Posts Tagged Education

STEAM, NOT STEM!

Over the past 50 years, automation and the machines (robots, machine-reading, big data, artificial intelligence, etc.) have been creeping into our workplace, replacing workers in performing various routine job functions.  And, unlike other historical labor disruptions, the advance of machines—performing the tasks they have been programmed to do—is being felt throughout the entire industrialized world.

To better understand the advance of the machines, both in memory and speed, let’s review “Moore’s Law”.  Gordon Moore, before he co-founded Intel, 50 years ago remarked that the capacity and speed of silicon chips will double every two years, over the next ten.  Well, fifty years later, that hypothesis is still on target, and it is often used to describe the exponential advances of computers as their capabilities accelerate over time.

For instance, the computer that took the astronauts to the Moon in 1969 was merely comparable to the Nintendo of that era.  The capacity of today’s iPhone, however, is considerably faster, and can perform more functions, than the fastest super computers of even 30 years ago.  So, how are schools preparing our children for the labor market of the future?

It seems that that many school systems, over the past ten to fifteen years, have emphasized the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), while de-emphasizing the Arts and Humanities for college bound students.  Such a focus can make the job skills of such employees similar to those of the machines, and thus easier for the machines to displace.

Skills that reflect the humanity of the worker—such as intuition, relationship building, good writing skills, an ability to cope with adversity, creative thinking–may set him or her apart from their co-workers, in similar jobs.  “This is Money” provides a fairly in-depth list of job occupations that are most, and least, likely to be replaced by automation.

For the most part, school curricula, through the 12th Grade, appear to have changed little over the years.  As the advance of the machines continues at an ever-increasing speed, school administrators and teachers need to be honing their skills, and begin to plan for the challenges of the Twenty-First Century, which has already arrived.  Business, government and labor also need to be part of the planning process.

Many computer engineer jobs have already been outsourced to India.  And, this time, many white collar jobs, requiring college and advanced degrees—such as associate attorneys and some radiologists (yes, M. D. s), who perform many routine functions, may also be at risk.  That’s why it would be important for the employee to set him or herself apart from their colleagues.

Since automation will impact the entire labor market, to one degree or another, the number of displaced workers could easily outnumber the available jobs, and probably drive the pay scales.  That’s where the Arts and Humanities skills may set some employees apart from the crowd, and help them keep their jobs!

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IS DONALD TRUMP’S “PLAN” TO PRESIDE OVER THE DEMISE OF AMERICAN TECHNOLOGICAL EXCELLENCE, AS WE KNOW IT?

Since January 20th, I have been trying to figure-out just what Donald Trump’s Agenda is. Does he even have a Plan?  Donald seems to have a very limited attention span, and his conceptual capability seems limited to that which he already “knows“ to be true. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to realize that many of his actions might have equal, and opposite reactions!   Again, what is his Plan for America?

This morning, a friend pointed-out that Trump is taking credit for Saudi Arabia breaking ties with Qatar, for having relationships with terrorists.  Hmm!  Doesn’t Donald realize that the U. S. has both its Central Command, and its Air Force Central Command Headquarters, located just west of Doha, Qatar?

After Donald Trump held his tongue on his recent visit to Riyadh, and after he kowtowed to King Salman, the Saudi King gave him some sort of award, perhaps for praising the Arabs.   But, doesn’t Trump know Saudi Arabia is the chief exporter of Wahhabism, one of the most extreme forms of Islam, which can also lead to terrorism?  And, doesn’t he know that 15 of the 19 terrorists, who used jetliners as weapons on 9/11, were also Saudi Nationals?

It is quite disturbing that Trump proposes to slash 31% from the State Department Budget. State partially fund programs, which help offset the impact of dire poverty and religious fanaticism–two key factors in civil unrest and the rise in terrorism.  Secretary of Defense James Mattis, when he learned that State would be slashed, said: “I’m going to need more bullets.” Every dollar spent by State reduces the need for several dollars on Defense!

Can we really deny helping the residents of impoverished nations to:  fight malaria and tuberculosis; inoculate peasants against various diseases; provide family planning and prenatal care; empower women. to reduce crimes against them; and provide clean water and sewer systems in rural areas.  There is no reason why America shouldn’t help the Peoples of these regions, when we can!

And today, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, while appearing before a Senate Committee, couldn’t even explain what would become of our nation’s Public School System, which Donald Trump also expects to cut.  Should’t we make the vital investment in Education to prepare the students of today, for the jobs of tomorrow?   And, that should begin with Early Childhood Education; because, that’s where future success starts!

Donald Trump’s opting-out of the Paris Accords didn’t surprise me either, since he has been doing the bidding of the Mega-Billionaires–and not the American People–all along!  They wish to de-regulate all industry; but, the fossil fuels appear to be highest on their list.  And, this is a horrific situation, with the largest economy, and the second-biggest polluter, taking the Cheap and Dirty way out its environmental responsibility!

And when Donald Trump takes his rightful seat, among the “Leaders” of the only two other nations who failed to sign the Paris Accords—Presidents Bashar Assad, of Syria, and Daniel Ortega, of Nicaragua—he will truly be in his element, indeed!  In essence, they will be telling the world to just Fuck-Off!

Traditionally, America has been a bastion of technological innovation, with our combination of:  government funding; venture capital; academic excellence and entrepreneurial expertise.  In years past, this government funded “assembly line”, has led to discoveries, such as:  ENIAC, the first general-purpose computer; TV; the PC; the Internet, mapping of the Human Genome, GPS, etc.  And, such discoveries and innovations spawn new industries—and thousands of high-paying jobs.

Since his Announcement on the Paris Accords, last week, Donald Trump has chosen to Isolate America from the world, at large.  That will impart our commitment to education, as well as our global excellence in science and technology.  What bright student from overseas would want to study, let’s say, Engineering in the U. S., when the most-respected professors are moving overseas, in search of research funding?  As a result, we may very well see a rapid decline at our various technology hubs.  So, is this really Donald Trump’s Plan, to Make America Irrelevant Again?

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CREATING A “FINANCIAL TERMS” TAB

Over the five years of this blogs existence, I have often wondered how to treat certain financial terms.  When I stop and provide a short description (of the term), that can break the flow of the discussion.   So, how do I inform or educate all readers, without annoying those with a greater financial awareness?

For instance, the media may take different approaches in reporting various economic statistic, such as the GDP—Gross Domestic Product: which is the total of all goods and service produced by a country (or other entity).  The general print or broadcast media might provide a brief explanation of the particular statistic, when announcing it.

Print media snd cable TV stations, which regularly report on financial topics; however, would not.  Rather, they might place the particular item into some form of context, such as: adding the quarterly GDP; its advance or decline for the Year; or perhaps the actual, versus the projected, GDP statistics.

I have decided to create a “Financial Terms” Tab, which may be accessed at the top-left of this blog. For anyone seeking more in-depth information on the term, they might link on Investopedia, or any of a number of other financial-related web sites.  Rather than try to include a wide range of terms, all at once, I will build upon the terms to be included, over time.

NOTE:  Keep in mind that financial terms and concepts might be included in posts, which discuss other than financial topics.

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DON’T ASK ME TO ORGANIZE MY RECOMMENDED BOOK TAB!

I’m sure that some people would find the “Books that I recommend” list much easier to use if everything were organized into quite distinct categories, such as: Politics; History; Science—or, at least, Fiction and Non-Fiction.  But, that’s not how my mind works.  It’s just too cluttered!

Consider the most recent addition (and yesterday’s post): “Three Days in January”. President Eisenhower left the Presidency 57 years ago; but the real story, I believe, is a combination of:  World War II and Early Cold War History; reflections back to our Founding Fathers, and what their intentions were, with regard to the Constitution; contrasts of the Leadership styles between Ike and JFK, and the lack thereof with Trump. and, lastly, the peril which the Military Industrial Complex might present today, especially in the hands of a Fool.   Now tell me, how would you categorize that NY Times Best-Seller?

“Freeman” is a well-researched historical novel about Racism in post-Civil War rural Mississippi.  That book, not only depicts the reality of how both blacks and whites regarded one another, at the time; but, it also provides some insight as to Racism, as it is today in America today, and particularly, in the rural South.

“Moneybag” is nominally a book about baseball; but, it is really more about the use of statistics in player personnel management.  The Oakland A’s had one of the very smallest budgets in Major League Baseball; however, for a time, they compiled better Win-Loss records than all but a few of the league’s 30 teams.  The A’s realized that some of the more pedestrian statistics, such as: on-base average; total bases and “small ball”, won more games than often considerations: physical looks: home runs and fielding.  For the owners, that approach was more “cost-effective”.

Statistics has also played an increasingly important role in general decision-making theory.  Much of what is pointed-out, by Michael Lewis, the author of “Moneyball”, is based on the insight of the two Israeli Psychologists, who are his main subjects in “The Undoing Project”.  Those psychologists won the Nobel Prize for, get this, Economics, in 2003.  Their research has led to: the creation of the new field of Behavioral Economics; revolutionized Big-Data studies; advanced evidence-based medicine, and helped rationalize government regulation.

NOTE:  If anyone can devise an algorithm, which will organize my “Books That I Recommend” tab, please send me the “For Idiots” version, so that it can install itself.

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RACISM HAS GRADUALLY BEEN DESTROYING AMERICA’S PUBLIC SCHOOLS, AND BETSY DeVOS MIGHT BE MORE CAUSE THAN SOLUTION!

On May 17, 1954, Thurgood Marshall, Chief Counsel for the NAACP, successfully argued the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas,  before the U. S. Supreme Court.  In it’s ruling, SCOTUS overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision, which established the “Separate, but Equal” status in America’s Public Schools.  The divided school systems, however, were  anything, but “Equal”.  Institutionalized-racism might a be better term!   In 1967, Mr. Marshal was sworn-in, as an Associate Justice, on the U. S. Supreme Court.

Racism remains ever-present within our Public Schools today.   Some is institutionalized, and some is political.  Consider several of the more appalling varieties:

1.   Since real estate taxes are a primary funding source of public schools, the “White Flight” of higher-income families to the wealthier suburbs, generally in separate counties and school systems, results in better-funded suburban schools, as compared to those in the Inner Cities (i. e. Chicago, Detroit, and Philadelphia).

2.   Some states allow smaller “independent School Districts” to be formed in wealthier areas.  Higher income families seek larger, more-luxurious housing, which leads to higher property taxes and, thus, to better-funded public schools.  (Similar to #1 above.)

3.   Politicians often create the atmosphere where newer, and better, schools are located in wealthier areas, with some minority students bused-in.  Accordingly, these schools have better teachers, and newer equipment and facilities, as compared to public school schools in poorer parts of town.

4.   Charter schools may be established separately from the public school system; however, they receive funding from it—thus reducing the local system’s financial resources.  Charters are generally able to be more selective in the students they admit, but there is often little correlation between selectivity and performance. Prerequisites for the corporate organizers of Charters, as well as the administrators and teachers are often dubious, depending upon the particular state.

5.   Vouchers transfer a portion of the per-student amount,received by the school system, from the state and local government, to private schools that accept them. Since private school tuition and fees are usually much more expensive  than the voucher provides, poor families generally cannot afford the differential for their children to attend, especially if they hame several children in school.  But, wealthy families get a freebie!

It is difficult to expect that Donald J. Trump, who has vowed throughout his campaign that he will use Charter Schools and Vouchers to “improve our Educational System”, will not nominate an Education Secretary who will not advocate for “School Choice”, as well as other forms of institutionalized racism.   If Mr. Trump really did want to improve the American Educational System, he would nominate someone with actual education experience—rather than someone who ereportedly contributed $11 million to his campaign!

Betsy DeVos, who is Trump’s nominee for Education Secretary, is a member of the super-wealthy DeVos Family of Amway Fame.  Mrs. DeVos is active in the National GOP, advocates for School Choice, and was one of the architects of the Detroit Charter Schools Program, which apparently has performed on a par with the City’s overall failed and underfunded Public School System.

Betsy DeVos is hardly a realistic solution for America’s Educational System!

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DATA MINING TO SAVE THE WORLD!

Our supermarket, with stores all over Florida, stocks shelves according to the store-specific demographic—elderly, families with children, Hispanic, Asian, West Indian, Kosher, etc—which they know from what products are regularly purchased in each one.  Likewise, my computer distracts me with unwanted pop-up ads, for products based on the web sites I frequent.  So, what has the established purveyors of global health statistics been doing with those numbers, to solve life-or-death problems globally?  Apparently, not much!

Christopher Murray earned his Ph.D. in Medical Health Economics from Oxford, and a Medical Degree from Harvard.  Dr. Murray, however, neither practices medicine, nor does he even follow the stock market.  While researching his Dissertation at Oxford, he realized how sorely inconsistent, and useless, many of the statistics amassed by the various institutional bureaucracies actually were.

The focus was mostly limited to Early Childhood (ages 0 to 5) and Maternal Deaths. The World Health Organization and World Bank statistics for Life Expectancy for Men in Congo, for instance, between 1980 and 1984, differed by 15 years, with similar discrepancies for other nations, as well.  In another case, identical statistics for a particular disease were reported, for economically disadvantaged Somalia as it was for Sweden, which has one of the world’s best health care systems.  My supermarket, on the other hand, knows shopping patterns and re-supply needs, for each of its stores, and acts on them in order to enhance profits.  Why not enhance Global Health?

It appears that political motives might be involved, such as maintaining an organization’s level of stature within the overall Global Health arena, perhaps, are of greatest importance.  And focusing on Children’s Deaths might possibly make the fund-raising efforts much more engrossing.  But, why raise the funds to collect the statistics and, then, fail to act effectively on them?

Also, wouldn’t the elimination, or even the control, of a particular global health  problem, such as Small Pox, enable those resources to be shifted to other life-threatening diseases?  Wasn’t that the original purpose—perhaps a long, long time ago—to collect meaningful data, analyze it, set realistic expectations, and get the data and the appropriate resources out to the field?

Dr. Christopher Murray, a New Zealander by birth, met Dr. Alan Lopez, an Australian, at WHO Headquarters, in Geneva, Switzerland, and they began a collaboration to bring some sense to the global health statistics field.  They realized, however, that WHO would not be a suitable launching pad!  Throughout the ensuing 30 years, Murray and Lopez have encountered considerable skepticism among some in the Establishment, primarily at WHO.  But many other groups, within the global health care community, have embraced their ideas, and even promoted them to colleagues.

Besides expanding the data collection landscape beyond just Early Childhood and Maternal Deaths, Murray and Lopez also included Disabilities—illnesses which generally do not kill people—into their metric.  Early on, Chris Murray had developed his own measure of heath, the Disability-Adjusted Life Years, or DALYs.  The DALY reflects the average degree of health for a nation, from which Labor’s legitimate contribution to the GDP might be identified, as well as the potential future demand for health care services.

For instance, let’s assume that a 75 year-old person, in perfect health, is assigned a DALY of 75.  (Apparently there was apparently nothing to adjust for.)  Then, a similar-aged person, who developed a partially incapacitating illness, assigned a 20% disability rating at age 40, would have a DALY of 68 (40 + [80% of the remaining 35 years]). This metric is much more relevant to Labor and National Ministers of Public Health.  (Also, the disability ratings would be updated regularly, by country.)

With their Global Burden of Disability metric in hand, Murray and Lopez began selling the on-line concept to National Ministers of Public Health.  The fact that anyone—ministers, politicians or the general public—can access the data base, free of charge, (http://www.healthdata.org), means that the Public Health Ministers can more easily sell it to their colleagues, refute politicians’ objections, and encourage a buy-in by the general population.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had provided initial funding, which began the (now) Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington.  The Gates Foundation had recently begun focusing on health care in impoverished nations, and its recognition of the importance of comprehensive statistical analysis in monitoring its funding, provided obvious legitimacy.  The metric’s focus can also be narrowed to individual cities, or regions, as is currently the case for Seattle, Washington, as well as a few other areas.

Additionally, the benefits of education have been cited, time and again, in various areas, and it appears to very specifically have a direct correlation with health care—especially for women and girls.  For instance, IHME has found that national health care seems to improve by ten percent with just one additional year of school, on average.  When China had a stunning surge in its GDP of ten percent; however, that only improved health care by one percent.

Just yesterday, I went on to the WHO web site, and I noticed that it still doesn’t appear to have embraced the IHME’s GBD concept.  In 2012, Dr. Richard Horton, Editor of the prestigious peer-review medical journal, “The Lancet”, suggested that Murray’s and Lopez’s GBD Metric is on a par with the Human Genome Project. And, then, he went on to say that: “Even Galileo was considered a radical in his time.”

NOTE:  The compelling story of Dr. Christoper Murray, and his collaboration with Dr. Alan Lopez, is a compelling, and vitally, important one.  It is eloquently told in “Epic Measures”, by Jeremy N. Smith.

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INVESTING FOR EDUCATION CAN BE…WELL, EDUCATIONAL!

In a prior blog post, I had compared the two most popular vehicles for establishing Educational Funds for Minors—the Uniform Transfers (also called Gifts) to Minors Account and the 529 Plan—linked, as follows:  https://thetruthoncommonsense.com/2013/08/05/ugma-vs-529-plan/#comments. I prefer the UTMA, since:  investments may include all types of securities, and there is more flexibility as to using the money.  The investment process might also be educationally valuable to the child(ren), as well!

There was an interesting book, “Age Wave”, written by psychologist Ken Dychtwald, back in the late ‘80s.  In it, he traced the economic impact of the Baby Boomer Generation, as they passed through life’s stages:  infants; toddlers; young children, pre-teens; teenagers; to young adults.  Think about it:  Gerber’s; Mattel; Disney; cosmetics; Nike; autos, etc.  I believe that the investment process, behind funding an education, can be a learning process for the child, and a relationship-building opportunity for the parent or grandparent.

My Wife and I started an UTMA Account for our Grandson, Henry, when he was six months old.  Anyone can make annual additions to such an account up to $14,000 ($28,000 for a couple), and to each child, which would be exempt from the Federal Gift-Tax.  Personally, we believe that lifetime gifting is much more satisfying than just leaving a legacy through your Estate.

Henry will be four years old in six weeks; so, he is still too young to participate in the investment process.  But, I have been laying the long-term groundwork by investing in companies, as I see fit.  Once he’s approximately seven or eight, however, we’ll let him know that we have established such a fund, and point-out older cousins or family friends who have been to college—to build an interest.  But, great careers can certainly be made from vocational school and apprenticeships, as well!

Once Henry decides whether, or not, to become involved, he can initially suggest products that he likes; and over time, we can do computer searches to see if the sales have grown—as more of his age group wanted those products or services.  As he sees his account grow, he might find interest in tracking it on a spread sheet and, at some point, begin to see the advantages of products that he doesn’t use from an investment standpoint, and that the products he does like might not be economically feasible as an investment.  Any detailed analysis would only be at his suggestion.  Seriously!

The important goal here is to establish an account to fund higher education, if you can; but, it should not be used to force a child to go to college.  Likewise, allow the child to be as involved as they wish to be in the investment process, or prefer not to be.  Likewise, permit them to engage at times of their choosing!  Besides preparing early for education, the other important goal should be to have things that parents and/or grandparents might do with the children and young adults.

 

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