Federal Student Aid

As we all know, a lot more people are going to college than in previous generations, but many of these struggle to find a good job and to pay off their student loans. We hear advice increasingly often that college is not for everybody, and that there are many good jobs that do not require a college education. For some, college is a good investment; for others, it isn’t.

But federal aid to students keeps blowing the college bubble bigger and bigger, even though many graduates certainly do not seem, to say the least, benefited by their college education.

What one writer on The Federalist proposes for this problem is twofold:

(1) [C]anceling all student loans owed to the federal government and paying off all loans owed to private institutions and (2) eliminating all federal aid, grants, support, etc. to postsecondary educational institutions.  It’s a package deal: no elimination of aid, no cancellation of debts.

I think it’s a worthy idea—it would take the artificiality out of the education economy, and the demand for college would be based on the actual interests of the consumers, not on the presence of federal aid. Private lenders would, of course, spring up—but being private and not federal, they would be a little more judicious about who to lend to. Besides, the cancellation of debts would give (I hope) financial freedom to millions of graduates, and would allow them to better contribute to our economy.

Other benefits would include:

  • Freedom from the strings that come attached to federal dollars—currently refused at only a few of the most principled institutions, like Grove City, Hillsdale, or Patrick Henry.
  • Clearer perception of the need for reforms and improvements in the K-12 system, which has been weakened and dumbed down, requiring the supplementation of college in many cases.

 

Posted in Education

Discussion Resources: Ukraine

We will be talking about the conflict in Ukraine at the Saturday meeting. Here are some resources from Danielle Ledyard, who chose the topic this month:

Here’s one from a more liberal view:
Thank you, Danielle!
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A Brief History of Healthcare

Do you know why healthcare insurance is tied to your job, but car insurance isn’t? Prof. Gary Wolfram explains in his Incentive and the “Information Problem” lecture, part of the online Economics 101 course from Hillsdale College.

The moral of the story? Government intervention in free markets always leads to more intervention and less freedom:

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Abortion Legislation in Court: Discussion Resources

I figured that because the next lecture from Dr. Farris is on alleged abortion rights, the current events topic should be the recent court cases on pro-life legislation from Texas and Oklahoma.

Texas, which passed a law this year requiring abortionists to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, has temporarily succeeded in defending the law, which effectively closed a third of the abortion clinics in the state. Planned Parenthood, however, is appealing to the US Supreme Court.  See this story from LifeNews yesterday.

Yesterday also brought news that the US Supreme Court will not rule on an Oklahoma anti-abortion law (restricting abortion by medication), allowing the Oklahoma Supreme Court decision, which struck down the law, to stand. See this report from SCOTUSblog.com.

 

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Government “Shutdown”: Discussion Resources

At the meeting, be prepared to share your opinions about Congress’s handling of the budget and Obamacare and the resulting government “shutdown.” (Click here for the government’s list of what is shutdown.) Also, what are your thoughts about the debt ceiling, which will probably be reached this upcoming week?

Is there any way our federal government can escape the dysfunctional and downward pattern of its finances? Who is at fault, do you think, for what has been going wrong? (I assume, of course, that everyone will acknowledge something has gone wrong with our government’s spending and budgeting.)

Like any high-profile political issue, this one has spawned more news articles and editorials than it would be possible, or sensible, to list.

Here is a summary article from CNN (a bit old–from the beginning of the month). Many update articles on negotiations have been published since.

Thomas Sowell, a conservative economist, has several editorials on the ordeal–here is a link to one, which asks, “Who Shut Down the Government?

 

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Afghanistan War: Discussion Resources

The past several current events discussions have been on domestic matters (Common Core, Bitcoin, health care, immigration, etc). This month’s will be a foreign policy issue which has been current for over eleven years: the Afghanistan War.

Most of us probably have only vague memories of the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda on the United States, but the resulting war waged by President Bush to root out Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists from their stronghold in Afghanistan continues to the present under President Obama.

Rather than trying to accurately and fairly summarize the history of the war here, I am linking to a summary by News-Basics.com, prepared especially for student use. The summary seems fairly fair, and hopefully any biases are balanced by the numerous links to outside articles and op-eds that it contains.

I am listing some of the many possible discussion questions below:

  • Is the Afghanistan War constitutional–was it and has it been waged according to the requirements of the Constitution?
  • What has our participation in the war aimed to accomplish? What has it accomplished?
  • Is the United States safer from terrorism than it would be if not for the war?
  • Is it true, as Woodrow Wilson, president during WWI, said, that “[t]he world must be made safe for democracy”? Does the US have a moral duty to work to establish democracies in other nations? How have previous attempts to do so worked?*
  • Is Afghanistan ready for democratic government? Is its factional, sometimes fanatical, Islamic culture compatible with “liberty and justice for all”?
  • What are the prevailing opinions of US citizens on the war, as shown by polls? How has the issue figured in election contests?
  • What are your praises and criticisms for US leaders of the war? What about the soldiers?
  • How do you view some of the problems that have affected our fighting–civilian casualties, information leaks, Washington politics, “green-on-blue” attacks, lost limbs, and suicide or PTSD among soldiers?
  • How should we, as Christians, view the war, and what should we do about it?

*There is a long history behind American enthusiasm for working to establish democracies elsewhere, for both ideological and security reasons, beginning with sympathies for the French Revolution and with westward expansion, and continuing with aid in democratic revolutions in Texas, California, and Hawaii, then reaching the international stage with WWI, WWII, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War, among others. Sometimes it succeeded, though other times, it failed utterly.

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Common Core: Discussion Resources

What is the Common Core? Or, more properly, what are the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)?

They are a set of public school educational standards for math and English (to be expanded to all subjects) sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. They have been adopted in full by all but five states: Minnesota refused the math standards, Nebraska and Virginia are part of the CCSS Initiative but haven’t adopted the standards, and Alaska and Texas will have nothing to do with them. (See the Wikipedia article.)

As you might know, the CCSS have been the subject of everything from welcome to caution to attack. There is no agreement yet. Which makes for a wonderful discussion topic.

As I see it, there are two levels for looking at them: 1) the level of how the standards would work with the students and teachers (where you’d ask questions such as, Are the math standards high enough? Are the English lessons too canned? What evidence supports them? How will they improve education?) and 2) the level of how they would work with the government (you might inquire, What is the effect of the government offering money for states that adopt the standards? Will CCSS lead to federally chosen curriculum for participating public schools? Will private and home schools be forced to use the standards–through remodeling of the universal college admissions tests, the SAT and ACT, in fashion with CCSS?)

So, at one level, you might think the CCSS are pretty decent, but at another, you could decide they are dangerous and subversive.

I have organized some resources I found into “for” and “against” categories.

For the Common Core

  • The official Common Core website. Here you can see the actual standards for Math and English. Fairness demands that you give them at least a perusal. How do they compare with what you have heard about them?
  • A conservative protests Republican rejection of the Common Core. This short piece raises some serious points.
  • Information (and opinions) from an Illinois school district favorable towards the CCSS.

Against the Common Core

  • TruthInAmericanEducation.com. A well-designed and informative Web site arguing against the Common Core.
  • Web page from an Alabama Tea Party group working against the Common Core (interestingly, Wikipedia notes that legislation to repeal Common Core for the state has been introduced to both houses of the Alabama legislature). Lists cons of the CCSS.
  • Daily Caller interview with Will Estrada (former director of Generation Joshua!), currently director of foreign relations for HSLDA. Discusses problems with CCSS–both its educational standards and its interactions with the government. About fifteen and a half minutes long–well worth the time.
  • A blog analyzing CCSS math standards (it is generally critical of them).
  • Common Core Standards: The Emperor Has No Clothes, Or Evidence” – This article points out a lack of research support the Common Core and contests the assumed link between standardized test scores and the economy.
  • First-hand look at using the Common Core English standards by a New York English teacher.
  • NoPACommonCore.com – An informational and activist Web site against the Common Core in PA.
  • Washington Post article listing eight problems with the Common Core.
  • A long article by the Heritage Foundation against national educational standards in general–should be a good reference, though I haven’t read it yet myself.

Disclaimer: I certainly don’t claim these are the authoritative, “top twelve” resources for the Common Core. My search methods have some order but also much arbitrariness, and I am (surprise!) not without biases. As you can see, my list is weighted towards resources against CCSS… but you can draw up Web sites and articles by the bucketful supporting either persuasion quite easily with Google.

So…once you are an expert on the CCSS and have written at least one book on it and done a minimum of three televised interviews and ten public speeches on the subject, you may come to the meeting.

But seriously–try to find an hour or two when you can sit down to read some of the above and decide what you think about the Common Core. Then, once you have a settled opinion, you can take action!

 

 

A tangent (I’ve been saving the best for last)

The author of one of the articles above raised the topic of the purpose of public education. As her last criticism of CCSS in a list of eight, she writes:

The Common Core Standards’ stated aim — “success in college and careers”— is at best pedestrian, at worst an affront. The young should be exploring the potentials of humanness.

Do you think there is more to education that preparing for “success in college and careers”? What good is college and career success, anyway? A luxurious retirement? Or is there something about school and work that can be good and fulfilling even if you never get a chance to enjoy retirement?

What do y’all think?

One last word

I once saw a cartoon showing a student and his high school counselor. It went something like this.

Counselor: You should go to college.

Student: Why?

Counselor: So you can get a good job.

Student Why?

Counselor: So you can make lots of money.

Student: Why?

Counselor: So you can pay off all your college debt.

Now that is circular reasoning if there ever was any. Can you think of any better reason for education than being able to pay college debt?

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IRS Scandal: Discussion Resources

The current events topic for our June 8 meeting is the IRS scandal. I am sure you all have heard something about it and were none too pleased. (As review, the IRS had been specifically targeting conservative groups, such as Tea Parties and political action committees for Mitt Romney, with audits and paperwork, sabotaging conservative efforts.)

You can learn more with the resources listed below.

Thank you to our Vice-President and Secretary, Danielle and Josh Ledyard, for selecting this topic and finding these resources!

Please come prepared to discuss this topic at the meeting.

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What’s Up with the US Military and Religious Liberty?

I heard yesterday about the Pentagon possibly imposing restrictions on proselytizing in the military after a meeting with veteran Mikey Weinstein, president of the interestingly named Military Religious Freedom Foundation.

In a bitterly satiric editorial for the Huffington Post a few weeks ago, Weinstein proclaimed:

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.

Seriously, “fundamentalist Christian monsters”? Of course, there are nasty people who claim the name “Christians” and are labeled “fundamentalists” by the media, like the the Westboro Baptists or the Bible group Weinstein mentioned in this article. But these are not representative of evangelical fundamentalists. Anyway, regardless of statistics, we are called to give a witness that is inseparably loving and firm.

Also, I don’t think it violates either the Establishment Clause or the standards of justice for soldiers–not in their capacity as soldiers, but as individuals–to tell other soldiers the Good News.

And we mustn’t forget that soldiers, like all citizens, have a right to the free exercise of religion. One would think that even Weinstein realized that, considering what he named his organization. I wonder how the government will balance the two religion clauses of the First Amendment this time.

What do you think about the whole ordeal?

The Pentagon plans to release a booklet with its decision on the issue in a few weeks.

Further reading:

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Bitcoin: Discussion Resources

I had not heard of Bitcoin until two weeks ago, so I assume an explanation is necessary. To make it easier on me, I will let the promoters tell you about it:

Here is how the Acton Institute’s Joe Carter defines Bitcoin in this helpful, 23-page PDF:

Bitcoin is network-based digital currency that is created and exchanged electronically. Although the currency exists entirely online, it can be used to purchase non-virtual goods and services. Because it is a purely peer-to-peer version of electronic cash, Bitcoin allows online payments to be sent directly from one party to another without going through a financial institution.

Bitcoin was started in 2009 by a mysterious computer programmer going under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. Since then, it has become “the world’s most successful cryptocurrency” (you can find out why it is so popular with some groups in the PDF).

The value of Bitcoin has varied wildly. To quote the same PDF again, “The rate had dropped in 2012 and at the end of last year a Bitcoin was worth only $13.51. Last week, though, Bitcoins were trading as high as $266 before plummeting to less than $100.”

I encourage you to read the whole document here.

Some other pages to visit:

Please feel free to think aloud in the comments. That would be good warm-up for the discussion.

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Generation Joshua

Westmoreland Generation Joshua (GenJ) is the local club of a national organization, Generation Joshua, which trains youth to become responsible, active citizens with a Christian perspective.