Pay it Forward, Pay it Back: Making College (Debt) Free in Oregon

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How will you pay for college?

How will you pay for college?

“The United States has a third of the world’s colleges and universities and nearly all its best teachers” proclaims John D Kasarda.  With these words I feel great pride in American higher education and abject sorrow concerning the student-loan crisis.  The United States might have the best schools in the world, but increasingly costly bachelor’s degrees are out of reach for widening swathes of America’s middle class.  Those who can still afford college are often drowned in debt, forced into jobs they hate just to pay the bills.

This endemic problem must be solved; it is in Oregon that we find a likely solution.

Under the “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” plan, students in Oregon public universities and community colleges can pay their tuition by promising three percent of their future incomes in the twenty-four year period following graduation.  No money down, no strings attached.  Everyone benefits.  Students of the humanities and other frugal majors will be able to rest easy and be able to pursue their passions without nightmares of debt. Those pursuing lucrative careers will have drastically fewer rivals, jobs will be easier to obtain.  Unemployed beneficiaries of this program will not have decades of credit-scores ruined, they will have not debt to haunt them.  And the specter of student-loan debt is banished, giving a new era of financial freedom for America’s youth.

Education is the cornerstone of the American Dream, in Oregon that glorious promise is rekindled for the twenty-first century.

The bill erecting the pilot program for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” was elected unanimously by Oregon’s state legislature on July 1, 2013.  They will evaluate the program and vote again in 2015, to improve it and provide a role model for the rest of the country.  One little state has kept the flame of the American Dream alive, imagine what fifty states could do.  Or even a functional federal government.

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Thoughts on Direct Job Creation

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The government’s primary responsibility is to protect the lives, happiness, and stability of its citizenry. I believe direct job creation programs should become a cornerstone in welfare programs to support unemployed people, in the short run, and serve as the launching pad to reeducate those people in the long run.

Governments can either neglect their citizenry or invest in them.  In a case where  laissez-faire economics prevail the workforce is left to its own initiative to find employment.  I believe this method is inefficient; often people act irrationally, due to lack of education and information, as they pursue employment.  Often they can waste much time and resources and still be unable to obtain a job.  I believe when governments invest in their citizenry the populace is better off.  My reasoning is that unemployed workers with financial support are better situated to find new work, become educated about potential opportunities, and pursue new careers through learning new techniques and skill sets.  Without any income these unemployed workers would be forced to instead starve, turn towards illegal means, or fall into costly debt and permanently injure their financial potential.  With financial support they can concentrate on finding a stable income and forgo significant problems.  This second option makes sense to me, it seems to head off spiraling unemployment where laissez-faire instead permits chaos.

The issue then becomes how to distribute welfare to those who need it.  Blank checks and unmarked bills seem like a short sighted way to provide aid.  People are inherently irrational; while they might be making decisions, with their government aid, that makes them happy they also may be perpetuating their unemployment.  I believe that governments, as the employers of last resort, should be able to step in and give any willing worker employment through direct job creation programs.  It is the job of the government to protect its citizenry, giving them an income is perhaps one of the most concrete ways to accomplish basic objective.  It would not matter if these programs were as simple as planting trees, cleaning graffiti, or being crosswalk guards as long as it transmitted an income to support those who were once unemployed.  The added benefits to the community services are an ancillary positive that helps neighborhoods and gives once unemployed workers a sense of optimism and a bit of dignity when they pick up their paychecks.

It is my personal opinion that direct job creation programs do not go far enough for helping the unemployed citizenry.  Direct job creation does employee workers and stabilize their lifestyles, but it is vulnerable to costly overuse.  Argentina’s Jefes de Hogar program found a solution in its worker training programs.  I believe that community jobs can be essential in alleviate unemployment in the short run; in the long run they become needlessly redundant and potentially wasteful.  I propose that workers with unneeded skill sets should be reeducated so they can pursue a new career, hopefully even one that pays better.  With reeducation programs once unemployed workers should be steered towards higher skilled jobs that need more applicants.  Simultaneously, this action fills hiring holes in the economy while hopefully upgrading the lives of once unemployed workers.  Any loss to the taxpayers, spent in lifting a once unemployed worker to the sectors where new employees are most needed, will be paid for by the higher tax returns of those individuals who increased their human capital and earning potential.

I believe that the government should be an employer of last resort, in the short term.  The steady support of welfare should be able to be counted upon to aid unemployed citizens.  Direct job creation gives short term aid to those who need it most and it hedges against unemployed people wasting time and resources.  It can even provide the means to reeducate once unemployed individuals so that their lives are actually better because they got fired.

Case Study: Super Power and Super-City: Part 2 (The Many Schisms Between The United States and Singapore)

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Welcome to Part 2 of our three part exploration of Singapore and the United States; Part 1 is available and Part 3 is en route.

How Are Urbanization Types In The United States and Singapore Different?

The type of urbanization in the two countries is radically different.  The ratio between urban and rural populations changes between countries.

The United States has 17.1% of its population in rural areas and 82.29% of its population in urban areas.  All of Singapore is urbanized.  In comparison to the United States Singapore’s total land area seems little more than rounding error.

In addition the average space that each per individual is drastically different.  In the United States there is an average 29471 square meters of land per citizen.  In Singpore, there are only 138 square meters per resident in the country.

How Does Land Use Affect Consumer Baskets?

The differences in the nations affect the local economics of each country.  The United States and Singapore have different needs because of their different composition of their respective consumer baskets.

The largest difference is housing.  Singapore residents cram into massive apartment buildings.  In America there is a great diversity of homes.  Americans live in everything from apartments in the inner cities, condos in developments, suburban homes with spacious yards, farms with acres of crops, and isolated cabins.  This greater, more inefficient range, of housing coupled with the American value of owning a home means Americans pay more for housing.  Meanwhile, Singaporean residents can spend their extra funds on more food and beverages, health, and recreation.

Part 1, the exploration of the dissimilar populations of the United States and Singapore, is available.

Part 3 is available.: We explore the similarites between Singapore and the United States in our interconnected world.

Sourcing

FAOSTAT. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. <http://faostat.fao.org/site/666/default.aspx&gt;. 

“Table 1. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U. S. City Average, by Expenditure Category and Commodity and Service Group.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. <http://bls.gov/news.release/cpi.t01.htm&gt;.

 Singapore Government Statistics. Web. 31 Oct. 2011 <http://www.singstat.gov.sg/news/news/cpifeb2011.pdf>

 “Owning a House Still a ‘core Value,’ May Survey Suggests | Hernando Today.” Hernando Today | Hernando Today. Web. 31 Oct. 2011.

<http://www2.hernandotoday.com/business/business/2011/jul/02/HANEWSO5-owning-a-house-still-a-core-value-may-sur-ar-241296/&gt;. 

Education and The State: The Many Unique Methods of Breeding Culture and Human Capital

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classroom

Education has taken a new form in every civilization it has blessed.  John Dewey, a famed philosopher of modern teaching, identifies education as a societal schooling of the populace, based on principles, “founded upon the intrinsic activities and needs (including original instincts and acquired habits) of the given individual to be educated.”  Each unique civilization cultivates its personalized education system to protect itself and develop its intentions.  The goal of education is to best prepare a nation’s populace to sustain that nation; each spectrum of education, ranging between the athleticism of ancient Sparta, the liberal intellectualism of America, and the specialization of Germany, synergizes a unique educational system based on the necessities of the environment and ethos of the population to meet this goal.

Spartans’ education emphasizes military supremacy.  Rebellious territories and a weak agricultural sector allows King Lycurgus to create the first recognized educational system in the 9th century BC.  His goal is to create indomitable warriors who would be unsurpassable in physical athleticism, unmatchable in military tenacity, and endlessly loyal to Sparta.  In addition to Lycurgus’s objectives, Sparta place value on its fraternity with absolute obedience, valorous courage, and noble self sacrifice.  This Spartan zeitgeist was immortalized by Tyrtseus’s principled thoughts, “It is a noble thing to be in the front of the battle and die bravely fighting for one’s country.” The diehard camaraderie of the nation is the most central aspect of the civilization and that lesson taught throughout the Spartan’s education.  This nation of soldiers was unified by the threat of obliteration and was forged into an unstoppable regional power through its education.

The methods behind Spartan military supremacy are seen through their aggressive practices.  The trials of war began at birth; prospective baby Spartans were analyzed by councils of soldiers.  Babies with any imperfection were killed off or groomed for slavery, so they would not contaminate the race.  Upon boys reaching the age of seven they were put in public barracks, where they would train continuously with other boys in the methods of war.  This is the Spartan school.  Obedience would be infused into the recruit through whips and beatings.  Spartan fraternity was sculpted from the unified purpose of their shared education.  Self sufficiency was impressed in young Spartans; food was deliberately made scarce so the youth would be encouraged to steal their own sustenance.   As children matured into adults they would organize into military legions and receive education the use of heavy weapons.  When the boys reach age twenty they are declared Irenes. They would be promoted to the status of soldiers and spend their careers training with regular raids on the Helots, enslaved farmers, and wars with conflicting city states.  The children’s education straightforwardly trains them to be warriors.  The indomitable warriors of Spartan education are the end product of Lycurgus’s dream.  Future civilizations would learn from the Spartans original educational model.

In America, everyone is educated so they may achieve any lifestyle.  Since its foundation America has been greatly concerned with maintaining equal rights for all valued citizens.  As the country has modernized American unyielding desire for uniformly equal rights enabled education for the entire population.  The American educational system builds on this characteristic with core belief that the United States is a  meritocracy.  Americans call this concept, “rugged individualism.” They believe people must succeed or fail based solely on their own merits.  This belief is reflected in the liberal education model in America.  Regardless of personal inclinations or future plans all students are legally required to be schooled equally in a middle-of the-road education that prepares students a wide variety of careers.  Academic valedictorians and would-be dropouts sit side by side in the idealized American school.

The methodologies of America’s liberal education reflect its stone soup approach.  There are several distinct levels of education, each with the objective of enforcing a broad education upon every citizen.  In this manner every child is given equal opportunities.  Children generally go to preprimary schools at age three where they are taught how to be educated.  Subsequent tiers of education, elementary school and high school, build a foundation of skills which are applicable skills across a range of possible jobs.  After high school students are given the option to continue schooling or start a career.  The American ethos allows young adults to pursue whatever tract of life they want regardless of their action’s financial affordability.  Each citizen has equal rights and therefore decides their own education.  The merit of each student determines their success. The American education system is just framework which fosters student’s merit-based growth.  While success or failure is in the hands of American students other modern countries give far fewer options to their residents.

The German educational model establishes a middle ground between the extremes of the Spartan athleticism and American liberalism.  Since the Prussians dominated German culture nationalism has directed the German zeitgeist and it has become an underlying influence to German education.  Learning revolves around the state; by building the best civility the German society is guarantees its own survival.  Compulsory education forces children to become useful, they are not permitted from abstaining from their unwritten cultural duties, Germans feel, “one may choose among schools, but for most it is unthinkable that children do not go to school.” Everyone learns to maximize their utility.  By having the best collective nation the Germans endeavor to have the best collective human capital.

German schools are more strict than their American counterparts, but they are less war oriented than the Spartans.  German education begins at age six when kids are enrolled in Grundschule to learn basic language and math skills.  During this level of their education secondary school options are compiled by overseeing adults and algorithms.  Second tier of German schooling is branched into four separate paths; Hauptschule, Gesamtschule, Realschule, or Gymnasium.  Each type of education unique; schools like the Hauptschule direct students towards manual labor, the Gesamtschule and the Realschule train students for more complex and intellectual jobs, and the Gymnasium educates the innovators, engineers, and scientists of Germany.  In all of these specialized schools there is a strong emphasize on internships and on the job training to teach student life skills while preparing them for their careers.  The end result of the German education system is a diverse work force full of specialized labors who collaborate to do what is best for the country.  This model limits options, but maximizes potential.

The perceived needs and underlying values of these three societies were met by their respective educations.  Sparta thought warriors were needed and prized fraternity, so soldiers were educated.  America values equal rights and rugged individualism and gave its citizens an education that combines meritocracy with rugged individualism.  The Germans wanted the best worker on the assembly line and best experts fostering the next generation; their multi-tier educational system is a manifestation of these ideals.  Each of these systems of education made their countries powerful and respected by creating a more adaptable population.  The immediate importance of an nationwide education is an empowered citizenry; however, the more significant reward comes from spreading that education at every opportunity to better lives of everyone on Earth.  From this altruism comes joy and prosperity.

“Oportunidades” for Occupy Wall Street

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The Occupiers in America have one chief concern: economic inequality.

The Mexicans have one stunning solution: Oportunidades.

Mother & Cracker-Eating Son

Impoverished Families of Mexico look to Oportunidades for financial aid and stability.

What is “Oportunidades?”

It is a conditional cash transfer anti-poverty program by the Mexican government that has revolutionized economic equality.

The Mexicans social welfare program differs from many in the developed world.  Rather than paying out blanket benefits to beneficiaries specific criteria must be met before financial aid is released.  Recipients must meet educational, health, and nutrition goals.   Already the program covers 5.8 million families or 30% of the total population.

What are the Criteria?

Education, Health, and Nutrition.

Investing in the human capital of the future generation is of primary importance for Oportunidades.  To be put in layman’s terms, the Mexican government works to make future citizens be self-sufficient and perhaps even give back to their country through employment and taxes.

Guaranteeing students attend school is vitally important.  For each student attending school families receive larger cash transfers.  In addition, for each successive year of education the cash transfers grow significantly. Rather than working in the fields engaged students are getting an education.  Some even progress to college and acquire class changing jobs.

Health and nutrition are also essential ingredients in the Oportunidades miracle.  Cash transfer payments are delivered as long as mothers keep regular medical checkups for their children and enroll themselves in classes detailing disease prevention.  Other workshops educate the mothers about dietary needs of their families and the best methods to get the most nutritional food on the table.

Has Oportunidades Been Effective?

Here is a quotation from an article by Tina Rosenberg the New York Times concerning Oportunidades.  Judge the program for yourself:

“In Mexico today, malnutrition, anemia and stunting have dropped, as have incidences of childhood and adult illnesses.  Maternal and infant deaths have been reduced.  Contraceptive use in rural areas has risen and teen pregnancy has declined.  But the most dramatic effects are visible in education.  Children in Oportunidades repeat fewer grades and stay in school longer.  Child labor has dropped.  In rural areas, the percentage of children entering middle school has risen 42 percent.  High school inscription in rural areas has risen by a whopping 85 percent. The strongest effects on education are found in families where the mothers have the lowest schooling levels.  Indigenous Mexicans have particularly benefited, staying in school longer.”

How Would Oportunidades America Help the Occupiers?

Below is one key demand from the manifesto of Occupy Wall Street : NYC.

CONGRESS PASS THE BUFFETT RULE ON FAIR TAXATION SO THE RICH AND CORPORATIONS PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE & CLOSE CORPORATE TAX LOOP HOLES AND ENACT A PROHIBITION ON HIDING FUNDS OFF SHORE.

The Occupiers exclamation amounts to the government enforcing the graduated income tax on the super-wealthy so that the middle class can return to prosperity.  Oportunidades is a physical manifestation of the Occupiers dream.  The Mexican anti-poverty program redistributes the wealth of the nation, through taxes, to help and empower the impoverished and middle class.  This is what the occupiers need.

America needs Oportunidades just as badly as Mexico did.  Currently, 15.1% of Americans live in poverty. 10.5% of Mexicans live in “extreme poverty.”  Oportunidades is one of the primary reasons why the United States has been surpassed by Mexico on taking care of its own people.  The Occupiers must add reformation in anti-poverty programs in order sustain today’s America and empower future  generations.

Are There Any Pilot Oportunidades Programs  in America?

New York, ground zero for the Occupy Wall Street, is ironically the flagship of the American anti-poverty program.  The private program was entitled Opportunity NYC–Family Rewards.  It takes Oportunidades of the rural Mexico and optimizes it for the urban setting.  Initial results were promising.  The program quantitatively decreased poverty and day-to-day hardships, increased school grades and attendance, proliferated use of health insurance, and even increased dental care.  Despite these promising beginnings, under capitalization and a short trial period doomed the program.  It is no longer funded.

Instead, Bloomberg pays riot police to prevent the impoverished  Occupiers from taking what they were once given.

India Invades Tablet Market: $35 “Aakash” Goes Viral In India’s Education system

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Apple’s Ipad 2: $499

Amazon’s Fire: $199

India’s Aakash: $35

Connecting 220 million students with the world’s cheapest tablet: Priceless.

India - Kids - 063

India drives to connect rural students

What is The “Aakash“?

It is a low-cost, high-performance computer tablet, price at $35 per device.

It is designed to proliferate knowledge through education in India, especially in rural regions. Despite its rock bottom price it still displays a 7 inch screen, plays high-definition video, streams video chatting, hosts word processing, runs Android 2.2 operation system, possesses 32 gigabyte memory, uses GPRS for connecting to the Internet from anywhere, and uses WiFi for Youtube streaming in hot spots. The Indian government will subsidized each table down to $35.  This is ideal for university students because it allows them to build better human capital with their limited resources.  Previously, many have been cut off from the rest of the world due nonexistent infrastructure.

The English translation of Aakask is “sky.”  This tablet’s release will mark the beginning of a new dawn in education in India and the world.

What Does Aakash Mean For The Tablet Market?

Datawind, the private company manufacturing Aakash, announced that the tablet will be priced at $60 dollars for the commercial market. It will be on shelves by November.  This will encroach on the tablet war already progressing in India; currently Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 7 holds just under half the market and less than one in five tablets is an Apple Ipad.  Dozens of other models struggle for niches.  The vanguard shipment of Aakash tablets numbers 100,000.  When this large-scale field test proves successful eight to ten million more will be bought by the Indian government.

Undercutting the more expensive tablets the Aakash will force innovation and a price war.  Aakash forces a technological survival of the fittest; the best and cheapest technologies will overthrow the more expensive models.  The economist term for this is creative destruction.

Unless other companies build a better tablet they very simply will be locked out of the market.  The cunning Indian government will disseminate cheaper and higher quality tablets, with internet access, by forcing the hand of the private sector.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Indian Education?

At the unveiling today Kapil Sibal, the Indian Human Resource Minister, aptly described Aakash’s historic significance,

“There are some moments in history that will be milestones recognised by future generations. This is one such milestone. Today, we see the beginning of a dream realised, a dream in which every student in every corner of this country will have access to technology that defines the 21st Century.”

By bringing the world to the fingertips of their students schools towards increasing the quality of education exponentially.  Answers to impossible questions will be just a click away.

It also forces the hand of Western education.  Already, towns and cities across the Western world have already launched similar educational initiative.  This is not enough; every statistic points to American and European students falling behind their Chinese and Indian counterparts.  Many American colleges already distribute laptops, tablets must be given to the coming classes if American schools are to stay competitive.  Otherwise, American education will fall victim to creative destruction.

Ecured.cu: Cuba’s Wikipeida

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Wikipedia has been hailed as perhaps the single greatest depository of knowledge; Cuba wants a piece of the pie.  They created Wikipedia’s communist counterpart; Ecured.Cu.

What is Ecured.Cu?

It is a nearly 20,000 article database that was created, edited, and hosted by the government of Cuba.  Cuba is one of the few purely communist countries in the world; all resources of the population are pooled and then appropriated by the government.  The recognized the genius of the Wikipedia system, they also wanted an online database of their own.  Cuba opted to construct their own database, rather than simply using Wikipedia, because they do not want the bias of the international community to poison their articles against their communist ideology and leaders.

Why is their Bias against Cuba?

In 1956, midway through the Cold War, a demagogue named Fidel Castro began a revolution on Cuba, eventually overthrowing the tyrannical Cuban government in 1959.  The USSR backed Fidel Castro, who installed a communist regime in Cuba, until Soviet mid range nuclear missiles were discovered by the United States,  This led to The Cuban Missile Crisis; after a series of gambles and feints, with the world on the line, the USSR removed their nuclear missiles and cut all economic and political ties with Cuba.

Apparently they forgot to tell the Cubans; almost twenty years after the USSR fell Cuba still exists today as a communist state.

The United States, not being a fan of almost being wiped out by a country the size of Connecticut, imposed a trading embargo on Cuba.  They poisoned the international view of Cuba and it leader Fidel Castro, who they have attempted to assassinate as many as eight times.  Today many nations still have negative opinions regarding Cuba and have not opened up embassies or economic relations.

There is still much bias and anger targeted at Cuba; any attempts to build Ecured.Cu like how Wikipedia was built would have failed miserably.  So they wrote the articles themselves.

Is Ecured.Cu Biased?

There has been no information to indicate Ecured.Cu that facts have been fabricated.  Some critiques have pointed out major differences between Cuba’s online encyclopedia and other educational resources.  However, most of these differences are explained by differences of opinion.

While Cuba is communist the majority of the world is capitalist; this singular difference radically changes perspective and the facts are interpreted differently.  Capitalists favor the individual making economic decisions; the communists favor the government making economic decisions.  This difference of opinion was a major factor in precipitating the Cold War, so it is quite important.

Can I Access Ecured.Cu if I am not in Cuba?

Yes and no.

The servers of Ecured.Cu have either been overloaded or suffered a major failure; Latino Fox News announced nobody is accessing the site currently.  This will change soon, once the Cuban government figures out how to fix the problem.  It is unknown when the site will be up.

After Ecured. CU is back online anyone will be able to access it from anywhere in the world. Instead of the one sided capitalist stance on the issues there will now be a second communist perspective.  This second opinion will concern 20,000+ articles, giving knowledge a second dimension.

I am a support of Ecured. Cu; while I almost always disagree with communist stances I do support new perspectives.  Censorships is an epidemic throughout America; numerous expose sites such as Wikileaks have been blacklisted by the American government and are no longer available to the public.  This is a tragedy; America was founded on the idea of free speech.  How can censorship of this, or any, magnitude be supported?

 

 

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