South Koreans caught Cheating on SATs may lead to more Worthless Liberal Arts Degrees in U.S.

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 12th, 2013

Week in Review

U.S. high-tech companies have trouble finding qualified applicants to hire.  So a lot of them turn to the H-1B visa.  To bring in highly skilled foreign workers.  Those with science and engineering degrees.  And good GPAs.  So the H-1B visa is a valuable commodity.  As they only allow so many H-1B visas a year.  The current limit is 65,000.  Making high-tech companies jockey for the limited number of highly-skilled foreign workers allowed into the country.

So despite a high unemployment rate there is a high demand for college graduates with degrees in science and engineering.  Which causes a lot of foreign high school graduates to take the SAT exam in hopes of going to an American university.  So they can get one of those high-paying tech jobs.  And some appear to want that a little more than others (see For the First Time, SAT Test Gets Canceled in an Entire Country by Kayla Webley posted 5/10/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Some 1,500 South Korean students who dream of attending elite American colleges are scrambling after the U.S.-based administrator of the SAT cancelled the scheduled May 4 session of the exam due to allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the first time the SAT test has been called off in an entire country…

Test center managers told the WSJ that the problem is widespread and that official test booklets can be purchased from brokers for about $4,575—a relatively small price to pay for families fighting to gain admittance to Harvard, Stanford and other prestigious American schools no matter the cost…

But South Korea is hardly alone—the high stakes nature of the exam has fueled cheating elsewhere, although on a smaller scale. Of the nearly three million SAT exams taken worldwide each year, at least a few thousand are canceled because of suspected cheating. Several hundred other potential test takers are turned away at the door each year because of questionable identification. In 2011, 20 students in Long Island, New York were charged with cheating on the SAT—five were accused of taking the test for others and 15 were accused of paying them $500 to $3,600 to take the exams.

The College Board and ETS say they expects to be able to offer the SAT in South Korea in June, but in the meantime, and out of fear of additional problems, there have been reports of students flying to Japan and Hong Kong to take the test there in order to get their scores in time to apply for college in the U.S. this summer.

This no doubt greatly disappoints those American high-tech companies.  To have such widespread cheating caught like that.  “Why?” they probably cried, “did these kids have to get caught?”  You see, they want these kids to get into the American universities.  For they will take the hard classes and study.  Not only to get good grades but to become intimate with the material.  Unlike too many American kids entering American Universities (see Only 150 of 3500 U.S. Colleges Are Worth the Investment: Former Secretary of Education by Lauren Lyster posted 5/7/2013 on Yahoo! Finance).

The U.S. is home to some of the greatest colleges and universities in the world. But with the student debt load at more than $1 trillion and youth unemployment elevated, when assessing the value of a college education, that’s only one part of the story.

Former Secretary of Education William Bennett, author of Is College Worth It, sat down with The Daily Ticker on the sidelines of the Milken Institute’s 2013 Global Conference to talk about whether college is worth it.

“We have about 21 million people in higher education, and about half the people who start four year colleges don’t finish,” Bennett tells The Daily Ticker. “Those who do finish, who graduated in 2011 – half were either unemployed or radically underemployed and in debt…”

The problem, Bennett says, is people going to second-tier schools, majoring in less-marketable liberal arts fields, and taking on debt to do so.

And now you see why high-tech companies are so desperate for those H-1B visas.  Too many American kids go to college to party.  Even choosing their school by where they rank as a party school.  All play and no work leads to, of course, about half of those enrolling in a 4-year program failing to graduate.  And too many of those who do graduate majored in the liberal arts.  Which is of no use to a high-tech company.  Leaving them to rely more on the H-1B visa.  And kids who can cheat better on their SATs.  Because these kids will not only enter and finish a 4-year program.  But they will graduate with a degree in science or engineering.  For no parents in a foreign country are going to spend that kind of money to get their kid into a 4-year college just so they can have a good time and come back home to live in their basement.

In America some are questioning if college is worth it.  While in South Korea they will do just about anything to get into an American University.  Because unlike many of their American counterparts they will make going to college well worth it.  As they land one of those high-paying jobs high-tech companies are so desperate to fill.

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Engineering Tradeoffs, Security System, Fire Alarm System and HVAC System

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 13th, 2013

Technology 101

A Security System basically locks Doors while a Fire Alarm System unlocks Doors

Engineering is basically a study of compromise.  Of tradeoffs.  For solving one problem often creates another problem.  For example, boiling water creates steam.  And the pressure of steam is so strong that it can do useful work for us.  However, the pressure of steam is so strong that it can also blow up boilers.  Which was common in the early days of steam.  So we install pressure relief valves on boilers.  To safely dump excessive steam pressure.  So they don’t explode violently.

We want steam pressure to do work for us.  And the higher pressure the steam is the more work it can do for us.  But the higher the pressure the greater the chance for a catastrophic explosion.  So the engineering of steam systems is a tradeoff.  We design them to produce the maximum steam pressure that won’t blow up any part of the system.  Trading additional useful work for safety.

Then there are systems that come together with opposing design criteria.  Such as security and fire alarm systems.  A security system basically locks doors in a building.  Preventing the free passage of unauthorized people.  While a fire alarm system basically unlocks doors.  To allow the free passage of everyone.  Authorized and unauthorized.  For example, few people can get into the maternity area of a hospital.  Even the elevator won’t stop on that floor if you don’t have a security card to swipe in the elevator.  But if there is a fire in the building, all the secured doors will release to allow everyone to get out of the building.

If the Duct Smoke Detector detects Smoke it will Break the Safety Circuit and Shut Down the HVAC Unit

Interfacing the fire alarm system to HVAC systems require additional compromises.  The primary design criteria of a heating, ventilating and air conditioning unit (basically a big box with a supply fan and a return fan with filters, heating/cooling coils and air dampers to blend in a varying amount of outside air) is to move air.  To prevent the dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide from our exhaled breath.  They also cool buildings in the cooling season.  And help to heat the building in the heating season.  In addition to the floor-mounted perimeter hot-water heating system.  Located under most exterior windows.

Keeping the air moving helps to keep the air safe to breathe.  Which allows us to work safely within enclosed buildings.  But this moving air can be a problem if there is a fire in the building.  For in a fire it’s smoke inhalation that kills most people.  So if there is a fire someplace in a building you don’t want the HVAC system to blow that smoke throughout the building.  Especially in areas where there is no fire.  Which is why we interface the HVAC system to the fire alarm system.  When there is no fire alarm condition the HVAC system is free to operate to meet the HVAC design criteria.  Keeping dangerous levels of carbon dioxide from building up.  If there is a fire alarm condition the fire alarm system takes control of the HVAC system to meet the fire alarm system design criteria.  Preventing smoke from spreading throughout the building.  In exchange for a less dangerous buildup of carbon dioxide.  For in a fire alarm condition people will be leaving the building.  So they will be out of the building before any buildup of carbon dioxide can harm them.

Air moves through ductwork.  There is a supply-air duct system.  And a return-air duct system (or a ceiling plenum where all the airspace above the ceiling is the return-air pathway back to an HVAC unit).  They both terminate to an HVAC unit.  The return-air fan pulls air from the building and the supply-air fan blows air back into the building.  Located shortly downstream of an HVAC unit in the supply-air duct is a duct smoke detector.  We wire this into the safety circuit of the HVAC unit.  Which is basically a lot of switches wired in series.  They all have to close for the HVAC unit to start.  Such as the freeze-stat on the heating coil.  Which prevents the unit from blowing freezing air onto a cold heating coil to prevent the water from freezing and breaking the coil.  Also in the safety circuit are end-switches installed on the air dampers.  Which close when the unit isn’t running to prevent heated air from venting out and cold air from migrating in.  Before the fans start these damper have to open.  And once they fully open switches close in the safety circuit clearing these safeties.  Also in this safety circuit is the duct smoke detector.  When the duct smoke detector is powered it closes a set of contacts.  The duct smoke detector safety runs through these contacts.  When closed it clears this safety.  If there is smoke in this duct (or if the duct smoke detector loses power) this set of contacts opens.  Breaking the safety circuit.  And shuts down the HVAC unit.

Providing Smoke-Free Routes out of a Building gives People the best Chance of Surviving a Fire

HVAC units may feed more than one zone in a building.  And if the ductwork serving these units pass through a wall (i.e., a fire/smoke barrier) there will be a fire damper in the ductwork at this location.  Either one with a fusible link that melts in a fire.  And when it melts energy stored in a spring releases and closes the damper.  Preventing smoke from crossing this barrier.  Often times they will install a combination fire/smoke damper.  That will have both a fusible link that will melt in a fire.  And a duct smoke detector and a motor.  When powered up the motor winds up a spring and holds open the damper.  These will also have end-switches on them.  And we will also wire these into an HVAC unit’s safety circuit.  Either hard-wired.  Or by computer programming.  If the detector detects smoke or loses power the contacts open the holding circuit and the energy in the spring will close the damper.  As well as shutting down the HVAC unit connected to that duct.

The reason why we tie these into the safety circuit is that if the HVAC units start up without opening these dampers first dangerous pressures will build up in the ductwork.  And blow them apart.  Which is why there are end switches on the air dampers at the unit.  For if the unit starts with those closed they will blow the dampers apart.  All of a building’s HVAC units and dampers are controlled by a building management system (BMS).  Which makes all the components in the building work harmoniously together.  Varying the speeds of the fans, the positions of the dampers, the position of the valves on the piping serving the heating/cooling coils, etc.  Unless there is a fire alarm condition.  Then the fire alarm system takes control.  And sends a fire alarm signal to the BMS system.  Which, upon receiving this, executes an orderly shutdown of all systems.  So when the fire alarm condition clears it can begin an orderly and safe startup.  Often staggering the starting of the HVAC units to prevent dimming the lights from the power surge if they all started at the same time.

These systems can be even more complex in large buildings.  Stairwells may have a stairwell pressurization system.  If there is a fire alarm condition a dedicated fan will start up and blow air into the stairwell.  And shut down any HVAC units serving areas outside these stairwells.  So there will be a higher pressure inside the stairwell than outside the stairwell.  So air, and smoke, blow out of and not into the stairwell.  Making them safe for people to use to leave a building during a fire.  An even more complex fire alarm system will take over control of the fans and dampers of the HVAC system to ventilate smoke out of building.  Smoke evacuation systems are very complex.  And costly.  But they can save a lot of lives.  As most people die from smoke inhalation in a fire.  So having the ability to provide smoke-free routes out of a building or venting it out of a building gives people the best chance of surviving a fire.  Which we can do when we make some engineering compromises.  And make some tradeoffs between the security, HVAC and the fire alarm designs.

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As the Liberal Curriculum took over our Public Schools an Educational Decline Began

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 2nd, 2012

Week in Review

Thanks to the recent election in the US we know what’s important to women.  Birth control and abortion.  And we know what’s important to young people.  Thanks to two states decriminalizing marijuana.  So with our young people focusing more on sex and getting high is it any surprise that they’re not studying hard in high school to go on to college?  No.  And it’s no surprise that the United States has fallen from first to fourteenth in graduation rates.  And why Europeans and Asians outperform Americans on tests.  For young Americans just have other things on their mind than school (see Downward mobility haunts US education by Sean Coughlan posted 12/2/2012 on BBC News Business).

Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), says the US is now the only major economy in the world where the younger generation is not going to be better educated than the older.

“It’s something of great significance because much of today’s economic power of the United States rests on a very high degree of adult skills – and that is now at risk,” says Mr Schleicher.

“These skills are the engine of the US economy and the engine is stuttering,” says Mr Schleicher, one of the world’s most influential experts on international education comparisons…

It’s easy to overlook the dominance of US higher education in the post-war era – or how closely this was linked to its role as an economic, scientific and military superpower…

The spiralling cost of higher education in the United States is often cited as a barrier – and the collective student debt has exceeded a trillion dollars…

The rising cost of higher education is a deterrent. And there is a wider question of finance for higher education at state level.

He also says there is another “dirty little secret” of US higher education – that too many people who enrol at university fail to graduate – which pushes down the graduation rate in international comparisons.

Everyone can agree that the high cost of education is a problem.  But we never seem to blame our schools for the high prices they charge.  We’ll attack health insurance companies.  Hospitals.  Pharmaceutical companies.  We attack and regulate these industries to combat their high prices.  Yet we do nothing to the colleges and universities that charge high prices.  Other than try to help them charge high prices by subsidizing the high cost of tuition.

And those low graduation rates?  That’s pretty sad.  Considering that since many students today are taking the easy degree programs.  So their educational responsibilities don’t intrude on their partying time.  Getting useless degrees in disciplines like gender studies.  Instead of science and engineering.  Degrees that are actually useful in a high-tech economy.

This decline in American education excellence just so happens to coincide with the rise of multiculturalism in our public schools.  Outcomes-based education.  And getting participation ribbons instead of trophies for winning.  When the liberal agenda took over the educational curriculum.  So instead of teaching students reading, writing and arithmetic we’re teaching them about global warming and the evils of capitalism.  And how it’s okay if Heather has two mommies.

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U.S. Education no longer Leads the World in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)

Posted by PITHOCRATES - July 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

There’s bad news.  And news that’s not as good as the bad news.  There’s structural unemployment.  And we’re dumbing down our educational system (see For the U.S. Economy the News Is Bad and Worse by Mortimer B. Zuckerman posted 7/18/2012 on U.S. News and World Report).

Given that the median period of unemployment is now in the range of five months, vast numbers who want to work are just not counted. If we include, as we should, people who have applied for a job in the last 12 months, and those employed part time who want full-time work, the real unemployment number is closer to 15 percent. And we’ve made virtually no progress in reducing this number. We need 150,000 jobs every month just to take into account the people entering the labor force. Today we are looking at monthly job creation estimates of only 75,000 over the last three months.

We do track this true unemployment number.  We just don’t report it.  The official number we report is the U-3 unemployment rate.  The one that includes everyone who can’t find a full time job is the U-6 unemployment rate.  And it does stand around 15%.  So why does the U.S. continue to suffer through the worst recession since the Great Depression?  Because of structural unemployment.  Meaning people lost their jobs because the economy no longer needs their jobs.  Think of print newspapers going out of business because of digital news available online.  The world changes.  And we replace the old technology with new technology.  Meaning there are jobs for who drives this technological change.  And no jobs for those who cling on to the technological past.  So you want to be the people driving this new technology.  Which requires the best education.

Here now is the worse news: America is adding to the length of unemployment lines in the future by falling behind today in skill areas where global competition has become so intense. Too few of our younger people are benefiting from what is called STEM education. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, the human capital at the core of any productive economy…

A stunning illustration of how far America has started to lag in training its youth is that we are only one of three countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development where the youngsters are not better qualified than their fathers and mothers. Men and women ages 55 to 64 have the same or better education than the 25-to-34 generation. The younger workers in most other OECD countries are much better educated than those nearing retirement…

In a 2010 report by the academies, an advisory group on science and technology, the United States ranked 27th among 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with degrees in science and engineering. In a larger study conducted by the OECD in 2009, American 15-year-olds were 31st in math and 23rd in science. Yet another study found American 12th graders near the bottom of students from 20 nations, and this doesn’t even focus on the achievement gap between low-income and minority students and their peers…

Astonishingly, according to recent studies, about 30 percent of high school math students and 60 percent of those in the physical sciences are taught by instructors who either did not major in the subject or are not certified to teach it.

Sadly, the U.S. no longer has the best education.  Sure, students today can recite every bad thing America has done as a nation.   Tell you the inherent evils of capitalism.  And they can tell you everything you want to know about global warming.  But they’re not smarter than their parents.  Which is why our kids today won’t have a better life than their parents.  Because our educational system is dumbing them down.  Making them prime candidates for structural unemployment.  For the sad truth our college graduates are learning today is that having a college degree isn’t all that is necessary for a good job.  You need a degree in something useful.  And the liberal arts and social sciences just aren’t going to give you the science, technology, engineering and mathematics you need to compete in the global economy.

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FT94: “It’s hard to fool smart people. Which explains the Department of Education.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 2nd, 2011

Fundamental Truth

The Fewer in the Minority Ruling Power the Richer Each will Be

Not everyone can live like nobility.  Those privileged few who have more than the masses.  Throughout history it’s always been an elite few in power.  A minority rule over the masses.  Why?  Because the masses can only support a select few in a life of plush luxury.

Let’s do a simple exercise.  Take a group of 10 people.  Let’s assume they each earn $30,000.  Not a lot.  It’s enough to get by on but they’re not going to enjoy many luxuries in life.  Now let’s assume one of the ten assumes all power.  Promotes himself to king.  Or herself to queen.  Doesn’t work anymore.  And taxes everyone’s earnings at 35% to support the royal family.  That leaves only 9 people working.  Each now has only $19,500 after taxes to live on.  While the royal family enjoys $94,500.  Which is 485% more.  And it’s tax free.  Because the king is the taxman, too.  Pretty sweet, eh?

It’s good to be in the royal family, yes?  You bet.  But let’s see what happens if more people join the royal family from the kingdom of 10.  As summarized in the following table:

As the number of people working decreases and the number of those not working increases, the money per Royal eventually drops below that of the subjects.  So what do we learn from this little exercise?  The fewer in the minority ruling power the richer each will be.  Ergo the ruling elite must be a small minority.

Kids are Taught that Free Market Capitalism is Killing the Planet and the Polar Bears

This is politics.  And it’s been this way since the dawn of civilization.  In the days of kings minority rule was relatively easy.  But it’s been more difficult since the advent of representative government.  Because you just can’t rule by decree.  You have to win elections.  By getting the people to vote ‘yes’ to working harder.  And paying more taxes.  So those not working can live a plush life of luxury.

Of course you can’t say things like this and expect to win elections.  You have to parse the truth a little.  And by ‘parse’ I mean lie.  You make up a bunch of stuff that sounds important and worthy of doing.  Such as saving the environment.  And battling global warming.  All of which takes a bigger government to regulate the economy to save the planet.  And a lot of taxes to pay for this government.  So how do you do this?  By scaring children in public school.

The earth has warmed and cooled long before man ever put carbon in the atmosphere.  Glaciers have moved thousands of miles before man ever burned coal or created the internal combustion engine.  Oceans have risen and fallen long before Al Gore moved into his oceanfront mansion.  No matter.  For the ‘scientists’ at East Anglia have massaged the data to get the political results they set out to get.  And they say it’s now a fact that man is killing the planet.  So a world government must take over the world’s economies.  To save the planet.  So a select few can live a plush life of luxury courtesy of the labors of others.  Like Al Gore.  But you don’t tell children this.  No.  Instead you show them pictures of polar bears in ‘danger of drowning’ because they’re swimming in water.  Which they are wont to do.  In search of their food.  No matter.  Man is melting the polar icecaps.  So the kiddies are upset.  Because free market capitalism is killing the planet.  And the polar bears.

The Goal of the Department of Education is to make Good Democrat Voters

We constantly have to spend more money on public education to make our kids smarter.  Which must mean our kids graduating from public education aren’t very smart.  But they do know that free market capitalism is killing the planet.  And that global warming is melting the polar ice caps and killing the polar bears.  So they’re learning something.  Just nothing that will improve their test scores to the level of the Asians or the Indians.

Interestingly, this decline in American education coincided with the rise of the Department of Education starting in 1979.  Before then the U.S. led the world in math, science and engineering.  Because our kids were smarter than kids everywhere else.  But then the great dumbing down began.   Multiculturalism.  Diversity.  Outcomes-based education.  Emphasizing the importance of not making anyone feel bad.  Rather than emphasizing the virtue of excelling.  And, of course, indoctrinating them into global warming.  Instead of learning math, science, engineering and capitalism, the social sciences took over the curriculum.  And one fake science.  Which explains why we are now playing catch-up to the Asians and Indians.  When prior to 1979 we played catch-up to no one.

FDR’s New Deal failed.  LBJ’s Great Society failed.  And made the economy a mess in the Seventies.  Liberalism was debunked in the Eighties.  Thanks to Ronald Reagan.  But thanks to the Department of Education, a coordinated assault on our most impressionable was underway.  Keeping the spirit of liberalism alive.  And the size of government grows.  Because they lie to our kids.  Many of who grow up believing these lies.  And vote ‘yes’ to working harder.  And paying more taxes.  So those in the nobility can live a plush life of luxury.

Perhaps the Time is Right for Another Ronald Reagan before Liberalism Sinks the United States into Third World Status

It is hard to fool smart people.  Which explains the Department of Education.  Whose goal is not to make our kids smart.  But to make them good Democrat voters.  So those in government can continue to live like nobility.  And prevent another great ogre like Ronald Reagan from rising again and freeing the people from their oppression.

Which has never been more important as those not paying taxes has reached a tipping point.  And we no longer have the money to support the nobility.  Something has to give.  Perhaps the time is right for another Ronald Reagan to rise and free the people once again.  Before liberalism sinks the United States into third world status.

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