The Daily View: Math Resurgence, Economic Growth, Student Loans

The Math Revolution:The number of American teens who excel at advanced math has surged.

This agree with earlier posts I have written countering the commonly held belief that America is ‘dumbing down’, when in fact it may not be. It also agrees with posts about the rise of ‘nerd culture’, and how STEM skills are increasingly valued both culturally and economically in our new economy. It’s the tyranny of the bookish, of smart people pulling ahead as everyone else struggles with a perpetually anemic labor market, stagnant home prices, and falling real wages. Math and code are the new ‘scriptures’ of modern society and economy, with mathematicians, philosophers, physicists, and economists the new ‘priesthood’. More and more young people are studying code and symbols, much like Bible readings, as a way to salvation, except not an intangible one, but one measured by higher wages and more respect.

Interestingly, on Reddit and 4chan, English, History, and Philosophy majors are also respected, too, as they sacrifice monetary gains to pursue a ‘higher’ calling. Such degrees, even though they may not pay very well or have immediate real-world applications, are a solace of intellectual purity, patience, and understanding in a society spoiled by instant gratification, ostentatious materialism, low-information pandering, and sensationalism. Both STEM and some liberal arts (not the useless ones like child development or gender studies) combine authenticity, sufficient intellectual rigor, introspection, and abstractions. For the math major such abstractions include axioms, postulates and theorems; for the literature major, it’s words and grammar; for philosophy, it’s ontology and epistemology. ‘Low-information’ means not circuitous enough, too obvious.

Related: The Writer and the Coder

However, the article notes that in certain aptitude tests America scores low compared to foreign countries:

Only 40 percent of fourth-graders and 33 percent of eighth-graders are considered at least “proficient.” On an internationally administered test in 2012, just 9 percent of 15-year-olds in the United States were rated “high scorers” in math, compared with 16 percent in Canada, 17 percent in Germany, 21 percent in Switzerland, 31 percent in South Korea, and 40 percent in Singapore.

The problem is these studies lump Americans, who are ethnically and culturally diverse group, with homogeneous countries. It would be more accurate to compare Singapore-American students to native Singaporeans, German-Americans to Germans, or Korean-Americans to native Koreans.

The Next Big Idea in Economic Growth

Yet corporate profits, stock prices, & earnings are still at or near historic highs. It would seem like the private sector has adjusted just fine to anemic GDP growth, and investors are not too concerned.

This story is going viral: Arrested for student loan debt

Believe it or not, the US Marshals Service in Houston is arresting people for not paying their outstanding federal student loans.

Paul Aker says he was arrested at his home last week for a $1500 federal student loan he received in 1987.

He says seven deputy US Marshals showed up at his home with guns and took him to federal court where he had to sign a payment plan for the 29-year-old school loan.

But fed. student loans are still at taxpayer expense and students should bear some responsibility for majoring in low-ROI subjects, taking on too much debt, or not understanding the terms and conditions of the loans. There so so many forgiveness and deferral programs that student loans are seldom paid in full, anyway. It’s often dragged out forever as in the case of Paul Aker, who had the ability to pay but refused to. Harsher penalties, including but not limited to jail time, are necessary for a system that is broken mainly against taxpayers.

Credentialism is another problem, as well as too many low-IQ and immature student being encouraged to enroll in college despite the high drop-out rate. Another problem is the perpetually anemic labor market.

Vox asks, if banks got bailed-out, why not students? The problem here is that student loan debt (at over $1 trillion) already exceeds the bank bailouts, and debt forgiveness will only add to the problem. There is no systemic risk in having some students default, but there is potential systemic risk if key financial institutions fail. As recently as 2011, TARP was paid in full and as of 2014 posted a profit of $15 billion, making it one of the most successful government programs, even if the most despised.

I support financial aid for students who have the cognitive aptitude to complete college (without dropping out), as well as majoring in a high-ROI subjects, but the system we have now just throws money out indiscriminately to students who shouldn’t be going to college, who will dropout with nothing to show for it but debt.

Related:

Some Ideas to Reform Higher Education
Improving Obama’s Community College Plan

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