win ben stein's criticism
December 14, 2002 4:46 PM   Subscribe

Benjamin Stein, host of the show Win Ben Stein's Money fears that the United States is squelching what gives it an edge.
posted by jaden (63 comments total)
Meh. The same thing could have been written in 1902, and almost certainly was.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:08 PM on December 14, 2002

No comments yet??

Seriously though I agree with him. The lack of principled long term thinking is most disturbing. He doesn't offer many answers to the problems he observes. Mainly this is a prediction that America will turn to **** sooner than even he thought - frankly I could have told you that.

o< I am a DJ and I am what I say...quack quack!!
posted by KettleBlack at 5:10 PM on December 14, 2002

posted by eddydamascene at 5:10 PM on December 14, 2002

The comments so far seem to prove his point.

I think the most pressing point he mentioned was the tendency of Americans to blame everyone else for their actions. A kid who can't make it in school blames the teacher, so she lowers the standards for the whole class in order for him to pass. The class doesn't learn from the teacher, and instead of learning on their own they blame the teacher for their ignorance. When they can't get a decent job, they blame the failing school system for their lack of success.

That's my main problem with a lot of the political thought these days. Every law that is lauded as "brilliant", every class-action lawsuit that gets much media, every especially loud speaker on "Meet the Press" seems to have the root principal that it takes the blame off of the individual.

I'm glad I learned at an early age how to say, "I was wrong." It has saved you a lot of problems.
posted by mychai at 5:35 PM on December 14, 2002

Granted he was fun to watch on the game show, but the fact remains that despite his aura of intelligence Ben Stein should be treated as reputable and credible a political source as any of the left-wing crackpots that we've seen mentioned on this site as well.

Comedy Central made a very good image out of Ben Stein, but they did it by avoiding most of his side hobbies, such as preserving Confederate heritage, explaining how Nixon should have been exonerated while Clinton vilified, and, of course, appealing for the complete de-legalization of abortion. He's as objective as Ann Coutler and as even-handed as Michael Moore.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:45 PM on December 14, 2002

Stein doesn't set of my brain's troll-detector. He may be a rightist, and god forbid, pro-choice, but that doesn't make him a reactionary button-pusher like Coulter. And being a political commentator, I don't think he's supposed to be objective.

You can say what you will about his politics, but I personally put a lot of stock into how someone says what he has to say. Coulter sounds like a hate-filled lunatic. Ben Stein sounds well reasoned and critical -- and I don't think you can deny that by saying Stein is "too conservative".

I dunno ... attacking or dismissing your ideological opposition simply on the grounds that they don't agree with you is the norm with most people, it seems to me.
posted by adzuki at 6:03 PM on December 14, 2002

It should be noted that this is hyperbole. Fortune is not exactly the center of irony & hyperbole among the national press. Any reasonable editor would surely put some kind of disclaimer in place "Hyperbole to make a point ahead - beware of falling rocks" or some such given the nature of the publication this is derived from.

I don't know anything about this Ben Stein guy but his first set of points were so cached in exageration it was difficult, nee impossible, to continue reading given the latenss of the hour and my recent attempts to dodge hyperbole from political toadies. Perhaps if Mr. Stein would simply stop dangling his fucking money out the window we would all take our babies and go home.
posted by filchyboy at 6:20 PM on December 14, 2002

I think he makes some good points, but, frankly, when I read his implication in (10) that inheritance taxes are among the chief causes for the erosion of innovation I fell to the floor laughing. After all, he seems to be claiming throughout that we should encourage education and hard work as a way to achieve success. However, giving someone a huge inheritance does not seem like a terribly good way to encourage hard work. In any case, the people we think of when we think of innovators (e.g. scientists) are generally not the ones who are so rich that they spend their lives worrying about inheritance taxes.
posted by epimorph at 6:33 PM on December 14, 2002

He forgot, "Damn kids today, with their crazy music."
On preview, what Alphabet Guy said.
The most interesting on that page was noticing that Forbes peppered the page with invisible links to a 2 cents per clickthru page.
posted by planetkyoto at 6:41 PM on December 14, 2002

As a political commentator, Ben Stein is great at trivia.

To answer his little list:

1. We shouldn't teach American history as a whitewash either, with brave and noble slaveowners declaring "freedom" for everyone besides nonwhites, nonlandowners, and women. Telling the truth would be nice.

2. There's too many idiot lawsuits, but there's also too many corporations living above the law. It's messy but the system is decent about balancing things out, expecting legislative action is like watching paint dry.

3. See #2, though if companies (like tobacco) create an illegally addictive product - they should be sued

4. Agreed, mostly. But don't hold up the landed gentry as hard working idols when much of the time the hard work involved is their birth.

5. Agreed

6. In what world does this exist?

7. People can choose to indulge in sleaze, it's one of those choices America is all about.
posted by owillis at 6:42 PM on December 14, 2002

He's right on the money in every regard, but especially with this number:

7) Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school. As children learn to be stupid instead of smart, the national intelligence base needed for innovation will simply vanish into MTV-land.
posted by hama7 at 6:47 PM on December 14, 2002

A kid who can't make it in school blames the teacher...The class doesn't learn...they blame the teacher...they can't get a decent job, they blame the failing school system.

Just curious, do you actually know people that blame their high school teachers for their lack of employment? This whole idea that Americans see themselves as perpetual victims of everything strikes me as highly dubious. Perhaps it seems that way because we are so litigious, but we are only litigious because most of our rights are only enforceable through private litigation.
posted by boltman at 6:52 PM on December 14, 2002

Anyone want to bring Ben Stein to their school?

However, giving someone a huge inheritance does not
seem like a terribly good way to encourage hard work.

But handing over your whole life's work to the government is?
posted by Recockulous at 6:54 PM on December 14, 2002

In my opinion, one of the growing problems with our culture is our lack of grandiosity. What do I mean? Look at most of the skyscrapers of today. They're tall, and square. Now look at some of the older tall buildings from the 10s '20s and 30's. They're much more ornate, with elaborate mouldings, etc. It cost more, but they did it anyway. Why? Because they wanted to build something impressive for its own sake. Look at companies. People used to not just build them for money (although that was obviously the primary goal) They also wanted to build something impressive, something that would last forever, not just until the earnings reports were out. Look at the public's lack of interest in the space program, what's that but a lack of interest in something big, instead of the bottom dollar? If we want business and our endeavors to improve, we should start by teaching people to value grandiosity again.
posted by unreason at 7:01 PM on December 14, 2002

The comments so far seem to prove his point.

In what way? I'm intrigued.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:04 PM on December 14, 2002

But handing over your whole life's work to the government is?

after you're dead, there's no need to encourage you to work hard. Go ahead and relax at that point.
posted by mdn at 7:08 PM on December 14, 2002

How do you hold corporate officers to a higher standard of behavior if you can't sue them for their misdeeds?

posted by Cerebus at 7:20 PM on December 14, 2002

But handing over your whole life's work to the government is?

They raised the inheritance tax to 100% now?
posted by Space Coyote at 7:24 PM on December 14, 2002

"I hereby offer a few suggestions on how we can ruin American competitiveness and innovation in the course of this century."

1) Allow schools to fall into useless decay.[ through lack of funding for public education, perhaps?] Do not teach civics or history except to describe America as a hopelessly fascistic, reactionary pit. [and where would this be ocurring, Mr. Stein? Names of schools? Please give (explicit) reasons for such categorization] Do not expect students to know the basics of mathematics, chemistry and physics. [Cliche: this criticism of the US educational system is over 4 decades old and has been wielded against the US educational establishment since the first Soviet Sputnik launch] Working closely with the teachers' unions, make sure that you dumb down standards so that children who make the most minimal effort still get by with flying colors. [So this is the fault of the teachers and the unions. What of the parents? the adminstration? the Federal and State Governments? The Kids? Please substantiate your arguments, Mr. Stein] Destroy the knowledge base on which all of mankind's scientific progress has been built by guaranteeing that such learning is confined to only a few [how so, Mr. Stein? - please elaborate] , and spread ignorance and complacency among the many [How? - through television, perhaps?] Watch America lose its scientific and competitive edge to other nations that make a comprehensive knowledge base a rule of the society.
posted by troutfishing at 7:25 PM on December 14, 2002

They raised the inheritance tax to 100% now?

Even 0.5% is an outrage.
posted by hama7 at 7:28 PM on December 14, 2002

Inheritance tax should be done away with--the money was taxed as income when it was made. As for teachers, I think it's more principals and higher end administration. We need to do away with standardized tests and get back to the basics. Teaching to tests never works.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 7:43 PM on December 14, 2002

Amen to that, RunsWithBandageScissors. I don't have time to give the whole essay on standardized tests, but let me just say that they represent nothing but the corporate bureaucratization of the schools -- the placement of the curriculum in the hands of private gatekeepers with no accountability. Almost no matter how bad you think they are, they are much, much worse than you think they are.

And as for that graph: look at that extrapolation of the data to 2005! Yikes -- everything roughly matches inflation from year after year until -- suddenly in the future the growth is logarithmic! Ridiculous. Do they assume people don't have the most basic graphic literacy?
posted by argybarg at 7:58 PM on December 14, 2002

Space coyote,

It should be noted that this is hyperbole.

I didn't think I needed to say that in my comment, which was a reaction directed at a similar type of comment.

How dare the government step on a persons individual freedom! Execpt for in the case of economic freedom, then its ok. end sarcasm
posted by Recockulous at 8:09 PM on December 14, 2002

the money was taxed as income when it was made

You don't tax money, you tax people. I would agree that it is generally a bad idea to tax the same person twice for the same income, but the estate tax is taxing the person that earned the money and the person that inherits it. Two separate people. If anything, the heir has a weaker claim of entitlement to the money than a worker does to the money he actually earns.
posted by boltman at 8:12 PM on December 14, 2002

Sounds like somebody wants to break into talk radio.
posted by 2sheets at 8:15 PM on December 14, 2002

I stand corrected, Boldman as far as taxing people and not money. I still don't agree with the inheritance tax, though.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 8:16 PM on December 14, 2002

Basically, Ben Stein wrote a screed illuminating the two bastions of Democrat stupidity: educators and lawyers. How anyone could support Democrats and somehow have any sincere empathy for poor children is beyond me.

Teachers unions and the lawyers who feed off the ensuing ignorance are foundation of the virus that is the Democratic Party.
posted by paleocon at 8:18 PM on December 14, 2002

RunsWithBandageScissors Inheritance tax should be done away with--the money was taxed as income when it was made.

Baloney! We have joe average riding around in his truck thinking the estate tax is the biggest problem facing America- THAT's what ails our country.

1.) Read this article. No, don't post a reply yet- read this article by Michael Kinsley at Slate from April, 2001. The estate tax in many case does NOT double dip, and those who think it does (or that it matters to most people) are quite simply fools who've been duped by those with enough $$$ to care. It's often the biggest estates, in fact, that don't end up paying much if any tax in the first place- ensuring that the Bill Gates (who opposes repealing the estate tax) and Robert Johnson's are giving their kids a multi-billion dollar untaxed gift.

2. I'll leave the google search for you to confirm, but about 98% of all estates pay zero taxes whatsoever for inheritances- and the remaining 2% pay a rate of about 17%. So in addition to NOT double dipping, the tax rate on that top 2% of estates is lower than typical income taxes. Lastly (and these numbers are from memory, so they may be a little rough) about 50% of the estate tax collected each year is from the largest 4,000 estates- those over ~$5M in value, so not exactly the "family farm" or truly "small business" (not that there's really any good evidence a family business has been broken up because of the estate tax anyway). Of those 4,000, half of their tax is made from the ~400 largest estates, in the over $20M range- making 25% of all estate taxes the taxes on the largest ~400 estates with a worth over $20M. And for these people Joe Sixpack is worried?

To sum, estate taxes are often NOT double dipping- take the case of BET's founder above- and far and away the vast majority will never pay a penny in estate tax, or if they do it will be a reasonable 17% (compared to payroll taxes, that's a bargain). If you win the lottery, you pay a tax. If you win the genetic lottery and come from the right sperm- why shouldn't you pay a tax on that?

On preview: paleocon, you are a premiere fuckwit. Absolutely the stupidest person to post at Metafilter in a long, long time. I can rest assured, however, that the little you have left over from your minimum wage crap job will go to pay for the Pabst that dulls your senses and keeps you from realizing what a tool you are and how you've been screwed. Lord knows I no longer believe in having sympathy for idiots like yourself who won't take "personal responsibility" for the idiotic electoral decisions you've made, and how gullible you've been when force fed hard right-wing conservative propaganda. Rush Limbaugh can live high on the hog of his $250m contract while beer-swilling ass-clowns like yourself defend him over yourself. Sucker!
posted by hincandenza at 8:33 PM on December 14, 2002

Taking advice on politics from Ben Stein, is like taking dating advice from Jimmy Kimmel, I can't believe you all are actually discussing this. I am starting to agree with the others who say politics should be avoided on Mefi, because we get the same people on both sides of the political spectrum regurgitating the same tired arguments, and neither side is able to convince the other they are right.
posted by jbou at 8:39 PM on December 14, 2002

RunsWBS & argybarg,

"Teaching to the test" is nothing but a slur. Standardized tests have a fine reputation. Furthermore, requiring that kids understand the foundational subject matter is what schools are for.

I'm sure Mr. Stein would agree. Bueller? Bueller?


If you win the genetic lottery and come from the right sperm- why shouldn't you pay a tax on that?

Because it's a gift. I don't pay tax on Christmas presents either.

paleocon, you are a premiere fuckwit. Absolutely the stupidest person to post at Metafilter in a long, long time.

hincandenza you should have your account banned for this BS. You should know better.
posted by dgaicun at 8:50 PM on December 14, 2002

Standardized tests DO NOT have a fine reputation. Anywhere. PERIOD.
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 9:02 PM on December 14, 2002

You should know better

Since when has that stopped anyone around here?
posted by websavvy at 9:05 PM on December 14, 2002


I'd love to know who, exactly, accords a "fine reputation" to standardized tests. You give me the strong idea that you know very little about standardized tests as they are actually administered -- most people who know very little about them think they teach, as you say, "foundational subject matter." They don't.

Most of them are ludicrously arcane, often subjectively graded, amazingly inappropriate for their age groups, and entirely secretive (here in Washington, parents can look at a sample test only, provided they sign a confidentiality agreement -- otherwise, teachers, students and parents are not allowed to see the graded results of the standardized essay test that decides school funding. Defend that.) The faults of the test are by design -- they're not basic skills tests but password systems -- districts buy the study guides and curricula or they face loss of funding.

We have schools in which private companies arrive at the school to administer tests, then simply inform the teachers which of their students have passed their class and which have failed -- without giving students and teachers access to the results of the test. In other words, the sole right to graduate students has been handed over to private companies, who are not, in turn, required to provide any basis for their decisions or answer to any public review process. Do you want to defend that? Or do you just want to hunker down in your genericized, sound-bite version of what you think standardized tests mean?

Look it up. Try starting at Susan Ohanian's website, particularly this essay. Or this one. Or follow the trail she lays out. Or do some damn research. But don't tell me about "foundational subject matter" -- that's part of the bullshit.
posted by argybarg at 9:19 PM on December 14, 2002

Two points: One of the reasons schools don't teach civics/social studies/geography like they used to is that conservatives have pushed for Big Tests which are usually reading/riting/rithmetic.

I am outraged that my daughter doesn't get enough education about the world around her, but it is the fault of the right-wingers, not the teachers' union.

Secondly, don't you find it odd that this gasbag bewails our lack of faith in the rule of law, yet rails against lawyers?

Ben, you're a fucking game-show host, not a philosopher.
posted by kozad at 9:23 PM on December 14, 2002

Gee, Paleocon - I guess you have never known/worked in public education? Or ever had a kid in a public school? You have? Do tell! - My wife is a teacher, and the existance of unions is a very good thing for she and I : sometimes, unions are the only real counterweight to adminstrative incompetence. I would guess that you don't really believe in equitable power relationships.....
posted by troutfishing at 9:23 PM on December 14, 2002

Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school.

I just watched the DVD of Moulin Rouge again. Sex, violence, absinthe, lots of pop music, and pure visual wonder: good job it was made by an Australian, and not a former speechwriter for Dickie Nixon. And certainly not by hama7. Otherwise it wouldn't be so fucking marvellous.

(When does Ben Stein get a job in the Bush administration, anyway? Every other Nixon veteran has been called up to 'serve'.)
posted by riviera at 9:28 PM on December 14, 2002

I graduated a public high school two years ago, it was an above average, top 50 in the country school. The teachers did not teach to the test, but in the end...I think we got a similarly poor education. Why?

In every AP class i went through, ever test, every paper, someone complained. "this wasn't covered", "we didn't discuss this in class". Most of the kids in the top 1/4th of my class got there because they asskissed their way there. These were not supremely gifted students, or even intelligent students. They knew how to complain. They knew how to get their parents (one girl's mother was a school superintendent) to complain.

Most of the kids I went to high school with went off to the Ivy Leagues. I'm in a state school, why? Because I didn't whine. If I didn't do the work, I didn't beg for an extension, I took what I deserved. I see too much leniency in the teachers I had. The two classes I learned the most from, both teacher's were in the teacher's union (I throw this in, because people seem to bash the union, rather than the lazy teachers) worked me, and expected from me, more than any other teacher I'd ever had. My AP US History teacher told us he taught a college class. He taught harder than any class I've had in college. He expected us to read, and to understand, not to regurgitate. We had to memorize, but also to take what we'd memorized and apply it. My AP Government teacher taught me more English than any of my teachers, as she would not accept an error filled paper. She demanded rough drafts, which no other teacher did.

Education I feel, needs to stop coddling, and start demanding. No more excuses. No more hour before the class ridden with typo papers getting B's.

Oh, and as to standardized tests. They're worthless. My school used to bring in people each year to teach the SAT's. The first thing they'd tell us was not to learn the material, but to learn the tricks the SAT's used in wording. All the SAT's do is teach you how to regurgitate, and regurgitate to a specific set of criteria. The AP exams should be standard set of tests. 50 multiple choice, two-three essays judges by a group of teachers with a standard rubric, with the essays being the critical part.

Multiple chance tests prove nothing, other than you can eliminate probably wrong answers.
posted by Be'lal at 9:41 PM on December 14, 2002

Ben, you're a fucking game-show host, not a philosopher.

Actually, kozad, he's a lawyer and an economist by education.


Most of them are ludicrously arcane, often subjectively graded, amazingly inappropriate for their age groups, and entirely secretive

Actually, I was referring to the SAT et al, which is none of those things, and, in fact, has a fine reputation. My upstate New York high school used rigorous standardized testing, and remains one of the best in the nation. It sounds as though you have particular grievances with specific tests (baby with bathwater cliche here). I was defending standardized testing in general as an effective way to enforce core curriculum and evaluate student performance, talent, underachievement etc. I too will provide a link, which you may "do some damn research" at, or as I will put it, choose to read if it suits your convenience.


And certainly not by hama7. Otherwise it wouldn't be so fucking marvellous.

Can we please cut this shit out now!
posted by dgaicun at 9:49 PM on December 14, 2002

I disagree with Stein, but I do think it's outright hilarious how everybody is saying he's not qualified to write an opinion piece on politics, when of course that's what you're all doing, and Ben Stein has decades more experience in politics than you do.
posted by Hildago at 9:55 PM on December 14, 2002

I'm glad to see that someone as intelligent as Ben Stein can still write something as vague and completely useless as this article.

And this piece helps inform who?

Personally, I think it would be better if Ben Stein gave a list of the top 7 lawyer jokes. At least, then I would have gotten a good chuckle.

(He He, that silly Ben Stein and his antics)
posted by eateneye at 9:57 PM on December 14, 2002

7) Encourage a mass culture that spits on intelligence and study and instead elevates drug use, coolness through sex and violence, and contempt for school. As children learn to be stupid instead of smart, the national intelligence base needed for innovation will simply vanish into MTV-land.

Said culture was born out in the 1960s. Roughly forty years later, take a look at Silicon Valley, or just /. and tell me how so many geeks were able to resist the evil temptations of sex, drugs and violence to become intelligent, productive and successful adults. If S, D and R&R were as toxic as Ben says they are, the country would already be out of business.

Note by the way, that Stein markets himself to the masses on his game show by being quite precisely the learned geek who quotes rock & roll lyrics, has babes under each arm and drops rather well informed drug references into his banter. That makes him an intellectual snob or a hypocrite, but in either case, how ironic.
posted by Fupped Duck at 10:25 PM on December 14, 2002

Actually, I was referring to the SAT et al, which is none of those things, and, in fact, has a fine reputation.

Actually, the SAT doesn't have as spotless of a reputation as you think. Many people consider it to be racially and sexually biased. Here's an article (its an op-ed piece, but it makes some good points) that gives a brief overview of the SAT's shortcomings.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:33 PM on December 14, 2002

Ben Stein actually spoke at my school (Johns Hopkins University) last year. While he's undeniably a funny guy, the speech on the whole was quite disappointing - he plugged his book, made fun of his adopted son, threw in a Ferris Bueller impression, and then plugged his book again. He's a very smart guy, and certainly a more legitimate commentator than someone like Anne Coulter, but I still wouldn't call him an amazing political scholar.

Plus, I still have itchy dry red eyes.
posted by jed at 10:56 PM on December 14, 2002

Start with the chart at the bottom of the article. Notice (A) the non-linear horizontal scale, (B) the use of an estimate for 2001 and 2002 that assumes that tort costs are linearly tied to GDP, and (C) the lack of definition of what constitute "tort costs.

Forbes is not exactly paying a high compliment to its readers' intelligence, either.
posted by grimmelm at 11:12 PM on December 14, 2002

What a conservative (almost lunatic) rant. He started off good but quickly went downhill, complaining about society. Hello? Ben? The topic was killing innovation, wasn't it? How about something more direct, such as patent laws (and the subsequent patent abuses) that do everything but protect inventors and inventing? Stick to the topic, willyah?
posted by jmccorm at 11:25 PM on December 14, 2002

He has a contradiction between #3 and #7 — he claims that people are solely responsible for their actions so he can whine about lawsuits, but then claims that culture affects actions so he can whine about pop culture. Poor work.
posted by skyline at 11:52 PM on December 14, 2002

Rightwing quizmaster Stein runs the pony around the ring, lightly touches several points, and collects his check. His tired complaints about America's degenerate, permissive culture declare the old fool's entry in the 'know-it-all commentator' competition for Paul Harvey's radio slot.
posted by ovrflt at 12:44 AM on December 15, 2002

How about something more direct, such as patent laws (and the subsequent patent abuses) that do everything but protect inventors and inventing?

Because of he did that he would upset his corporate overlords.

Let me just say a couple things about a couple of the points. Teacher Unions? Oh yes, because we know how much money teachers make, and how much they love to teach to testing developed by the corporations Mr. Stein is so beholden to.

Estate Tax? As said above, you tax people, not money. As for not paying taxes on Christmas gifts, well, when you get a 400 million dollar Christmas gift, guess what, the IRS will expect you to pay taxes on it. And not the low estate tax, but the income tax. But why tax it at all, I mean, it was a gift, right? Because it was income.
posted by benjh at 6:48 AM on December 15, 2002

Actually, dgaicun, the SAT has a pretty terrible reputation. As SweetJesus said, the test is unbelievably racially, sexually, and economically biased. That's why the University of California system, among others, is getting rid of or severely devaluing the test in the admissions process.

In college, I used to teach SAT prep. I would routinely improve kids' scores by upwards of 200 points. It's not because I made them smarter or more prepared -- it's because the test is crap, and you can use that to your advantage.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 7:04 AM on December 15, 2002

unbelievably racially, sexually, and economically biased
I don't believe that any of this has actually been proven, besides the fact that minorities seem to score lower - on average.
posted by owillis at 8:20 AM on December 15, 2002


I have no major beef with the SAT. I also don't oppose standardized tests when they're used as a diagnostic tool. What I have a major problem with is standardized tests being used coercively -- that is, pass this test or your school loses funding, your teacher loses salary or you get held back a year or some combination of the three. That's an obscene misuse of diagnostic testing even if the tests are well-written -- and most of them are terrible.

And I have a major problem with the secrecy of these tests -- students and teachers are never allowed to review the results, and copies of previously administered tests are never made public. Why? Can you explain that?

The whole high-stakes-test mandate has been drilled into public schools with terrifying speed and virtually no public comment. Why? Who benefits from all this? Well, how about testing companies, companies that sell test-oriented curricula to schools, and those who have, all along, wanted to privatize schools and have now found a covert way to begin doing so? Not to mention politicians who can now peddle their "tough new standards" line to an undiscriminating public.
posted by argybarg at 8:24 AM on December 15, 2002

I, for one, welcome our new game show host overlord.

This is much better than any of the political drivel that Pat Sajack cranks out.
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2002

owillis -- The SAT's purpose, as stated by Educational Testing Services (the maker), is to predict a student's grade point through his or her freshman year of college. Women, for example, score an average of 42 points lower on the SAT than men, yet women taking the same freshmen classes as men have, on average, a one-tenth point higher GPA.

Furthermore, ETS has repeatedly altered the test to favor white males. Prior to 1973, girls outscored boys on the verbal section, while boys outperformed girls on the math section. ETS decided that this was unacceptable, and retooled the verbal section so that boys received higher scores in both sections.

I think that alone is pretty good evidence. When white males perform poorly on the test, it's because the test is faulty. When minorities do poorly, it's because they're genetically stupid.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 9:20 AM on December 15, 2002

Won't somebody please think of the poor pharmaceutical companies?
posted by stonerose at 9:40 AM on December 15, 2002

Even 0.5% is an outrage.

Inheritance tax should be done away with--the money was taxed as income when it was made.

It's really difficult to reconcile the idea that everyone must work hard and pull themselves up by their bootstraps, with the idea that children and grandchildren and great grandchildren etc etc of people who somehow earned their money - often through activities which would now be (or sometimes were then) illegal - are exempt from this. Okay, there's a genetic lottery, but if you're going to equate that with the right to inheritance, how do you keep from slipping into eugenics?

The aversion to taxes and especially inheritance taxes bespeaks of an aversion to the equality and community of all people (which I don't think many people would disagree with - they'd say it's sentimental nonsense to speak of an abstract community that large). I've often daydreamed of a kind of communal inheritance system where inheritance over a certain amount would be taxed and that money divided among citizens e.g. on their 25th birthday - a trust fund for the nation. Of course I'm a bit of a cynic, so it seems to me rich people would never let it happen and (us) poor people would be greedy and ungrateful and most 25 year olds would waste it... but that's basically what happens anyway
posted by mdn at 10:12 AM on December 15, 2002

"I would as soon leave my son a curse as the almighty dollar." Andrew Carnegie, at least, had the right idea, looking on in disgust at the frivolous lifestyles of the children of other Victorian industrialists and entrepreneurs. Abolish inheritance taxes? I'd be happy if the state interceded far more forcefully, in order to ensure that the children of the mega-rich had to endure a bit of character-building poverty. For every Stella McCartney, there's a bloody Jade Jagger.
posted by riviera at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2002

The United States is also the only country in the world to use something like the SAT for college admissions. Other countries use college entrance exams, which are unique to each university or college.

I knew someone who spent a year grading SAT 2 English essay tests, and boy does he have some horror stories about it. For example, the graders were encouraged to value speed over thoroughness. Often the essays weren't even read all the way thought, with graders just glancing over essays and assigning grades.

It's not exactly the most fair and judicial system.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:58 PM on December 15, 2002

some comments on some statements...

1) ..and that's what's happening both in private and public schools. Private, because they're usually
targeted at monetary profit maximization EVEN if the pupils pay. Public, because they're poorly paid
badly managed and rarely motivated (with noticeable but rare exceptions). What system do we need ?
How do we maximize profit AND education ? Are the two things mutually exclusive ?

2) ... what makes a lawsuit frivolous and who draws the line ?

3)... if tobacco advertisement is just theory, why did they spend millions on it ? And even if I
agree on the idea that frivolous lawsuit are dangerous for innovation, who draws the line between
a non frivolous and frivolous lawsuit , facts ? Expecially in the drugs field one can't really
know the long term effects of a drug but by selling it to millions people for years, unless you
trust some kind of statistics, which often don't tell the whole truth. The real problem, imho,
is the rush-product-to-market ideology, which shifts costs of failure to public and keeps profits
private : and I could take a risk by buying a product that will not work (just because I want
the product now) but I wouldn't bet my life on a lifesaving drug ; I'd rather shift the money
from lawsuit defence to more researchers hiring, but who is going to force corporations into
this agreement --> less lawsuit == quicker research , less creative accounting ?

5) Again it's not about the law, the law is ready, the shareholders should become
much more wary on how profit is done and less on fiscal year results.

6) Notice the "in which the law can be clearly seen". So what we need is just a sensation
of law being applied to everybody, no matter if it's wrong or right ? I'd rather have the
law enforced then a sensation of law being enforced because I see more cops on my streets.

8) Agreed, but while you're at it don't mock as well people who don't want to have a family
under the rules of marriage. The definition of family doesn't include
"based on marriage" , but rather on the idea of "people living togheter and helping each other".

9) "This way, Americans are taught that only fools save". I read "only fools pay taxes". And
given the otrageous accounting scandals, even if we pay less taxes, who's going to invest anyway ?
You just can't expect people to invest their savings in a company if they're going to take 2 times
the risk of a failure, one time being failure because of accounting theft, one time because of
natural enterprise risk. In other words, I don't see the equation less taxes = more saving =
= more investment as necessarily, always true : just likely.

11) OH come ON ! Socialization (read public health care) doesn't discourage new drugs. A public
health system, in which taxes pay health care, is a better customer then a private one because
it's much more likely to pay then a private one, even when the payment is delayed. Obviously
the private health care system is going to put much more pressure on any drug company, they
want better and cheaper drugs to make more profits, but they're also more likely to cut costs
while waiting for a better drug, often at the expenses of the patient, EVEN IF he/she pays good
money. One can't just think profit is better then life : what are you going to do with all the
money if you're dead or disabled ?

posted by elpapacito at 5:07 AM on December 16, 2002

I'm glad I learned at an early age how to say, "I was wrong."

hey! don't blame me for that!
posted by quonsar at 5:21 AM on December 16, 2002

Boo!! They took away our happy fun repeat pancakes thread!! I'll have to restart the silliness here.

I'll get you for this, Ferris Bueller!!! I know you're behind this somehow.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:02 AM on December 16, 2002

Give me the SAT over college entrance exams any day. I went to Nanzan University in Nagoya, Japan for a while and from what I learned from my friends there's a reason it's called 'examination hell'. Students must take one test for every major they want in every school they want to attend. Some people take dozens and they're only given in one place. This means that students will travel hundreds or thousands of miles for a lousy test. Forget that.
posted by Alison at 7:36 AM on December 16, 2002

At least he can still say all this and not be arrested, beaten or killed for it.
posted by agregoli at 11:24 AM on December 16, 2002

Someone tell me how in the hell leaving your children money after you die is equal to eugenics. I'm completely lost here.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:25 PM on December 17, 2002

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