Monday, September 27, 2010

How Not to Close the Gap

Thomas Spence, in a column at the WSJ, observes that there's a growing literacy gap between boys and girls. The good news, he says, is that influential people recognize the problem. The bad news is that their solutions are just awful.
A considerable number of teachers and librarians believe that boys are simply bored by the "stuffy" literature they encounter in school. According to a revealing Associated Press story in July these experts insist that we must "meet them where they are"—that is, pander to boys' untutored tastes.
For elementary- and middle-school boys, that means "books that exploit [their] love of bodily functions and gross-out humor." AP reported that one school librarian treats her pupils to "grossology" parties. "Just get 'em reading," she counsels cheerily. "Worry about what they're reading later."
So, the solution our pedagogues have come up with to getting reluctant boys to read is to teach them to be boorish, moronic slobs. Sounds like a great plan.

Spence adds that:

Education was once understood as training for freedom. Not merely the transmission of information, education entailed the formation of manners and taste. Aristotle thought we should be raised "so as both to delight in and to be pained by the things that we ought; this is the right education."
"Plato before him," writes C. S. Lewis, "had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting, and hateful."
The idea that we have to cater to the young savages' penchant for the prurient is an abdication of one's role as an educator. What's next? Teaching arithmetic by counting the number of chocolate bars floating in the toilet bowl?

The problem, as you probably guessed, is that young boys spend a lot more time than girls with electronic amusements of one sort or another. The solution, Spence rather reasonably insists, is to severely curtail their access to these nefarious devices, and then ply them with good books.

I think he's right. Reading is not an enjoyable activity for many young boys. They'd rather be creating mayhem on the video screen. But just because civilizing males is not an easy task is no reason why parents and public schools should shirk the job of doing it.

Check out Spence's essay, especially if you're thinking about going into middle school or elementary ed. He makes a lot of interesting, and important, points.

Destroying Health Insurance

Throughout the debate over health care reform last winter and spring numerous critics argued that the package being voted on by the House and Senate was going to make health care more scarce and less affordable. Nancy Pelosi did little to reassure us that Congress knew what it was doing when she announced that we had to pass the bill so that we could find out what was in it (and liberals mock Christine O'Donnell for being empty-headed?).

Well, now the bill has passed and we're starting to learn what's in it, and what's in it is going to make a lot of people very unhappy. National Review focuses on just one item: child-only policies. These are policies written specifically to cover children, and they're relatively inexpensive because the policy doesn't have to cover items, like colonoscopies, prostate exams, mastectomies, etc., that children would never be expected to need.

It turns out that one of the many unintended consequences of Obamacare is that insurance companies are going to have to stop offering these policies. National Review's editors explain why:
Health-insurance giants Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aetna, Cigna, CoventryOne, Humana, and UnitedHealthCare have stopped writing child-only policies in those jurisdictions where they are able to do so. The reason for this is obvious: Because Obamacare forces insurance companies to accept children who are already sick with pre-existing conditions on the same terms as healthy children, parents now have a strong incentive to wait until their children are sick to buy child-only policies, making the products a guaranteed money-loser for insurers, which are not in the business of guaranteeing losses to their investors and employees.
Those losses would be passed on to health-care consumers in the form of higher premiums and reduced benefits, meaning that the mandate to cover those with pre-existing conditions will function as a tax on other insurance consumers, and those who were responsible enough to buy insurance before they got sick will be punished to bail out those who were not similarly responsible.
The requirement to accept patients with pre-existing conditions essentially guarantees that a lot of people simply won't be buying insurance until they need the coverage. The insurers will have much less money coming in and much more money going out. There's no way a company can survive such mandates, which may actually be President Obama's plan. One way to achieve his goal of having a single-payer system where the government is the single-payer is to drive insurance companies out of business, and one way to do that is to make their coverage so expensive that fewer and fewer Americans can afford it.

If that's not his deliberate plan it is nevertheless what his plan may well achieve.