student can learn a lot on their own.But John may not have access to the technical support information from vendors such as Carrier.Net, often an employer needs to have something in a training or apprenticeship program. This is a very old story. If the HVAC company installing equipment is having trouble finding qualified people, then they need a little training or apprenticeship program.

      1. JLM

        .Once upon a time, unions used to provide this type of apprenticeship training but no longer.It is actually quite easy to find the right path.First, you have to attend a certified school. That can be the Austin Community College or a school like Central Texas AC and Refrigeration.http://centraltexasacandref…These schools ready a student for his certification examination (section 608, Clean Air Act, $45). To work in this industry you don’t have to be certified, but it is critical to get the kind of job I have described above.The ACC course is a 6 month proposition while the Central Texas AC and Refrigeration course is an intensive 2 1/2 full time endeavor or 12 weeks at night or on Saturdays.The testing is national and is under the auspices of the EPA.This is not a hard path to travel.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. sigmaalgebra

          Wow, the Clean Air Act! I smell the rotting, putrid, sticky, fuming stench of Chicago style machine power and money politics of Greenies and their dedicated, devious, devoted, determined, deranged, demented, delusional, deplorable, destructive, despicable (10Ds), insidious, perverse, maniacal, sinister, fiendish EPA deep state ad-funk (administrative functionaries) gnomes. Here I used a thesaurus only for “fiendish”!Well, a little Google search shows…withEPA regulations (40 CFR Part 82, Subpart F) under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act require that technicians who maintain, service, repair, or dispose of equipment that could release ozone depleting refrigerants into the atmosphere must be certified. Starting on January 1, 2018, this requirement will also apply to appliances containing most substitute refrigerants, including HFCs.So, it’s the ozone again! There’s the bad ozone and the good ozone. The EPA Greenies are saying that they want to save the good ozone! In particular they want to save the good ozone over the south pole and related latitudes.Hmm. That ozone O3 is high in the atmosphere and is caused by ionization of oxygen O2 by sunlight. [O3 has a distinctive odor and is easily generated by electric sparks. While in significant concentrations O3 can attach itself too strongly to the hemoglobin in blood, it is unstable and in the air quickly returns to O2.] But for several months a year, i.e., in the winter at the south pole, there is no sunlight at all. None. It’s totally pitch black dark 24 x 7. So, naturally, there’s no good ozone.So, the Greenies, as part of another of their efforts to mess up installed equipment and our economy and create power in the sense of Chicago style machine politics, power that could be converted to money, claimed that the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) working fluids in air conditioning systems worked their ways from cars with A/C in the northern hemisphere to the southern hemisphere and over the south pole and acted as a long lasting catalyst to convert the good ozone O3 back to oxygen O2. Then without the good ozone, more ultraviolet (UV) light, that would have been absorbed by the good ozone, would reach the ground and cause skin cancer, degrade plastics, dull paint, bleach hair, etc.Actually the Greenies claimed that the good ozone would be destroyed at all latitudes, but their evidence was only the “ozone hole” over the South Pole and at times north to about the latitude of southern Patagonia, maybe.So, CFCs were banned, and the A/C in two of my cars was ruined.Who might like the idea of a law that ruined the A/C on millions of cars and, thus, motivated a lot of people to buy a new car where the A/C worked again? Do I smell Chicago style machine politics?Note: A favorite CFC was DuPont’s Freon. But eventually chemists in, e.g., India were good at making that CFC and selling it cheap. E.g., some people were using that CFC as a propellant for cans of hair spray. Hmm …. Are we seeing more motivation for banning CFCs and having a new working fluid, maybe one with a patent, etc.? Do I smell Chicago style machine politics?Then for the bad ozone, that was from auto exhaust, with claims that it contributed to “smog”, and the Greenies did another number on two of my cars. Fiendish Greenie gnomes.In particular when the catalytic converter rusted out on my Blazer SUV, I coughed up $1500 for another one. That $1500 was more than what the parts for my server for my startup cost. And it turns out, the $1500 was totally wasted because (big secret, don’t tell anyone) NYS doesn’t care about the inspection of my Blazer except for external lights, i.e., headlights, brake lights, taillights, and turn signals, and, in particular, no way will look under the Blazer at where the $1500 jewelry is. [Once, on a fast decision, I made a right turn, fast, without using my turn signal, from the road into a convenience store. A NYS cop had been right behind me, followed me to the convenience store, and stopped me for failing to signal. I explained that I’d made the decision quickly. He suspected that I’d seen him behind me, wanted to shake him off, but my turn signal light was out. So, there he checked all my lights. He saw that my inspection sticker was out of date. He didn’t look for the catalytic converter. He did nothing and let me go.] I could have installed a piece of standard exhaust pipe instead and saved the $1500.Curiously, there were few or no credible claims of ozone depletion over the north pole. And there were few or no credible reports that there was significant or any depletion of good ozone and higher UV at ground level in occupied latitudes.Now after some years of no CFCs, last I heard was that the good ozone over the south pole had not yet returned. Semi-, pseudo-, quasi-amazing: There was little or no credible evidence that CFCs had actually reduced good ozone over the south pole or anywhere. Look, Greenie guys, for about six months of the year, tough to have any ozone over the South Pole, CFCs or not.So, the Section 608 test is about the Greenies, CFCs, and the good ozone and not really about the rest of A/C. So I have to doubt that will get entropy or enthalpy or even the gas law on the 608 exam. Hmm. Maybe will be required to swear undying fealty, signed in blood, to high altitude O3, the Administrator of the EPA, Saint Laureate Al Guru, and the great God Mother Earth.Reading that EPA page, once get a 608 certification, don’t have to get it again. And don’t need a 608 certification to work on A/C if are closely supervised by someone with a 608 certification. So, maybe the reason for the older guy and the rest of the crew 20-30 was that the older guy had a 608 certification and the younger guys didn’t. And the 608 guy ensures that no working fluid will leak out even if the Administrator of the EPA is not standing right there — trust us on this one!!!!Yup, I smell fiendish Greenies and machine power-money shakedown politics, smaller brother of the “global warming” politics that has done so much harm. Did I mention the possibilities of making money?But, again, rationality is irrelevant when people have strong, ulterior motivations.That $100 K a year for some guys 20-30 sounds pretty good until I compare it with what I was making at that age — annual salary 6 times what a new, high end Camaro cost, and now that would be much higher than $100 K. [My wife and I had a nice apartment for $155 a month — yup, we were living well and saving money rapidly.] So, I’m beginning to understand a little: The work I was doing was applied math and computing around DC for problems in US national security. So, right, I needed and had a security clearance, IIRC at least as high as Secret. So, that security clearance acted as a license that restricted competition and raised income. Hmm. So a 608 certification looks somewhat similar.

    2. PhilipSugar

      I am sure you have seen Mike Rowe works. He complains he can’t give away the scholarships.The question to ask the guys is how many guys washed out because they didn’t want to work.Biggest difference in U.S. and places like Austria and Germany is the willingness and respect of those people that learn a trade.