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Friday, January 10, 2014

Bill James Mailbag - 1/10/14

I’m amused to find that a guy named Bill White wrote about Huckleberry.

(Not the Rizzuto version, of course; the version idolized by Bill James…)

How about Bill White for the Hall? Very good player, great broadcaster, NL president and baseball disciplinarian.

Maybe we should poll the allegation that he was a great broadcaster; I’m not sure that’s a winner. Intuitively, when a player of that stature later goes on to serve as the League President, that’s probably somebody that the powers will select for Hall of Fame inclusion.

Hey Bill….As I understand the rules, the HOF electors can vote for no more than 10 candidates per year. Looking at this year’s HOF ballot it certainly looks like more than 10 could have been elected (for the sake of my question let’s presume PEDs never existed). Is there any inherent reason to place a 10 player limit per year, such as concerns that electing more than 10 might somehow dilute the honor, or is there some kind of mathemagic reason to limit it to no more than 10? Or is it that the Hall never expected to have such a strong ballot so that a 10 player limit seemed sufficient? Or is the 10 player limit the least of the HOF voting “problems?” Thanks.

Yes, it is the least of the Hall of Fame’s voting problems. I’m sure that the 10-man limit was put in place to discourage indiscriminate voting leading to lax standards, although indiscriminate voting BY THE BBWAA leading to lax standards has never been a real issue. (Indiscriminate voting leading to lax standards has been a problem, but by the Veteran’s Committee and the special committees, not the BBWAA.) Throughout almost all of the Hall’s history, there have not been 10 reasonable candidates on the BBWAA ballot. This year, because of the Expansion Time Bomb and the lack of consensus about the steroid users, there were (as you note) more than 10 people there who were worthy of selection.

Hey Bill: There is a rather breathless CNN expose that just hit on illiteracy among college athletes: http://www.cnn.com/interactive/2014/01/us/college-scores/index.html Aside from the cautionary tale of Shoeless Joe, I don’t believe I have heard of any baseball greats who could not read or write, although I would suspect anyone nicknamed “Country.” Any thoughts on this? Would an illiterate player be drafted by a club today?

Many of the Dominican players and those from other parts of Latin American have extremely limited educational backgrounds, and it is more than a remote possibility that there could be a player included there somewhere who could not read or write. There was an American player about 20 years ago who was illiterate; he had a strong rookie year, but then faded. It is likely that Rube Waddell was illiterate. . .well, certainly in 1900, and as late as 1940, levels of literacy in America were not what they are now. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a good many illiterate players in that era. On the general issue. ..if a team thought a player could play, they would draft him and address this concern just as they would address any other. If you find a player who has ability but no teeth, you draft him and get him to a dentist. If you find a player who has ability but a terrible swing, you draft him and try to fix his swing. Same thing here. There are no perfect players to draft; the last perfect player to draft was Tom Seaver. Otherwise, everybody has issues. You draft them and deal with the issues.

Late to the party regarding the CEOs-Athletes-Actors salary debate: I don’t think we’re approaching that sea change (society actively trying to limit income among these groups) for a while, if not ever. These people are paid insane amounts because of the insane amounts of wealth/revenue they generate for their employers due to their own unique talents.

Well, you can believe that if you want to, but there are other ways to look at it. There are other people who have unique and valuable talents who aren’t compensated at a comparable level. If all of the players playing major league baseball suddenly retired and a new generation appeared, each player making no more than $100,000 a year, the game would go on just as before. If movie stars were not paid $20 million a movie, there would still be movies. If CEOs were not paid very large salaries, there would still be company presidents and, I suspect, equally competent or more competent business management.

The District Attorney Posted: January 10, 2014 at 03:31 PM | 90 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bill james, bill white, economics, hall of fame, sabermetrics

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   1. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 10, 2014 at 05:25 PM (#4635971)
There was an American player about 20 years ago who was illiterate; he had a strong rookie year, but then faded.

Who is he referring to?
   2. Bob Tufts Posted: January 10, 2014 at 05:43 PM (#4635983)
Obviously he used steroids to bulk up his muscles but not ADHD drugs to focus the brain.

They may not have been illiterate, but the entire 1993 Phillies team comes to mind...
   3. AROM Posted: January 10, 2014 at 05:52 PM (#4635988)
Taking a shot, strong rookie year from 1992-1996, then faded:

Pat Listach
Jason Bere
Chuck Carr
Kevin Stocker
Bob Hamelin
Marty Cordova

Edit: Bere had a longer career than I remembered.
   4. Famous Original Joe C Posted: January 10, 2014 at 05:52 PM (#4635989)
Only guessing based on the number of years and the context, but...Pat Listach? Bob Hamelin?

Edit: beaten to it.
   5. The District Attorney Posted: January 10, 2014 at 05:55 PM (#4635990)
Hamelin, of course, played for Kansas City, which back then would presumably have been the easiest team for James to get information about. For some very wrong reason, I'd find it hilarious if Bob Hamelin was illiterate.

Someone should track the Hammer down, drop him a line, and ask!

EDIT: If this is his Facebook page, it's pretty damning.
   6. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:06 PM (#4635993)
Someone should track the Hammer down, drop him a line, and ask!


But if he couldn't read it ...
   7. asinwreck Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:06 PM (#4635994)
   8. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4635995)
Hamelin went to UCLA. I know it's not impossible to fake your way through college if you're an athlete but I find that hard to believe.

Kevin Stocker and Pat Listach also went to college, as did Jason Bere (who is now special assistant to baseball operations for the Cleveland Indians). If Marty Cordova is/was illiterate, he caught up in a hurry. He's currently a COO for a digital media company.

I found that Chuck Carr went to high school and was coaching in the Astros system for awhile, but pretty much nothing else.
   9. BDC Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:13 PM (#4635998)
BTW, that CNN exposé on illiteracy has to do with "college literacy": which is a hell of a different thing from being able to read or write, and is one of the terms that critics of higher ed play fastest and loosest with. I extremely much doubt that there are currently college athletes, or even those who can keep high-school eligibility, who absolutely cannot read and write. As James says, it's perhaps conceivable that Latin players without a secondary education might be illiterate in Spanish. But they're few and far between, I would think. Contrary to stereotype, places like Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic have good educational systems, and young men who advance to the higher levels of a profession like baseball are almost certainly basically competent in school subjects.
   10. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4635999)
Didn't Cordova fall asleep in a tanning booth? I say it's him, corporate career be damned.
   11. Dock Ellis on Acid Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:23 PM (#4636000)
Yeah, I was wondering about the definition of "illiteracy."
   12. Canker Soriano Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4636002)
About 20 years ago. How about Jerome Walton or Dwight Smith? They both had strong rookie year with the 1989 Cubs, then became nothing.

They both grew up in the rural South. Walton went to a community college, and Smith to a religious one. (Not to cast aspersions on either, but they're probably lower level than UCLA is.)
   13. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:26 PM (#4636004)
Why is the Astros GM on Jay Mohr's podcast?????
   14. PepTech Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:38 PM (#4636010)
Why does Jay Mohr have a podcast????


ETA: Why does anybody, really.
   15. puck Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:39 PM (#4636013)
I thought maybe he got the years wrong and meant Joe Charboneau. I didn't know Super Joe was drafted out of a college, though.
   16. zonk Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:41 PM (#4636014)
About 20 years ago. How about Jerome Walton or Dwight Smith? They both had strong rookie year with the 1989 Cubs, then became nothing.

They both grew up in the rural South. Walton went to a community college, and Smith to a religious one. (Not to cast aspersions on either, but they're probably lower level than UCLA is.)


I can vouch for Walton's literacy...

I got his biography "Rookie" signed -- no, I'm not saying he wrote the book -- but I asked him to sign it "To the World's Greatest Cubs, [Zonk]".... he did so, spelled it all correctly, and literally looking at it right now -- even got the 's in World's properly in place.

Cannot speak to Smith -- but Dwight Smith has a hell of a voice.... not that this means he was literate.
   17. Tony S Posted: January 10, 2014 at 06:51 PM (#4636019)

If you go back 30 years instead of 20, Jeff Stone might be a candidate... I remember there were all kinds of stories about him being rather unsophisticated... and he did have a strong rookie year before fading after that
   18. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: January 10, 2014 at 07:57 PM (#4636039)
Rex. Hudler. Had to be him. I don't care that the years are wrong. He is a dolt.
   19. AuntBea Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:24 PM (#4636044)
Of course, Dexter Manley played 11 years in the NFL illiterate after going to college for 4 years (not sure if he graduated).

But I suppose that was the NFL, and Oklahoma State University.
   20. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:26 PM (#4636046)
If all of the players playing major league baseball suddenly retired and a new generation appeared, each player making no more than $100,000 a year, the game would go on just as before a competing league would sprout up immediately and start paying them at a rate commensurate with the billions in annual revenue generated by such an endeavor.

######' idiot.
   21. Steve N Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:33 PM (#4636049)
My candidate for an illiterate player about 20 years ago would be Jeff Stone.
   22. Bruce Markusen Posted: January 10, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4636052)
I guess no one's going to take the bait on James' gratuitous shot at Bill White, so I will.

Loved listening to Bill White in the seventies and eighties. I learned a lot of baseball from him. He had a good voice, was equally adept at play-by-play and color, and called it right down the middle, as willing to criticize a Yankee for a bad play as he would an opposing player. He was a great counterbalance to Phil Rizzuto on WPIX and Yankee radio broadcasts. Some of their exchanges were classics, with White willingly playing the straight man role.
   23. lonestarball Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:08 PM (#4636055)
Jeff Stone was who I immediately thought of, as well.
   24. AndrewJ Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:23 PM (#4636058)
I mentioned in a long-ago post how Bill James, in his Hall of Fame book, criticized White as being "not well liked." League presidents, almost by definition, have to get along well with others...
   25. McCoy Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:25 PM (#4636060)
In Philadelphia they used to have a special event called Book and a Cook and they still might which was basically a restaurant would invite a cookbook author into the restaurant and the restaurant would cook items from the cookbook for patrons while the author rubbed elbows with the guests. I took part in this for many years and I recall that one of our authors was a former illiterate who taught himself how to read and write as an adult. He wrote several soul food vegetarian cookbooks and his handwriting was atrocious.
   26. GregD Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:35 PM (#4636063)
I tutored two adult (in their 50s) illiterate guys a decade ago in grad school. One for a year or so, the other for 2-3 years. The second one had some real talent and did learn stuff but it was amazingly slow. Flashcards with "sh" sounds and stuff like that. Words took forever. But he got to where he could sound things out and take a good guess, which was something. The other guy was diligent but just could not retain anything from week to week. Although he started with some of the sounds down, he never progressed very much and got frustrated and left. Even after you set aside job and financial stuff, a truly illiterate person--these guys could not spell dog--has an unbelievably tough time in life. Things are a mystery to them. They follow the same sidewalks day after day to keep from getting lost.

I can't imagine a truly illiterate guy making it to the bigs these days, but what do I know?
   27. Matt Welch Posted: January 10, 2014 at 09:41 PM (#4636064)
Most WAR, 1Bmen, 1962-66

1) 26.5 Bill White
2) 20.0 Willie McCovey
3) 19.8 Norm Cash
4) 16.0 Orlando Cepeda

That late '50s Giants system, I don't even know what.
   28. Tim Wallach was my Hero Posted: January 10, 2014 at 10:27 PM (#4636068)
#26, Jacques Demers was a head coach in the NHL for 14 years with Quebec City, Detroit, St. Louis, Montreal, and Tampa. Plus, he was Tampa GM for a year. He is the only coach to have ever won two Jack Adams trophy for the best coach two years in a row. He won the Stanley Cup. He is now a Senator at the Canadian Parliament (in Canada, senators are named by the Prime Minister, not elected). And he is illiterate. Even his wife and kids did not know. He says that many illiterate people are amazing at developing strategies to hide the fact that they are illiterates.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacques_Demers

From Wikipedia:
On November 2, 2005, Jacques Demers released a biography, written by Mario Leclerc, entitled En toutes lettres (English translation: All Spelled Out), in which he revealed that he is functionally illiterate. According to Demers, he never really learned to read or write because of his abusive childhood in Montreal. He covered for himself by asking secretaries and public relations people to read letters for him, claiming he couldn't read English well enough to understand them. When he served as general manager of the Lightning, he brought in Cliff Fletcher and Jay Feaster as his assistants. As it turned out, they did most of the work a general manager would normally do because he knew he couldn't do it himself.
On August 28, 2009, CBC Radio One reported that Demers was chosen to fill the Senate seat of Yoine Goldstein by Prime Minister Harper. He is fluently bilingual. According to the CBC report, he has "raised awareness about literacy issues" by "going public with his own struggles." A series of Montreal residents were interviewed regarding his Senate appointment and they were generally positive about the move. Many noted, however, that it was "important that he learn to read."
   29. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: January 10, 2014 at 10:58 PM (#4636079)
I guess no one's going to take the bait on James' gratuitous shot at Bill White, so I will.

Loved listening to Bill White in the seventies and eighties. I learned a lot of baseball from him. He had a good voice, was equally adept at play-by-play and color, and called it right down the middle, as willing to criticize a Yankee for a bad play as he would an opposing player. He was a great counterbalance to Phil Rizzuto on WPIX and Yankee radio broadcasts. Some of their exchanges were classics, with White willingly playing the straight man role.

agree entirely--White (or as Rizzuto addressed him "Hey White") was the only one of the triumverate that talked about baseball and strategy during the game--in contrast to Scooter or Messah
   30. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: January 10, 2014 at 10:59 PM (#4636080)
This thread seems as appropriate as any to note that Bill James is again on MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series of programs. The program featuring centerfielders is wrapping up now. James listed his top 10 as:

1) Mike Trout
2) Andrew McCutchen
3) Adam Jones
4) Jacoby Ellsbury
5) Carlos Gomez
6) Carlos Gonzalez
7) Austin Jackson
8) Michael Bourn
9) Desmond Jennings
10) Denard Span

I'm not sure what to think about Span coming in at 10th or Matt Kemp being absent. However, James' explanation of his high ranking of Jones made a fair amount of sense. Jones is very consistent and is actually improving year-to-year, which gives Jones a lower chance of collapse.
   31. Rough Carrigan Posted: January 10, 2014 at 11:37 PM (#4636088)
I'm gonna guess Super Joe Charbonneau.
   32. Graham & the 15-win "ARod Vortex of suck" Posted: January 10, 2014 at 11:44 PM (#4636092)
James's top 10 shortstops:

1) Troy Tulowitzki
2) J.J. Hardy
3) Jose Reyes
4) Jed Lowrie
5) Andrelton Simmons
6) Elvis Andrus
7) Jean Segura
8) Hanley Ramirez
9) Erick Aybar
10) Yunel Escobar

Brian Kenny had Derek Jeter at #7 . . . draw your own conclusions.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:11 AM (#4636102)
I think it's too soon to put Gomez that high and CarGo should be higher. Wow, I already have to take that back. CarGo has played only 83 games in CF the last 4 seasons. I ain't rating him until I see how he does this year, if he's even playing there. But still the guy has a 133 OPS+ over the last 4 years, with 17 WAR and 2 5 WAR seasons. 2 AS games and 3 GG to go with it -- dWAR suggests he would be about average in CF.

On Span et al ... he was just 15th in WAR last year but Jackson, Bourn and Jennings are all right there too. Rasmus was top 10 last year but I think that was his first truly good year (he certainly wouldn't have come to my mind) and Coco Crisp (who I wrote off 5 years ago so he only comes to mind when I want to remind myself that I'm an idiot). Beyond that you have Choo who won't be a CF this year and was only a CF last year in the sense that he stood out there a lot, Gardner who won't be a CF this year (the Yanks hope) and the three speedy rookies Lagares, Martin and Pollock who I'd want to see repeat before I started calling them top 10.

Don't forget that in any given season at any given position, there are only gonna be about 20 guys who play 100+ games there (21 in CF in 2013) and at least a few of them are gonna stink (hi BJ Upton), a few will be rookies and a few will be breakouts/flukes. If you're above-average and reasonably durable for the last 2-3 years, you've probably got a case for top 10 at your position.

For example, if you look 2011-2013 with at least 200 games in CF, Span is 11th in WAR -- that catches Kemp's massive year plus good ol' Coco Crisp (I'm an idiot) is at #10. But then Craig Gentry is 13th ... that's right, the guy who doesn't even start regularly. Jon Jay is 14th, Bourjos is 17th, Revere sits at #22 and there are only 26 qualifying guys. Only 26 guys with 200+ games in CF over the last three seasons.

Baseball talent is a lot more transient than we tend to think. Of those 26, last year 2 were on the Angels, 2 on the A's, 2 on the Giants and 2 on the Red Sox. So that's 8 teams without a "regular" CF entering the 2014 offseason.

And what happens? The A's lose Young but add Gentry so still have 2; the Cards add Bourjos so now have 2. The Mets add Granderson and Young and have Lagares so they kinda have 3. The Yanks add Ellsbury and have Gardner so they kinda have 2. If Bradley is in CF then the Red Sox still essentially have 2. Ben Revers's starting to look pretty good about now. :-)
   34. Drexl Spivey Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:27 AM (#4636109)
I think it's too soon to put Gomez that high and CarGo should be higher.


Please don't use "CarGo" as a nickname when you're comparing Carlos Gonzalez to Carlos Gomez.
   35. JE (Jason) Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:28 AM (#4636110)
Didn't Cordova fall asleep in a tanning booth? I say it's him, corporate career be damned.

Who was it that joked that Pete Rose would get stuck on an escalator if it suddenly stopped working?

Brian Kenny had Derek Jeter at #7 . . . draw your own conclusions.

Are you sure it wasn't "The Shredder" placing Jeter seventh among shortstops?
   36. bjhanke Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:52 AM (#4636116)
Education up to about 1930 bore almost no resemblance to what we have now. There were very few educated people, and the country was much more rural than it is now, so many fewer children went to school. My own grandfather was allowed to go to school through 8th grade. At that point, his father told him that he'd grown up to be an adult man, and was going to quit that school thing and help the family farm feed the family. Grandad said he was going to go on and get whatever education he could find. His father told him that if he left the front gate of the farm, he should never come back. He was not only disinherited, he was disowned. My grandfather was 14 when this happened. I never met my greatgrandfather.

My granddad then put himself through high school teaching grade school, which you could do at the time with an 8th-grade education. He put himself through college teaching high school which, again, was not uncommon at the time. He put himself through grad school by waiting tables in the student dining hall. He got a Ph.D. in Economics from the U. of Chicago. His FIRST job, right out of grad school, was Bank President. He had a Ph.D. in Economics; part of that was a thorough training in how to run a bank.

My father , who went to school in the 1910s and 1920s (born 1911) told me that he'd never seen an algebraic equation until I started bringing them home as homework. He'd learned algebra as ratios, not equations. My father was admitted to Washington University (the one in St. Louis) as an engineer, but had to drop out after his second year, because it was now 1930, and his own father had lost all his money in the crash. That is to say, this guy who had never seen an algebraic equation, could handle engineering classes at a tough school (Wash U. is about on a par with Northwestern or Vanderbilt, maybe Stanford).

Nothing at all like what I went through. - Brock Hanke
   37. Drexl Spivey Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:58 AM (#4636119)
Who was it that joked that Pete Rose would get stuck on an escalator if it suddenly stopped working?


I had to google this:

"I'll tell you how smart Pete Rose is. When they had the blackout in New York, he was stranded 13 hours on an escalator."

-Joe Nuxhall
   38. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:01 AM (#4636120)
Education up to about 1930 bore almost no resemblance to what we have now. There were very few educated people, and the country was much more rural than it is now, so many fewer children went to school. My own grandfather was allowed to go to school through 8th grade. At that point, his father told him that he'd grown up to be an adult man, and was going to quit that school thing and help the family farm feed the family. Grandad said he was going to go on and get whatever education he could find. His father told him that if he left the front gate of the farm, he should never come back. He was not only disinherited, he was disowned. My grandfather was 14 when this happened. I never met my greatgrandfather.
Definitely true. In 1890 North Carolina white children up through grade eight went to school an average of something like 21 days a year. (Schools were open 70 days but attendance was pitiful.) And high schools were unusual. City schools were very different; they had double the session length of most rural schools by the turn of the century and a higher proportion of kids actually at school (despite our vision of urban urchins.) But rural education outside of New England and New England west in the upper midwest was pretty dismal.
   39. McCoy Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:11 AM (#4636126)
Not all of your learning is done in a classroom. That is a modern view of education.
   40. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:22 AM (#4636128)
Not all of your learning is done in a classroom. That is a modern view of education.
True but a good deal of what people were learning outside of the classroom was how to fit their seven-year-old fingers around the spindles at the mill and around the cotton balls on the farm. Those were useful skills (though by pay not valued within their own time) but as they became eliminated by mechanization and changes in the law, it is not surprising that education changed with it.
   41. kthejoker Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:50 AM (#4636147)
Highly recommend this book for a look into the birth of modern American education.
   42. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:57 AM (#4636148)
I haven't seen the book, but I would suggest that a book, especially about something like education, with the word "underground" in the title is possibly not the best source of unbiased information.
   43. Sunday silence Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:59 AM (#4636149)
well, certainly in 1900, and as late as 1940, levels of literacy in America were not what they are now.


I am going to question this, without actually looking it up. And I could be wrong. But as I recall, American literacy by the mid 19th century was probably about the best in the world. At the time of the Civil War americans were about 75% literate from what I recall.

Later on, and I dont know exactly what year, literacy in America reached perhaps 98% or so. It has since come down and I know we are not the most literate nation now. Euro countries, especially nordic ones were ahead of us last I looked.

So its entirely possible that american literacy levels have come down from where they were. Dunno if it's 1940 or later when they were at their highest, but it wouldnt surprise me if they were.

Now I guess I have to google it and see.

EDIT: well this site says that literacy rates are continuing to improve in the US. They were only 3% illiterate in 1930 so the gains have been small:

http://nces.ed.gov/naal/lit_history.asp
   44. Sunday silence Posted: January 11, 2014 at 03:12 AM (#4636150)
Well, you can believe that if you want to, but there are other ways to look at it. There are other people who have unique and valuable talents who aren’t compensated at a comparable level. If all of the players playing major league baseball suddenly retired and a new generation appeared, each player making no more than $100,000 a year, the game would go on just as before. If movie stars were not paid $20 million a movie, there would still be movies.


Does anyone understand what his point here is? There are different ways of looking at things, that much is true. And you can look at these salaries in different ways. But even if the game would go on, does that mean those players arent entitled to the money? or they havent earned it? Or I dunnno...? what the hell is the point?

You could say the same thing about doctors and teachers couldnt you? Take away their salaries, pay them peanuts and there'd still be medical and teaching professions. I just dont what his analogy here could possibly prove.
   45. Sunday silence Posted: January 11, 2014 at 03:14 AM (#4636151)

Don't forget that in any given season at any given position, there are only gonna be about 20 guys who play 100+ games there (21 in CF in 2013) and at least a few of them are gonna stink (hi BJ Upton), a few will be rookies and a few will be breakouts/flukes.


This brings up an interesting point. What exactly would you say is replacement level skill for CFs? Presumably in total WAR but if you can break it down for defense and offense even better.
   46. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 03:31 AM (#4636152)
I am going to question this, without actually looking it up. And I could be wrong. But as I recall, American literacy by the mid 19th century was probably about the best in the world. At the time of the Civil War americans were about 75% literate from what I recall.
You are broadly right but with some slight shifting. 75-80% is right for the mid-19th century (counting slaves as near 100% illiterate.) You get some steady declines over the rest of the century that drive adult literacy to 85-90% by the turn of the century and then to 95% by 1930.

A lot of the gains over the late 1800s to mid-1900s are in the South, both among whites and among blacks. (Black rates were higher but white illiteracy was also highest in the South.) Several southern states were at 30-40% illiteracy in 1900 among adults.
   47. esseff Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:02 AM (#4636159)
The Jeff Stone story.
   48. esseff Posted: January 11, 2014 at 05:20 AM (#4636160)
I should mention that the link in previous post is from 10 years ago.
   49. X-Roid User Posted: January 11, 2014 at 06:10 AM (#4636164)
I guess no one's going to take the bait on James' gratuitous shot at Bill White, so I will.

Loved listening to Bill White in the seventies and eighties. I learned a lot of baseball from him. He had a good voice, was equally adept at play-by-play and color, and called it right down the middle, as willing to criticize a Yankee for a bad play as he would an opposing player. He was a great counterbalance to Phil Rizzuto on WPIX and Yankee radio broadcasts. Some of their exchanges were classics, with White willingly playing the straight man role.


Right on, Bruce. Bill White was an excellent broadcaster.
   50. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 11, 2014 at 07:44 AM (#4636167)
Education up to about 1930 bore almost no resemblance to what we have now. There were very few educated people, and the country was much more rural than it is now, so many fewer children went to school. My own grandfather was allowed to go to school through 8th grade. At that point, his father told him that he'd grown up to be an adult man, and was going to quit that school thing and help the family farm feed the family. Grandad said he was going to go on and get whatever education he could find. His father told him that if he left the front gate of the farm, he should never come back. He was not only disinherited, he was disowned. My grandfather was 14 when this happened. I never met my greatgrandfather.

My granddad then put himself through high school teaching grade school, which you could do at the time with an 8th-grade education. He put himself through college teaching high school which, again, was not uncommon at the time. He put himself through grad school by waiting tables in the student dining hall. He got a Ph.D. in Economics from the U. of Chicago. His FIRST job, right out of grad school, was Bank President. He had a Ph.D. in Economics; part of that was a thorough training in how to run a bank.

My father , who went to school in the 1910s and 1920s (born 1911) told me that he'd never seen an algebraic equation until I started bringing them home as homework. He'd learned algebra as ratios, not equations. My father was admitted to Washington University (the one in St. Louis) as an engineer, but had to drop out after his second year, because it was now 1930, and his own father had lost all his money in the crash. That is to say, this guy who had never seen an algebraic equation, could handle engineering classes at a tough school (Wash U. is about on a par with Northwestern or Vanderbilt, maybe Stanford).

Nothing at all like what I went through. - Brock Hanke


To continue this up to the present while skipping a generation, when I was in 6th and 7th grades at the best public schools in Washington in the mid-late 50's, I can't remember ever being assigned any homework, certainly not in 6th grade. All I ever did after school and at night during that period was play sports, read for pleasure and watch TV. And yet I still wound up at a relatively good school like Duke, almost exclusively on the basis of college boards scores and a timely recommendation from my high school baseball coach to the Duke coach Ace Parker. I was barely in the top third of my high school graduating class.

For the past two years, our goddaughter has been in 6th and 7th grade in the same school that I went to from 7th through 9th grade, only she's been getting 3+ hours of homework a night, speaks 3 languages, and within a month after beginning 6th grade she was participating in mock UN debates at Johns Hopkins International School. Already she's feeling the pressure of what high school to try to go to, because unless she's a born entrepreneur (with no family money), that's going to have a major impact on her college choices and future career.

The only reason she's able to get through all this in one piece is that her mother is so heavily involved in her educational progress, including helping her with her homework assignments on a fairly regular basis. When I first learned this, I considered it a form of cheating, since I never involved my parents in homework, but the mother says that the school actively encourages parents to do this.

My reaction to that is that on one level it makes perfect sense, but on another level it makes you wonder about those kids who don't have the advantage of having parents like that. Of course children with engaged parents have always had an advantage over children from broken homes, but the current trend of making every waking moment of a child's educational life a crucial one is pushing this advantage to a far greater extent than before. In many ways it parallels the barriers faced by non-rich entrepreneurs these days when they're faced with skyrocketing city rents that make it nearly impossible for non-chain businesses to gain a foothold in many urban locations. All of this seems to be fueled by the same sort of winner-takes-all internal logic that's come to dominate 21st century life, and I'm not sure if anything can really be done to counter it.
   51. DanG Posted: January 11, 2014 at 09:40 AM (#4636171)
How about Bill White for the Hall? Very good player, great broadcaster, NL president and baseball disciplinarian.
Bill White has long been one of my idiosyncratic combo choices for the HOF. A great natural athlete and very smart man, he may have had HOF potential as a player. He was a trail blazer in multiple ways and had long service to the game after his playing career.

In 1952, after a year of pre-med study and playing ball at Hiram College, White hit two homeruns in the championship game of the National Amateur Baseball Federation. A scout for the Giants invited him for a tryout, and White impressed Leo Durocher with his power and speed.

I'm not sure what the Giants were thinking, but they sent the 19-year-old White to Danville, Virginia as the only Black player in the Carolina League in 1953. Despite the abuse he faced, White had a productive year. That earned him a promotion to A-ball, where he was the only black player on the Sioux City team in 1954. Despite being four years younger than the average player in that league, he was perhaps the best player with a league leading 30 HR and 321 TB, along with 40 SB.

For 1955 White was moved up to AA-ball, with Dallas in the Texas Lg. Despite being six years younger than the league average, he led the pennant-winning team in RBI and SB with a line of .295/.384/.478. For 1956 White was promoted to AAA, but had spent less than a month there when the Giants installed him as their 1B.

White's rookie season did nothing to dispel the notion that he was a future star. Despite missing the team's first 16 games, he posted a 108 OPS+ and 2.7 WAR at age 22. Then he was drafted, essentially costing him his age 23 and 24 seasons, perhaps permanently stunting his development.

When White returned from the army in July 1958, Orlando Cepeda was cemented at the 1B position, leaving White to pinch hit the rest of the year. There was no question that White was worth more in trade and during spring training in 1959 he was peddled to StL with veteran 3B Ray Jablonski for one of the league's top pitchers, Sam Jones, plus a pitching prospect.

The Cardinals aimed to utilize White's speed in the OF, since the aging Musial had long since taken over at 1B. A hot first half earned White his first all-star game, but he was terrible in the OF. After a 7th place finish in 1959, at a time without a dominant team in the NL, the Cardinals were foundering in May 1960 with White in CF. At that moment, the Cardinals made a series of moves that laid the groundwork for their 1960's champions.

On May 27, with the team in 6th place, the slumping (ailing?) Musial was benched, White was moved to 1B and young Curt Flood was given the regular CF job (deciding to live with his bat that was still a little overmatched by big league pitching). The next day Julian Javier was called up and installed at 2B, where he would remain the rest of the decade. The next month, when Musial was ready to start again, he was platooned with Bob Nieman in LF. Bob Gibson also entered the starting rotation that month. From July 1 to the end of the 1960 season, the Cardinals had the league's best record. They managed to pull to within 3 GB of the Pirates on August 12th, but a six-game losing streak followed and they finished in 3rd place. White was awarded his first of 7 gold gloves that year.

From 1962-66 White was a major star averaging 4.9 WAR, 23 HR, 98 RBI, .300/.364/.476, 126 OPS+, despite the large strike zone. In MVP voting he had finishes of 3rd, 7th, and 13th. White was always a vocal supporter of team integration and was not afraid to speak up on issues of racial discrimination. He often saw positive results from these efforts because of his intelligent, measured approach on such issues.

After his playing career, he continued on the broadcasting path that he had started during his playing days, and in 1971 he became the first African-American play-by-play broadcaster for a major league team. White worked with Phil Rizzuto for 18 seasons before achieving another first: in 1989 White became the first black president of a major sports league, heading the NL until retiring in 1994.

I love White's parting shot upon his resignation as NL president. He had discerned that when Fay Vincent was forced out, the baseball commissioner no longer had the best interests of the game at heart, that Bud Selig was nothing more than the owner's puppet. When they wanted to give White a farewell dinner in his honor, he told his successor, Leonard Coleman, "You can tell the owners I said to hell with them."

One thing that may have held back White is that he didn't live and die for baseball. White said he didn't have the kind of love for baseball that, as the saying goes, he'd play it free if they didn't pay him: "I looked at it as a business", said White in an interview on NPR.
   52. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: January 11, 2014 at 10:21 AM (#4636179)
edit: why it isn't stone has already been covered

related: who was the last US ballplayer to get caught lying about his age? rich rowland (was 3 yrs older than he claimed coming out of college)?
   53. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4636228)
For the past two years, our goddaughter has been in 6th and 7th grade in the same school that I went to from 7th through 9th grade, only she's been getting 3+ hours of homework a night, speaks 3 languages, and within a month after beginning 6th grade she was participating in mock UN debates at Johns Hopkins International School. Already she's feeling the pressure of what high school to try to go to, because unless she's a born entrepreneur (with no family money), that's going to have a major impact on her college choices and future career.

The only reason she's able to get through all this in one piece is that her mother is so heavily involved in her educational progress, including helping her with her homework assignments on a fairly regular basis. When I first learned this, I considered it a form of cheating, since I never involved my parents in homework, but the mother says that the school actively encourages parents to do this.


This is just a symptom of the no child left behind act, schools are being measured by test results and to compete are forcing ever increasing amounts of homework on kids and their parents. It's a terrible thing. It's treating kids like Chinese slave labor children, where their sole purpose is to serve the ends of the state. They don't get smarter, just better at repeating inculcated facts by rote.

Learning to read is a natural process for most kids, my 6 year old was diagnosed autistic and learned very quickly with minimal help. Kids learn a lot of things easily when they are old enough and ready, trying to force feed them earlier is counterproductive.

My oldest daughter was in 4th grade and had homework since first grade. Not only did she drop out of soccer this fall to deal with the volume of homework, but she now only speaks a single language. She once spoke Spanish thanks to a Spanish immersion pre-school, but no public schools offer Spanish in her grade levels and we haven't found after school time since for courses so bit by bit she's lost it.
   54. donlock Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4636238)
Having spent some time dealing with the school system, I can verify that there are many students with learning disabilities and attention difficulties (maybe 10-20%) who leave elementary school unable to read. It would be hard for me to imagine they learned the basics while taking harder classes in middle and high school, particularly if such a student had athletic ability and played a time-demanding sport. Learning disabled students may take standardized tests with the help of a reader/writer and often graduate and leave school with limited or non-existent independent reading ability.

So, I would not be surprised that such a student might be drafted and play baseball at a high level and make the majors. In some ways he would face some of the same challenges a non-English speaking player would face off the field.I don't know that being a non-reader would be a cause of having a good first year and then fading. Several Latin players have never been comfortable with English (Vlad Guerrero)but have had long careers, while making use of teammates and family members as buffers. Finally, being unable to read isn't the same thing as being of low intelligence. There have been many smart guys who couldn't hit the curve ball and didn't stick around in the show.
   55. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 12:37 PM (#4636246)
My reaction to that is that on one level it makes perfect sense, but on another level it makes you wonder about those kids who don't have the advantage of having parents like that. Of course children with engaged parents have always had an advantage over children from broken homes, but the current trend of making every waking moment of a child's educational life a crucial one is pushing this advantage to a far greater extent than before. In many ways it parallels the barriers faced by non-rich entrepreneurs these days when they're faced with skyrocketing city rents that make it nearly impossible for non-chain businesses to gain a foothold in many urban locations. All of this seems to be fueled by the same sort of winner-takes-all internal logic that's come to dominate 21st century life, and I'm not sure if anything can really be done to counter it.
The increase in homework is amazing and widespread (and the earlier age at which it starts--our kids' school didn't have real homework in K thank God but know lots of people who had serious nightly homework for their kindergarten kids.)

I worry not just about your very valid question but also about whether it accomplishes anything. My sense, which could be wrong, is that the research shows homework has some positive effect for kids from families with low educational levels as long as they do it, but almost no effect on learning for kids from families with high educational levels. Maybe it's more broadly helpful than I think, or maybe it's worth doing it if it does help a fragment in need of help, but it is an awful lot of time.
   56. Matt Welch Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:05 PM (#4636281)
#51 -- Thanks for that.
   57. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:28 PM (#4636312)
For the past two years, our goddaughter has been in 6th and 7th grade in the same school that I went to from 7th through 9th grade, only she's been getting 3+ hours of homework a night, speaks 3 languages, and within a month after beginning 6th grade she was participating in mock UN debates at Johns Hopkins International School. Already she's feeling the pressure of what high school to try to go to, because unless she's a born entrepreneur (with no family money), that's going to have a major impact on her college choices and future career.

The only reason she's able to get through all this in one piece is that her mother is so heavily involved in her educational progress, including helping her with her homework assignments on a fairly regular basis. When I first learned this, I considered it a form of cheating, since I never involved my parents in homework, but the mother says that the school actively encourages parents to do this.


Total waste of time and effort. I'm confident overloading students like that does nothing to make them smarter and/or more productive. If anything, it just burns them out on education.

The gross stupidity is that workloads in JHS and HS are going up, while college is becoming a glorified vacation. The workload at elite college dropped massively from when my parents went in the 1960's, to my time (1989-93) (they studied ~40 hours a week, I probably averaged 15-20) and by all accounts has continued to fall. They hand out A's like candy now.

The situation should be completed reversed. HS should be minimally burdensome; see what people can achieve by natural ability, and channel them towards the appropriate college or vocational education.

College should be about busting your ass. 25 hours of classes and 25-30 hours of reading/homework. If you did that, we could skip grad school for most all people, e.g. an MA, JD or MBA could be completed in you last 2 years, or at most a 5th year.
   58. puck Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:41 PM (#4636327)
The amount of homework for such young kids is amazing. What do they do in school that it wouldn't be enough?
   59. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4636334)
The amount of homework for such young kids is amazing. What do they do in school that it wouldn't be enough?
US school days are shorter than some other countries' school days so it is possible to think of homework in that way.

On the other hand, all the schools I know about have become much more productive in their school days, in the most-rigid ways, by cutting out non-academic stuff and cutting back on exploration/free play/art/music, so kids are spending much more time directly doing math and reading than they have before during the school day. And getting a lot more homework, too.

So it isn't arising from a sense that there are things they aren't getting to at school. It is hard to shake the sense that it is homework for the sake of assigning homework. And it is amazingly widespread in my anecdotal experience. I don't know anyone with a first grader at a public school in any region whose kid doesn't have serious homework. My memory is that I didn't do any homework at all until 4th or 5th grade and barely then.

I am myself open to the idea that homework has marginal gains for marginal gains for kids whose families don't emphasize education. If they do it, it is better than being put in front of the TV all afternoon. But for families who might otherwise be playing games or doing interesting things with their kids, homework is, I think a waste of time.
   60. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:00 PM (#4636346)
I am myself open to the idea that homework has marginal gains for marginal gains for kids whose families don't emphasize education. If they do it, it is better than being put in front of the TV all afternoon. But for families who might otherwise be playing games or doing interesting things with their kids, homework is, I think a waste of time.


That's the conundrum. Will parents who shove their kids in front of the TV even bother to help with homework?

I just spoke to a young ((30 year old) friend about my kids homework. He asked if I helped, and I said I do the math, and my wife does everything else. He said his dad used to say to him "I didn't graduate to help you with your homework" whenever he asked for help.

We don't even have cable, and my 9 year old reads so much I'm trying to find activities to keep her nose out of books and find some balance. Playing games is one thing I want to do we never seem to have time for, and obviously we are too sedentary.
   61. BDC Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:01 PM (#4636349)
College should be about busting your ass. 25 hours of classes and 25-30 hours of reading/homework.

Nearly every student I teach works ~40 hours to pay for school, so instructors have two options: assign work they can realistically achive, or hold to standards that would result in an enormous failure rate and mass disaffection.

Of course, I'm at a middle-tier university. But even at "elites," unless one is independently wealthy, a lot of work for pay is expected. It's the rare student who can be insulated from working even workstudy and other kinds of parttime jobs. Places like Stanford that require a "student contribution" to tuition mean that you work quite a bit – unless the student himself or herself has a hefty inheritance or a summer sinecure.

I'm not disagreeing with you at all! But Americans do not fund higher ed in a way that allows students to concentrate on studies. In fact, I daresay that actually concentrating on studies, without a job on the side, is a bit unAmerican. I worked my way through grad school taking odd jobs (I was paying tuition for the first three years), and it's always provided me a nice chip on my shoulder and a get-off-my-lawn credential. But the academic consequences were stupid: I emerged with a PhD as ignorant as when I went in.
   62. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:11 PM (#4636358)
Nearly every student I teach works ~40 hours to pay for school, so instructors have two options: assign work they can realistically achive, or hold to standards that would result in an enormous failure rate and mass disaffection.

Of course, I'm at a middle-tier university. But even at "elites," unless one is independently wealthy, a lot of work for pay is expected. It's the rare student who can be insulated from working even workstudy and other kinds of parttime jobs. Places like Stanford that require a "student contribution" to tuition mean that you work quite a bit – unless the student himself or herself has a hefty inheritance or a summer sinecure.

I'm not disagreeing with you at all! But Americans do not fund higher ed in a way that allows students to concentrate on studies. In fact, I daresay that actually concentrating on studies, without a job on the side, is a bit unAmerican. I worked my way through grad school taking odd jobs (I was paying tuition for the first three years), and it's always provided me a nice chip on my shoulder and a get-off-my-lawn credential. But the academic consequences were stupid: I emerged with a PhD as ignorant as when I went in.


And that's the fault of the Universities. They've allowed bloated administration, and bullshit student services to drive a unsustainable cost-spiral.

Even the idea of students going away to school is patently wasteful, and not very common in Europe, for example.

Most students should live at home, and commute to school. And if you stripped college of all its fripperies, it shouldn't cost more than $10-15,000 a year to educate someone, especially given the large class sizes in many places.

Tuition, room and board at Harvard was $20,000, 20 years ago. That's about $32,000 today, inflation adjusted, and here was plenty of bloat then. There's zero reason you couldn't run a mid-tier, non-residential school for $15K per student.

Basically, if you have to work 40 hours a week, you shouldn't be a full-time student. You should go part-time at night.

   63. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4636370)
Tuition, room and board at Harvard was $20,000, 20 years ago. That's about $32,000 today, inflation adjusted, and here was plenty of bloat then. There's zero reason you couldn't run a mid-tier, non-residential school for $15K per student.


I am sympathetic to your overall point and very sympathetic to your point about administrative bloat. No matter how bad you think it is, I can assure you it is even worse.

There are plenty of public universities that--because of subsidies and tight controls on spending--are well less than the number you quote. Wyoming obviously has the advantage of a cheap cost of living area (but the disadvantage of being a place few people can commute to.) But even the NC system for in-state kids is under 7k

The two largest systems in the nation--SUNY and CUNY--charge about 6-7k for in-state tuition. 99% of the CUNY students commute. SUNY varies. Cal State one of the other giant systems has tuition about 7k I think. UCs are more expensive but still under your threshold.

So the good news is lots of schools meet your standard. And many of them are commuter heavy.

The problem is that even in those circumstances--6k tuition plus living at home--almost all of the students are working, most of them more than 20 weeks a year. Most of these students have negative family contribution; the family expects them to contribute money to the family while going to school.
   64. Dr. Vaux Posted: January 11, 2014 at 02:40 PM (#4636378)
It matters hardly the slightest bit where an undergraduate degree is from, either.
   65. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 11, 2014 at 03:31 PM (#4636406)
For the past two years, our goddaughter has been in 6th and 7th grade in the same school that I went to from 7th through 9th grade, only she's been getting 3+ hours of homework a night, speaks 3 languages, and within a month after beginning 6th grade she was participating in mock UN debates at Johns Hopkins International School. Already she's feeling the pressure of what high school to try to go to, because unless she's a born entrepreneur (with no family money), that's going to have a major impact on her college choices and future career.

The only reason she's able to get through all this in one piece is that her mother is so heavily involved in her educational progress, including helping her with her homework assignments on a fairly regular basis. When I first learned this, I considered it a form of cheating, since I never involved my parents in homework, but the mother says that the school actively encourages parents to do this.


This is just a symptom of the no child left behind act, schools are being measured by test results and to compete are forcing ever increasing amounts of homework on kids and their parents. It's a terrible thing. It's treating kids like Chinese slave labor children, where their sole purpose is to serve the ends of the state. They don't get smarter, just better at repeating inculcated facts by rote.


That's also much of my reaction to the girl's homework burden, although for the time being she seems to be thriving under the load. The problem is that she's essentially being robbed of what we used to think of as a vital part of childhood: Unsupervised free time. And the sad part is that the quantifiable results of all this excessive forced feeding seems to be the main part what impresses the colleges. Pity the applicant to any elite college these days who has "only" a B average.

The other truth is that there are too many applicants chasing too few spots at the colleges that many of these parents seem to view as part of their child's birthright. Something's got to give, and what's giving right now is frequently all traces of the child's autonomy.

-------------------------------------

Total waste of time and effort. I'm confident overloading students like that does nothing to make them smarter and/or more productive. If anything, it just burns them out on education.

The gross stupidity is that workloads in JHS and HS are going up, while college is becoming a glorified vacation. The workload at elite college dropped massively from when my parents went in the 1960's, to my time (1989-93) (they studied ~40 hours a week, I probably averaged 15-20) and by all accounts has continued to fall. They hand out A's like candy now.


I went to Duke in the 60's, and after a relatively tough freshman year, I doubt if I spent more than half an hour a night studying. Of course the fact that I was a poli sci major might explain a lot of that.

OTOH we never had any homework until eighth or ninth grade, and even by 12th grade it wasn't more than two hours a night.

I don't claim any real expertise on any of this, but IMO the cause of the hyper-loading of work on young children is that it's almost a natural consequence of more and more parents feeling that their children need to attend an elite college in order to have even a chance to stay afloat in our winner take all society. And though it's often hard to know where the reality of our modern economy ends and their own hypercompetitiveness begins, it takes a lot more guts for a middle class parent these days to let their children venture far from the currently prescribed narrow road to the good life.
   66. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 11, 2014 at 08:08 PM (#4636543)
more and more parents feeling that their children need to attend an elite college in order to have even a chance to stay afloat in our winner take all society


I really doubt any college degree is a necessity for the vast number of great jobs. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, myself, an infinite luster of entrepreneurs who started with no capital as examples Degrees can be useful as door openers to start your career, but if you are talented and/or productive, you will find your proper level. There are still more than a few Fortune 500 companies run by people who rose off their factory floors.
   67. DanG Posted: January 11, 2014 at 08:50 PM (#4636617)
#51 -- Thanks for that.
You're welcome, Matt. I'm hoping Brock Hanke will chime in on Bill White, giving us some first-hand insight on White's days in St. Louis.
   68. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 11, 2014 at 08:58 PM (#4636630)
more and more parents feeling that their children need to attend an elite college in order to have even a chance to stay afloat in our winner take all society.

I really doubt any college degree is a necessity for the vast number of great jobs. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, myself, an infinite luster of entrepreneurs who started with no capital as examples Degrees can be useful as door openers to start your career, but if you are talented and/or productive, you will find your proper level. There are still more than a few Fortune 500 companies run by people who rose off their factory floors.


All of this may be true, but I'm talking about the perception among the sort of parents you have at schools like the one I was describing in # 50. Very few of these parents are envisioning their babies starting out their careers in a garage.
   69. GregD Posted: January 11, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4636699)
I really doubt any college degree is a necessity for the vast number of great jobs. Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, myself, an infinite luster of entrepreneurs who started with no capital as examples Degrees can be useful as door openers to start your career, but if you are talented and/or productive, you will find your proper level. There are still more than a few Fortune 500 companies run by people who rose off their factory floors.
The question here is a statistical one. Not are there people--in a country of 330 million--who have relatively low education and high achievement, but does educational level--including prestige of particular college correlate with financial success. My sense--but I am open to being wrong--is that in the big picture the correlation is higher than it has been in the past, so parents are responding rationally to worry about this.
   70. PreservedFish Posted: January 12, 2014 at 01:10 AM (#4636752)
I read of a study recently that said that parents helping with homework is detrimental to learning. The kids that try by themselves and fail will end up learning more than the kids that get help and succeed.
   71. bjhanke Posted: January 13, 2014 at 08:00 AM (#4637578)
Seconding Greg D (#63), having to work full time to support myself was why I burned out only a year and a dissertation from a Ph.D. in English. - Brock
   72. AROM Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4637685)
Please don't use "CarGo" as a nickname when you're comparing Carlos Gonzalez to Carlos Gomez.


Gomez is faster, so he should be CarGo. Gonzalez has more power, so call him CarGone.
   73. AROM Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:02 PM (#4637689)
My granddad then put himself through high school teaching grade school, which you could do at the time with an 8th-grade education. He put himself through college teaching high school which, again, was not uncommon at the time. He put himself through grad school by waiting tables in the student dining hall. He got a Ph.D. in Economics from the U. of Chicago. His FIRST job, right out of grad school, was Bank President. He had a Ph.D. in Economics; part of that was a thorough training in how to run a bank.


Pretty amazing how the world has changed. Now you can get an Econ Ph.D from Chicago, and wind up with a job waiting tables.
   74. BDC Posted: January 13, 2014 at 12:36 PM (#4637734)
does educational level--including prestige of particular college correlate with financial success

It's complicated, because of course success going in correlates with success coming out, and higher socio-economic students congregate in the prestigious schools (which are perceived as prestigious for that very reason: there's a lot of circularity here). And a lot of prestigious schools are good schools with good teachers that can give people a great entry into a field.

What Vaux may be getting at is that an awful lot of colleges and universities that rank nowhere on anybody's prestige meter also have good teachers and good pre-professional programs. If one's choice is between working 30 hours at that workstudy foodservice job at Fabulous U, and emerging with lots of debt anyway and no network of angels because all you ever did was serve the angels their breakfasts — and graduating from Sowhat State without debt, even if it took you 5 or 6 years, but with a strong GPA, good training, and a professional knowledge and attitude … I'd go to Sowhat State, unless one's self-image for the next 50 years of life depends on saying you went to Fabulous.
   75. Ray K Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4637777)
Eric Anthony for the Astros was a high-school dropout who showed some pop in the early 90s. That's who James is talking about (presumed).
   76. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:20 PM (#4637780)
Pretty amazing how the world has changed. Now you can get an Econ Ph.D from Chicago, and wind up with a job waiting tables.

Actually it seems like an Econ PhD is the one type of PhD that comes with job placement.
   77. Infinite Joost (Voxter) Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:31 PM (#4637792)
<bockquote> I'd go to Sowhat State, unless one's self-image for the next 50 years of life depends on saying you went to Fabulous.</blockquote>

Having gone to Fabulous U, and now teaching at Sowhat State, I would recommend Fabulous every time, if your goal is to learn anything.
   78. GregD Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:43 PM (#4637804)
Having gone to Fabulous U, and now teaching at Sowhat State, I would recommend Fabulous every time, if your goal is to learn anything.
I think a lot depends on your own level of assertiveness but of course that is not an easy thing for 18 year olds to judge properly.

A very assertive, driven student with weaker preparation but strong aptitude may actually do better at a lower-level place but she will immediately get the attention of profs and, in the right place, get assistance in building skills. We have a decent number of students like this who then beat out kids from much higher-ranked colleges for super-competitive grad programs. Some of these kids actually went first to high-ranked schools and flunked out because they didn't have the skills, and the colleges knew how to recruit them but didn't know how to help them catch up. Profs seemed flustered at their problems and assumed they would not develop. Four years later they beat out ex-classmates for Ivy League grad school fellowships.

So there's one model for people who can do well by going to cheaper places.

Another is people looking for jobs like public school teaching, where prestige is not as important as technical qualifications and where salaries are flat. Obviously a person who goes to Rutgers or Hunter to go into teaching has made a better financial decision than someone who paid to go to Bard to become a teacher. (No diss on Bard and the non-economic aspects of it may outweigh the financial.)

But those are only two of the potential scenarios, and there are lots of scenarios where going to a school with better resources can make a big difference, especially as lower-rated schools get increasingly fitted into voc schools. If you're going to college for a voc school, that's great. But if you're not, the lower-level publics are becoming increasingly bad fits, as they have changed pretty dramatically in the last 10 years.

The other crazy thing to take into account is that for privates tuition is purely a myth, and no chart about tuition inflation is of any use whatever since virtually no one pays tuition. The Times had a piece on a school (Slippery Rock) where there were only like 15 people on campus who paid the brochure tuition so I asked friends at other similar places, private with highish price tags, and none of them believed there were more than 50 students paying that tuition. So tuition is a car lot figure--a price you immediately slash for everybody who asks. And the discount rate is steep. So the actual gap between, say, Skidmore, and SUNY-Albany is tricky to calculate because it looks huge on the brochure but turns out to never be that big in practice.

So at minimum it is worth students applying to private colleges they are interested in to see what their discount rate turns out to be. The discount rate is not just for kids who qualify for financial aid or for superstars or for minorities; it is for everybody.
   79. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:48 PM (#4637811)
Speaking of teaching, this article just made the Washington Post print edition this morning after first appearing on the website two weeks ago. Definitely worth reading for those who like to bash teachers:

‘I would love to teach but…’

The bulk of the article consists of an e-mail from a teacher in Frederick, MD, which begins like this....

It is with a heavy, frustrated heart that I announce the end of my personal career in education, disappointed and resigned because I believe in learning. I was brought up to believe that education meant exploring new things, experimenting, and broadening horizons. This involved a great deal of messing up. As part of the experimentation that is growing up, I would try something, and I would either succeed or fail. I didn’t always get a chance to fix my mistakes, to go back in time and erase my failures, but instead I learned what not to do the next time. Failing grades stood, lumpy pieces of pottery graced the mantle, broken bones got casts. As a result of my education, I not only learned information, I learned to think through my ideas, to try my best every single time; I learned effort. I’d like to say that in some idealistic moment of nostalgia and pride, I decided to become a teacher, but the truth is that I never thought I would do anything else. I come from a long line of teachers and I loved school from day one....


   80. Greg K Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:51 PM (#4637817)
A very assertive, driven student with weaker preparation but strong aptitude may actually do better at a lower-level place but she will immediately get the attention of profs and, in the right place, get assistance in building skills. We have a decent number of students like this who then beat out kids from much higher-ranked colleges for super-competitive grad programs. Some of these kids actually went first to high-ranked schools and flunked out because they didn't have the skills, and the colleges knew how to recruit them but didn't know how to help them catch up. Profs seemed flustered at their problems and assumed they would not develop. Four years later they beat out ex-classmates for Ivy League grad school fellowships.

I think I benefitted from going to a smaller school. By my second year I had fairly good relationships with a couple profs, and by the time undergrad was over basically every student in the program that stuck it out had fairly close relationships with several profs. For a variety of reasons (either help with applications, connections with other profs at the schools I'd be applying to, and just general inclusion into the academic world), it was this more than anything else that helped me in my grad student career (which is hopefully coming to an end tomorrow...phd examination time!) I'm not sure if I'd have done a PhD through a larger undergrad university.
   81. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4637820)
The Times had a piece on a school (Slippery Rock) where there were only like 15 people on campus who paid the brochure tuition so I asked friends at other similar places, private with highish price tags, and none of them believed there were more than 50 students paying that tuition.

Slippery Rock is a public school, like Bloomsburg or Kutztown or Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
   82. GregD Posted: January 13, 2014 at 01:59 PM (#4637827)
Slippery Rock is a public school, like Bloomsburg or Kutztown or Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
You're right! The Times piece names other colleges but not Slippery Rock. My bad.
   83. GregD Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4637832)
phd examination time
Good luck!
   84. Rafael Bellylard: Built like a Panda. Posted: January 13, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4637883)
Tuition, room and board at Harvard was $20,000, 20 years ago. That's about $32,000 today, inflation adjusted, and here was plenty of bloat then. There's zero reason you couldn't run a mid-tier, non-residential school for $15K per student.


I went to a private Christian Brothers high school where the tuition was about $300 per year. I graduated in 1978 and am pretty sure I graduated because I stayed away from drugs and my dad's checks didn't bounce.

Just for curiosity, I checked what the current tuition is at this same school. It's $16,300 per year. Plus families are "required" (their word, not mine) to donate $1500 per student, per year. There's also a $1200 registration fee. There are about 1500 students in any given year.

When they send me a mailer asking for donations, they don't get a check.



   85. GregD Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:01 PM (#4637890)
I went to a private Christian Brothers high school where the tuition was about $300 per year. I graduated in 1978 and am pretty sure I graduated because I stayed away from drugs and my dad's checks didn't bounce.

Just for curiosity, I checked what the current tuition is at this same school. It's $16,300 per year. Plus families are "required" (their word, not mine) to donate $1500 per student, per year. There's also a $1200 registration fee. There are about 1500 students in any given year.

When they send me a mailer asking for donations, they don't get a check.
At private high schools the creation of a more nationally oriented market changed a lot of tuitions dramatically. People don't shop for day schools in a national market, but in the 90s school heads became more aware that 1) in some cities top schools were charging wildly less across than in other comparable schools and 2) the circulating group of doctors, lawyers, bankers who were moving into those cities were willing to pay more because their expectations had been set elsewhere. This broke some schools' efforts to set price ceilings for cities out of some mix of traditionalism, decorum, virtue, or whatever. And then cities started to equalize.

So my guess is that the school you attended transitioned from being a school open to lots of people to one that catered to a narrower, richer slice of the town.

My only question would be whether their teacher costs went up; Catholic schools generally pay less but the decline in available (and very cheap) nuns and priests has caused personnel costs to go up at many Catholic schools.
   86. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:08 PM (#4637896)
My only question would be whether their teacher costs went up; Catholic schools generally pay less but the decline in available (and very cheap) nuns and priests has caused personnel costs to go up at many Catholic schools.


They still pay considerably less than the public school rate (my wife is the principal of a Catholic elementary school).

Tuition at the Catholic high school my older two attend is in the $7,000 range, though, I'm not sure how many pay the full tuition. We're nowhere near there (in part because the oldest won a scholarship that covers most of the costs).

As SoSH Jr. has just finished the last of his college applications, I'll have a better idea on the costs there in a few months. It will definitely play into his decision.

   87. AndrewJ Posted: January 13, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4637911)
My parents both attended parochial school (my dad also attended Villanova after that). They made sre to send my sister and I to public schools.
   88. just plain joe Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:00 PM (#4637941)
They still pay considerably less than the public school rate (my wife is the principal of a Catholic elementary school).


My wife retired several years ago after 30 years of teaching in a Catholic high school. She was paid about 65% of what a comparable teacher in the local public school system would make. For a long time the better working conditions in the private school made up for the difference in pay but at the end, and this is what finally drove her away, the school administration would no longer back the teachers in any kind of dispute. Parents (and students) expect that their tuition money guarantees them good grades without putting in the work, and many feel they no longer need to abide by the established rules.
   89. SoSH U at work Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:06 PM (#4637947)
For a long time the better working conditions in the private school made up for the difference in pay but at the end, and this is what finally drove her away, the school administration would no longer back the teachers in any kind of dispute. Parents (and students) expect that their tuition money guarantees them good grades without putting in the work, and many feel they no longer need to abide by the established rules.


Fortunately, this isn't an issue at our school (or diocese, as far as I can tell from her), or my wife wouldn't hesitate to jump back for the better pay at the public schools.

   90. GregD Posted: January 13, 2014 at 04:08 PM (#4637949)
My wife retired several years ago after 30 years of teaching in a Catholic high school. She was paid about 65% of what a comparable teacher in the local public school system would make. For a long time the better working conditions in the private school made up for the difference in pay but at the end, and this is what finally drove her away, the school administration would no longer back the teachers in any kind of dispute. Parents (and students) expect that their tuition money guarantees them good grades without putting in the work, and many feel they no longer need to abide by the established rules.
Taking their cues from college! The graph of tuition versus average GPA is pretty impressive...

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