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Designing the New American University
Designing the New American University
by Michael M. Crow
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $32.81
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5.0 out of 5 stars Is It Worth It?, February 8, 2016
There are roughly 5,000 institutions of higher education in the U.S., with 108 of them categorized by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. About 100 additional universities with less extensive research portfolios comprise a second cohort of research-grade institutions. However, while the transmission of knowledge is a core mission of universities, it is not what makes them the best institutions of higher learning in the world, per Crow. Overall we spend about one-half trillion/year on colleges and universities. An undergraduate degree from an elite private institution can cost $250,000+. One doesn't need to read the book to know its author, President of ASU, thinks so. There are contrary opinions, however. I went to ASU for an MBA - it was a horrible waste of time and money, though being 'uneducated' it took awhile to realize it.

The educational attainment of typical U.S. bachelor degree graduates is in the lower quartile of developed nations.

Nicholas Kristof wrote that "Ph.D. programs have fostered a culture that glorifies arcane unintelligibility while disdaining impact and audience." That was one of the reasons I found my ASU MBA so worthless. Continuing, "Scholars have periodically submitted meaningless gibberish to scholarly journals - only to have the nonsense respectfully published." Studies indicate that less than half of all articles published are ever cited - especially those in the humanities/social sciences; regardless, economists generally agree in the concept of diminishing marginal returns - an estimated 1.8 million such articles are currently published in over 28,000 journals - each costing an estimated $50,000 on average, plus books (eg. 100/year on Shakespeare, alone) and dissertations, and that number is estimated to grow about 3%/year - even more so as Far Eastern nations join the 'publish or perish' parade . Similarly - at last count, the share of articles in The American Political Science Review focused on policy prescriptions was down to 0.3%, and a study by the Stimson Center found scholars were among the most oblivious to foreseeing the Arab Spring - partly because they relied on useless models and constructs. (Similarly for economists vs. the 2008 'Great Recession;' don't forget President Truman's frustration with economists and their 'On the one hand, this' . . . and 'On the other hand, that.') Then there's Peter Thiel, provider of $100,000 grants to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors on the condition that recipients drop out of college - "Before long, spending four years in a lecture hall with a hangover will be revealed as an antiquated debt-fueled luxury good."

Professorial preparation for teaching - usually none. The 'professoriate is being proletarianized,' according to Bill Readings, because more than half of undergraduate classes are taught by graduate students and part-time/adjunct faculty. Evidence that graduates are adept at 'critical, analytical, and logical thinking' - slim - not surprisingly, evidence also indicates that college students' academic effort has dramatically declined in recent decades, and that they prefer professors who grade leniently.

Absent a coherent vision regarding the purposes of a university, the institution is ripe for reformation - especially downsizing. Crow offers a new platform that is purportedly underpinned by discovery/knowledge production, inclusiveness to a broad demographic representation, and maximization of societal impact commensurate with the scale of enrollment demand and the needs of our nation; that platform is intended to complement the existing set of highly successful major research universities. Unfortunately, no mention of effectiveness or quality.

En route, Crow first grossly overstates the contribution of America's research universities to our quality of life today, describing their research contributions as making them 'the most transformative institutions on the planet' They did not, for example, invent electricity, the light bulb, or anything else associated with Thomas Edison, neither did interchangeable parts, Ford's assembly line, the Toyota Production System, the steam engine, the internal combustion engine, the telephone, Bessemer converter, railroads, typewriter, airplane, skyscrapers, tabulating machines, the integrated circuit, the PC, gas turbines, jet engines, rockets, operating systems, cell phones, etc.

Next, he pays homage to every liberal's lament - government funding is inadequate and declining, summarized by the Centre on Budget and Policy Priorities finding that state appropriations for higher education declined 28% between fiscal years 2008 and 2013, with Arizona and New Hampshire cutting their higher education spending per student in half. (Ironic that Crow has not convinced his state legislature to fund his vision.)

Readers are supposed to simply assume that this is not enough, as well as that untold numbers of potential students are now thereby denied the opportunity to move up in the world. Both assumptions are hard to swallow - but Crow simply avoids the problem by not addressing criticisms of the quality and effectiveness of today's universities. Crow's 'Gold Standard' seems to be that 'everyone who wants to go to college should be able to,' ignoring the fact that about half drop out and half of those who graduate end up in jobs that don't require a degree. His key performance measures, unfortunately, are inputs - # of students (from about 55,000 in 2002 to 83,000 - including 13,000 in online degree programs, and doubling its number of out-of-state students from about 14,000 to over 27,000 via targeting California, where enrollment is capped), amount of research funding (ASU's federally-funded research grew 162% from 2003 to 2012), ignoring quality. Larger class sizes are another means used by ASU to stretch its dollars, and doubling tuition fees between 2006 and 2011 helped make up for declining state revenues. NSF data show that in 2012, ASU ranked 58th in total R&D expenditures and had to spend an above-average share of 28 cents/dollar (national average is 20 cents) to subsidize those grants, pulling almost $135 million out of its general fund to support its nominally federally-funded scientists. (Negative net research returns.)

ASU now admit 80% of applicants - Crow focuses on the number ASU accepts and graduates, whereas most schools are ranked according to their exclusivity. Many are impressed - ASU has risen in the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities from not appearing in the top 200 in 2002 to 88th in 2014.

Students entering ASU's honors college have lower SAT scores than students at Colgate, Oberlin, or Carleton - and there is a much higher proportion of minorities. Their graduation rates are about the same - but anyone who takes that statistic at face value is more than a little gullible. (Keith Law, philosophy professor at Merced College says 'There's no way you're going to get me to believe that these students are actually getting an education.") About half of ASU students graduate in four years, up 20 percentage points since 2002 and 10 points higher than the national average. ASU also points that graduates going into professions requiring a licensing exam pass at rates above the national average, and that it's started using standardized tests to monitor students' progress.

ASU also asserts that its new high-tech space in Scottsdale where its online education wing is located brings in $150 million/year in revenues, but fails to specify how much of that is simply rental receipts from the property. On a much more credible note, it is also developing computerized 'adaptive learning' to help speed students along as soon as they've mastered material, instead of waiting until the end of a semester.

ASU's partnership with Starbucks produced almost 4,000 employees applying. Starbucks employees working at least 20 hours/week receive full tuition reimbursement if they enroll in ASU's online program as juniors or seniors. Funding comes from Starbucks, as well as federal grants administered through ASU such as Pell Grants (awarded on financial need and don't need to be paid back). Students must complete 21 credit hours before the company will reimburse them for tuition. And 86% of its Starbucks online students were retained between semesters - high for working adults. ASU undergraduate tuition for online students ranges from $480 to $543/credit hour. ASU's online bachelor's degree programs are ranked in the top 10 by U.S. News/World Report.

Present design of colleges resembles 'a 19th-century factory that builds everything on site.' (Jose Ferreira, Knewton CEO) The notion that online degrees are inferior is starting to fade. Penn State and Columbia now offer them in many subjects. Georgia Tech has had an online-only master's degree in computer science since 2014. Harvard's master's course in public health can be done full-time, part-time or in intense bursts - for much of it, students do not need to be present on campus. Harvard's Kennedy School of Government runs a popular SPOC (Small Private Online Course) on American security policy - alongside the campus students, 500 more take the course online - though they cannot receive formal credit for it..


Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
DVD
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Silly, February 7, 2016
An aggravating movie that makes light of making a living out of cheating women out considerable sums of money. As for the plot, there are numerous major disconnects, including the surprise ending.


College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education
College Disrupted: The Great Unbundling of Higher Education
by Ryan Craig
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.47
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Insights -, February 6, 2016
What if all the supposed benefits of higher education are the result of self-selection bias? If colleges and universities are to avoid being replaced by some creation of Silicon Valley, they're going to have to answer the question of what students are actually learning and demonstrate how their programs benefit students.

In the fall of 2013, a survey of over 400 small private and regional state institutions found that nearly half had fallen short of budget enrollment or net tuition revenue. From 2010 through 2012, freshmen enrollment at more than a quarter of U.S. private four-year colleges declined 10% or more. In October 2013, the percentage of 2013 high school graduates who enrolled in higher education was 65.9%, down from 70.1% four years prior.

Higher education tuition has increased at double the rate of inflation for over 30 years. The overall price of higher education increased 600% between 1980 and 2010 - more than any other major product or service. (To be fair, the average discount for freshmen at private colleges is now 42%. On the other hand, there's also the important matter of opportunity costs.) In 1975, the average state-supported institution could count on state funding for over 60% of their budgets. Since then, between 1980 and 2011, all states except Wyoming and North Dakota have cut support for higher education by 15 - 70%. While Americans say they value higher education, less than 40% think states should provide more support to colleges.

For the typical private sector online program, enrolling a new online student now requires spending $2,000 - $3,000 in advertising. As 50% of online students typically drop out within the first six months, that's $4,000 - $6,000 to acquire one revenue-generating student.

Credit transferability makes the affordability problem worse. Students who transferred from a regionally accredited institution lost an average of 12 credits, while those who transferred from a nationally accredited school lost 16 credits.

A USA Today 2012 article reported that there are more college graduates working in clerical jobs than in all computer professional jobs, more employed as cashiers, retail clerks and customer representatives than engineers. A 2013 article reported that 15% of taxi drivers, 17% of bellhops and 5% of janitors have college degrees - up from 1% in 1970. Almost half of all college graduates have a job that doesn't require a college degree. ("Job Jugglers on the Tightrope" NYT, 6/25/2011) A 2013 study from MIT and the University of Minnesota argued that any increase in the college-high school income gap since 1960 is the result of declining high school real income as opposed to increasing college income. The study also found that 1990 students graduating from California public colleges had virtually no chance of loan repayments being larger than 15% of their incomes; today, men doing so have a 38% chance and women a 55% chance.

Engineering majors are 12 of the top 15 degree programs in terms of starting salary, while other degrees from lower-tier instiututions produce net negative returns for students.

At some community colleges, graduation rates are below 10% - incurring debt with no return.

Craig sees law schools as the 'canary in the higher education coal mine. Tuition at private law schools doubled in the past 15 years and nearly tripled at public schools while 45% of law school graduates are unable to find a job requiring a JD degree. In 2004, 100,000 applied to law school, only 59,400 in 2013 - the lowest number since 1977 and a 33% drop from 2010. Expect to see dozens of law schools close in the next decade.

University trustees face multifaceted, complex, and likely vague missions. This makes it easier for management to run the show and treat the board as its plaything. So we overlook student abuse at Penn State, admit and graduate underqualified student athletes, and from 2000 to 2012, the ratio of instructional non-instructional staff declined 40%. At the University of Michigan, there are 53% more administrators than faculty. U.S. News and others evaluate colleges based on how much they spend/student. Ratings emphasize the 'Four Rs' - rankings, real estate, rah, and research.

A 2009 report from the American Enterprise Institute pointed out that over the prior five years, the number of published language and literature 'research' articles had risen from 13,000 to 72,000. A 2005 study in the Journal of Higher Education showed an inverse relationship between the amount of time spent in the classroom and a faculty member's salary. ("Beyond the Rhetoric: Trends in the Relative Value of Teaching and Research in Faculty Salaries.")

As a rule, colleges and universities don't track whether students are learning - we don't know what students are supposed to have learned or the extent to which they've done so. We also have no way for adjusting in variations in student capabilities, nor looking down the road at their ultimate achievements. Worse yet, Republicans have led the opposition against the creation of a federal unit record database - it's specifically forbidden in the Higher Education Act, also thanks to education lobbyists. Some states (Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas, Colorado, Arkansas, and California) have instead created their own longitudinal databases for this purpose. Bill James realized that baseball would never get to rational, data-driven management without the right data. Yet, after five years of trying and failing to convince baseball teams to pay for this new data, STATS Inc. began instead selling the data to fans.


Life in Ancient Rome
Life in Ancient Rome
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Interesting and Insightful -, February 3, 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Most of what is today's France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, the Balkan countries, and the greater part of the British Isles was once all under the rule of the Roman Empire. Founder - Augustus, grandnephew of Julius Caesar. Augustus rode to power on a series of large-scale bitter conflicts in which he first destroyed his great-uncle's assassins (Brutus and Cassius), and then his partner in those successes - Mark Antony, who fell on his sword in 30 B.C. Augustus lived on until A.D. 14, making Rome work smoothly and reliably.

From about 500 B.C. to 50 B.C., when Julius Caesar in effect brought it to an end, Rome had been a republic. Its chief legislative body was a Senate (membership theoretically open to all, though theoretically mostly drawn from the aristocracy), and its chief executive a pair of annually elected consuls. Under Augustus, those leaders continued in office, but the power was in Augustus's grasp - he controlled the military, determined foreign and domestic policy, whose favor made or broke political careers, appointed the administrators to run the provinces, and his face appeared on their coins. He was an emperor in all but name. His successors for the next 200 years were all men of ability, and with a few exceptions, men of integrity. (The exceptions - Caligula and Nero) could spread terror or exasperation, but the bureaucracy carried on.) Those who followed him through the 2nd century A.D. adjusted but never basically changed what Augustus established.

Before Augustus, Roman armies and navies had been called up as needed; Augustus created a standing military, with himself commander in chief. Eventually, the time came when the imperial armies made, rather than obeyed, emperors. Until then, the army conquered and guarded, and the navy kept sea lanes free of pirates.

Rome's strength now lay in its provinces from which it drew the major portions of its wealth, brains, and muscle. By the second century A.D., the emperors also came from the provinces - Trajan and Hadrian were both of Spanish background.

To administer those overseas territories, Augustus and his successors had to turn to members of the Senate, despite few of them happy of rulers who had usurped their power. As soon as possible, the emperors widened their net to draw in prosperous families that had stayed out of politics, provincials, even ex-slaves.

In ancient Athens, only the children of Athenian parents were citizens - foreigners required an act of the Athenian Congress to achieve this. Other ancient states were similar. Rome, from its beginnings, adopted the practice of incorporating into the state some of the communities it conquered by granting them citizenship en bloc. Rome also provided that once freed, the slave of a Roman citizen also became a citizen. Since the Romans commonly freed their slaves, multitudes of new members of varied origins joined the citizen body each year. One could also become a citizen by joining the military or serving as a local magistrate in one's hometown. Rome's empire lasted half a millennium in the West and a millennium and a half in the East. The generous spread of citizenship helped hold it together.

Augustus recognized that effective rule over a large area required swift movement of dispatches and troops - he and his successors therefore tied the empire together with a network of roads and the navy freed the Mediterranean of piracy. Rome itself had a polyglot population of as much as a million.

Roman society was based on the family, each headed by the oldest male member, with even the power of life and death over his sons and daughters. (There were cases on record of its being exercised as late as the first century B.C.) Until the day he died, he was the sole owner of the family property - sons, daughters, grandsons, etc. could not legally have possessions of their own, be they even salaries or gifts. Short life expectancy probably helped others accept this. When a child was born, the paterfamilias determined whether it was to live or be exposed to die. When children were grown up, the paterfamilias arranged marriages for them. (Legally, he could insist only that they take a mate, and not specify whom.) Girls married when they were 12 - 15, boys when slightly older. Marriage was a serious legal bond, but not religious. Consequently, cohabitation was not 'living in sin,' and even emperors did it.

Every bride had to supply a dowry, but it always remained hers. If her husband died or they divorced, the dowry was returned, minus a fraction for the upkeep of the children and possibly another fraction as penalty if she had misbehaved. The prospective bridegroom sealed his marriage pledge with gifts, usually a ring. Divorce was simple - either party merely told the other 'Keep what's yours for yourself,' and the union was over.

In Rome, all but the very rich lived in apartment houses 3-4 stories high; the middle-class had one with space for a maid, a cook, and perhaps other slaves. The aristocracy lived in mansions that likely housed the husband's extended family, including already freed slaves. Education was not free. Landlords ere able to rent out the dark holes under staircases, underground cellars, and tiny garrets under eaves - in some cases a climb of seven stories and never less than three or four.

Lack of heat, water, or sanitary facilities was standard in apartments. Charcoal braziers and oil lamps were an ever-present hazard, and collapse during/after a fire was almost as serious a menace. Eventually building codes were established, but often ignored. In the second century A.D., there were ten aqueducts, as much as 60 miles long. About 135,000 tons/year of grain was brought in and distributed - some free for the poor. There was a good enough system of sewers to carry off rainwater, water from the public baths, and other waste waters. There were first-class public latrines in all bath complexes and spotted about the streets - marble seats, flushed by a constant stream of running water, and even heating. While a commission existed to 'repair, pave, and maintain streets' there was not for house-to-house garbage collection - walking under an open window could be fatal.

One of Augustus's most welcome innovations was giving Rome its first fire and police departments. Each of the seven main stations and 14 branch stations had pump and water handlers, blanketers with blankets soaked in vinegar for smothering flames, catapultists for knocking down walls, and 'mattress men' - perhaps for catching people jumping from the upper stories. Each station also had four doctors. Part of the personnel, stayed at the ready - equipped with buckets of water and made the rounds all night long, at the ready.

The public baths were vast, with the biggest covering the equivalent of several city blocks and including exercise courts, meeting rooms, lecture/recital halls, shops for beauty treatments, snack/drink vendors. The city had no more than about six main avenues, and they were rarely wider than 20-25 feet. Lesser avenues were 12-16 feet, and side streets only six feet. Few ran in a straight line. Shopkeepers would spill out into them to gain additional room.

Since apartments were small and uncomfortable, Romans spent most waking hours in the streets - schoolchildren chanting their lessons, people passing the time of day. Night brought the transporters out. Going out alone was an invitation to be mugged. Most streets lacked street signs.

People found it profitable to be on the lookout for abandoned foundlings - to raise them as slaves. Sometimes poor families sold their children into slavery. Slaves were allowed to save money earned through tips and bonuses to eventually buy freedom. Lunch was a noon, and usually cold. Dinner at about 3 P.M., and most were in bed shortly after dark. A proper dinner party always included entertainment.

The pagan holiday underlying Christmas (Saturnalia) lasted from 12/l17 to 12/23. Burying the dead within city limits was forbidden by religious taboo, so they were buried along roads leading from the city gates.

Landed property was a gentleman's form of investment. Slave were encouraged to breed - a mother of three received reduced work assignments, and a mother of four received her freedom. Key to success to any farm run by slave labor was the manager - a slave but of higher quality and trained for the job. Independent peasants could also be hired. Oxen were the most important work animals, horses ere rarely used - they were bred to race and serve the army.

The 'Romans' lived between dawn an dusk, dividing this period into 12 hours that varied from 45 minutes to 75 minutes long. By the third hour after rising (9 A.M. in winter, and 7 A.M. in summer) the well-to-d0 were at their occupations. By noon, their day's work was done. They then joined their wives for a light lunch, had a siesta, then probably to the barbershop to be shaved- They then joined the throngs heading for the nearest public bath - starting out with exercise such as dumbbells, wrestling, etc., then a Turkish bath that usually ended with a cold plunge. The middle class day did not end at noon, since workshops and stores stayed open until dusk or later.

Businessmen and workers not only put in a full day but a full week. While there were numerous religious festivals, few were public holidays. Some slaves became rich through government service, others through commerce. Teaching, medicine, the law generally brought little return or prestige in Roman times; there were, however, high-level barristers like Cicero, Hortensius who argued cases involving governors and senators and received handsome gifts in return.

No public transport of any kind in ancient Rome.

Slaves did the hard labor - eg in the mines, quarries, and fields, but they also were the clerks, cashiers, and bookkeepers. Bank officers could be slaves or freedmen, ship crews (from lowest deckhands up through the captain), managers for absentee landlords of great estates. Galley rowers were not slaves- every now and then the benches were opened to slaves, and those who served on them were rewarded with their freedom. Slaves benefitted from the fact that native Romans had no taste for trade or commerce (aside from investments) and disliked desk work routine; white-collar slaves could be fairly sure of eventually gaining freedom and with it citizenship. Citizenship placed former slaves above freeborn peoples living in the lands Rome conquered - they were denied the vote, marriage with a Roman citizen, access to Roman courts. Slaves were also the nation's civil service - those demonstrating satisfactory ability could expected freedom by 30 - 35, and then would carry on their duties as freedmen. Some posts were viewed so positively that free men with bleak prospects would sell themselves into slavery to qualify for them. Ex-slaves could help themselves upward by liberal expenditures on highly visible charity, picking up the bill for gladiatorial games, etc.

Pompeii lay hidden under ashes from A.D. 70 until the middle of the 18th century. Excavations vividly illustrate the nature of life in the ancient world. Houses had no open space between, in front, or in back because they included their own open space. Walls were covered with murals, floors paved with mosaics. An amphitheater accommodated about 20,000 for gladiatorial combats, an open theater seated about 5,000 and the indoor one about 1,000. At various key points were watering troughs for animals. A number of bars, taverns, restaurants, and 25 brothels. Walls were used for public notices.

Joining the army was a 20 - 25 year commitment, 26 years for the navy - new enlistees were given $1,200 as a bounty. The imperial army totaled about 300,000, and in the first two centuries were mostly engaged in building/maintaining bridges and aqueducts, canals and cisterns, and much the road network. The Praetorian Guard was paid well - 3X that of legionaries, plus $60,000 or more when a new emperor took office.

Entertainment via horse racing, sports contests, gambling - winning jockeys could acquire considerable monies. Gladiators came from the ranks of certain criminals (had to put in 3 years in the arena), POWs, victims of kidnapping and piracy, slaves sold by masters wanting to get rid of them. Women were also combatants. Gladiators usually fought once a year, or even less. Condemned men (serious crimes) were sent 'to the sword' or 'to the beasts'


Why America Is Not a New Rome Paperback August 29, 2014
Why America Is Not a New Rome Paperback August 29, 2014
by Vaclav Smil
Edition: Paperback
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Facile and Misleading Comparisons -, February 3, 2016
Author Vaclav Smil says he concentrated on the meaning of empire, the actual extent and nature of Roman and American power, the role of knowledge and innovation in the two states, and their demographic and economic realities when writing this book. Despite many parallels and similarities, he contends that casual comparisons of the two empires are often irrelevant. Instead, however, he misses the underlying reason for people repeatedly comparing the U.S. to Rome - that both were/are considered dominant in their time, yet Rome ultimately fell under the weight of internal dissension and the cost of its armies, while the U.S. seems to be headed in the same direction - especially in this new millenium.

Rome was one of the most enduring states in history, undergoing profound transformations during its more than 1,000 years. Rome eventually consisted of over 300, mostly small principalities, with complicated politics and testy relations with Rome itself. Its power came overwhelmingly from the multitude of its German jurisdictions, though it also included entire territories of ancient Bohemia and Moravia, Austria, Switzerland, today's Belgium and the Netherlands, and of course Italy. (Egypt, Libya, Syria?)

Unfortunately, Smil's review of recent American history omits 9/11, our floundering war efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the 2008 'Great Recession,' mounting government deficits, an economy eviscerated by largely uncontrolled immigration and exporting of jobs to other nations - the latter creating an estimated $10 trillion cumulative deficit since the early 1980s and the former bringing an 'invasion' of 12 million-some low-skilled workers, political paralysis, and seemingly uncontrollable costs in health care, education, and defense- and foreign-policy related efforts to extend and preserve our control and influence around the world. Smill makes far too much out of differences such as the fact that America supports components of its empire through aid and military protection while Rome largely lived off the fruits of its empire (making our position even weaker than Rome's in some ways).

Strangely, Smil even declares 'America has never been an empire, our stationing military forces around the world, with an even broader range of attempts at domination through scolding/bribing/intimidation. Instead he allows his thinking to be dominated by irrelevant issues such as today's much longer life expectancy and the number of slaves utilized by early Roman families, forgetting that the Romans also believed their foreign policy was just and defensive, and like America, their political battles waged in the name of liberty, and their military campaigns waged for 'liberation and justice.' He also allows his thinking to be diverted by other irrelevancies such as our much greater use of fuel, the fact that our cities are more sanitary, that the Roman empire was far smaller than Britain's, and our much lower proportion of agricultural workers.

Bottom-Line: Like Rome, America has also now become the world's greatest power, and not surprisingly, is detested by many. Also like Rome, our government has become highly dysfunctional - not surprising because our forefathers borrowed from their structure of governance. (Rome later became more of a dictatorship to avoid these problems, yet still could not quell internal bickering and back-stabbing (literally).) Smil over-emphasizes facile and irrelevant differences between ancient Rome and today's U.S., and his conclusions seem silly. It is a wonder this book was even published.


Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School by Hanushek, Eric A., Peterson, Paul E., Woessmann, Ludger (2013) Paperback
Endangering Prosperity: A Global View of the American School by Hanushek, Eric A., Peterson, Paul E., Woessmann, Ludger (2013) Paperback
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overdrawn Economic Conclusions -, January 29, 2016
Our students lag behind those from Asia, Europe and other parts of the Americas - disadvantaged as well as advantaged. Only 75 of U.S. students in 2009 performed at the advanced level in mathematics - lower than those attained by 29 other countries. Further, that same year, just 32% of U.S. 8th-graders were evaluated as proficient in mathematics - making the U.S. 32nd of those participating.

One strong contribution in this volume is its revealing racial differences in U.S. PISA performance. While 42% of white students were identified as proficient in math, only 11% of African-American, 15% of Hispanic, and 16% of Native Americans were so identified. Half of students with an ethnic background from Asia and the Pacific Islands were proficient in math - comparable to all students in Belgium, Canada, and Japan, but lower than all students in Korea and Taiwan. U.S. white students, however, are still surpassed by all students in 16 other countries, and more than 25-percentage-points behind all students deem proficient in Korea and Finland. White pupils in the U.S. also trail well behind all students in nations such as Japan, Germany, Belgium, and Canada.

In reading, 20% of white students and 41% of those from Asia and the Pacific Islands were identified as proficient, vs. 13% of African-American, 5% of Hispanics, and 18% of Native American students. White student performance only would place the U.S. in 9th place, trailing by a significant margin all students in Korea, Finland, and Singapore.

The authors contend that countries grow faster where the population has higher achievement, and includes U.S. success back in the 1960s when America was practically the only country with universal secondary schooling for its population. But they then muddy their case by also adding that we then had a free and open labor market, limited intrusion of government, good foreign people coming into the U.S. to work and stay. Probably more important, they also omit referencing the fact that, at the time, the U.S. had the only major manufacturing capacity - thanks to much of the rest of the developed world having been flattened in WWII and the third-world status of Asian areas that had not been. They also are silent about the fact that a main factor driving the surge in Asian economies is their much lower-cost labor inputs.

Continuing, they contend that if U.S. pupil performance had only matched Canada's over the last 20-years, the average paycheck of all American workers would be 20% higher.

Many contend that to fix American schools we need to spend more money, and since 1960 per-pupil inflation-adjusted spending has increased to levels over 4X those then. But pupils in Florida grew even faster than Massachusetts since 1990 (the first availability of state-level data) which moved from 10th in 1990 to first today, while spending about the same in inflation-adjusted dollars. Other research indicates that if we replaced the bottom 5 - 8% of teachers with average teachers we could beat Canadian pupil performance.

Bottom-Line: 'Endangering Prosperity' has some important facts about spending vs. pupil performance. However, their overall assertion about how much better our GDP performance would have been with higher PISA scores is based on poorly-controlled analysis that allows extraneous factors to dominate. It's the old 'correlation does imply causation' fallacy.


Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project
Designing Teacher Evaluation Systems: New Guidance from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project
by Thomas Kane
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $31.26
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Much That's Useful - Too Technical, January 29, 2016
No one would launch a Weight Watchers club without bathroom scales. Teaching and learning will not improve without high-quality feedback based on assessments of instruction measured against clear standards for what is known to be effective. Between 2009 and 2012, the Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) project worked with roughly 3,000 teachers in six urban districts to collect information on the classrooms of about 100,000 students. One of the discoveries was that an accurate observation rating requires at least two observations by at least two trained observers. Another - that elementary teachers receive higher ratings from principals than middle school teachers, and ratings in elementary school are better predictors of pupil achievement gains than ratings in middle school

Elsewhere, Thomas Kane recommends using video to make observations more helpful and fair to teachers. This was based on a randomized field trial involving 347 teachers and 108 administrators in which teachers could collect multiple lessons and then choose a subset to submit for classroom observations. This gave teachers a reason and opportunity to watch multiple instances of their own teaching, and served as the basis for discussions between teachers and administrators. While their final official observation scores were no different than comparison teachers, treatment teachers perceived their supervisors to be more supportive and their observations to be fairer. The self-observations also made treatment teachers more self-critical.

Traditionally, principals have used much too low a standard when granting tenure, viewing the probationary period merely as an opportunity to week out the worst malpractice. In 2014, 96% of teachers were rated 'effective' or 'highly effective' - rather vague criteria. Kane contends that a probationary teacher should be rated 'ineffective' during their fourth year of teaching (New York's new probationary period) if average student achievement gain during their second through fourth year of teaching falls below that of the average first-year teacher in their district, of the classroom observations done by external observers during their 2nd through 4th year of teaching falls below that of the average first-year teacher. He contends that linking the standard for tenure to the effectiveness of the average 1st-year teacher would remind everyone of the opportunity cost involved in every tenure decision. It would also be a self-adjusting standard if classroom observation scores became inflated, or the quality of new candidates rose. Under New York law, one of the observers must be drawn from outside a teacher's school. Finally, the video evidence would help if a teacher wants to defend their teaching at a dismissal hearing.

Kane has also found that teachers' prior value-added scores were good predictors of future value-added scores. While ratings do still fluctuate, so do the batting averages of professional baseball players; no information is perfect. Further, the greatest potential for school districts to improve seems to rest not in regulating minimum qualifications for new teachers but in selectively retaining those teachers most effective during their first years of teaching. Kane's research has found that certification status matters little for pupil learning. There is also some evidence that alternatively-certified and uncertified teachers learn more from experience; while TFA members have higher attrition, the impact is rather modest.

Teacher preparation today is almost universally weak. A modern-day Flexner report should focus on finding a more effective model of teacher training.


Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (Educational Innovations Series)
Failing Our Brightest Kids: The Global Challenge of Educating High-Ability Students (Educational Innovations Series)
by Brandon L. Wright
Edition: Paperback
Price: $32.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Equality of Education Outcomes Is NOT a Good Objective -, January 25, 2016
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov, while a professor of biochemistry at the Boston University School of Medicine.

“If America is to remain internationally competitive with other advanced nations, we need to maximize the potential of our top students.” Chester Finn, co-author of 'Failing Our Brightest Kids"

Authors Chester Finn and Brandon Wright first defend the idea that policymakers should stop ignoring gifted students - it's become PC to instead discuss 'educational equity' and devote more resources to students struggling to read at grade level. (The political lobby for gifted students is practically nonexistent.) Gifted students, however, are the most likely to make major contributions to society - in any area. They are our future leaders, yet are rarely pushed to achieve their full potential. They also reference research showing that bright pupils unchallenged in school do not progress as far on their own as ones challenged in school.

Turns out that foreign applicants to American business schools (especially those applicants from India and China) do much better on the quantitative portion of the GMAT than their American counterparts. Not surprising, however, when one looks at the details of the Program for International student Assessment (PISA) exams in 2012. It's well known that the U.S. ranked poorly (17th in reading, 20th in science and 27th in math), but not nearly so well known how few young Americans reach the top ranks.

The PISA test results are broken down into six levels of math skill, and only 9% of our 15-year-olds scored within the top two tiers (behind 11 other nations). Singapore, however, had 40% of their pupils in those two top levels, with Taiwan close behind at 38% Korea at 31%, and Canada with 16%. Among American high achievers, 8X as many pupils come from the top socioeconomic quartile as from the bottom, compared to 4X in Canada, 5X in Australia, and 3X in Singapore. High-scoring American pupils are similarly underrepresented in PISA science scores.

So, the authors took the obvious next step and looked at how education differed in other nations vs. the U.S. Surprise - when parents value education and push their children (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, China), it makes a difference. Similarly for when competition is appreciated rather than shunned or frowned on. A third finding - separate learning opportunities, supplements, acceleration, and enrichment programs (Germany, Switzerland, Western Australia, Taiwan, Singapore Canada's Ontario) are far more effective than 'differentiated instruction.' Another 'clue' - student progress should be based on mastery, instead of age-based grade levels.

We need to stop worrying about elitism. It is impossible to be equal an excellent too, per John Gardner. And we need to do more than simply trying to 'lift the floor,' close 'the gap,' etc.


A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service
A Passion for Leadership: Lessons on Change and Reform from Fifty Years of Public Service
by Robert M Gates
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.43
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Never Mistake for Malice That Which is Easily Explained by Stupidity or Incompetence" - Napoleon, January 24, 2016
Hardly a day passes in any American's life without him/her having to confront a bureaucracy - standing in line, or dialing a phone number and entering an automated labyrinth and being placed on indefinite hold. Yet, even as bureaucracies extend their reach into most every nook and cranny, the litany of their incompetence and arrogance grows. Some of their lapses and failures in recent years, regardless of which party was in charge, include: the failure of intelligence and law enforcement associated with 9/11, the failure of our financial regulatory and administrative bodies to anticipate and prevent abuses that led to the Great Recession of 2008-09, FEMA's handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Flint water crisis, the lack of planning for post-invasion Iraq in 2003, the scandalous treatment of outpatients at Walter Reed Army Hospital, lapses and scandals of the Secret Service, the initial handling of the Ebola crisis by CDC, the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), underperforming public schools, the inability to control our southern border, etc. It is a rare soul who has not been frustrated and maddened by delays involving multiple business/government bureaucracies, not to mention disastrous decisions/inertia that cost jobs and create economic turmoil.

As a rule, organizations that do not promote innovation, strive to reduce overhead costs and excessive layers, and become more customer-friendly don't do well in the long term. The public sector faces unique obstacles to reform, whether it's cutting costs, becoming more efficient, encouraging innovation, or changing to cope with changes. The political Left is too often indifferent to obvious bureaucratic incompetence and failure because it believes that whatever the problem, government is the solution. But it's tough making the case for more government when what we have works so poorly. The political Right welcomes bureaucratic incompetence as proof that government rarely does anything well, and sometimes deliberately or unknowingly creates those problems - eg. cutting IRS funding to levels that make proper service/analysis impossible, and demanding Rube Goldberg details within the Affordable Care Act.

Fortunately, author Gates's 50 years of experience at the CIA, Texas A&M University, and the Department of Defense. has convinced him that bureaucracies can be fixed. The really good news is that during his career, he saw an extraordinary number of people of the highest quality serving with steadfast integrity and love of this nation. (Unfortunately, they too are often frustrated by the shortcomings of their institutions.)

Virtually, all public bureaucracies report directly or indirectly to elected officials. Their political interests (getting reelected usually is foremost) are often in direct conflict with efforts to streamline/reform the institutions they oversee. Elective bodies with oversight responsibilities also are unreliable and even irresponsible - how can any organization do long-range planning when it never knows from one year to the next how much money will be approved? Then there's also shutdowns, sequestration, and micromanagement.

Imagine a company with a board of 535 directors, each of whom has as his/her principal objective personal self-interest and political self-preservation as opposed to responsibility to the institution(s) he/she oversees. Another factor in the oversight of institutions, mainly pubic ones, is the uneven quality of the individuals elected or appointed to fulfill the role. Too often they know virtually nothing about important topics. A third major problem is that, at least at the most senior levels, many bosses in public institutions lack managerial or leadership experience. (Look at Obama's experience prior to becoming President; McCain's wasn't much better. Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders?) Many appointees hope or expect to be in the position for a relatively short time - seeing it as a stepping-stone to something else. Such short-term stewards avoid controversial moves, fail to prioritize, and underinvests. Still another reality would-be reforms face in the public sector is that almost every career employee has some form of job security - tenure and its rough equivalent is not limited to universities. Conversely, the top bosses generally have limited tenure, creating similar problems.

Gates continues - if you think removing ineffective individuals in a bureaucracy is difficult, try eliminating an agency or program once created. Another point - business does not have to take seriously the influence of retirees or alumni as do a number of public institutions. Bureaucratic reform must also overcome growing demand for transparency in decision-making. Further, plans for change are publicly aired by leaks, regulation, or state law, creating inviting targets for advocates of the status quo.

The culture of public bureaucracies and too many private sector organizations is another serious obstacle to change and reform. Fundamental to bureaucratic culture is risk avoidance - it is almost always safer for the public bureaucrat (often in business also) to say no rather than yes. Further, the proliferation of investigative bodies, inspectors general, outside 'think' tanks, and politicians looking for someone to hang for every single hiccup, contributes not just to risk aversion but inaction.

Also fundamental to bureaucratic culture both in business and the public sector is the 'not invented here' reaction, especially if it comes from a known critic. Supervisors too often reject his own employees' ideas for improvement simply because they were not his ideas. The idea of willfully shrinking one's empire to make the enterprise more successful borders on heresy, and there is no financial incentive to do so in a public entity.

Public institutions are often not served well by their conviction that no one outside the institution can possibly understand what those in it do, how they do it, or why. (Definitely my experience with public schools.) This is strengthened by the near-total absence of competition to public bureaucracies.

The final obstacle to reform unique to public institutions is the absence of any economic incentive to do so. Further, management has almost no authority to affect the pay of those working for them, except through promotions and even those are governed largely by 'time in grade' requirements, and availability of positions at the higher grade.

Too many smug institutions are running on the momentum of past achievements, and moving obliviously toward mediocrity and irrelevance. These include G.M. and Chrysler from the private sector - prior to their bailout. Such institutions need bold, visionary leaders who discern a different and better future for it, and who can map a realistic path to attaining the future.

Gates suggests that a new leader not focus on reorganizing - it is distracting. employees will be preoccupied with whether their personal and office status has improved or declined, as well as whether they might find themselves out of a job. Be wary of consensus - inevitably yields the lowest common denominator, set short deadlines - focuses attention on an effort, and not emphasize lots of overtime - he boasts that, while heading the Pentagon, he never went to the office on a Saturday. He is skeptical that leadership qualities such as devotion to duty, sincerity, fairness and good cheer can be taught in a classroom.

Before issuing a single directive or making a single decision, a new leader should talk to people at every level of his organization. If appropriate to the position, the new leader should also talk to stakeholders, governing boards, retirees, alumni, legislators, and customers - asking about the organization's strengths and weaknesses, what its priorities for change should be. This will also allow the leader to spot self-promoters (suck-ups, untrustworthy), those who cynically trash colleagues, and determine who is likely to be an ally. The process also sends the message to employees that their opinions matter, and that candor is valued. However, this mustn't go on too long o- that would give the impression that he/she hasn't a clue.

The new leader should make it clear from the outset that he intends to establish goals early and seek out reactions to her ideas. An election eg. 14 months later might end their tenure, thus they must move fast.

External circumstances and challenges must take center stage in developing the agenda for change. When establishing an agenda for reform, a leader will almost always be going against the consensus in much of what he does. People will think he's wrong, and tell him so.

Carefully considered implementation strategies are critical to reforming bureaucracies - it takes more than a bold agenda for change.

It is imperative early on to reassure (or disarm) those who will be apprehensive about a leader's intentions - most everyone. A leader's strategy needs to include carefully choosing his lieutenants - ones that both agree with his agenda and have organizational credibility and skills.

Before any meeting, press conference, or presentation, be thinking of how to advance the reform agenda. Gates says he always tried to set aside an hour or so every day to work on/think about his reform agenda.

Too many leaders give too little thought to sequencing/prioritizing change initiatives. Too ambitious, he will dissipate his energy, lose momentum, and fail. Whenever possible, popular and easier should be made first, toughter ones later.

When Gates took command of the Pentagon he found that outpatient wounded soldiers were being neglected. Firing the Walter Reed hospital commander, the surgeon general of the army, and the secretary of the army within 3 months (after receiving the report of an outside investigative task force) changed that.

Fundamental to bringing about change is inclusiveness. Gates relied on ad hoc groups rather than existing bureaucratic structures (the latter almost never comes up with bold actions/recommendations. Bureaucracy is incapable of reforming itself. Task forces and similar ad hoc groups are silo-busters. They must have a specific date for extinction. He saw the time taken (about 7 months) for surveys, focus groups, etc. on repeal of DADT key to a smooth transition, much better than accomplished via presidential edict.

People at every level need to know their work is considered important by higher-ups. At every level, a leader should strive to make his employees proud to be who they are and doing what they do. However, this admittedly gets complicated if an organization's mission and goals aren't clear. A leader must also ensure their work really contributes, and doesn't just end up on a shelf. A leader should also be very sparing in publicly criticizing those beneath him on the organization ladder.

A successful leader or reformer never misses an opportunity to give credit to those working for him - groups and individuals. A successful leader must always be evaluating those around and below him - empowering the strong, trying to help those showing promise despite shortcomings, and getting rid of the deadwood.

Accountability is essential to any successful reform effort.

Periods of budget stringency are unparalleled opportunities for reform leaders to implement changes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 27, 2016 11:15 AM PST


Small Modular Reactors: Nuclear Power Fad or Future?
Small Modular Reactors: Nuclear Power Fad or Future?
by Daniel T Ingersoll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $117.00
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Small Modular Reactors Are Important to Our Future, and Not a Fad -, January 24, 2016
America pioneered the nuclear industry. America still leads the world in installed nuclear capacity with 104 reactors, representing about 30% of global nuclear generation. However, the U.S. is in danger of ceding leadership to other countries. We've experienced a 30-year drought in building new plants, thanks to cost overruns, construction delays, inaction on handling nuclear waste, and low natural gas prices. (The Energy Information Administration estimates prices will rise slowly over the next two decades and not exceed $6/million BTU until around 2030; SMRs may need natural gas prices to reach $7 or $8 to be competitive.) Further, the vast majority of the nation's nuclear power plants are nearing the end of their originally designed lifetimes - by 2030, most of these aging plants will need to be retired. With China expected to more than triple the number of installed nuclear reactors between 2011 and 2015, the U.S. may become less relevant in ensuring adequate safeguards against weapons proliferation - a strong domestic nuclear industry will better position the U.S. to lead on this issue. Existing strong players, besides American-linked firms Westinghouse and G.E., include South Korea's Kepco, France's Areva, U.K.-based AMEC, Russia (five different prototypes under development), and Japan (owns Westinghouse). Finally, the rapid increase in demand for electricity around the world over the next several decades, along with replacement of existing aging nuclear and coal facilities, presents the U.S. with a good opportunity to create jobs through exporting nuclear technology.

The industry needs a new approach. Developing Small Modular Reactors (less than 300 megawatts, about less than one-third the size of a conventional large reactor) offers a new path. These may be water-cooled, pebble-based high-temperature gas cooled, or liquid-metal cooled - there are more than 45 designs currently under development - including a barge-mounted floating power unit..

Coal requires the least infrastructure to emplace, thus the developing world i keeping coal in the position of fastest growing energy source globally. Natural gas is second, nuclear, hydro, and renewables bring up the rear. We need to reverse this trend. The toxic wastes generated by a 1000-MW coal plant is 10 million times as voluminous as the waste generated from the same-sized nuclear plant. The carbon emitted from coal plants is almost 100X that of nuclear plants for the same energy produced. A 1000-MW nuclear reactor on a one-square-mile site will produce the same amount of energy over its lifetime as 10,000 1-MW wind turbines on 1,500 square miles. Because nuclear reactors run for so many decades, the actual lifetime costs of nuclear energy are the second lowest of all sources (short-term finance and energy market issues aside), second only to hydroelectric. Two-thirds of the electricity in 2014 U.S. came from fossil-based fuels, 40% from coal, nuclear (19%), hydropower (6%) and renewables (7%) .

Because of these properties, 72 new nuclear reactors are under construction around the world, and 150 more are firmly planned. China is rapidly adding electricity-generating capacity (it tripled energy consumption/capita between 1997 and 2011) hoping to replace 300 of their coal plants with 28 nuclear ones by mid-century - as well as adding nearly 400 coal plants and having the fastest rate of new solar capacity growth in the world, and India is planning 100 new nuclear reactors over the next 30 years. The UAE is currently building its first four nuclear power plants, and others nearby are also pursuing nuclear power programs. There is sufficient nuclear fuel for thousands of years, even at roughly double our current world usage.

Hydro is still growing in the developing world, but fast approaching its limits and is vulnerable to droughts. Nuclear is nowhere near its limit, and mostly immune to climate and weather changes.

Small modular reactors (SMRs), with their design simplifications, lower costs, expanded safety margins, greater feasibility for 'grid-independent' applications, and flexibilities, are key to enjoying that energy. Unfortunately, a series of events and announcements in early 2014 (two prominent U.S. SMR declared they were significantly reducing their efforts in the SMR sector) cast undue doubt on their ability to succeed. Ingersoll's purpose in this book is to refute those doubts.

Water and electric power are both essential to high-level standards of human life. It takes water to produce energy (41% of the U.S.' fresh water withdrawal in 2005 was used for cooling thermoelectric power plants, and an average 7,300 MW of power was used globally to produce 35 million cubic meters/day of clean water. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projects that global energy consumption will grow 56% in the next 30 years, nearly doubling in developing countries and increasing 17% in developed countries.

Coal plants in the U.S. account for 75% of CO2 emissions from the electricity production sector. If U.S. utilities were to close all coal plants over 50 years old, they would need to replace about 75 GWe (GigaWatt electric) of capacity, 100 GWe if plants older than 40 are closed. The 'bad news' is that even if the U.S. succeeds in decarbonizing the entire electricity generation market, it would have achieved only about a quarter of the CO2 reduction 2050 target.

Currently there are 59 nuclear plants in 9 countries that support district heating systems. Author Ingersoll believes that considerably more would be used for industrial applications that use vast amounts of heat (eg. refineries, metals production) - if smaller, modular sources were available. (On the other hand, the NRC requires 10 miles emergency planning zones around nuclear power plants, making it difficult to site a small reactor near urban centers where it could be used for applications other than centralized electricity generation. Proponents believe the passive safety features of SMR design will allow reducing this zone to a half-mile.) SMRs are also predicted to have higher fuel costs than large reactors - from 15% to 70%.

The biggest challenge today to expanding nuclear power sources is the availability of cheap natural gas, which emits roughly half the carbon/energy unit vs. coal. Another - the fact that federal subsidies and tax credits for wind, solar, and natural gas exceed those for nuclear, and the abandonment of billions spent to provide a permanent repository for high-level nuclear waste; both send wrong signals to the nuclear and investment industries. A third - the fact that nuclear plants to-date have come only in one size - 'extra large,' barring their usefulness to small utilities. Finally, a fourth significant challenges comes from the three high-profile accidents at nuclear plants - Three-Miles Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and Japan's Fukushima Daiichi in 2011.

In the 1970s, the collective capacity factor for U.S. nuclear plants bounced around the 50% level; the average has been at 90% or so for the past 15 years. Multiple SMRs can further improve operating time - a single site can have eg. 3-4 SMRs, allowing one to go off-line for refueling while the others stay online, allowing power to be continuously generated. (In a conventional large nuclear reactor, the entire plant must go offline to refuel.)

Smaller-sized commercial nuclear reactors (less than 300 MWe) have been around for several decades. They're also typically designed so that the entire reactor unit can be prefabricated in a factory and then transported to a site. Also favoring SMRs in the U.S. is the fact that we've mostly given away the large plant (1,000+ MWE). The traditional vendor giants (Westinghouse - now owned by Toshiba; G.E. - now partnered with Hitachi) and major components such as the reactor and steam generator vessels can only be manufactured overseas where component suppliers still exist for local nuclear markets.

SMRs are better able to incorporate passive safety features that do not require human or electronic actions to function properly. These include cooling systems that use gravity instead of relying on access to power, natural convection systems, and passive heat removal. Incorporating the primary reactor core, steam generator, and the pressurizer into a common pressure vessel is only possible in a small design - large reactors have components outside the containment vessel, increasing the chance of an accident. Unlike larger reactors, SMRs can be installed underground, reducing vulnerability to terrorist attack or natural disaster. (A design from Gen4 seals off the reactor underground would operate for 10 years before refueling, compared to conventional large reactors that require refueling every 18-24 months.)

A large nuclear plant can cost between $6 and $9 billion, often exceeding the financing capabilities of most financial institutions, utilities, or even small countries. SMRs at commercial scale could produce a 100 MW plant for $250 million, and allow shorter lead times (one-half to one-third) --> lower financial risks and lower costs of financing. Smaller project sizes and standardized designs also reduce risks of cost-overruns.

The most frustrating aspect of wind and solar power is that they are unreliable - the former at any time, the latter at night.


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