Is Free Tuition Europe’s Message to America?

Published November 15, 2015 in Tacoma’s News Tribune.

grad capsBERGEN, Norway.  Should college be free for students, as Bernie Sanders contends?

Those who take this position usually support it with two claims: We need the best-educated workforce in the world, and cost should not deter young people from developing their talent.

In other words, free tuition would lead to a more prosperous and equitable America. And since college in countries such as Denmark and Norway is free, why can’t it also be free for Americans?

Yet if we follow Sanders’ suggestion and look abroad for inspiration, it’s not so clear that “free tuition” is the take-home message. Look closely at other nations, and it is apparent that we almost excessively invest in college. Continue reading

PISA provides Turkey with good news, bad news, and lessons

Published in Today’s Zaman December  22, 2013 (with Turan Kayaoğlu)

Two weeks ago, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released country-level results from its 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). What typically follows in most news coverage is handwringing and awkward explanations, as few receive the hoped-for good news. Continue reading

As inequality in the US grows, the rest of the world progesses

Published in The News Tribune, March 27, 2013

Two months ago, economists from around the world converged in San Diego for their annual convention. Dozens presented papers on the hot topic of growing income inequality in the United States.

These papers led to lively and at times heated debates, some of which have subsequently spilled over onto blogs as well as the nation’s opinion pages.

The tendency to focus on the U.S. and our troubling upward trend in inequality is a natural one. But it also misses astonishing progress on the inequality front. Continue reading

Look to Europe to improve our educational system

Published in The News Tribune, August 29, 2012

Looking to European countries for policy advice these days might seem like an untimely undertaking.  But when it comes to education, Europe is a key place to watch.  And we’d be well advised to not just pay attention, but to climb aboard the same bandwagon that so many European nations are now on.

Over the last several decades many European countries have made great strides in improving their educational systems.  This has been evident not just in international test scores, but also in the growing number of years their students remain in school. Continue reading

Trouble 6,000 miles away can shake our financial well-being

Published in The News Tribune, December 2, 2011

It’s an extraordinary world we live in when a country 6,000 miles away and the size of Washington threatens America’s economy.

But so it is.  Even Olympia’s latest revenue forecast identifies evolving events in Greece as the wild card in its predictions.  How much our state government will have to cut services to our most vulnerable citizens hangs on the fate of Greek bonds – as well as on bonds of other European nations caught up in Greece’s contagion effect.   It goes to show how interconnected we’ve all become. Continue reading

Let’s be thankful that our problems are those of rich countries

Published in The News Tribune, November 24, 2011

These are divisive times.

It’s easy to see why.  Jobs are scarce, millions have lost their health care coverage, college debt exceeds credit card debt, income inequality is rising, more people are hungry, and state and federal governments look to be on unsustainable paths.   In the past, a robust economy and rising tax revenue succeeded in keeping some degree of division under wraps.

Today’s more austere times means that we now have to establish priorities rather than add new ones.  We’re faced with the inevitable – and unenviable — task of choosing between higher taxes or less spending. Continue reading

9/11 wrongly lumped a whole group of people with terrorism

Published in The News Tribune, September 9, 2011

As we approach the tenth anniversary of 9/11,  let’s reflect on a group that may prefer to remain unnoticed.

And let’s notice them.

It’s pretty easy for most of us to associate Islam with terrorism.  While 9/11 is the most obvious cause for this, other events also spring to mind.

But in the spirit of reflection that 9/11 evokes, let’s consider this association. Continue reading

Does the Tiger Mother allow for her Cubs’ Creativity?

Published with Mary Hanneman in The News Tribune, February 23, 2011

In case the state of the economy isn’t depressing  enough, now comes the news that we are lousy parents.  In her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, author Amy Chua tells us that the “Western” parenting model allows kids to have too much fun and tolerates mediocre grades like an A-.   By contrast, “Eastern” parents require hours and hours of music lessons and academic drills, accepting nothing less than a perfect 4.0.

There is growing evidence that there may be something to this Eastern model.  The New York Times recently reported that some colleges find that half of their applicants from China have scored a perfect  800 on the math SAT – a score only one percent of American students attain. Continue reading