October 4, 2012

Things We Read Today (24), Thursday

Justin Katz

West Warwick for all; the essence of education reform; declines in people births; declines in business births; the easy street to dependency.

Continue reading on the Ocean State Current...

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A U.S. adult would have to be insane to work for anything less than $15/hour when government programs will give them the equivalent of the same wage with no work necessary for the rest of their life. It's pathetically easy: doctor shop until you find one to say your "anxiety disorder" prevents you from working, get on SSDI, qualify for public housing, food stamps, heat assistance, free public transportation, free cell phone, etc. Go down to the courthouse sometime and watch the arraignments; every criminal is "disabled." The number on SSDI has doubled in real and percentage terms since 1999. Only a progressive could be willfully ignorant enough to deny that there is fraud occurring on a massive scale.

Posted by: Dan at October 4, 2012 9:43 PM

Justin - Do you know what happened to the RISC Money Trail website that had Rhode Island state and municipal payrolls posted on it? I found that information incredibly useful. Is this something that the Ocean State Current or Center for Freedom and Prosperity could publish each year? A searchable database of the Federal payroll is published every year on DataUniverse, and Massachusetts state and municipal salaries are published each year through the Boston Globe.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2012 11:01 AM

"That final clause is only true if one insists that public schools must remain entirely blind to things like aptitude and attitude."

Ah, yes, if only schools could be free to discriminate against those with learning differences... like Bell, Pierre Curie, Edison, Einstein, Faraday, Woodrow Wilson, etc. Just think of the improvement to test scores. How much better off we'd all be!

Posted by: Russ at October 5, 2012 12:47 PM

Russ - Just because "high stakes testing" can be counterproductive if taken to an extreme doesn't mean that all testing is counterproductive always. I know you like to trot out your throwaway quote of Deming screaming, "Don't measure!" in the more confused and senile final years of his life, but the more coherent message of his earlier work was that you should measure in a common sense way but always keep in mind that the most important considerations are unmeasurable. A very Hayekian concept, you may be surprised to learn.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2012 1:39 PM

"Just because 'high stakes testing' can be counterproductive if taken to an extreme doesn't mean that all testing is counterproductive always."

High-stakes testing by definition is always counterproductive, but I never said all testing is counterproductive. Testing is quite useful in fact, just not for ranking students, teachers, schools, districts, etc. In fact my kids' school tests students prior to the school year to help them develop individualized plans for the semester. I wouldn't even know my kids were dyslexic if not for testing. You seem to miss the point and choose to brush off what you don't understand as incoherent.

I'll remind you that "The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education" was published when Deming was 93, just before his death when he was apparently senile! It's actually pretty funny to suggest he'd lost it by then when he was authoring his "System of Profound Knowledge" and the "14 Points for Management." In fact, Deming was still doing business consulting into his 90s. Read about Marshall Industries sometime. It's actually fascinating stuff imho.

Posted by: Russ at October 5, 2012 2:53 PM

Here Russ goes again, trying to prod me into another "personal attack" so he can chide me for it...

Did you read the part in which I explain that not "being blind" might allow a school that's BETTER prepared for difficult demographics to recruit them?

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 5, 2012 3:17 PM


I know the RISC site was funded with a grant, so I assume the money ran out.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has been working on adding open-government sites to the pension one that's already up. The state government is being astonishingly slow, though, so it's taking quite a bit of doing.

I'm not sure if we're going to do the payroll one, but we've got a couple in the works that'll be completely new to transparent government in Rhode Island.

Posted by: Justin Katz at October 5, 2012 3:20 PM

Russ - I think Deming has some important insights to offer for quality improvement in manufacturing and other industries. Maybe education, but that's a stretch. All I'm looking for is an acknowledgement that the "don't measure" line you throw around as a blanket condemnation of testing or school or teacher evaluation is misleading at best because some testing and measurement is always necessary for meaningful quality improvement, and Deming's earlier, more widely accepted work embraces this.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2012 3:30 PM

Justin - I'll look forward to the new website. I've been impressed with the quality of what I've seen so far.

I do hope the Center decides to publish state and municipal payroll data. Besides the usual delay tactics of government, it's not particularly difficult or expensive to obtain. When they do refuse, as the Federal government does nearly every year, the petitioner always wins on appeal. I've found it extremely useful in rebutting false progressive/union claims about compensation. When everyone is in the dark about what our public employees are actually earning, it's easy for defenders of the status quo to accuse us of spreading lies. But when we're holding a copy of the state payroll in our hands, their accusations all turn to dust, and anyone can look up the salaries and overtime compensation for themselves. I was accused of being a "liar" when I claimed that a number of Providence firemen were earning over $100k. When I produced the document, they had nothing left to say about the matter. I never would have known or have been able to inform others if it had not been published. Sunlight, as they say, is the best disinfectant. Let the facts speak for themselves.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2012 3:41 PM

"Deming's earlier, more widely accepted work embraces this."

Feel free to cite those sections. Deming's 14 Points actually appear in "Out of the Crisis" his first book (had to look that up).

Consider Point 3, "Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality." The implication is profound. Admittedly many in Western management don't fully understand or accept those implications, violating Point 2 in the process ("Adopt the new philosophy").

Point 11, "Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals." Is also completely at odds with testing as means for evaluating performance.

Posted by: Russ at October 5, 2012 3:44 PM

"Point 11, "Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals." Is also completely at odds with testing as means for evaluating performance."

That doesn't logically follow at all, and this is illustrative of your misunderstanding. Younger Deming's important point in the book (which I have read) was that giving people a quantitative end result without clear quality-focused methods to get there is unhelpful and can actually be counterproductive by discouraging them or incentivizing manipulation or shortcuts. There is nothing wrong with testing/evaluating quality to see if your methods have been working. That's like saying you can't examine purity data in a process to see if a new piece of equipment is working properly - it's an absurd absolutist conclusion that misses the underlying insight.

Posted by: Dan at October 5, 2012 4:30 PM
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