More education is ALWAYS good…not

According to this Bloomberg article, teen labor force participation in the summer has dropped from 70% in the late 80s to 43% last year.

They offer a variety of reasons why. One reason they provide is that they’re studying more:

Over the last few decades, education has taken up more and more of teenagers’ time, as school districts lengthen both the school day and the academic year. During the school year, academic loads have gotten heavier. Education is also eating up teenagers’ summers. Teens aren’t going to summer school just because they failed a class and need to catch up. They’re also enrolling in enrichment courses and taking courses for college credit.

In July of last year, more than two in five 16- to 19-year-olds were enrolled in school. That’s four times times as many as were enrolled in 1985, BLS data show.

That’s a big shift in one generation.

I think there might be a few reasons whys.

Parents are wealthier now, so kids don’t have to earn as much of their spending/college money on their own.

Minimum wage is higher, so there might be more ‘off the books’ employment of students.

Lots of folks have bought into the ‘more is ALWAYS better’ maxim of education. As a society, we find it hard to rationalize diminishing returns on things that sound really good.

Last decade, more home ownership was ALWAYS better. Through financial market distortions, we pushed well past the diminishing return curve to the point where many decisions simply didn’t make economic sense, until it blew up. It turns out it’s not a good idea to ‘own a home’ if you can’t actually afford to pay the mortgage.

Now we are doing the same thing with education. The result is college graduates with mountains of student loan debt with degrees that don’t have the earnings potential to pay that debt off.

The dynamics of real estate and education bubbles are similar.

Can’t afford to pay your mortgage? Don’t let that stop you. Being a home owner is a good thing! It will all work out. 

Want a degree in neolithic cultural approbation even though you will have no marketable skills? Don’t let that stop you. Having a college degree is a great thing!

In the real estate bubble, there were many distortions. A big one was government backing loans for ‘non-traditional’ (i.e. people who had not yet demonstrated the ability responsibly manage their finances) borrowers.

Oddly enough, in the education bubble, we have the same thing — government backing student loans with no tie to whether the degree provides the student with the earning potential to pay that loan off.

Let me be clear. I have nothing against home ownership, helping people buy homes, education or helping people get college degrees.

It’s just that I believe that ‘helping people buy homes’, means teaching them responsible personal finance.

With college degrees, it means teaching them to evaluate job market and earnings potential of their degree so they can make choices that make sense.

It’s all about rationalizing on the diminishing returns.

A couple good anti-bullying tactics

  1. Learning this old phrase: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
  2. Don’t give bullies the reaction they want.

Recent efforts are more focused on stopping bullying altogether.

When I was a kid, there was more emphasis on equipping kids on how to deal with bullies. The two tactics above worked well. I dare say, that on occasion, standing up to the bullies also worked.

News stories of kids who injure themselves, or worse, because of bullies, seem to subtly accept that bullying could result in such things.

Bullying should not result in such things.

Accidentally getting cause and effect backwards

I heard a sound clip from a comedy act on the radio recently.

It went something like this:

Incarceration rates in the U.S., the freest country in the world, is higher than many other not-so-free countries. It’s double what it is in South Africa and South Africa is pretty f’d up.

So, isn’t it strange that the freest country in the world actually has the lowest number of free people?

The comedian doesn’t seem to consider that perhaps the U.S.’s higher incarceration rate contributes to why the U.S. isn’t as “f’d up” as South Africa.

He also made an error in the last paragraph. He should have said lowest percentage of free people, rather than lower “number.”



Maybe valedictorians are successful

I think there are some good points in this Time article about how successful valedictorians are later in life.

It turns out they do fine, but the article concludes they don’t ‘change the world.’

They speculate as to why:

So why are the number ones in high school so rarely the number ones in real life? There are two reasons. First, schools reward students who consistently do what they are told. Academic grades correlate only loosely with intelligence (standardized tests are better at measuring IQ). Grades are, however, an excellent predictor of self-discipline, conscientiousness, and the ability to comply with rules.

The second reason is that schools reward being a generalist. There is little recognition of student passion or expertise. The real world, however, does the reverse.

I think these are interesting and reasonable sounding explanations, but too simplistic.

I don’t believe the authors give due consideration to how uncommon and how much luck goes into ‘changing the world’. It’s like concluding that no valedictorians have won the Powerball. That’s comparing something with a 1 in 400 chance (being a valedictorian) to something with a 1 in 292 million chance. It isn’t likely to happen mainly due to the odds of the second event (Powerball), not the odds of the first . It certainly isn’t likely to happen in a pool of 81 candidates that they followed.

Most world changers are what Nassim Taleb call Black Swans, which are low probability events that have more to do with luck than anything.

I know it’s tough for folks to believe. We see the successful people and forget about the odds they overcame to get there. We don’t think about the millions of other people that are very similar to the successful ones that haven’t made it.

Imagine if there were a TV show that followed the lives of lottery winners. That would probably lead us to forget those immense 1 in 292 million odds because, well, ‘it happened to them.’

That’s called survivorship bias. We don’t see the thousands or millions that were similar to the successful folks, so we can’t gauge how rare their success.

Also, I think the whole ‘change the world’ mantra is BS anyway. It has led generations of folks into narcissistic and self-destructive pursuits.

When I got close to success, I’ve seen what others had to sacrifice to have a chance of making it and I wasn’t willing to do that. I imagine there are many like me.

For example, I was a fair bicycle racer in my day. To get to the next level, I would have had to give up many things like hanging out with family and friends and have a single-minded focus on training (which, admittedly is the second reason the authors of the Time article gave–perhaps I was too much of a generalist to have a single-minded focus on training).

But, it was what I saw to get to the level after that that turned me off. I would have likely needed to sacrifice my morals and take performance enhancing drugs. I simply wasn’t willing to do that.

School brainwashes us to think of success as being world changing or making a big splash. You must be important, rich and famous, make it big! We envision getting there in meritocratic ways through hard work and persistence.

But, many find out, like I did, there’s often a dark side to achieving that success. To have a chance of that type of success often means being extremely selfish, making questionable sacrifices and perhaps, taking some moral shortcuts. I’d love to know what percentage of Hollywood super stars achieved their fame without providing a few questionable sexual favors to people who could give them a break along the way.

Perhaps valedictorians are simply smart enough to figure that out and come to believe that success isn’t about changing the whole world, but rather changing the part of world around you in, perhaps, smaller, but still important ways.

That might mean being a good and involved parent, volunteering to help others out in formal and informal ways, being a good friend and living by a good set of morals.

I wrote about this idea back in 2011 in the second part of this post.

Different soccer models emerging (or at least being tried)

No doubt, pickup play is a key driver to developing sports skills and game IQ.

The following two efforts will try to emulate pickup play for soccer, since it is sorely lacking in the U.S.

The guys from the 3four3 soccer blog are starting the 3four3 Player’s Club.


  • 25 weeks
  • Personal Training from proven, yes proven, coaches operating at the cutting edge of youth development
  • 75 hours – of available pickup games
  • Consistent exposure to proper pickup culture
  • Under the eyes of 3four3 staff on a weekly basis

Some folks affiliated with pro soccer teams in the Kansas City area are starting the Zone 1 Academy program.


  • 4 practices will be offered each week. Players may attend as many as they wish.
  • The daily training atmosphere will be a point of emphasis.
  • Individual and small group play will be emphasized.
  • Freedom of expression will be encouraged.

These seem like steps in the right direction.

I wish them the best of luck.

Conspiracy theory when we say so

I just saw an ABC Evening News piece about Fox News retracting a story about Seth Rich, a DNC staffer who was murdered during the election campaign last year, possibly being the person who leaked the DNC emails during last year’s campaign.

What I found ironic about the story is that ABC News reported how there’s been no evidence of this and that’s why the story had to be retracted. They presented the Seth Rich story as a ‘Conspiracy Theory’.

Yet, they opened the story with the idea that the Russians hacked the DNC emails, as in ‘Of course, it wasn’t Seth Rich, it was the Russians!’

I’m still waiting on the evidence of that one.

The only thing I’ve seen (and the footage included in this ABC News story) is Senators Pelosi and Feinstein saying that “based on what they have been shown’ they ‘believe’ Russia hacked the DNC.

Forgive me for not trusting two extreme-partisan Senators using back-pedal language (‘Well, I believed based on what I was shown. I can’t help that what I was shown was wrong.’)

If lack of known evidence makes the Seth Rich story a Conspiracy Theory, it seems that the Russian hacking story should also be considered Conspiracy Theory until there’s evidence to prove otherwise.

Addendum: The last time the ‘no evidence’ claim was made by the media was about Trump’s ‘Obama wiretapped me’ tweet. For weeks the media pounded ‘NO EVIDENCE’ (which sounds a lot like Lance Armstrong’s canned response when asked if he doped, ‘I’ve never failed a drug test.’)

Then we start to learn the details of ‘unmasking’ and that story seemed to slip out of the media rotation overnight.



It’s okay that kids quit sports

In this article on Changing the Game Project (dot com), an organization trying to breathe sanity back into youth sports, the author goes over some reasons why kids quit sports and things that can be done to help.

As a youth coach, I’ve had a couple parents forward this article to me when they disagreed with my coaching.

Here is a snippet from the article:

As I have stated here many times, 70% of children are dropping out of organized sports by the age of 13. Whenever I mention this sad statistic, people come out of the wood work saying that it’s only the kids who aren’t good enough to play that quit. They say it’s an age where school, jobs and other interests take precedence. These things are true and contribute to a part of the dropout rate, but they are not the entire picture.

We don’t simply lose the kids who cannot make varsity; we lose many of the best athletes on our teams.

One problem is that the author, John O’Sullivan, doesn’t quantify how much these other factors contribute to the dropout rate.

Basic math says that the vast majority of kids who dropout are the kids that cannot make varsity. If only the top 20% of kids make the high school team, that means 80% don’t. If only the top 5% of the high school athletes make a college team, 95% don’t.

In my experience, around ages 11 – 14 kids come to one of a few reality checks.

They may realize that being average in a sport takes work they aren’t willing to put in.

Or, they come to understand the odds of them becoming a college or pro players is low.

I appreciate O’Sullivan’s efforts to want to take some of the adult toxicity out of youth sports.

But, I also believe there’s nothing wrong with having a 70% dropout rate by age 13. My guess is that statistic has remained consistent over time because it tracks the winnowing of the field to make the cut for high school, college and pro.

If efforts to keep kids playing sports longer work, I believe it may have some ill consequences — mainly, keeping kids from doing other things that may be more worth while.