WonkyFolk 14 – Jed and Andy Tackle the Hairiest Education Problems

This week, Andy and I are talking about the furries, a fiscal cliff, higher education, and trade schools.

You can also watch it on YouTube.

Show Notes:

Transcript
Andy:

Hey Jed, how are you? Hey Andy, good to see you. It's good to see you. It's good to see you.

Jed:

It's been a while since the holidays, but the first time I've seen you so happy new year.

Andy:

Thank you I appreciate I appreciate that 2024 is about a little bit of a bumpy start here, but we're things are things are looking up Um, um, we're looking forward Uh, it's great to see you and we get the podcast. It's just the two of us today but we've got some uh, we've got some cool guests coming up and What looks like it'll be our first live episode. We'll have more details, but we've been invited to, uh, be the plenary session in an education conference and record live there. So I have no idea who came up with that bad idea and they'll probably be jobless pretty soon. Um, we're gonna, we're gonna give it a go.

Jed:

Yeah. Both these guests and the live recording could really like just pull back the mask and reveal us to be completely clueless about what we're really doing here. But, um, it's fun that people are inviting us and that the recording seems to be resonating with a lot of people.

Andy:

Well, our technician wanted me to, I was like, I didn't want to have my mic in the picture when he said, that's what you're supposed to do. So we even have like fancy podcaster mics.

Jed:

Well, um, we'll, uh, we'll see what happens here when we get in front of a live audience and we can't go back and re record it six times. Like we've actually been doing it, just not disclosing to our audience. Exactly.

Andy:

They were actually, we're actually reading from a script paid for by our billionaire or our bill, our billionaire backers and people actually discovered. Live they're gonna be able to see the teleprompters.

Jed:

Well, it's not like we bring any um, attitude of I don't know. What's the word i'm looking for here. It's not like we don't bring um a creative idea to all of the content that we're generating here like Your furriest post here from just a couple days ago. Yeah,

Andy:

we can talk about that But I think you're I think it is a safe bet There is no one watching this podcast who's thinking like oh, yeah These guys have this all scripted out and and planned and so forth ahead of time Uh, I think no one anyone is in more than a couple of minutes is not gonna be laboring into that. Uh that illusion Yes, what would you do if I told you And i'll actually tell you like when I first heard about this my thought process If I told you there was a bill in an American state to have kids who come to school dressed as furries, so we can talk about what a furry is in a sec, removed, and if the parents didn't take them home, the animal control would pick them up. I mean, Would you think that I, that that was just bullshit? I was just messing around with you or would you think that was real?

Jed:

Unfortunately, my experience working in legislatures now for more than 15 years, nothing surprises me. Not even that Andy.

Andy:

All right. You're even more cynical than I am. I'm pretty cynical. But when someone sent that to me, I thought they were playing a joke and I thought it was actually sort of funny. And then I realized. This is actually real. We'll talk about the legislation. And then the second time when somebody sent the bill sponsor talking about it, I again thought this had to be made up. But local journalists were retweeting, obviously know this person is, you know, you know, could recognize them. And, uh, and so it turned out that was real too. We could talk about all that. So the back story is there is a bill in Oklahoma that's been introduced and there's been, it's not the first one. There's a little bit of a legislative history or some different things there in Oklahoma. Yeah. Um, with everything going on with schools, the thing that some people are most upset about is furries, which are people who identify or dress up as animals. Um, some, some teens do this, some adults, um, obviously most of us do it when we're little kids. Um, and there's been some other legislation. This one is intended, uh, to ban furries from school activities. So if a kid shows up. Dressed like that they are then not allowed to participate and if their parents won't come get them animal control will so like There's a lot to unpack here That's a lot of words most of which are absolutely crazy and so there's a lot to unpack

Jed:

I just wonder What is the legislator saying in in his or her district about the gravity of this issue? I mean, what do you think got it going in the first place? Did some irate constituent bring it to him or her or I mean, how do you think he even gets going?

Andy:

Oh, I don't know in his video about it He does make a point which I I do think is honestly it's hard to dispute I can't dispute which is that you can't teach cats to count and I mean i'm not I'm, not an expert on cats, but that does like intuitively make sense to me But we're not talking about cats. We're talking about potentially a kid maybe dressed as a cat or with cat ears or something or a cat tail. Um, so, uh, so it doesn't really apply. But I mean, that's that's like the one point you I do think it's kind of inarguable. You probably cannot teach a cat to to actually count. Um, Uh, so I don't know what is driving it actually have a theory of what's driving. We can talk about that a second. That's a little bit more serious. Um, the thing I found interesting about it, though, it showed I'm not even sure it's well thought through because this person obviously thinks and I do believe the same legislature was caught up in this hole. You may remember a year or two ago, there was a whole bullshit hoax that like, Schools were providing litter boxes to kids. And of course it wasn't true, but it's one of these things that was too good to check and it tied into some other culture war stuff, which again, we'll talk some of the more serious stuff behind this. Um, and I think this guy was, was part of that. Um, but the part I found interesting, honestly, is if his whole thing is, this is made up, it's not real. These aren't real identities. You shouldn't respect them. Like if you're saying. We're going to get animal control. I mean, animal control. It's right there in the name. It's animal control. You're essentially validating the identity by doing this. So I'm not even sure like that. He thought it through in terms of what he was saying, because I would assume some segment of people who want to identify as animals would be happy to be Recognized that way by the state

Jed:

and he must think that there are political points to score by doing this There's something about some deep human identity That is at risk within the current society that needs protection and this is his way To signal that he's serious about these issues,

Andy:

I guess And I will I guess I will share. I mean, there's two things One, this is one of these people who you can just tell he is liberty loving and freedom loving and all the rest. And I do think, um, an aspect missing from our culture wars on a lot of this stuff is if you are for freedom, you should be for letting people express themselves basically however they want. insofar as it doesn't affect others and people dressing up as animals or identifying as animals like that has no, I mean, that doesn't, has no, it's not what I'm into, but it has no resonance. Like it doesn't matter, um, to my life. Right. So go, if that makes you happy, like go do it. Um, and I do think, uh, the political left has, has, has failed to sort of put a freedom frame around a lot of this. And there is just an enormous contradiction around a lot of this, which is people who are like, I'm for freedom, and I'm for, you know, don't tread on me, yadda yadda, and then, uh, you know, get up in arms and end up taking, like, very coercive positions, and I feel like that's been, that's a place where mishandled these cultural issues, that is wrong.

Jed:

Well, I just find the lawmaking related to public education policy right now. Off the mark, you know, is it furrious or is it spurious? I I find that you know, um, I wrote something

Andy:

That's not part of the podcast. We're gonna pause A lot of puns

Jed:

Yes. Well, I mean as far as it wasn't quite a pun, but it was at least a rhyme. I I wrote something Um, where I said, when cursive becomes discursive, a couple weeks ago and I talked about how in the California legislature, the year, the six year mandate to teach cursive writing in elementary schools passed unanimously. Unanimously. Nothing passes unanimously in the California Assembly. I had to Google and look for some. There were two other bills I could find. One actually was a serious one. We'll leave that one aside. The other one, it's serious also, but just reflects something so nonsensical. There was a bill that gave vets, I mean veterinarians, the ability to serve their, their, their patients with, with telecare. So if you, if you've got a, a, a, you know, a dog or whatever with a, with a, with a fur infection or whatever it is, it's now legal in the state of California to show your pet's ailment. To your veterinarian via telehealth the thing that just comes up is when did it ever pass? When did the law ever pass in the past that it was not okay? For an owner to a pet owner to show something to their veterinarian but these are the kinds of laws that need to get taken off the books because they're just So ridiculous and

Andy:

there are too many laws and I think we can like that. That's a like I think that's like a general problem And like it affects it that that cuts across and obviously anytime you have a law at some level It's going to have to be enforced And so you should be like this law is important enough that I am comfortable having it enforced And we've seen as we've seen sometimes that you know That enforced me to get people interacting with police for trivial things and that can go that can go badly Um, that's gonna be an issue with teachers on one of all these rules in school. Teachers are gonna have to enforce all those various rules. And so you should think about that. So I do think that's an issue and you do just have like both just sort of archaic laws that are left and then just like too many laws about too many. Things I don't think you have to be like some like radical libertarian to to think that

Jed:

and we're in an era where people Where policymakers just have no idea what to do in education that we've got serious problems and no one can address them Substantively so they end up Passing these other laws that I don't think make any sense whether whether or not you teach cursive in an elementary school I think it's an important decision Yes, and each school or and you can make some fairly compelling arguments that the act of learning cursive Is good for brain development and all those kinds of I hear it. I hear it but the idea that you're going to Mandate that for six years when I told that to my my teenagers. They happen to be there When I first saw the story, they thought it was a joke. They thought it was something out of the onion. What? Six years of learning cursive? No guys, this is actually serious, right? But, you know, we have this need now to be involved in education in some way. And in the past we were engaging on serious reform issues. Some which turned out okay, some which didn't, but mostly all the substantive real reform stuff is on the sidelines now. And we're doing these, these other things, which I think are completely off topic.

Andy:

Well, you and I have talked about that in the past. I think like politics abhors a vacuum and we've created one. There's no arguments in front of school boards. We're not talking, even in the wake of the pandemic, we're not really talking about teaching and learning. And so all this other stuff. Comes rushing in which is all this culture war, uh kinds of things front again And I know people as soon as I say this people cringe but like from both sides both sides of the side We're not talking about academics Let's bring all of our favored things in into schools And you end up that becomes a place where people go to fight over this stuff

Jed:

Yeah, I mean in my first post of the year at charter folk. I wrote about The DeSantis folks, um, basically restricting the teaching of slavery in California. Meanwhile, the San Francisco School Board, you know, they had a mural where there were slaves that were presented and they want to cover the mural. Both sides want to cover history or represent history or whatever it is, and it's this viewing of public education as a landscape. Um, or a canvas upon which you can paint your political pictures that creates so much dysfunction. Look at Macron just this week in France. He wants a political reset. He wants to put himself further to the right. One of the first things that he's doing, let's have school uniforms and let's have limitations on, on Muslim, uh, art. You know, we're in, in, in schools and these kinds of things. And, uh, somehow or another, we need to find a buffer between our schools and those legislative, those political impulses. I don't know how we do it, but you know, hopefully over time we figure out a way.

Andy:

I honestly think part of it is having a resetting with an agenda that's around teaching and learning and being serious about that. And part of it is, as the kids say, they say on the Internet, people need to touch grass. I mean, some of this is just like, who the hell has the time for this? Right? And if you're this spun up about stuff like asking yourself, like, why do you actually care? And how much does this matter? And I would not say that. I think there are things in schools that are worth like fighting about. There's been overreach on the right and the left and all of that. But it does not mean everything is. And now people are a point where everything becomes, um becomes a battleground. And I think that's and some of it is like people need to if we cannot have politics and particularly education politics be sort of the local sport, you have to have Other stuff that that people are into or this just takes over and and the end result is you get this sort of you get This sort of craziness.

Jed:

We also have this curse of short term thinking if we look at like the fiscal cliff that we're now approaching Anybody could have seen all the way back in 2020 when we were first passing these things Do we need to pass some things to make sure that there weren't going to be layoffs within? Uh, organizations and where there are incremental things we could do maybe around learning loss, but the just shit ton of money that fell on these bureaucracies and these highly politicized environments, uh, and knowing that the money is going to go away three years later, we could have foreseen what was going to happen. The, uh, additional staff that were, uh, that were hired the additional. Um, uh, compensation that was offered to those staff and how when the money went away, there was going to be a trauma imposed upon all public education that will probably contribute to another couple of years of these school districts and others being unable to stay focused on, on learning loss and the most important needs of our kids. So I don't know what it is about, I don't know if there's any way this is just. The politics of of of education or is there a way for us to infuse into The discussion some longer term thinking so that we avoid unnecessary mistakes.

Andy:

Yeah Well, it's an end up in the whole the whole thing. It's fascinating just in the sense that like both I mean, the Trump and Biden COVID policies until recently, the administration just this week put out some, you know, some new stuff and they're doubling down on some stuff they've been trying to do, but that was basically put the money out there and let people do whatever they want with it. And when you're talking about like, you know, 190 billion for K 12, I think a reasonable person would ask like, Like, first of all, should some fraction of that actually be for structural kinds of reform that we need? But more than that, if you're going to put out 190, like, what is the reciprocal kinds of things you're going to ask for, for that, if you're going to invest that, like, then what are the, what are the asks going to be around policy? And both the, the Biden people at the beginning of the administration and the Trump people seem sort of similarly disinterested in those kinds of policy questions, and that's a problem that's coming home to roost now. The debate, best I can tell, you watched, I mean, to the extent, you know, there are some smart education people on Twitter, and the debate seems to be whether all the money was wasted or just some of the money. Um, uh, I'm in camp some, I don't think it was all wasted, but surely

Jed:

I'm in camp almost.

Andy:

Is that the best we can do?

Jed:

I'm in camp almost all.

Andy:

It's a lot. I mean, I do think some of it hasn't still hasn't been actually reported well, so we still don't know. Um, that's what's creating the sense. A lot of it's not, you know, not even spent. A lot of the reporting is bad, but yeah, a lot of it went to one time things. You saw there's school districts that they didn't, they had more than they knew what to do with. So you were getting sort of these random acts of bonusing teachers and stuff like that. Um, It wasn't plan for the administration. One of the things they did this week is basically on certain activities. You can spend the money out longer and you can see what they're trying to do, which is incentivize people to use it on good stuff in exchange for some flexibility, which is great, but you know, it better, better late than never, but it is. It is late.

Jed:

Yeah, I just think that there are some things that we know are wrong with the way our schools are set up financially, economically, and we should have those problems out in front of everyone, such that if there are moments when new resources come available. We've got a general sense of priorities about what are the things that we need to address. And then, of course, in the near term moment, the political imperative will probably be to not fund those longer term things. But at least they make a choice to, to refuse to, you know, to address those other issues while they address something else.

Andy:

Some of that is more transparency too, right?

Jed:

Totally. Absolutely. Absolutely.

Andy:

People, it's a, it's a, it's, you know, often when you pull on these various social phenomena that people argue about, you find out people are like, you know, their estimates of prevalence of things and so forth is wildly off and people's estimates of education spending are wildly off. And then when you, I mean, there's ample polling on this, and then when you actually give them accurate data, their views on education spending actually. change. So there's just a huge problem with just transparency and sort of shadow boxing. And it's, you know, it's always an easy play to say schools are underfunded because it intuitively makes sense to people. And in some cases they certainly are, but it's usually, you know, more complicated, particularly as you aggregate up to larger units, like within like a whole state, um, and so forth. And There's just tons of confusion about this because there's no transparency and then the media echoes it and or it is presents both sides with like very little empiricism. So, like, the debate goes on without, like, anyone bothering. So there actually are, like, numbers and facts here that we can look at.

Jed:

Then charter schools get presented as non transparent, which is just so absurd in comparison to what we see within the public education establishment. I, I often call for us to support policies that would require school districts to approve budgets down to the school level and get their audits down to the school level, not based upon FTEs, but actual dollars spent because so many charter school laws are set up such that. Even if you won't operate multiple sites, you still have to approve budgets and get audits down to the site level. And when you don't have those kinds of things, that's what allows Washington, D. C. to suck money away from southeast and subsidize the schools over in northwest. Or where I taught in south central Los Angeles to suck the money away from our schools to subsidize the schools in woodland hills in the west side. So, um, but we don't, we aren't crisp on what are these foundational needs. And because of that, when moments of opportunity arise, when a new bill is going to get pushed through quickly, we don't have the ideas there and we make mistakes yet again.

Andy:

Yeah, I think, and one thing you're on to just There's a lot of slippage in that, uh, from district to school level. And some of that is sort of how roles are coded and it leads to confusion about like administrative costs, but some of it also there's just slippage. And that's where you see, you're like, wait a minute, um, this doesn't make sense. And, and, and divisions are. I think in school districts are trying to do better in some cases there, but it's really opaque. And that's where, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of, uh, confusion in some cases, uh, mischief I should use. Um, I don't use this podcast much to plug the weather work. I probably should. We have a whole body of work on school finance. It's on our website. I urge people to look at like, how do you actually get to transparent, equitable school finance systems? And it's happening in some cool places. We've done a lot of work in Tennessee. And we've got some stuff up about sort of how that all came together. And, um, you know, which I think to some people would seem like an unlikely place to have a terrific school finance overhaul, but they did a great job. Uh, um, yeah. And so I'd encourage people to check that. I do think Finance is gonna be a big issue, uh, in the next few years because of these macro, uh, conditions.

Jed:

And I think the transparency down to the school level is so important because I think school districts can be so big and it's just impossible to get an intuitive sense if you're a parent or if you're a community member about What how the district should be operating but when you can see down to your school level How much money they have there and how much money is being sucked away or something like that? The other piece too is when it gets down to unfunded liabilities when it gets down to pensions You know the thing that drives me crazy, you know in in south los angeles We never had any of the senior teachers in our school. All the senior teachers were in the west Right. All the ones that were generating the pensions and the unfunded liabilities, they never worked in our school. Right? But our school now ends up being stuck with the equitable share of paying for something that we never benefited from.

Andy:

Have you seen this thing in New York on this, Jed? Have you seen the class size thing in New York?

Jed:

I've seen the class size requirement now. What are you referring to?

Andy:

Which is going to have a similar effect to what you're talking about. It is basically a massive wealth transfer out of schools serving poor kids, serving black kids, serving hispanic kids into like, you know, schools serving more up, more, uh, economically upmarket New Yorkers. It is crazy.

Jed:

And

Andy:

meanwhile, these people can't, everybody's like, we're for equity. It's like, this is like a reverse equity play. It's like, it is like Donald Trump's Tax plan if it were an education plan and suddenly everyone's like struck mute. It's crazy

Jed:

Well, this is really off topic but I had a fascinating conversation with people in Florida right now about the new universal voucher program and How people are topping off their vouchers with their own private, you know tuition payment. It's giving Many of the private schools more money now To hire the best teachers and so they're really sucking people away from charter schools and from traditional public schools because they've got an ability to pay something that nobody else can and so There are these decisions that we make that have these kinds of ramifications and we should be thinking them through more carefully

Andy:

Yeah, and I know this is a topic for down the road I know you're very bullish on charters right now and their growth potential. I I somewhat am but like You can also see a squeeze play where charters get like you've got these private programs going very robustly and growing in the very popular parents. You've got the traditional public schools in some cases. Coming even like a provider of last resort and then charters get kind of get kind of squeezed there.

Jed:

Yeah, I wrote this week about the biggest news in iowa being that there are eight new charter schools that are set up But what that didn't uh report on is that two years from now The voucher program which is now restricted to just low income families in iowa will soon be universal And so where is all the energy going to go toward the 10th 12th and 15th charter school? Are people going to say forget it's too complicated to do a charter? Let me open up a bunch of private schools in Iowa. So I think what you're talking about is a very real phenomenon. I still remain bullish on charter schools, but uh, this is a reality we have to contend with.

Andy:

After Iowa this week, are you still bullish on democracy?

Jed:

I hear you want to talk about higher ed.

Andy:

We should talk about higher ed, but um, it just beside one, one of the thought on this, on this fiscal cliff thing that I do think it's also it like, and this is obviously not the biggest problem because it's a, it's a rhetorical one and a political one to some extent, but I do think it also, it just distorts the politics and the, and the finance about finance and the conversation. Because now you have this situation. These are one time dollars. But like this is so predictable. As soon as they start to wear down, suddenly you've got everyone screaming about budget cuts. And often the media just sort of courageously repeats those claims. It's like, no, these were one time dollars, you know, but you've now baked them in. And so now you're claiming your budget's being cut. Um, and it just again, it confuses people. It distorts our politics, makes it that much harder to have a sensible conversation around schools and is sort of abetted by the lack of transparency. Let's see. And, and again, that's not like the biggest, that's not a reason to not do one time slugs of money sometimes are necessary, but it does just, it does just add to this sort of pervasive, um, uh, pervasive confusion here about like education finance.

Jed:

Well, I think education finance is going to come back as a central discussion point because I don't think we are very far away from the Republicans. In congress starting to become much more insistent That title one and other dollars can flow to these universal voucher programs that they have no way of paying for at the state level and the possible rending of Uh, national policy makers over that issue seems, I will be surprised if that isn't true.

Andy:

I don't think they have the votes for that. I think what you'll see again is this like phenomenon where you got a lot of moderate Republicans who aren't really on that on board with school choice. And I just, I don't think they have the votes. And frankly, given how they run the place, I don't think they have a majority for very long either. Um, I don't know. I don't know, uh, that you, I, I, I have a lot of trouble seeing that get through the Senate too.

Jed:

We'll see,

Andy:

argue about a lot. We argue about a lot. And it could also get superseded by other, you know, um, uh, various state policies, you know, and, and so forth. So it's, but I'm, I'm not, I just think congress even. Trump came in last time saying he was going to do a big, uh, education choice bill. And we all saw, you know, that went nowhere.

Jed:

Well, I tend to think that money speaks. And we got already eight states that are on their way to universal vouchers. Uh, probably all said and done will be between 12 and 15 that we'll get there eventually. And none of them have a way to pay for these universal vouchers. And I don't think that they're going to want to raise taxes in their states to pay for it. Or they're going to minimize how much. And so they're going to turn to Washington. It could very well be. That the republicans from other states are going to say tough crap to you guys that did it and leave them hanging my Personal assessment. Well, whatever it could be it could go.

Andy:

This is interesting You might be I mean, I think like you could I want to hear more about this because you may You may be seeing a big sleeper issue

Jed:

So we'll see, we'll see. But I know you've got this, this higher ed thing you've been texting me and emailing me about and, uh, and I'm just curious to hear what your thinking is. I have some of my own ideas, but I'm not nearly as deep in this area. And we've talked about having a guest on here in the next couple months too, but what's been, what's been this, what started your ruminating on this?

Andy:

Just realizing just like there's got to be a cheaper way to turn your kids into Marxists than this. That's what's got me, uh, that's what's got me ruminating on it. Um, I mean, the last few months, I'm not telling anyone anything they don't, they don't obviously know have been really rough on higher ed at a time higher ed can, can, can afford it. And it's like, it's like a perfect storm, people questioning the values of credentials and so forth. And then all the stuff around the political issues and so forth. And, and And, and, you know, just that, like, fairly obvious, but well executed trap that the college presidents walked into on Capitol Hill.

Jed:

Yeah, I think the loss of, of standing that our higher ed institutions have seen in the last A few years, but also there was an article in the wall street journal this morning that really ties this back to 30 year trends or something there about Again, bringing it back to dollars and cents what I think starts it all off in a very You know scary direction is just the unsustainability of how how expensive it's become and when you have A general recognition that the amount of money that we're spending 300, 000 more or more per kid and send you get an undergraduate degree from a private school, at least a third of that, if it's going to be even to a state school, right? Is a underlying condition from which all sorts of other confidence can be lost. Then you feather in, so you got something that just economically doesn't make any sense. Then you've got the politicization of, you know, the academies. And, and then you've got, you know, the latest political challenges and it just seemed like this moment when confidence in higher ed is evaporating before our eyes.

Andy:

Yeah. I mean the one that I hear you, the, I think it's so much in my experience on higher ed is like holding multiple ideas in your head at the same time. Like college is like expensive. You know, there's some problems. It's also a pretty good idea to go. Um, and I think with the, with the cost, like it's really expensive. If you're a low income kid with good grades, it's actually going to be extremely, um, affordable for you. There's a, there's a range of options and so forth. And like, I worry the cost conversation is dissuading kids. You should go that we, and it's almost like we've got this. Like, and this goes to charters, you've got this, like, infrastructure of schools that are very serious about sending kids to college, and in some cases are very, very good at it, and then we're also, like, talking down college at the same time, and I feel like we should, we, we need to get our story straight, and our story, getting it straight does mean sometimes holding multiple things. In your head, um, uh, at the, at the same time, it seemed contradictory, but are all actually going on at the same time.

Jed:

Yeah. The contradictory things I, I think about lead back to the late sixties, which is when they first started creating guaranteed student loans. And then in the end of the Carter years and early Reagan years, taking the caps off the amount that people could borrow. And in each of those areas, you just see the inflation just spike up incredibly. Although I saw, I once saw an analysis of Yale's tuition from like 1806 to 1969, and it had not ever surpassed the rate of inflation. And then 69, when guaranteed student loans first entered the equation, it's exploded since then. And part of this. Is this the, the, you know, holding multiple things in your mind at once. One thing is, hey, it was expensive and there were a lot of kids that we wanted to get to college who weren't able to get there. We needed to figure out some way to do it. Um, and then on the other side, it's like, well, hey, if we do the wrong thing, you know, we're going to undermine the economics of the entire industry. Isn't there some way to handle this? I think that what we find is that the most politically viable things, as FDR and as LBJ taught us, are programs where everyone can benefit. And so when everybody gets a guaranteed student loan, whether you need it or not, now you have just undermined the economics of the entire industry and things just, you know, get out of hand. Whereas if we've been able to be more strategic. Narrow the the eligibility of guaranteed student loans to the lowest, uh income kids or maybe just giving outright grants Rather than than these than these loans But the problem is that when people don't see what they're going to get out of it Now you have a program that doesn't have enough constituents and you can't sustain it over time. So, um,

Andy:

yeah well, I think like you're like one of the things that I always found peculiar about higher ed is all these people who argued that even though there was all this Federal money and subsidies they would have no Uh, effect on the behavior of the colleges. how they behave, have no effect on on prices and everything else. And you're like that. If that were true, that would be weird because that would be like one of the few places where you don't see that. Um, and then you've got these people like Art Hopman would be a good example as an analyst who kind of would what he would call bullshit on this. And he kind of got drummed out of polite higher ed company because of it. And it was like, it just seems obvious that that is to some extent the case that we should think about. How do you build in counter incentives to, to, to address that? Um, that's always, that's always struck me. Um, uh, that's always struck me as peculiar and college costs have gone up and we don't talk, honestly, in some cases they've gone up because there's a battle over amenities. There's obviously a battle over prestige. And during the pandemic, something I found very interesting was people were less concerned often at elite schools that. They didn't care so much about like disrupted classes online and quality. It was just, do we still get the degree if you put the time in? And it was like, it made very transparent what was, what was going on here. And then. Another thing, I think this will be the episode where Andy plugs Bellwether work. Um, one of our partners, Alex Cortez, is leading a project we call Admissions, part of our beta, and it's about, like, essentially this issue that what really matters is less schools than programs, and we do a terrible job communicating that to kids. And so it matters what you study, where, not just where you go. And that like, you know, some of these like really big name brand schools, depending on your major, you may not actually be setting yourself up for success in at least in economic terms. Um, there's there's intrinsic reasons, obviously, that people study things as well. Um, but the kids don't even have this information, right? And so they're not making, you know, good choices that, you know, the example I hear a lot is like you're, you know, you're better, you're better off studying, like, from an economic return standpoint, computer science at a school like UMass Boston, then studying, um, uh, you know, a whole bunch of humanities majors, um, at really elite schools. And What we're trying to do a bunch of work on is how do you create better information signaling systems so people can just make much more informed choices because you should go to college, like, especially if you're poor. The evidence is very clear. It's like the best social mobility strategy we have, but you shouldn't just do it as a random draw. You should do it an intentional.

Jed:

Yeah, there are so many things that we could just talk about it in terms of, uh, higher ed and, um, this article in the Wall Street Journal.

Andy:

What did you think about the whole Claudine Gay thing? And, you know, Liz McGill, like, I feel like it was like, It was, it was, they obviously screwed up. People don't want donors calling the shots though. Although like everybody knows donors kind of do call the shots in some ways. Like it just seemed like it actually seemed like a very complicated situation. It just happened to fit into everybody's culture war priors.

Jed:

Yeah. I don't think I have anything. You know, very unique or of my own to say here. It just seems as though it's the hypocrisy of saying that they're not going to deem something unacceptable in, in that moment when they have had decades of deeming other things unacceptable. And Um, some people seem to think that this is a watershed moment and it will lead to more of the universities adopting a University of Chicago approach where they don't do that any longer and they really try to create a citadel wherein we can genuinely share ideas that we find offensive. And others think something different than that. I don't know enough to know whether or not this is an actual watershed or not. I think it did at least point to the degree of the problem. And I think it, it also reveals why so many Republicans and others are starting to say to their kids, they don't even want their kids to go there. Um, because the, the Citadel has become, you know, what it has become.

Andy:

Yeah, I do think that and it's interesting watching it. My understanding is early decision applications at Harvard were, for instance, were way

Jed:

way down.

Andy:

Yeah. Yeah. You know, I, I worry it could be a big moment where we actually start to have a conversation about what free speech would look like. on campus, which is not, you know, I do think one aspect is not totally campus is not public square. This is not, you know, the speaker's corner at Hyde Park. You've got, it's a residential setting. There's a lot. And so it, it, it, you, you need to be, you need to be careful here. Um, but it could lead to, and obviously. I totally agree with you. I wrote a piece about it. We can put in the show notes like it's the hypocrisy is what did them in if you're like, yeah, canceling speakers and disciplining students for all this stuff. And then you're like, well, genocide. I don't know. It depends. Like, that's that's not tenable. Um, but, um, it could also lead to where they say, you know what, this is the only way to do that. We're going to restrict all this stuff. And so I worry, like, 1 model is people like, yeah, the University of Chicago has a point. Another model is we're going to like. Actually like just double down on a bunch of the stuff and just include more stuff under it and you get a more stifling Uh intellectual climate than than then what we've had in that and that's no good

Jed:

Yeah, that's so that's a big, you know, that's an additional problem there I think uh, I thought it was fascinating in this wall street journal article to see that And I don't know where they got the data here, but they said that kids in college spend way less time in class And they spend way less time actually studying and they have way higher grades than in the past I I wrote one of my little teaser charter photo I put a link but I didn't put the screenshot like I often do And I had a lot of people I had several hundred click on that one to find out what it was It was a snapshot of the grade point average of harvard changing over the last hundred years or something like that And it's gone from like about a 2. 2 average In the 1940s or something like that. It was up to 3. 8, an average GPA of 3. 8 in 2022. And I heard that in 2020 or that 221 in 2022, I heard it actually grew to 3. 9.

Andy:

This is an enormous problem. You give a kid a B minus, it's an issue. Um, uh, B plus is, it can be an issue. Um, And I think it creates a problem. It creates a problem. It creates, there's no differentiation, which reinforces this problem. So then people just want to go to brand name schools. Um, if everyone, you know, and I forget the exact statistic, it's online, but like, like the overwhelming number of kids at Harvard have like over a three, five. And it means as an employer, you have to use performance tasks. Cause like where people go to school tells you nothing about what they're actually able to do. And you get a lot of people who've gone to fancy schools and literally cannot write a five paragraph essay. Right. That makes any sense. Um, and, uh, you know, because they all along, they've been able to sort of evade that in different ways. Um, and so it furthers the problem, because if there's no differentiation, then these other sort of cruder. mechanisms become the signals, and they're often not. They're often not good. And so I do think that's, um, uh, that's a real problem. Uh, do we have to? I mean, you can barely trust resumes. You can't trust grades. You have to actually make potential employees. Do tasks to see what they're actually able to do in a real situation.

Jed:

What do you think about you know,

Andy:

I mean and i'll say just to be just to be real Like you get stuff where you got people who like out of really elite schools. They can't move decimals around properly They can't convert decimals to percents and vice versa Like I mean, it's not like everybody needs to be able to do calculus or something. This is you know, like Fairly stuff that you would expect somebody, you know, with a degree like that to be able to do. And it's clear that you've got this choose your own adventure, uh, approach to higher ed coupled with, um, uh, the grade inflation you're talking about. And, and so the, the, the, the signaling effect is all distorted.

Jed:

What do you think about the SAT optional stuff? Is that a policy that is long, that will long last, or will we think of that as defunding the police and going back on it in a few years?

Andy:

I thought it was interesting as MIT walked it back pretty fast. Yeah, I saw that. Yep. I thought that was interesting. You know, I mean, I'm sympathetic. I feel like this is the, like, the problem is if you're getting 40, 000 applications, it becomes an issue. I do think there's kids who simply don't test well. Um, and, and, and so you do need to have alternate ways. But that's at the individual level. At the aggregate level, the SAT really does tell you something, and it's a really useful tool, contrary to all the rhetoric, for social mobility, because it helps you identify kids, uh, who are really high promise. If you dig into the data, if you want to be depressed, dig into the data on the SAT and score performance. They publish all that. I don't make a big deal of it, but it's on their, it's on the college board's website. And what you see is like that, you want to see structural inequality, you see it in action. Um, Uh, in terms of numbers of kids who are performing at different levels. And I think some people, if you're a person who has sort of a, you know, a set of beliefs about people that I would consider pernicious, then you look at that and you're like, see, this shows what I've been saying. But I think for most of us, you look at this, you're like, yeah, this is why I come to work, right? This is, this is like, this is a huge, this seems solvable. But it's why we need to provide much better education opportunities, much more support. And there's some evidence of that, even with the SAT. You know, Jeb Bush, when he, um, in Florida made, uh, SAT prep universal and you saw some benefits. Um, there's things, there's, there's things we can, there's things we can do. So I, I have sort of mixed feelings about it. And as a practical matter, I worry it makes an opaque system even more opaque because you hear kids who are like, Oh, I have a 1300, but I don't know if I should submit it. And Like that's a problem if kids don't even understand the signaling effect because like a 1300 is a pretty good sat score Um, but but and so it's creating these weird But should you submit it because it may be only kids with like over 1400 and so it creates a distortion effect there And you can confusion and then you know also, I just think and this is true of k12 test too if you get rid of objective measures you are essentially Coming out for some form of aristocracy because all the other stuff, the affluent people can game it. Right. Yeah. Um, and one of the things, you know, you see there's all this pay to play stuff that people can do. It makes it hard if your kids are applying to college. Cause like, say your kid had an article published, like that's cool. But now college is like, Oh, I had an article published. It's probably like, you know, some pay to play thing. Right. And so it's almost like hard to differentiate yourself. And if we get rid of this stuff, you'll just see more and more of that and rich people will be able to like package their kids up in very particular ways. Um, for college. So, I mean, in general, I think these these measures actually help in terms of equity and social mobility, even if like, we need to at the individual level. think about them in, in, in creative ways.

Jed:

Yeah. As far as selective admissions go, I think I'm pretty far out on the progressive wing here as far as K 12 goes. I don't believe that a public school should be able to screen out kids using selective admissions. We know screen out by race and are along lines of race and low income status. But when it comes to higher ed, I feel like you've gotten to be an adult. You've hit adult status. And something different kicks in then, and so I just feel like the loss of, of SAT is a profound one, and, uh, I would hope that we would find a way to, to get it back. All that said, then you have the Supreme Court come in and say that there shall be no racial discrimination at, uh, college, and you can imagine being the college administrator saying, wait a second, I'm not going to be able to admit who I want to into this class and make the mixed group of folks I want to because, uh, people do different, do well differently by race on SAT. Oh, get rid of SAT so I can at least admit who I want. So, there are all sorts of, uh,

Andy:

And the court said you can, but they said you can't discriminate based on race. But you can include race in your essay, which like that was like one line in a Supreme Court decision that was just an incredible boon to one particular industry. Um, the college essay writing business.

Jed:

And I'm not, I I'd like to go back and look at it more deeply. You probably know more about this. I know that there's low income, high income disparities in SAT performance, but I also think that there are racial, um, disparities that don't align perfectly with income status and ones that align with the unfairness that's been cooked into the American experience going back to the 1600s and, um, Uh, you know, for me, it it seems critically important that we keep to your point that we keep the S. A. T. out and other objective measures out there so we can see whether or not we're making progress on these historical issues, um, while still giving the administrators enough flexibility that they can use the tool as they see fit to, you know, admit, um, across a range of demographic realities.

Andy:

And I think the data, you can't shy away from it. You have to look at it and be like, okay, and I look at, like, you know, I look at the performance on that. That doesn't none of that seems like an immutable fact of life to me. That seems like something we could change if we gave more kids access to good educational experiences and so forth. Again, that's like for me, that's why I come to work. Um, I mentioned that your K 12 point is interesting. I'm probably in a different, I don't have a big problem with selective. I mean, obviously I don't think you can't have schools that are selective admissions on on race and things like that. But like, I have no trouble with thematic schools, stem schools, test admission, public schools, as long as there's a range of options, you don't want to go to them. What you saw some cities go to a while ago where you had like the general ed high schools for everybody else. And then the selective schools that doesn't work. But as long as I think like you like our project, if you care about public education, it has to be, and this is why I like charter schools. It has to be, how do you create the most diverse array of options you can. So people want to be part of the public system and feel bound up in that. That's why I feel like homeschool kids should be able to come and play sports. Like, I feel like you want to You want to get as many people as you can involved in this project, if you want it to be politically, uh, sustainable over time. And that's why I've been, the culture war stuff is so dismaying to me, because it's like, it's a 50 50 country. And so why are you trying to do stuff that's going to make your schools unattractive to 50 percent of the people? That's crazy. Um, you should be trying to figure out how do you make them attractive to as many people as possible Because that's what we need if we care about public debt

Jed:

Well, this is one that would be good to have just a debate on and let's get some other people around the table on this I think that the selective emissions issue is is a uh is a complicated one. I've I I think that From the reform world, from the charter school world, we should make it our enemy. Uh, the, the, the red lines that have been drawn across the public education landscape, and those red lines consist of many things. Attendance boundaries, school district boundaries, but yes, selective admissions as well. And we cannot erase attendance boundaries and school district boundaries quickly. If you do, it's going to be total freaking chaos. In the same way that you can't get rid of selective admissions, it'll be total chaos. But what we need to do is grow the supply of great schools. And by the way, schools that are incredibly academically rigorous and put these selective admissions magnets to test, we can actually do better than your schools without having to screen kids out.

Andy:

Absolutely. I'm so with you on the supply side thing. And then a lot of these schools, some of them are great, but some of them you're, you're a little curious about what's actually going on.

Jed:

It just kills me. We have millions of families across the country. I think that's not an exaggeration At least hundreds of thousands who want their high school kids to go to more academically rigorous programs And they're being told no that is that is is not pardonable. That is

Andy:

And that is, that move is, I mean, when we talk about like, like public education and the risks, like so many of the calls are coming from like, right inside the house. And that's a problem. We need to like, talk about, um, these things that are just completely counterproductive to making. public ed broadly appealing. I do want to, I'm with you on the boundaries, by the way, the attendance zones and school boundaries. You have to do that carefully, uh, for obvious political reasons and so forth. We are, um, we've got a project on that. We've been trying to get funded and it is really difficult to get funders who want to actually take that on. And it's So interesting, given everybody knows the pernicious history of a lot of these things and, and, and, and attendance zones and in many cases, school district boundaries, there are ways to do better on this. Um, uh, particularly some long term strategies and so forth, and we've got a project to try to really bring people together across lines of difference to do that. And it's a sad sort of sign of the times just. People are like, and I don't want to be in a room with with those people. That's coming from the left a lot. Um, and it's like, you know, there's a real opportunity, uh, to do things differently there. But it's like, one of these things is just caught up to this, uh, caught up in this sort of polarization and sort of unwillingness to everybody talks about working across lines of difference. Nobody actually Few people seem to actually really want to do it.

Jed:

Well, we were talking earlier about the specifics related to public school finance, and I throw this into the same category. This is the public education DNA that we have been handed, and we need to do genetic engineering of our public education system if we're really going to come up with something that generates a far larger number of fantastic schools. That who's where educational opportunity is allocated much more fairly than it is today. And the fact that people would shy away from that, I find fascinating. Um, and living in California, I think the, uh, the, the affluent areas that have basically walled themselves off with their attendance boundaries and their school district boundaries and their local money and all that kind of stuff. And then, and then, you know, virtue projecting that they have all these kinds of egalitarian left leaning, uh, orientations. Is fundamentally not reconcilable and I don't think the way that we win this argument as Chris Stewart, you know has Coached me on many occasions is by shaming people or being you know Yelling at people or saying that you know, whatever we've we've got it all figured out and they don't but I also feel like We've got to grind people down over a longer period of time And we have to also be able to get out of this idea that public education is a zero sum game There are ways for us to grow this pie as we cut the pie more fairly But we need to start having the conversations and the fact that you couldn't get funders on that critical issue Boy, we got some more things to talk about.

Andy:

Oh, we got, yeah, well we should do, at some point we should do an episode on philanthropy, maybe have, you know, we could maybe get, like, a program officer who's willing to, like, we could, like, you know, distort their voice. Um, a lot of them, it seems like they feel like they're being held hostage. Um, the I think there's also ways you, you, you, you know, you can't do chaos, but like, and you have to be careful. You have to be sensitive to like, for most people, the most valuable asset they have is their, is their house. But they're, to your point, it's not zero sum. And there are ways to address this over time. That don't, like, involve making, like, you know, these, these, these head on runs at, um, uh, you know, at, at boundaries and residential patterns and so forth, but change things over time so that it looks different, there's more opportunity, and nobody, you know, people don't have to either take a reel or what they will perceive would be, would be a hit. There are ways through this, it's just a question of sort of, you know, getting people together and then navigating, um, some complicated education politics, because this one doesn't graft cleanly left right. But everything is through a left right lens right now.

Jed:

I think things like having an expectation that all public schools will reserve 5 percent of the spaces in their school for those that reside outside the attendance boundary. And if there are more people that apply, that there will be a lottery to determine who gets in. And we have some kind of weighting so that low income kids would have some statistical advantage. Not a guarantee, but Some minor advantage in that modern, um, and then we just tried a

Andy:

very little nudges. You could do zoning rules, all sorts of stuff that would be not super perceptible, but starts to put us on a different path.

Jed:

So, but it's and then you increase it slowly from 5 percent to 5. 5 percent to 6 percent to 6. But also, I'm not, I'm not, I'm not naive about just how radioactive this is. It was just sobering to watch in Connecticut. You know, Connecticut is just a fascinating state. I mean, it's smaller than L. A. U. S. D. And it's 200 different school districts and all of the all of the attendance boundaries. And that's just so segregated by race and by income status. And, you know, the state has tried to create an inter district transfer program where kids could get into some of these other schools and Every time some community presents to their local folks, Hey, let's let some of these outside kids in even when they are have declining enrollment and they don't and they can't even fill their own schools. They still have large numbers of parents that will show up and just, you know, grandstand about how what a terrible idea it is to let these outside kids into their schools.

Andy:

And there's usually parents that have that sign on their lawn about how they like love everyone. Water is water or whatever, you know, um, yeah, that's totally, um, uh, but some of that I think is perception. And again, like to my, my sort of view on this is, it's as if you're going to walk across the country, right? If your compass is a little off, you're not going to notice it early in your journey, right? But when you get out the other side of the country, and you don't end up where you thought, and you're like way off, you're like, oh, okay, wow, you know, I meant to walk to San Francisco, and now I'm in, you know, you know, I'm in, I'm in Northern California, you know, way Northern California, or I'm in, you know, L. A. or whatever. Um, that's, you know, that's what we have to do here. You're not, because people do have these perceptions, we can have a big argument with them about whether or not they're wrong, or we can just put in place stuff that gradually, Um, uh, changes, changes that in ways that isn't immediately perceptible. But when you look back in 2025 years, you're like, wow, you believe it used to, it used to look like, absolutely. Um, structural, this is structural. And yet the people who are most up in arms about structural issues. And our society seem least interested in actually taking this one on that's a big question, you know for ed politics about why that is

Jed:

I'd love to come back. I'd love to do a topic or a whole episode on this one Hey, we're we're near the end of an hour here Um, and we've we've meandered away from higher ed but can I ask you just one last question on higher ed which is and maybe it's just a segue into our next conversation, but Um, a lot of new rhetoric around trade schools and and and how trade schools are now the better alternative to uh, to colleges uh, and I was wondering if you had any, you know first reactions to Uh, I mean, I was working out for a long time, but it's it's accelerating right now. So you have any thoughts?

Andy:

Yeah, my first reaction is I was actually concerned about you because you sent me a text It's like here's this thing I saw on tiktok. What do you think was about this? Oh, I was actually alarmed that you'd been kidnapped by a gang of teenage girls. And so I, uh, uh, so I, I was concerned, but once I realized that you had actually sent it to me, um, yeah, look, I think it goes back to what we talked about. Programs matter, not necessarily degrees. And there are certainly some degrees, uh, that aren't, from an economic standpoint, as useful. As as many trade opportunities, there's also a whole bunch of credentialing programs in the trades that aren't valuable. It's again. It's about information and signaling. You know, you've had this like rush to have like industry recognized credentials, which in some cases are great, but in some cases are not actually good opportunities for kids. They're not done well. Um, they're mismatched with the labor market. They're low quality, whatever. Um, and I think it's, it's one of these things where we keep talking about the labels rather than what's underneath it. And it's the specific programs. That's what matters. But yeah, it can be great. And then also exposing kids To what do they want to do, right? I mean, you have to, people have to understand, okay, like if you want to work in HVAC, that can, you can make money doing that. It's a great career, but you will be like on your hands and knees in small spaces a lot. You'll be moving. That is a physically demanding job. And, you know, Doing a work like that when you're 18 doing work like that when you're 50 or two different things, helping kids understand like these different choices. We do a terrible job on helping them understand the experience of different roles, and we do a terrible job and helping them understand the trade offs. Both those seem very solvable. Um, yeah. You know, so, so I, yeah, so I like I find that the whole sort of college versus career debate a little odd because it's kind of both. It depends on the kid and it depends on choice in making an informed choice and most importantly, I think it depends on being able to make a second choice because that's where the power is. The thing that worries me is the kid who gets put on a path and then when they're 19 or 20, it's hard for them to get off of it. That's no good. Yeah. Because you're not good at making decisions. Well, most some people are, but most of us are not good at making decisions when they're that age. I certainly wasn't.

Jed:

Yeah, yeah. Well, that was certainly Larry Rosenstock's mantra that, uh, premature specialization, encouraging premature specialization in teenagers is just a really counterproductive thing. Um, and, uh, and yet you have colleges that are originally set up to like lean against premature specialization, liberal arts and whatever. That are losing credibility. And so as they lose credibility for other reasons, the credibility of, of, um, avoiding premature specialization is also lost and

Andy:

we're going to later this year that I think you'll find interesting. Um, some work we're doing because I'm, I'm extremely interested in it and this idea of like. That's like Larry, you know, and you know, I'm a huge Larry fan. He and I have talked about, I totally agree with him. Um, that, you know, the only, the only, and the push right now is to make this younger and like the only people who are worse about making decisions than 18 year olds are like 16 year olds. And so you can expose people to stuff and that's really important, but putting people on these paths, I just think you want to, there comes a point when you're 18, you have to make some serious choices. But we want to try to push that off and push off the ability not to make another choice as as far as we can uh, yeah the path Makes me uncomfortable for that reason because I don't want I don't want you on a path I want you like on a trampoline where you can bounce into some different stuff. Do you figure out you know, what sticks for you?

Jed:

Yeah, well about to have two kids in in college myself. I I perhaps naively or like a like a uh, an old dog think that College should be a place where we grapple with the difficulties of being a person and, and I used to believe, and I still cling to this idea, that a university would be a great place, a better place to learn those things than TikTok is. And, uh, we'll see whether it turns out that way or not. Um as always and it has been a phenomenal company. We've been all over the place I think

Andy:

I think we should do jet. We'll have a special episode later this year We can do the empty nest issue, uh edition and it'll just be like 45 minutes of you and me sobbing

Jed:

I like it. I like it. Any always fun to talk to you. Look forward.

Andy:

I'll see you soon. Jed. Okay. Bye. Bye