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Author Topic: An Experiment in Class about Socialism  (Read 2312 times)

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Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #25 on: March 08, 2013, 07:54:02 PM »
I  have an even better question.

If we all die , then why should anyone work?  You can say that working will keep us alive longer but we're still going to die. SO what's the point of going to work?

Sure you could get rid of "Obama's Socialism"  but how are you going to get around death?


The only incentive to work would be if it  permanently prevented death from happening but since there's not, what's the point? You're just going to die anyways rich or poor.
 

The traditional reply to death from people who wanted to pitch their own rule over all they could see has been that the memory of their glory and their mighty works would survive them into eternity. But does that really stand up - and what is it that's getting passed down in memory?

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


-Percy Bysshe Shelley, ca 1820

Offline BadForm

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2013, 07:58:46 PM »
Love that poem

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2013, 08:07:35 PM »
The story of the Little Red Hen - as doctored by corporate think-tanks, the version where it ends with the bread she baked getting confiscated by the government bullies and the hen then deciding never to make an effort again - makes a clearer case for what the OP was after, I think. But that one doesn't pretend to be more than a parable. So essentially, accepting its conclusions depends on whether you believe in it.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2013, 08:14:07 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Ack Arg

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2013, 08:19:48 PM »

Few things need to be clarified here.

1) Obama is no socialist. The American rhetoric is lovely but totally unrelated to reality. What American policy is and what the purpose of the narratives is are both interesting topics but probably not ones that can be fit in the thread.

2) As a thought experiment this does indeed fall into Game Theory, which is a branch of economics. Game theory can be a lot of fun but it's a less powerful description of reality than say, the worst novel you've ever read.

3) There is such a thing a socialism, which is widely practiced. Lots of things, usually called natural monopolies, are socialist. Free, democratic societies are necessarily socialist. Some people will fight wars to the general benefit. Some people are going to risk their lives to make the society just. Few reasonable people say or think things like: "Well, I don't have to take on the corrupt government or cross an ocean to be a footsoldier because someone else will do it." You don't call it socialism any more than you call your nuclear family a commune but that has a lot to do with how they work.

4) Remember what kind of society we DO live in. Lots of people get a free ride, act rationally and exploit the systems they're a part of. They're called corporations. If you were paying attention to the too big to fail banking mess you have a good case study in what kind of entities behave in this way.



But if nothing else I should like to point out something to JackWhite. Students are not customers or workers. Students are students. Students work hard because they want to become something, not so they can get a mark on a paper. If you're even a little honest about being a student of something your mark should be the last thing on your mind.

I don't know what Ayn Randian troll came up with this material you've reposted but I think it's worth a little more interrogation before you take any of it seriously.

Offline Oniya

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2013, 11:57:24 PM »
The traditional reply to death from people who wanted to pitch their own rule over all they could see has been that the memory of their glory and their mighty works would survive them into eternity. But does that really stand up - and what is it that's getting passed down in memory?

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.


-Percy Bysshe Shelley, ca 1820

Gave that one to the little Oni to use for her 'daily poetry log' for school.  I have to wonder what the teacher has thought of her selections so far.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #30 on: March 10, 2013, 12:35:44 AM »
I read this thread and thought about all the people I know and similar situations that have come up.  A bonus offered to each member of the department was based on production percentages for the department.  Everyone got the same bonus.  The harder workers received the same as the slower workers.  There was much complaining.

The next challenge was the same but the bonus was distributed based on each individual's performance.  Everyone worked harder.

This is fact.  I did the numbers.


You might find an entire class that ends up not caring.  You might find a class where some care enough to help the slower students for the benefit of all. 

I think you might be more likely to find a class where students drop out and find another class to earn a grade and not want to put up with this nonsense.  Of course, it's hard to drop out of you country but then again we don't live in places like Soviet Russia was; you know, that place a lot of people defected from...or Cuba.

Offline Trieste

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #31 on: March 10, 2013, 12:53:25 AM »
I'm not actually all that certain what the "grade" or the "bonus" here is supposed to represent - is it health care? Taxes? Unemployment benefits?

The most obvious is health care, since that's the whole big huge thing that is looming over people. If, in fact, Obama's so-called socialism is referring to nationalized health care, then these comparisons are not apt. They are missing a few parts:

The "students" (populace) cannot survive without their "grades" (health care). They are actually currently getting "grades" only if they go up to the "bursar's office" and pay out hugely inflated values for "tuition". So in actuality only the richest "students" can even get poor "grades", and other "students" don't get their "grades" until they've reached a certain age - at which point they can get "financial aid". And then add to it that there are predatory sort of independent financial aid companies that directly profit off of the students paying their tuition and getting no grades.

Which is to say that the health care system is borked and this analogy is pretty much oversimplified nonsense if you're trying to compare it to the real world.

Offline Ack Arg

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #32 on: March 10, 2013, 03:34:21 AM »


Trieste:

Basically the point is to say, in principle, that people will mooch if they can. It's not really a metaphor. It's "This happened unless you ask if it happened, then we say it didn't but it could have and WE AM ARE RIGHT." Ironically, in trying to explain it as a metaphor, you end up doing more reasoning than the initial author.



Beguile's Mistress:

Russia is another topic. We should avoid it just because the risk of conflating "evil tyranny" with "practical arrangements of human activity."

There are workplaces where you get nothing for doing more than the least amount of work. That's basically every minimum wage job ever. Most of the complaints originate in the idea of "zero sum" games (more econ jargon.)

The OP seemed to have latched onto a thought experiment meant to discredit "socialist" government.

Again, not really socialist but some stuff is stuck actually being socialist and more just works well as communal: infrastucture, education, healthcare, technology, insurance, the environment. Even things that are nominally individual/market based are socialist based on how they're subsidized like food or fuel.

We can talk about how workplaces/classrooms work but I think the real idea isn't the experiment but the implied conclusions about policy and blah blah blah.


Offline Caehlim

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #33 on: March 10, 2013, 10:37:23 AM »
I read this thread and thought about all the people I know and similar situations that have come up.  A bonus offered to each member of the department was based on production percentages for the department.  Everyone got the same bonus.  The harder workers received the same as the slower workers.  There was much complaining.

The next challenge was the same but the bonus was distributed based on each individual's performance.  Everyone worked harder.

This is fact.  I did the numbers.

Damnit, I hate it when these conversations make me think about my job. *puts on work hat*

There is an alternative.

At my company, the total amount of incentive provided is calculated based upon the performance of the entire team. This pool is then split into shares based on individual performances against KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The better you do, the more you make but also the better the company does the more you make. Managers earn the average bonus of everyone they supervise.

This provides motivation to work as a team and understand the broader context of your labour as well as improving your own personal performance. It really does seem to provide the best of both worlds.

Although it's my job to 'do the numbers' I can't really state how well this has worked, since my company has had this policy since its founding (long before I started working there) so I have no valid basis for comparison.

Anyway, our company's policy is based on this philosophy if you want more information.

*Throws away work hat until I need it tomorrow morning*

Oh yeah... not derailing thread's stretched and tenuous metaphor. Umm, I guess in terms of social policy this means we should seek out balanced options or something? ...Yeah, I got nothing.

Offline Ack Arg

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #34 on: March 10, 2013, 02:00:58 PM »
This pool is then split into shares based on individual performances against KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). The better you do, the more you make but also the better the company does the more you make. Managers earn the average bonus of everyone they supervise.

This provides motivation to work as a team and understand the broader context of your labour as well as improving your own personal performance. It really does seem to provide the best of both worlds.

Basically as soon as we start talking about incentives and jargon (KPIs, honestly) we've entered management land. Management is a series of incantations designed to confuse and distract. It's main point is to control a workforce on behalf of a boss / owner. If that wasn't the point it wouldn't exist.

If you talk to someone actually doing work about Key Performance Indicators their first reflex is to put a hammer in your head. If there's motivation to work as a team, it's that there's a bunch of people calling themselves management that make rather more than you do for telling you about your job and holding the power to define whether you've done it right.

If the best of both worlds is that management is now making bonuses for increased interference in real work, that interference is designed to create something based on short term, obvious profits then we need more worlds.

Again, the whole workplace / classroom issue from the OP was a fantasy, had no meat on the bone and was only an excuse for saying something like "obama is a socialist and socialism is unamerican, nyah."

Offline Caehlim

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #35 on: March 10, 2013, 04:23:04 PM »
Basically as soon as we start talking about incentives and jargon (KPIs, honestly) we've entered management land.

Well yes, I do work in a management position.

Quote
Management is a series of incantations designed to confuse and distract.

Why would you want to confuse or distract the workforce? The basic arrangement is really quite simple. The company gives you money in exchange for enduring the drudgery and humiliation of a crappy job. (That arrangement is still the same on my level though).

Quote
It's main point is to control a workforce on behalf of a boss / owner. If that wasn't the point it wouldn't exist.

Well yes, that is its designed function and intent. Rather than the boss / owner going up to every worker individually to pass on instructions they create a middle layer to pass on orders in a not unusual hierarchical command structure.

Quote
If you talk to someone actually doing work about Key Performance Indicators their first reflex is to put a hammer in your head.

I'm glad my staff work with telephones and computers instead of hammers then. This has probably reduced the amount of blunt impact trauma to occur around the office.

Quote
If there's motivation to work as a team, it's that there's a bunch of people calling themselves management that make rather more than you do for telling you about your job and holding the power to define whether you've done it right.

Well yes, I do make more than the regular staff in my workplace and spend all day defining whether they've done their job correctly. As a quality associate that's more or less my exact job description.

Quote
If the best of both worlds is that management is now making bonuses for increased interference in real work, that interference is designed to create something based on short term, obvious profits then we need more worlds.

Agreed.

But the shareholders like their short term obvious profits and don't like doing any work themselves so they need a management staff to make it happen. Based on the capitalist system, since they initially put the money into the system years ago they're now entitled to do whatever they want. If you want a job, they're the only ones giving them out, so you're stuck with their rules.

I am not a capitalist. I just like eating food without hunting down pigeons, so I've got a job. I don't pretend to like it.

Quote
Again, the whole workplace / classroom issue from the OP was a fantasy, had no meat on the bone and was only an excuse for saying something like "obama is a socialist and socialism is unamerican, nyah."

Yes, I believe that's why I called it a stretched and tenuous metaphor.

Offline MHaji

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #36 on: March 10, 2013, 05:43:28 PM »
ONCE UPON A TIME, a university decided to apply the principles of capitalism to the otherwise socialist, hippy-dippy environment of academia. Students would earn SCHOOLBUCKS for getting good grades on assignments. These Schoolbucks could eventually be reimbursed for tuition reductions, textbooks, or other perks.

At first, the system seemed to work well. Everyone wanted to make Schoolbucks, as tuition was very expensive and got more expensive as time went on and more classes had to be taken. This was very motivating, and got rid of the lazy people very quickly! That is the purpose of education, after all - to weed out people who don't do well and support those who play the game!

Soon, a pattern became clear. Once a student had accumulated enough Schoolbucks, they could do the following:

1) Get into a profit-maximizing class. Specifically, a class that contained a lot of painstaking but intellectually unchallenging work, with an expensive textbook requirement. If personal connections allowed a richer student to get into the class ahead of others, so much the better.

2) Get a textbook cheaply. Find someone who had already taken that class and was doing badly, then buy their textbook for a fraction of its original price.

3) Get some cheap labor. Round up a bunch of students who were desperate for Schoolbucks to pay their tuition, and could not afford to buy new textbooks or enroll in any more classes as it stood. Then, offer them the following deal:

"I'll give you all of the most boring, repetitive work for this class; I'm sure you can handle that. If you do it, I'll pay you 10% of the Schoolbucks I'm being given for these assignments. If you don't, I'll find someone who's more desperate. Remember, I can replace you, and you have no other way of getting into this class, because your previous bad decisions put it out of your reach."

(At first, the low-Schoolbucks students were offended, but it became clear that their only chance of working their way up until they could afford to enroll for their own sake was to do the tedious work. Some suggested organizing to negotiate for a better deal, but such socialistic ideas were met with fast reprisals. In the end, it was always possible to find someone to do the work.

Some argued that efficiently doing such a huge volume of "busywork" actually demanded some resourcefulness from the peons, but it was generally accepted that they were stupid and lazy. If they were so clever and industrious, why weren't they rich?)

4) Repeat. Build a labor force for multiple classes, earning a large amount of Schoolbucks by making careful decisions about whom to hire to do the work. Using the surplus of free time this generates, do even better work in more advanced classes while the peons are left working long hours doing exhausting, unrewarding assignments.

Naturally, people who started in a bad position ended up doing menial work, and were blamed for their obvious lack of ambition and know-how. Meanwhile, those who rose to the top were praised for giving their lessers so many opportunities to get Schoolbucks.

It's unclear who, if anyone, learned anything in this arrangement. But, as people grew to realize, learning was kind of a distraction, a red herring. It certainly didn't generate much in the way of Schoolbucks.

The moral of the story is: Money is a powerful motivator.

Edit: Edited to make the moral less heavy-handed and more sardonic.
« Last Edit: March 10, 2013, 07:00:28 PM by MHaji »

Offline Ephiral

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #37 on: March 10, 2013, 05:46:53 PM »
MHaji, that... that is a thing of beauty. A tip of the invisible hat to you, sir.

Offline Ack Arg

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #38 on: March 10, 2013, 06:34:27 PM »


Caehlim:

The point is that work should be done because it's important or rewarding. The alternative to not having someone tell you how to do your job is telling yourself or talkng about it with your peers: other people doing the same job.

I can get into this but really, are we even pretending it's a capitalist system? It's a market, sure, but all that means is people are rewarded for having power. That's a bad system and not one we should just shrug and accept.

And my point isn't that it's a bad metaphor, it's not a metaphor at all. It was a lie.

I think there's a difference there but maybe I'm living on the moon.


Offline Trieste

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #39 on: March 10, 2013, 08:34:50 PM »
ONCE UPON A TIME, a university decided to apply the principles of capitalism to the otherwise socialist, hippy-dippy environment of academia. Students would earn SCHOOLBUCKS for getting good grades on assignments. These Schoolbucks could eventually be reimbursed for tuition reductions, textbooks, or other perks.

At first, the system seemed to work well. Everyone wanted to make Schoolbucks, as tuition was very expensive and got more expensive as time went on and more classes had to be taken. This was very motivating, and got rid of the lazy people very quickly! That is the purpose of education, after all - to weed out people who don't do well and support those who play the game!

Soon, a pattern became clear. Once a student had accumulated enough Schoolbucks, they could do the following:

1) Get into a profit-maximizing class. Specifically, a class that contained a lot of painstaking but intellectually unchallenging work, with an expensive textbook requirement. If personal connections allowed a richer student to get into the class ahead of others, so much the better.

2) Get a textbook cheaply. Find someone who had already taken that class and was doing badly, then buy their textbook for a fraction of its original price.

3) Get some cheap labor. Round up a bunch of students who were desperate for Schoolbucks to pay their tuition, and could not afford to buy new textbooks or enroll in any more classes as it stood. Then, offer them the following deal:

"I'll give you all of the most boring, repetitive work for this class; I'm sure you can handle that. If you do it, I'll pay you 10% of the Schoolbucks I'm being given for these assignments. If you don't, I'll find someone who's more desperate. Remember, I can replace you, and you have no other way of getting into this class, because your previous bad decisions put it out of your reach."

(At first, the low-Schoolbucks students were offended, but it became clear that their only chance of working their way up until they could afford to enroll for their own sake was to do the tedious work. Some suggested organizing to negotiate for a better deal, but such socialistic ideas were met with fast reprisals. In the end, it was always possible to find someone to do the work.

Some argued that efficiently doing such a huge volume of "busywork" actually demanded some resourcefulness from the peons, but it was generally accepted that they were stupid and lazy. If they were so clever and industrious, why weren't they rich?)

4) Repeat. Build a labor force for multiple classes, earning a large amount of Schoolbucks by making careful decisions about whom to hire to do the work. Using the surplus of free time this generates, do even better work in more advanced classes while the peons are left working long hours doing exhausting, unrewarding assignments.

Naturally, people who started in a bad position ended up doing menial work, and were blamed for their obvious lack of ambition and know-how. Meanwhile, those who rose to the top were praised for giving their lessers so many opportunities to get Schoolbucks.

It's unclear who, if anyone, learned anything in this arrangement. But, as people grew to realize, learning was kind of a distraction, a red herring. It certainly didn't generate much in the way of Schoolbucks.

The moral of the story is: Money is a powerful motivator.

Edit: Edited to make the moral less heavy-handed and more sardonic.

*gigglefits* <3

You know, in theory I'm already a married woman, but I think probably something can be arranged, there. . .  :-*

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #40 on: March 10, 2013, 09:42:23 PM »
I remember hearing of a Pakistani industry mogul who had relocated to Britain and wanted his eldest son into some elite programme at Cambridge. The young man had got his entire education in the UK, at prestigious boarding schools and so on, but he wasn't super bright and didn't have the qualifications to actually get into the Cambridge college his dad wanted for him. The old man tried to buy his son a place by offering to set up a scholarship at the college of his choice, on condition that the programme he was after at that college let his son walk past the queue. The college refused, of course, and daddy was furious and said in a newspaper interview roughly: "This is racism! They are denying my son the right to excel with his great gifts, they are demeaning him and me by forcing him to wait until all those mediocre people have been tried for entry! You nwould never do that to anyone whom you consider a natural Englihman, but we have to endure it!"

The interesting thing is, it would be hard to dismiss that kind of personal peptalk and those kinds of attempts to buy your way into a top-flight spot, deny them a place in academic judging of merits and skills, if one accepts that people's choice of what to study (and the availability of serious study options, classes, teachers, real college funding and study grants/loans etc - the kind of stuff that makes it a realistic proposition for many of us to keep studying after age 15 or so) should only be about maximizing the student's personal profit and it's also accepted that the public realm - the state, universities, courts etc - is nothing but a mass of people's ego-driven personal interests dressed up in fine clothing. If his dad can actually pay for some other students plus his own son, shouldn't he have the right to make the college fast-forward his own boy in? Anyone saying it's warped and unfair would just be driven by their own envy, isn't that how it would appear?
« Last Edit: March 10, 2013, 09:53:56 PM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Oniya

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #41 on: March 10, 2013, 09:46:15 PM »
Actually, my question would be:  Would they allow a natural-born Englishman, with the exact same qualifications (or lack thereof) to be fast-tracked just because Daddums drops a chunk of change on the school?

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #42 on: March 10, 2013, 09:49:10 PM »
Actually, my question would be:  Would they allow a natural-born Englishman, with the exact same qualifications (or lack thereof) to be fast-tracked just because Daddums drops a chunk of change on the school?

No, likely not, but peptalk of that kind saying "you're denying my individual RIGHTS!" and disregarding any bigger picture - that kind of talk has a way of looking good to bunches of people these days.

Offline Oniya

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #43 on: March 10, 2013, 10:06:56 PM »
Except that the school has a come-back.  The color of skin makes as much difference as the color of money - which is to say, none at all.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #44 on: March 10, 2013, 10:14:37 PM »
True, Oniya, but then of course Dad's argument isn't really aimed at the college at that point. Once they rejected his proposal, his talk is aimed at the media and at ordinary people, and he's trying to convey (that's how I read it anyway) that the school he is arguing with is in denial about their own racism and/or acting snobs against him and his son. That kind of claim - "I'm the underdog here and you gotta give me what I want, what's my right, or you are being oppressive" is not uncommon these days.

Offline MHaji

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #45 on: March 11, 2013, 01:59:02 AM »
Quote
The interesting thing is, it would be hard to dismiss that kind of personal peptalk and those kinds of attempts to buy your way into a top-flight spot, deny them a place in academic judging of merits and skills, if one accepts that people's choice of what to study (and the availability of serious study options, classes, teachers, real college funding and study grants/loans etc - the kind of stuff that makes it a realistic proposition for many of us to keep studying after age 15 or so) should only be about maximizing the student's personal profit and it's also accepted that the public realm - the state, universities, courts etc - is nothing but a mass of people's ego-driven personal interests dressed up in fine clothing. If his dad can actually pay for some other students plus his own son, shouldn't he have the right to make the college fast-forward his own boy in? Anyone saying it's warped and unfair would just be driven by their own envy, isn't that how it would appear?

As much as I agree that the profit motive is not a good driver of learning, there is a potential counterargument to that particular line of thinking.

Even if we assume people are absolutely selfish as individuals and that universities have no higher purpose, it still wouldn't make sense to allow bribes for entry because it would devalue the resulting diploma. In other words, if I can bribe school X to accept my kid, it follows that other parents can, too, until School X becomes a dumping ground for people with money but no qualifications. After that, who would recognize the diploma earned as a signal of social status/patience/obedience/skill, rather than a signal of having rich parents? If one just wanted to signal wealth, wouldn't a car be faster?

In other words, it's not that it's warped and unfair - it's that if cheating's allowed at all, too many people will do it! A person could be a totally amoral sleazebag and still believe in rules (for other people, at the very least.)

Offline Caehlim

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #46 on: March 11, 2013, 05:36:24 AM »
The point is that work should be done because it's important or rewarding.

Dear god yes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. Right now I'm struggling in my tiny amounts of free time to work on writing with the goal of one day quitting my job to become a professional author. I work infinitely harder at this self-directed goal than I do at work and at present with no reward or guarantee of future reward.

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The alternative to not having someone tell you how to do your job is telling yourself or talkng about it with your peers: other people doing the same job.

Another thing I agree with and would love. Yet I've never found anywhere outside of volunteer work where this was an option.

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I can get into this but really, are we even pretending it's a capitalist system?

It's weighted in favour of those who provide the upfront capital as opposed to the workers who provide the ongoing means of profit. Thus I would call it capitalism.

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That's a bad system and not one we should just shrug and accept.

I agree, but there's no political party I can vote for in Australia that represents what I would like to see. I have no desire whatsoever to begin a political career. Short of writing a persuasive blog or blowing up buildings I don't really see how I would influence the political system to get rid of the current model.

All I can really do is keep voting left wing and hope that either the Greens or the Labour Party moves us in vaguely the direction I want my country to go. (The sex party always gets my first preference vote, but they never get enough votes for a seat).
« Last Edit: March 11, 2013, 05:37:39 AM by Caehlim »

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #47 on: March 11, 2013, 07:43:12 AM »
As much as I agree that the profit motive is not a good driver of learning, there is a potential counterargument to that particular line of thinking.

Even if we assume people are absolutely selfish as individuals and that universities have no higher purpose, it still wouldn't make sense to allow bribes for entry because it would devalue the resulting diploma. In other words, if I can bribe school X to accept my kid, it follows that other parents can, too, until School X becomes a dumping ground for people with money but no qualifications. After that, who would recognize the diploma earned as a signal of social status/patience/obedience/skill, rather than a signal of having rich parents? If one just wanted to signal wealth, wouldn't a car be faster?

In other words, it's not that it's warped and unfair - it's that if cheating's allowed at all, too many people will do it! A person could be a totally amoral sleazebag and still believe in rules (for other people, at the very least.)


In my example, dad really offered to set up a scholarship for other students (it would probably carry his own name, right?) so he could actually say he was offering a lasting added value to the school, quite apart from his son getting a place. We might say his real aim was self-serving but he does pledge to provide for more students, so it could be argued it outweighs whatever loss it would be to the school that his son might not be the first one in line, the most deserving one based on his prior results. And someone who was in that position could argue that as long as the system isn't functioning perfectly and no corrupt practices are passing, how can you ask me not to do all that I can, using all means, to get in? Just like an old Tammany Hall boss could have said "everybody's doing a bit of pimping of the votes and offering kickbacks, so what kind of hypocrite are you to ask that we should be squealy clean if we wanna achieve something?" I think it's hard to logically throw out that kind of argument as long as one is committed to the norm that everybody should just act in their undiluted self-interest without any other yeardsticks, except when they are bound by some kind of business agreement whose conditions they have signed up to of their own free will.

And as long as people are not ltalking aloud about those diplomas suffering a wee reduction in credibility over time, the damage to any one particular student, or even the school, is going to be limited. Now who's going to act the watchdog? If everyone is acting just out of self-interest, no one will have any powerful incentives to call the bluff. Not the students who are in or who have taken their grades, they can't profit from saying their diplomas are (or will be) subpar. Not the school itself of course. It's not likely that the local media would throw the story either: to achieve that, you'd effectively have to find students or ex-students who are willing to stand up in a photo, give their names and say "my diploma isn't worth much more than dog shit" and who would do that?  ??? Plus, local papers tend to support the local schools and colleges

Not even students who are in the process of applying would stand up and call attention to the somewhat dodgy degrees. They want in and at that point no one is gonna pick a fight with the school of their choice unless they have to. At most, some of the high school students weighing where to apply might vote with their feet but that's not near enough powerful to have an impact on the academy. Especially not if other people feel "that's a good school, I've heard it's easy to glide through and their professors are not fussy or draconic about what you have to do to get a good diploma". Compare schoolbucks: people picking fairly easy classes and subjects because the only real object is to get high mean grades and fast school points, not to learn anything.

And you can't really say that an individual student or his family have freely made a deal with the academic world on by what rules their applications should be treated, or what kind of education options there are to them. The student's decision to submit applications to certain schools is a free choice he has made, yes, but he hasn't had any say in *how* the application will be judged, what kind of campus there could be, whether he can be funded, whether there are any education choices that would fit what the student is after etc.

To get back down to the school years, a student technically always has the free choice to make an effort and work hard at school no matter what he/she sees as likely rewards for their effort, but what if the only kind of school the parents can afford to put him/her in is so run-down, both in terms of staff, equipment and classroom floor realities, that it really doesn't offer any hope for long-term success? Or if the deal is that students below a certain line of family income and standard are near always outrun by those whose parents can make things easier for them, who can send them to extra classes, take them abroad to support their foreign language and history skills, have the cash to buy them good computers, nice clothes and so on? Not much of an equal deal there and at some point this vitiates the idea of everyone making an effort on the same running tracks.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2013, 09:02:04 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Valerian

Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #48 on: March 11, 2013, 08:34:02 AM »
As much as I agree that the profit motive is not a good driver of learning, there is a potential counterargument to that particular line of thinking.

Even if we assume people are absolutely selfish as individuals and that universities have no higher purpose, it still wouldn't make sense to allow bribes for entry because it would devalue the resulting diploma. In other words, if I can bribe school X to accept my kid, it follows that other parents can, too, until School X becomes a dumping ground for people with money but no qualifications. After that, who would recognize the diploma earned as a signal of social status/patience/obedience/skill, rather than a signal of having rich parents? If one just wanted to signal wealth, wouldn't a car be faster?

In other words, it's not that it's warped and unfair - it's that if cheating's allowed at all, too many people will do it! A person could be a totally amoral sleazebag and still believe in rules (for other people, at the very least.)
As late as the early 1900's, most medical schools in the U.S. were set up in exactly this fashion.  The only qualification for entry was the ability to pay the tuition, and schools raked in the money without giving much of anything back.  Students would attend a few lectures, and in a couple of years would be presented with a diploma, no questions asked or tests taken.  They became doctors without ever doing any lab work, seeing a patient, or dissecting a cadaver.  The Flexner Report of 1910 pointed out all these abuses of the system, and that was when the long process of reform began.

During the influenza epidemic of 1918, for example, most doctors had no idea of how to handle any sort of epidemic.  Most had little idea of germ theory.  Some still believed in the old miasma theory of disease and advised patients to stay away from the 'bad air' to avoid getting sick.  Public health officials in major cities weren't required to have any sort of medical degree, but even those that did often had one from one of these diploma mills and had no training at all, for all practical purposes.

Philadelphia's public health officer at the time was a political appointee who refused to cancel a huge War Bonds parade that had been scheduled, just when the epidemic was about to peak, because he thought it would look bad and hurt morale.  Over warnings from trained physicians (many of whom had gone to European medical schools in order to get an actual education), he ordered business as usual, and in large part because of that decision, Philadelphia was the hardest-hit major city in the U.S. </historygeek>

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: An Experiment in Class about Socialism
« Reply #49 on: March 11, 2013, 09:14:10 AM »
Around here (Sweden) many private-run high schools receive a cut of public money, tax money, for every student they pick up - the money follows the kid - and schools can operate as straight-off profit-driving corporations or chain stores (something I understand is not allowed in most places in North America). Because of that, school fees for these schools can be kept low and there is no real limit on how many private schools can set up shop in a town with so-and-so many kids  The result, of course, has been a private schools Klondyke where new schools are shooting up like mushroom and some even offer a free laptop as a gift to any student entering. You expect every student or their parents to weigh the real value of attending such a school with long premeditation before they decide, if they are offered a free laptop and cool school t-shirts?  >:(

Last week, the national Central Schooling Board admitted that it has very limited muscle to actually control if private schools are giving out grades on terms that match the result scales and grades given by public-run high schools. Few people except teachers seemed to notice.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2013, 10:44:50 AM by gaggedLouise »