The value of a college degree? A job (5×8 – 2/20/13)

Low pay beats no pay, should teachers be required to pass a test to teach, your biggest failure, privacy over accuracy in the note home from school, and the end is cosmically near.


As more people look at the stickers on a college education, they’re asking whether a college degree is worth the accumulated debt that goes with it? They may not have a choice, the New York Times says today. The college degree, it says, is the new high school diploma.

Many firms will hire only people with a college degree, even for jobs that clearly don’t require a college-level education, according to the report.

Even people working as file clerks at one firm profiled need a degree. And at least one worker realizes that the college loans will never be repaid.

More jobs: When a bad economy means working forever. (NPR)


Should teachers be required to pass a skills exam before being allowed to teach? The current Legislature is on the verge of rolling back bills passed by the previous Legislature.

In the last session, Gov. Mark Dayton signed the bill requiring teachers to pass the exams before being allowed in a classrom.

“I think it’s OK to admit that a mistake has been made in terms of this legislation, in terms of language barriers, learning disabilities, validity of the test, cultural bias, and the cost in really determining what makes a good teacher in the classroom,” said Sen. Kevin Dahle, DFL-Northfield, who is a teacher.

The St. Cloud Times reports…

Christopher Smith, a professor at Augsburg College, said he took the math basic skills test and found only 13 of the 50 questions to be free of language or cultural bias, such as references to objects that may not be common to all cultures. He analyzed passing rates for Augsburg students by ethnicity and found an overall 20-percentage point gap between students of color and their white peers.

Lawmakers recognized the legislation should be improved and accommodations made, but many on the Senate Education Committee were leery of scrapping the skills exams entirely.

“Any reasonable person would say that reasonable accommodations should be made,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, noting situations like Devine’s or those of language immersion teachers. “But the general public expects accountability.”

“Yes, I think the English teacher should know something about math. And the math teacher should be able to put a sentence structure together,” Thompson said. “I think those things are important to the people and I would be very disturbed if this ends up being repealed and all of a sudden the whole concept of a basic skills test goes away.”

MPR’s Tom Weber will tackle the subject during the second hour of today’s Daily Circuit.


The amazing Win Borden provides the inspiration for today’s discussion: failure. On his Facebook page, the Merrifield philosopher considers the role of failure.

When I was at the mailbox picking up this trash, the school bus drove up. A 7 yr old got off and he was either tired or sad. I asked him how school went today and he said, “Well, I was a real failure again.” I told him “we all fail–except those who don’t try. But we learn from our failures and if you keep at it you will be successful.” Well, skeptical I think he was as he headed home.

The old wood stove listened and then said, “I think you should teach a course in failure–it is one subject in which you have a great deal of expertise.” Well talk about jerking my chain, but before I could say a word she continued on.

“Remember when you first tried to walk? Talk about stumbling around, but now you walk pretty well even with your new hip and chemo.” Oh my. “Remember when you first started giving speeches? You were a disaster, but finally got good enough so that you could share the speakers podium with the rich and the famous. And take your writing? Your first college prof called your writing ‘a grammatical slaughterhouse.’ Your spelling is still atrocious, but you have gotten better. Some folks like your writing and on rare occasion even you admit it is worth reading. And if you listen to me, I will eventually teach you, even you, how to cook well.” Oh well.

Today’s discussion point: What did you learn from your biggest failure?


Another school district is in a controversy of sorts in its insistence on protecting the privacy of students. The Pioneer Press reports that a a student was stabbed by a Ramsey Junior High student on Tuesday, but when a letter was sent home to parents assuring them all is well, it said only the students “were engaged in horseplay.”

That, the mother of the victim says, doesn’t convey the seriousness of the situation, and she’s not happy the police weren’t called. The assailant is now charged with second-degree assault.

“If the student body is in no danger, that’s the message we want to communicate,” Toya Stewart Downey, the district’s spokeswoman told the paper. “We don’t want to incite fear or panic when it’s not necessary.”

But a safety expert says the strategy doesn’t fly in the age of social media. “I think parents expect transparency, and in today’s world of Facebook, Twitter and other social media, there are no secrets in schools,” Ken Trump said. “The stories are going to be told. The question is who is going to tell them.”

More “horseplay”: After South High brawl, Somali students say they don’t feel safe (MPR)


Finding the Boson Higgs particle seemed like a nice breakthrough, but maybe ignorance is bliss.

The particle found at the Large Hadron Collider still hasn’t been officially confirmed as the particle that imparts mass to the universe.

At a conference this week in Boston, scientists discussed what they know about what they found so far, and — The Cosmic Log blog reports — their calculations spell doom.

“If you use all the physics that we know now, and we do what we think is a straightforward calculation, it’s bad news,” one scientist said. “It may be that the universe we live in is inherently unstable. At some point, billions of years from now, it’s all going to be wiped out.”

The problem — if you consider life as we know it ending billions of years from now a “problem” — is that the universe teters on the age of instability. Without warning, a sudden vacuum could destroy everything.

But another scientist offers a remarkable observation. The “alternate universe” — one of safety and stability — would be inherently boring, and might not even be able to spark life at all.

More from the exciting universe: Can your safe and stable universe do this?

Bonus I: Harlem reacts to all the Harlem Shake videos.

Bonus II: If you catch a crappie with an auger on Lake of the Woods, can you keep it?


Legislators are chewing over the proposed details of a health insurance exchange that Minnesotans could use to shop for health coverage. The exchange would begin operations by October and serve more than a million Minnesotans. Today’s Question: What features would you like to see in a Minnesota insurance exchange?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: U.S. drone policy.

Second hour: Dr. Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Pharma.

Third hour: Why you never truly leave high school.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Two people representing different wings of the GOP, Cullen Sheehan and Marianne Stebbins, speaking at the U of M about the future of the Republican Party.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Dan Olson profiles Yongqui Jiang, a native of China who came to this country for a college education when the Nationalists ruled his homeland. He returned to live and work for decades under Mao and the Communists all the while maintaining a close tie with the University of Minnesota, his alma mater. Now he’s back and still involved with the Chinese student population on campus.