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David Anderson "asora education" RSS Feed (Pawtucket, RI United States)

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Crash Course
Crash Course
by Chris Whittle
Edition: Hardcover
110 used & new from $0.01

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A marketing device to induce members of Congress to pass legislation that would benefit his company: Edison Schools, February 23, 2006
This review is from: Crash Course (Hardcover)
In a nutshell, Whittle's book Crash Course is actually a marketing device to induce members of Congress to pass legislation that would benefit his company: Edison Schools. Some elements of his proposals are good but he constrains his proposals to ones that current power players (such as school boards, Democrats, and teachers unions) will accept or tolerate. We can do much better than what Whittle proposes.

I read Whittle's book Crash Course as someone who would also establish new kinds of schools to replace our current crop of public and private schools. I approach the problems of K-12 education from a practical viewpoint that we should use systems, methods, technologies that have already been proven. I look at the education industry in terms of what history, economics, education experts, human rights advocates, and politics would say about it.

Readers should be aware that for the past 16 years or so Whittle has owned and controlled the Edison Schools company. It is a for-profit company that operates public schools under contract.

History tells us that Whittle, after failing to establish a wholly owned network of for-profit schools, resorted to becoming a for-profit operator of public schools- mostly charter schools.

The proposals put forth in Crash Course do not square with what economists would recommend as a healthy enterprise. He thinks schools will cost as much or more than they currently do when, in fact, they could be simultaneously much better and yet be run for less expense.

Whittle wants to wait for education researchers to tell us how to proceed when, in fact, there is already considerable knowledge about best methods, best technologies and best structural formats to use.

Crash Course discourages vouchers and other policies that would enhance school choice. This is at odds with United Nations Declaration of Human Rights where parents have the right to direct their children's education. The US is a signatory of that document.

At the end of Whittle's book he shows us what his book is really about. It is a marketing device to convince members of Congress to pass legislation that would favor companies in the EMO field. With Edison Schools being the largest of these one can imagine it being the largest hog that would then feed at the federal trough. Thus Crash Course is a self-serving document.

Given that Whittle is a major player in public education and that many of his suggestions would help remedy some of its defects, I think Crash Course is worth reading if one also reads other texts for balance. I would not recommend it to anyone who wants just one book on the subject of education reform. For the one book crowd, I'd recommend the book Education and Capitalism by Walberg & Bast.

The Predictors: How a Band of Maverick Physicists Used Chaos Theory to Trade Their Way to a Fortune on Wall Street
The Predictors: How a Band of Maverick Physicists Used Chaos Theory to Trade Their Way to a Fortune on Wall Street
by Thomas Bass
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.09
91 used & new from $0.01

36 of 44 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Breaks all the Rules of Good Non-fiction, June 12, 2001
The Predictors, by Thomas A. Bass, is a flawed work. This story is about an attempt to design computer algorithms to detect heretofore unknown market patterns and use them for purposes of arbitrage. It provides an historical account of the creation, development and ultimate success of the Prediction Company, Inc. But in doing so, the author presents a confused portrait of what could have been an interesting story- especially to those interested in the dynamics of financial markets. Before describing the flaws in this book, I should say that there are probably some readers who would find this book interesting. Some, like myself, who have a background in physics (Ph.D.) and in finance (financial planner) will see through the mistakes of the author to uncover an interesting tale of greed, pride and long sought success. For most readers, I fear, their account will confuse and misinform. I should start by observing that The Predictors violates several rules of a good non-fiction book: · There is no author's bio and no Foreward written by a recognized authority of any type. · The author is not trained or schooled in either physics or economics and thus handicapped in telling the story. · And the author neglects to provide footnotes and references.
Bass denigrates the profession of economics by portraying these physicists as saviors of the so-called dismal science, when, in fact, economists have long known about and dealt with the criticisms leveled by these supposed wunderkind Ph.D.'s. An impression is left that the discipline of physics somehow plays a role in what happened; it didn't. What these physicists brought to the table was not science but their mathematical skills. They were not interested in understanding market dynamics; rather they were seeking to isolate market price patterns that would offer them predictive powers. He who can predict the market can, of course, profit from it. Of particular distaste to Bass and the physicists in this story is the economic theory of efficient markets. There is hardly any place in the book where the concept of arbitrage theory is presented. And yet the whole thrust of the Predictors was to find arbitrage opportunities. The important missing concept in this book is that of the feedback to the market from arbitrage transactions which tend to wash out the pattern being exploited. It is a self-canceling phenomenon- just as a fire consumes itself, so does arbitrage. If the Prediction Company trades too heavily on these opportunities or if others discover the strategy and trade on it, the advantage is lost. What Bass completely misses, but I think is understood by these physicists turned day-traders, is the fact that the only way the Prediction Company can survive is to continually uncover newer trading patterns not previously known. If they fail at this their fate may be like that of Long Term Capital Management hedge fund which eventually became insolvent- partly because others picked up and emulated their strategies. With too many players in the game the profits declined and the strategies became useless historical relics. Put differently, the Prediction Company based its transactions on technical analysis and not on fundamental analysis in which the component companies are analysed. As with earlier advances in technical analysis, each new idea for making profits only succeeds for a short time. A subtext of this story, barely described in the narrative, is that of political left-wing physicists learning and eventually embracing the benefits of capitalism. It seems that they gradually realize that their attempts to profit from an imperfect market is not anti-social or evil; rather they are providing liquidity and efficiency to a marketplace that would be less liquid and less efficient without them. Thus in their quest to satisfy their altruistic (originally left-wing) sentiments, these characters become adherents of the market in their new realization that altruism is alive and well in the capitalistic world! All this said, it is not clear that any of these physicists changed their political affiliations. So, yes, they were and still are parasites on the market. But in the ecology of capitalism such parasites are good for sellers and buyers alike- perhaps just as with germs we recognize some of them as "good germs." Likewise among books there are good books. The Predictors is not one of them.

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