Seymour Papert gravely injured

December 9, 2006

Details here, at Andy Carvin’s Waste of Bandwidth.

Seymour Papert is one of those Renaissance people whose very existence seems to brighten the world, and in this case, the world of education. He has made significant contributions to thinking about the use of computers in education, including the famous $100 laptop ideas.

Hope and/or pray for the best.

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Seymour Papert

Quick road to better teachers: Raise the pay

December 9, 2006

It’s just good economics to think that raising the pay of teachers will improve the overall ability of the teaching corps, knowing that higher pay attracts higher-qualified workers in other situations.

Now comes a study from Australia making the same point. Two researchers at the Australian National University’s Center for Economic Policy Research looked at changes in the quality of education over time, and concluded one change for the worse was pay for teachers and a resulting decline in quality of teachers. Andrew Leigh and Chris Ryan write:

For an individual with the potential to earn a wage at the 90th percentile of the distribution, a non-teaching occupation looked much more attractive in the 2000s than it did in the 1980s. We believe that both the fall in average teacher pay, and the rise in pay differentials in non-teaching occupations are responsible for the decline in the academic aptitude of new teachers over the past two decades.

Is that a surprise? U.S. Education Sec. Bill Bennett used to tout his “$50,000 solution” to improve schools — get a good principal. That action generally would improve the support for teachers and improve things across the school. Today, the amounts are higher, and the need is greater after more than three decades of economic starvation of public schools.

Raising teacher pay is a good market solution to improve the achievement of students.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Andrew Leigh’s blog.

Value of figuring out the truth: Life and death in Libya, the Tripoli Six

December 9, 2006

Remembering history so as not to repeat it has academic value, sure. In public policy, it can help change things for the better. And in some cases it can literally be life and death.

Six health care professionals — five nurses and a physician, all Bulgarians — are scheduled for execution shortly in Libya for a crime that would have been almost impossible for them to have committed. They were convicted of spreading HIV to patients. Health professionals are almost unanimous in pointing out that the timing of the onset of the disease indicates that the disease was transmitted before these people came to Libya, but government-operated facilities and government-paid health care workers.

More trouble for the ignorance-as-knowledge set: Evolutionary principles, applied, allow scientists to track the real origin of the infections, exonerating the convicted workers. In short, tracking the provenance of the viruses that infected the victims rules out almost all of the possibility that the accused health care workers could have played a role. Here is a link to a free .pdf paper which lays out the exculpatory science evidence, published by the eminent science journal Nature.

Will Libya’s government listen to the evidence? Nick Matzke, a research whiz at the National Center for Science Education, has a post at Panda’s Thumb laying out most of the facts, and providing links to high quality information sources. Health professionals worldwide urge Libya’s courts to legally exonerate and free the accused.

You can help. Mike Dunford at The Questionable Authority lays out actions you can take to urge Libya to free the health workers.

Please write today.

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