Category Archives: Education

UK study in 2020 found school closures led to “Considerable harms” to children

Conclusions

School closures as part of broader social distancing measures are associated with considerable harms to CYP health and well being. Available data are short-term and longer-term harms are likely to be magnified by further school closures. Data are urgently needed on longer-term impacts using strong research designs, particularly amongst vulnerable groups. These findings are important for policy-makers seeking to balance the risks of transmission through school-aged children with the harms of closing schools.

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/998894/s1114_school_closure.pdf

This paper was produced early in 2020 but only published in July of 2021. This is an official UK government research study.

Number of People With Master’s and Doctoral Degrees Doubles Since 2000

Stunning: 35% of those age 25-64 now have at least a 4-year degree.

About 13.1 percent of U.S. adults had a master’s or doctoral degree in 2018, up from 8.6 percent in 2000.

Source: Number of People With Master’s and Doctoral Degrees Doubles Since 2000

The percent who now have a Master’s or higher is now on par with the percent that had a Bachelor’s degree in the 1970s. Think about that.

Where will this be in another 20 years?

If only there were an emblem we could put on people’s sleeves…

A New Hampshire high school is facing the heat for “branding” unvaccinated students at the prom.Exeter High School officials wrote in marker on the hands of students who didn’t have a coronavirus vaccine or didn’t have a second shot. The school said it was for contact tracing, prompting a social-media outcry.

Source: Unvaccinated students at prom in New Hampshire had numbers written on their hands

This idea of marking people seems to be a thing with the authoritarian mindset community.

Math education is critical to our future

Read the whole thread. There are school districts that are proposing to remove advanced math courses because students who take them benefit and students who do not take them, do not. Logical? Not really.

A decade ago, our then local school district proposed eliminating half of the AP courses in the school. The real reason turned out to be the teacher’s union. Some of the AP courses had just15 or so students per class, and not the minimum of 24 students that union rules called for among all classes. The union complained that teachers with only 15 students were getting easy work loads, therefore, these courses should be canceled.

I organized parents to argue the solution was to get more students to enroll in the courses. This could be done by marketing the value of the courses (such as earning college placement credit, thereby reducing future college costs, and training students in the class skills required to take college level classes). This was the solution, not cutting the courses from the curriculum.

Having made my career in computer and software engineering I see a distinct need for high performance math skills among students. The U.S. does not achieve its future goals with a student body denied access to math education. As the Twitter thread above notes, reducing advanced math classes does not improve the skills of students not taking advanced courses, either. Instead, reducing math options is a lose-lose proposition.

Adopting Scandinavian social benefits and taxes in the U.S.

For something unrelated, I was researching some of the “social benefits” programs in Norway. This is my summary of what I came across – which may be sort of accurate or not.

What I found interesting is that this is nearly identical to what the Democrats have proposed for the U.S. (I am not a member of any political party.)

Some of the benefits already exist in the U.S. (Social security, for example) while others are new (“free college”).

Vacation

  • 25 days paid/year
  • 31 days/year at age 60+
  • Many jobs have negotiated more days of vacation

Education

  • University education is free, even for foreign students studying in Norway.
  • University graduate education is free up through PhD level.

Health care

  • Almost 100% coverage for health, dental, medical transport. Also includes coverage when traveling in the EU.

Maternity Leave

  • For mothers: 80% pay up to 59 weeks, or 100% pay up to 49 weeks.
  • For fathers: 15 weeks paid leave.
  • Either can then take up to one year unpaid leave beyond that.

Child Care

  • Heavily subsidized for children age 0-5 (nearly free)
  • Subsidized (but not free) for older children

Sick Leave and Disability

  • 100% pay up to 12 months, then 66%

Taxes

  • Standard and personal deductions (similar to US)
  • Then, 22% flat rate to US$22,000, then rises progressively to 33% at about $100k (that also includes costs of health care)
  • 8.2% social security
  • Property taxes
  • Value Added Tax (25% sales-like tax, and 15% VAT on food)
  • Capital gains tax flat 22%

A person making 55k / year will pay 24.7% in taxes or 32.9% including social security.

A person making about 100k and up will pay about 33% or 41.2% including social security.

Of course, on top of that, you pay 25% VAT (sales tax), property taxes and other taxes/fees.

In the U.S., social security tax is 12.4% but most workers only see 6.2% as the other half is, basically, taken out of income by the employer and used as the “employer’s contribution”.

The U.S. Federal tax scheme is progressive, without the large flat rate starting level. However, some states, like Oregon, have a largely flat rate 9 to 9.9% tax for most income and capital gains. Some cities also have additional income taxes. In worst cases, this can add 10-20% to the U.S. tax burden. It’s important when comparing taxes to try and identify all of the possible taxes: municipal income taxes, state income taxes, federal income taxes, state and federal capital gains taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, social security and Medicare taxes. This is why comparing one nation’s taxes to another is hard to do.

When all of the taxes are added together, it is apparent that taxes on Norway are very high. In Denmark, it is common for wage earners to pay 40% to 70% of their total income in taxes (those are not marginal tax rates but actual percent of income). The average Dane pays 45% of their entire income as income taxes.

There is a proposal to raise the U.S. capital gains tax to 39.4%, almost twice that of Norway. Economists say the maximum economic opportunity comes below 28%; after that, people change their behavior and the government gets less than expected and economic growth is harmed.

Another proposal would raise inheritance taxes for some to 61%. Since some states also have inheritance and/or estate taxes, these could raise the effective “death tax” to 70 to 80% of the estate value. Basically, the government would confiscate the majority of one’s wealth at death – this could make it difficult for some family businesses, including farms and ranches, to be continued into the next generation.

The Democrats have a tiny majority in the House and 50:50 in the Senate and some of them claim this gives them a mandate to restructure the U.S. into a high benefit/high tax scheme like those of Scandinavian countries.

Wealth Tax

  • In Norway, wealth of more than US$60,000, has a 0.7% (to city) and 0.15 (to state) or 0.85% of amount > $60k. That means for each dollar equivalent over US $60,000, you would pay 0.7% of that wealth to the government.
  • There are proposals in the U.S. for a wealth tax, albeit at far higher levels of wealth, for now.

Social Security Pension Program

  • 8.2% pay check contribution in Norway
  • Can retire at age 62 with 40 years work contributions. Can count work from age 13 onward.
  • Everyone eligible for retirement at age 67.
  • Pension based on “basic pension” + supplemental, based on years worked.

Scandinavian Social Benefits and Taxes Model

In the U.S., in 2021, the Democrats are proposing the U.S. adopt a Scandinavian social benefits and taxation model. Basically, a clone of the Scandinavian model.

Of the above, here are the proposed changes to the U.S., as best I can tell.

  • Vacation – no change
  • Health care – ACA subsidies extended, but not otherwise making fundamental changes. Some Democrats would like to implement a so-called “Medicare-for-All” concept (unrelated to Medicare except for the name) but this is unlikely to occur.
  • Education – free community college, and free tuition for families earning less than $125k, eliminating existing student loan debts
  • Maternity Leave – proposed family leave law
  • Child care – free pre-K school
  • Sick Leave and Disability – no change
  • Taxes – proposed 39.4% capital gains tax, proposed higher taxes for high income earners, discussion of 3% wealth tax on high wealth (various numbers of $10 and $50 million and higher)
  • Social Security – no changes

No guarantees on the accuracy of the above information. I was compiling this for some “back of the envelope” understanding – not necessarily accounting level accuracy. I thought this was interesting and chose to share it here on the blog.

UPDATE MAY 20, 2019

Child care tax credits ($300 per month per child) are likely to become permanent, to cut childhood poverty. That is the stated goal of proponents. Again, as noted in this post – the Biden Administration’s goal is for the U.S. to adopt Scandinavian-like social benefits programs and Scandinavian-like high taxes.

Biden proposes incentives to have large families, increase population

Giving incentives to have large families is solving which problem? This is in opposition to his “Green New Deal” goals.

President Joe Biden unveiled his next $1.9 trillion stimulus package on Wednesday focusing on universal preschool, free community college, national paid leave program and child care spending caps. …

Source: New stimulus package: Biden unveils free preschool, community college, paid leave, child tax credits

Also, saw this chart that seems in conflict with the assumption that the entire U.S. economy still requires massive debt fueled “stimulus”. Much of the economy is apparently doing okay – obviously, there are sections that are not. My Governor just closed all restaurants again, for the next 3 weeks.

You will soon pay 50% of your income in taxes

To combat that, Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) proposed on Wednesday the largest student loan cancellation and free college plan in modern history: the College for All Act would:

  • Would make community college and trade schools free to everyone
  • Make public four-year colleges and universities tuition-free for all students from families earning less than $125,000 a year
  • Double the Pell Grant to almost $13,000

Source: Lawmakers propose massive student loan cancellation and free college plan | NewsNation Now

It’s great to talk about “free stuff” and turning the U.S. into a fantasized version of Denmark, but the bill will come due. In Denmark, wage earners pay 40 to 70% of their income in taxes. None of the promoters talk about how we will pay for this.

We also neglect that university tuition is free (And students paid to attend!) in Denmark because the pay differential between college grads and those not going to college is minimal, combined with a shortage of youth in their demographics. Even with that, a smaller percentage of Danes are college graduates than in the U.S.

Efficiency in Agriculture

Many think the quaint and tranquil working the land by hand is the future of agriculture. Uh, no, its ont.

In some ways, it is not surprising that many of the best fed, most food-secure people in the history of the human species are convinced that the food system is broken. Most have never set foot on a farm or, at least, not on the sort of farm that provides the vast majority of food that people in wealthy nations like the United States consume.

In the popular bourgeois imagination, the idealized farm looks something like the ones that sell produce at local farmers markets. But while small farms like these account for close to half of all U.S. farms, they produce less than 10 percent of total output. The largest farms, by contrast, account for about 50 percent of output, relying on simplified production systems and economies of scale to feed a nation of 330 million people, vanishingly few of whom live anywhere near a farm or want to work in agriculture. It is this central role of large, corporate, and industrial-style farms that critics point to as evidence that the food system needs to be transformed.

….

in a modern industrialized society, most people will live in cities and suburbs and will not work in agriculture. As a result, most food will need to be produced by large farms, with little labor, far away from the people who will consume it.

Many sustainable agriculture advocates tout the recent growth of organic agriculture as proof that an alternative food system is possible. But growing market share vastly overstates how much food is actually produced organically. In reality, organic production accounts for little more than 1 percent of total U.S. agricultural land use. Meanwhile, only a bit more than 5 percent of food sales come from organic producers, mostly because organic sales are overwhelmingly concentrated in high-value sectors of the market, namely produce and dairy, and fetch a premium from well-heeled consumers.

Source: U.S. Industrialized Agriculture Is Better for the Environment—and the People, Too

People are disconnected to how food is produced, and are oblivious that their local well stocked produce section of their local supermarket depends on a large network of food production and delivery.

You can’t actually “eat plenty of fresh produce each day” and “buy local” at the same time – in much of the country – without a large and diverse agricultural system. People in California, where the growing season is about 10 months long, are oblivious that in much of the northern parts of the U.S., the growing season is 3 to 5 months long!

When I was in college (1970s), a group of students were discussing a related topic and it turned out most everyone in the group had at least one grandparent (sometimes parents) who grew up on farms, ranches, or if not, had lived on large plots of land where they grew or raised much of their own food. At some point in the 20th century, people became disconnected from how food was produced.

One couple discovered their Big City friends had no idea where food came from – which led to their creating the True Food TV Youtube channel that explains it all. Worth checking it out if wondering where and how your food comes from.