Why parents and schools do not matter

Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner has lots of interesting stats based on their studies on economics and how things aren't what they appear to be. I found the chapter on more abortion equals less crime to be very thought provoking. The numbers do not lie and I'll chew on its meaning sometime in the future. That said, my post today is on whether what parents do which make any difference in children's educational abilities.

The chapter "What Makes a Perfect Parent" analyzes stats on what things affect how well children turn out academically. According to the authors, the following correlated positively to higher test scores:
  1. highly educated parents
  2. parents have high socioeconomic status
  3. mother was thirty or older at the time of her first child's birth
  4. parents speak English at home
  5. parents are involved in PTA
  6. has many books in the home
Negative ones are:
  1. low birthweight
  2. adoption
[you'll have to read the book on the detailed reasoning of the above]

The factors which had no correlation to high test scores (if you do or don't do the following, it won't matter):
  1. family is intact
  2. recently moved to a better neighborhood
  3. mother didn't work outside the home between birth and kindergarten
  4. attended Head Start
  5. regularly go to museums
  6. regularly spanked
  7. frequently watches TV
  8. parents read to him nearly everyday.
Wow! So reading don't matter while there is no such thing as too much TV?!? [The book goes in depth of analyzing them.]

They summerize how it isn't so much what the parents do but who they are that seems to matter the most:

[T]his is not to say that parents don't matter. Plainly they matter a great deal. Here is the conundrum: by the time most people pick up a parenting book, it is far too late. Most of the things that matter were decided long ago -- who you are, whom you married, what kind of life you lead. If you are smart, hardworking, well educated, well paid and married to someone equally fortunate, then your children are more likely to succeed.
There are many angles I take from this. In terms of home education, the actual teaching method do not really matter. Another is that what goes on at home (and school) does not matter a whole lot since how the parents live (behave) matters more than what is being forced down their throat: monkey see, monkey do. Unfortunately, if success is how good of a follower you'll become (i.e., an obedient employee) then I don't know if their results are something one wants to aim for (to become a better test taker).

The goal of a school system is to turn out good followers: get a job, pay taxes, vote, etc. Raising iconoclastic godly men (and women) would be a disservice to the public at large. Which is why I think Dianne Glass rightly points out how home education would not help "the public good."


Freegan: urban survival skills 101

I've read about it in the newspaper few days ago but didn't get around to blogging but I like the idea of "freegan." Weissman in an AP article has supposedly not purchased food for over 10 years! And these folks aren't homeless or anything!


Lying and truth

I've blogged about this before but the mailing list I'm on was criticizing and analyzing a poster and I wanted to refine my original definition (it started as a reply but I decided to just post as a blog):
Anything that is not 100% contiguous set of facts is a lie. Even if you remove 1% (e.g., "forget" that one "minor" part of the story) of the set of facts or add 1% of "embellishment" to the set or change a word or two that will make it more ambiguous.
With this definition it is possible for a person to lie without meaning to since his memory may not be good enough to recall the full 100% (with removal, addition and/or substitution taking place during the process of either memorizing or "while in storage" or recalling).

The ethics or how to deal with lying is all together different topic which I've already gone in depth: Truth, lie and sin.


Orange Country real estate

OC Register's "Home Prices" page shows interesting trends in S.Calif. Median price is $606,000! With 6% interest rate, a 30 year loan is $3,633 per month. Average income in OC was $72k in 2003. If one pays 25% of tax, that's $4,500 per month which means one lives on $900 per month?!?! Let's assume you don't need natural gas or electricity in Calif, even then you still have to drive, eat, buy new clothes, etc. That's a lot of needs with little bit of money (not to mention all other wants that have become needs today like cell phone and cable and high speed internet). And that doesn't touch tithing (900 - 600 = 300)....

Pro-life in all ways

I thought Mother Jones' "Death Row Conversion" (where American Catholics are turning into opponents of capital punishments) was a good reminder for me on how much I have changed for the past year or so. I was a flag waving Republican and supported the standard platform of anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia yet pro-war and pro-death penalty. And when one of my favorite charities turned anti-death penalty several years back, I was a bit upset (but didn't stop donating). However, I didn't give much thought to both war and death penalty until 2004, when I started reading articles at lewrockwell and as I read ones on economics and politics (including anti-war and non-voting) I slowly bought into their arguments. I stopped voting last summer (i.e., before the Nov'04 election) and slowly agreed to anti-war and now anti-capital punishment. I don't recall any one singular point where I did change but the police shooting in London crystalized for me how bad it is to allow state to kill its citizens, especially the innocence ones. How to deal with grevious criminals, I don't have an easy answer...


Things can be worse: N.Cal vs S.Cal

I thought US$500,000 median price was bad in L.A. SJ Merc reports "US$714,250 median for Santa Clara" Wow.


Are you an Entrepreneur?

I took the "Are you a Born Entrepreneur?" quiz and got "You're no natural, but if you recognize your deficiences you can make it work." I'm not hopeless but I'm no natural, either. Hm...


$450 billion pension short fall

"Pension Insurance Agency Reports $22.8 Billion Deficit for 2005" reports that pension funds are $450 billion underfunded. This number doesn't seem to cover all the underfunded govmnt employees and, of course, the biggest underfunded account: Social Security. If they decide to clean all this up, there's going to be a lot of pain among the elderly (and the rest of the tax paying public).

flamethrowers and other tools

Vox Day posted "Homemade Flameflower" link and it is so slick! You've got to see the video of it in action.

I'm a firm believer in 2nd amendment as a right to keep the govnemnt in check (personal protection and hunting have their place but not as important as keeping the tax collectors on their toes). With that said, I love any and all methods of getting around gun laws yet keeps the power with the "little" people (that's you and me tax paying public). I'm sure if I look hard enough, I would be able to find many other creative anti-state "tools" on the net.

On similar vain, learning survival skills in the wilderness is good, but today it is more important to learn concrete jungle survival skills:
  1. How to blend in the with natives: wear dirty clothings to sit in with the homeless or buy suit and tie and briefcase (at thrift mart) and walk around like a real business man.
  2. How to find food ("The art of picking through thrash bins 101").
  3. Martial arts used whatever implements were available and turning them into weapons like adding chains to small sickle. "Turning common stuff into handy weapons, 101"
The Beltway Shooters of 2002 were classic: they "hid" in their car so well that their car was not suspected for a long time (one lesson is to not use the same MO after few times).

Update March 23, 2006: Apparently flamethrowers are not regulated by the feds -- they are classified as agricultural implements. Unfortunately, PRK regulates them.


Moving: taking the school test

I read Opdyke's "In Our Move, We Failed the School Test" with partly sadness and partly derision. Sadness in that I had similar thoughts when I moved my family from Japan to San Jose and then to Austin. However, I can safely say that academically I was concerned about my future children's education since I was already a pro-home educator (schooling: not with my children you don't) long before I got married. In fact part of the move to Austin was because Texas had (and still has) a better homeschooling laws.

But I can't say I have thought in depth of the meaning of education as my wife and I see it now: our educational goals for our children is not for them to be in the elite college(s) or even be the smartest kid on the block. We want them to become responsible adults who can take care of themselves and their own family all under God's authory: i.e., become godly men.

In fact this is what we are taking into consideration as we start preparing to move to Los Angeles. We want our sons to establish close ties to their grandparents and their aunt by spending time on a weekly if not daily basis. We believe that developing and establishing ties to their blood relatives are important part of their education especially before they turn 18 and leave home. I personally want my sons to see and experience someone they know to slowly die in front of their face: considering that my mother had breast cancer and a recent stroke, I don't wish her to pass away but realistically she has the highest chance of doing so, sooner rather than later (my father's mother is still alive at almost 100, while both parents of my mother died many years ago). If either or both of my parents buys the farm today, it would be just a news item for my sons. It won't be the same once they develop emotional ties to them.


half a million starter homes

LA Times gets to the point "$500,000 question" leads off with:
What exactly can you get for L.A.'s median price of half-a-million bucks? Try a bidding war for a starter home in your second-choice neighborhood and a throbbing headache.
The good news is that home prices are starting to show signs of peaking:
  1. Mortgage rates are at 2 year highs
  2. Record inventory of real estate (more homes for sale than ever, which means buyers have more choices which means sellers have to compete which means prices have to fall, sooner or later)
  3. Home builders are seeing slower sales than they had expected.
Still, many people will be in denial for quite some time -- unlike stock prices, real estate prices generally do not free fall in matter of few hours. Just as Japan's real estate has taken 14 years and counting still seeking the bottom of the market, US real estate will take more than few days to find the bottom. Note the related trends affecting home prices:
  1. Oil and gas are still high so not only will the utility bills be higher, but so will construction costs (materials, transportation) be higher.
  2. Rebuilding after Katrina doesn't help the supply problem nor the labor costs (more workers are needed here and there, so higher cost of labor to keep the good workers here)
  3. Big companies like GM and Delta are facing serious financial crunch with retirees on the books. As they turn to bankrupcy to clear out the "deadwood," economy will contract.
  4. Not to mention that, with Governmental Accounting Standards Board's new rules, city and state governments will have to fess up their pension needs which means they will be squeezed financially: either more taxes or less employees.
So maybe by the time we move to L.A. area, things will be much more affordable...

Police officers are NOT your friends

"From frolicking kids to murder suspects: How?" (title is from our local newspaper but the link is to Canadian site where no registration is needed) points out the problem of public police: they are accountable only to themselves (i.e., the state: to their boss and up the hierarchy and may be even to the tax collectors but certainly not to the tax paying public). Here's the summary of the case:
  1. In 1998, Ryan Harris, 11 year old girl in Chicago was found dead.
  2. Earlier, two boys, 7 and 8, saw her enter a car with two men.
  3. Each boy went to the police station separately without parents (or guardians) nor lawyers.
  4. 7 year old apparently confessed that he threw a rock at her and both boys dragged Ryan into woods.
  5. 8 year old (he thought he was going to see a police lineup) was confronted with forensic photos and were yelled at if he did the killing.
  6. [no recordings were made: how convenient]
  7. Detectives Cassidy and Nathaniel "cracked" the case by getting forced confessions from the two boys -- there were lots of public pressure to solve the case, so they came out looking like heroes
  8. Boys were in the national spotlight for being the youngest murder suspects!
  9. Month later, they found semen and the DNA led to a convicted sex offender Floyd Durr and they dropped charges on the boys.
The consequences of all this?
  1. The two boys are scarred for life: both need a lot of psychological care and one of the parents ended up in divorce. (That is, one broken home + potentially two future broken homes)
  2. Police department settled two lawsuits totaling $8.2 million dollars + lawyer fees (yes, those numbers are our "tax dollars at work").
  3. The two detectives were never disciplined (even though Cassidy had prior example(s?) of coercing confessions out of young suspect(s)).
The only winners in this sordid ordeal, other than the two detectives who weren't punished, are the lawyers.

So, you can never start too early to warn your children to be very careful around any strangers, including (or especially) the police officers.


Teaching Ambition: or not

Time has an article "How to help them succeed" and it seems to miss the mark. When I read something like:
parents can play a critical role in conveying this message to their children by praising their effort, strategy and progress rather than emphasizing their 'smartness' or praising high performance alone.
it drives me nuts! We're not raising lab rats or Pavlov's dogs. We don't want our children to try to please us or other artificial authorities. Being under God's authority is only one they need to be under. Otherwise, they need to learn to seek success on their own terms. They need to follow the individual vision that [Judeo-Christian] God gives them in spite of cheering or jeering from the sidelines. In fact some opposition is needed to overcome the status quo. The sense of "I'll prove them wrong" is necessary for new inventions and even revolutions.

I don't know how it can be nurtured since today's school system emphasize getting correct answers: learning how the tests are written and how to meet those expectations. Like lab rats, one learns how to navigate mazes (taking tests) to get the cheese (pass the tests and get the praises). It maybe what the govmnt and companies look for in their employees but that's not what will create new products and services. See the most helpful reviews on "Who moved the cheese" on what I'm getting at (I wrote most of this entry before I saw the reviews because I recalled that it was being studied at one company I interviewed before: good thing I didn't get a job there!)

For my sons, I want them to become the un-lab rats: if they change the maze or move the cheese, rather than looking for different openings, I want them to climb over the walls or chew through the walls or punch through a crack or two in the seams AND GET OUT OF THE MAZE (or the rat race, if you will). Better, instead of cheese, get some steak or even better raise cattle and then sell steak.


Bell Tolls for the Home Builders

At least for Toll Brothers, an $8 billion company, who sounded warnings about slow down in new home sales. And took the whole home building industry down with it. Is this the beginning? Maybe not if the Fed throws money around be it tax "cut" or interest rate drop or other schemes to prop up the real estate economy. Only time will tell, of course....


Housing Bubble: when will it burst?

Here's a good summary of why and when the bubble will burst: "When Will America's Housing Bubble Burst?"

As I've read somewhere else, what value was added to the homes that have gone up in price by 100% or 200% or more? Nothing. Much like the internet bubble of the stock market: the buyers paid the price because the prices were going up. With interest only loans and short term loans, the buyers are on shakier financial ground. The only question is how quickly will the mess be over with (i.e., hit the bottom)?

For those who cannot remember the past, Japan (a land locked country with only about 1/3 land worth developing on) their burst is still going on since the early 1990's (at least 14 years and counting). We have relatives who own property in Japan and they have seen significant drop in value over the past 14, 15 years. Handful of regions in Japan have gone up in price recently but the majority of land is still going under!

I hope it won't take that long for the housing market to hit bottom...


Debt: nothing good for you

I saw the link for "Broke for Life (Student Loans)" at a ML and was going to reply but I decided to blog about it. Solomon put it succintly: the borrower is servant to the lender (Prov 22:7b)

The following op-ed I saw in our local paper made me look for web version and they have a PDF:


Take a look at the bar graph. Notice which industry has the highest profit margin? That's right, the "usurers." [Ever notice which business has the most opulent waiting area?]

It's ironic how the metroactive.com article confesses this fact of being a servant (see section titled "The Indentured Student Class"). To quote another phrase from Solomon, there is nothing new under the sun....

Note: we are in the process of becoming debt free by dumping the home/mortgage and moving to a rental home... ...for now :-)... We've been talking and praying about a move out of Texas. What happens after the move, we'll see....