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3 Examples That Show How Common Core Is Destroying Math Education In America

Whenever you let federal bureaucrats get their hands on anything they are probably going to ruin it.  During the Obama administration, the Department of Education spearheaded a transformation of American education that was absolutely breathtaking.  Over a period of about five years, Common Core standards were implemented in almost every state in the entire nation.  Unfortunately, this has resulted in a huge step backward for public education in this country.  Common Core has been called “state-sponsored child abuse”, and it is a big reason why U.S. students are scoring so poorly on standardized tests compared to much of the rest of the world.

According to Wikipedia, at one point 46 states had adopted Common Core, but now some states are having second thoughts…

46 states initially adopted the Common Core State Standards, although implementation has not been uniform. At least 12 states have introduced legislation to repeal the standards outright,[1] and Indiana has since withdrawn from the standards.

Sadly, many parents don’t even understand how dramatically our system of education has been tampered with.  In her book entitled The Education Invasion: How Common Core Fights Parents for Control of American Kids, Joy Pullmann exposes how the Gates Foundation has been one of the key players in the effort to get Common Core introduced into classrooms all over America…

Organized in seven chapters, her book describes how the Gates Foundation promoted and continues to promote one extremely wealthy couple’s uninformed, unsupported, and unsupportable ideas on education for other people’s children while their own children are enrolled in a non-Common Cored private school. It explains how (but not exactly why) the Gates Foundation helped to centralize control of public education in the U.S. Department of Education. It also explains why parents, teachers, local school boards, and state legislators were the last to learn how the public schools their local and state taxes supported had been nationalized without Congressional knowledge or permission; and why they were expected to believe that their local public schools were now accountable for what and how they teach … not to the local and state taxpayers who fund them or to locally-elected school boards that by law are still supposed to set education policies not already determined by their state legislature … but to a distant bureaucracy in exchange for money to their state department of education to close “achievement gaps” between unspecified groups.

But this isn’t just an issue about control.  The truth is that the approach to teaching basic fundamentals such as how to add and how to subtract is fundamentally different under Common Core.

Let me share just three examples that show how much Common Core is changing the way that U.S. students learn math.  All of these examples have been floating around Facebook, and if you have never seen these before they are likely to make you quite angry.

If I asked you to subtract 12 from 32, how would you do it?  Well, the “new way” is much, much more complicated than how we were all taught to do it…

If that first one seemed bizarre to you, than you really aren’t going to like this one…

And this last one was so confusing that a parent with a degree in engineering decided to include his own commentary on his child’s homework…

How are kids supposed to function in the real world if this is how they are learning to do basic math?

Personally, I am going to teach my daughter that 9 + 6 equals 15.  But that isn’t how it is supposed to be done under Common Core.  You can watch a video of a teacher explaining the very convoluted Common Core way to solve that math equation right here.

And of course it isn’t just math that is the problem.  Common Core is systematically “dumbing down” our young people, and that may help to explain why the average U.S. college freshman now reads at a seventh grade level.

So what is the answer?

The first step in fixing our education system is to repeal Common Core.  But even in red states such as Idaho there is a lot of resistance

Since their inception, the Idaho Core Standards have been enmeshed in controversy.

Some legislators and citizens have pushed for a repeal of the Idaho Core Standards, the state’s version of Common Core standards in math and English language arts. Those repeal efforts have gone nowhere in the Legislature.

I don’t know what is wrong with our legislators.  The Republicans have full control in this state, and so there is absolutely no excuse for not getting something done.

As I end this article, I want to give you an idea of just how far the quality of education in America has fallen over the past 100 years.  In Kentucky, an eighth grade exam from 1912 made a lot of headlines when it was donated to the Bullitt County History Museum.  As you can see, it is doubtful whether many of our college students would be able to pass such an exam today…

14 Facts That Prove That America’s Absolutely Pathetic System Of Public Education Deserves An ‘F’ Grade

One thing that almost everyone can agree upon is that our system of public education is broken.  We spend far more money on public education than anyone else in the world, and yet the results are depressing to say the least.  Considering how much we are putting into education, we should be producing the best students on the entire planet, but it just isn’t happening.  Personally, I attended public schools from kindergarten all the way up through law school, and the quality of education that I received was extremely poor.  Even on the collegiate level, most of the courses were so “dumbed down” that even the family dog could have passed them.  And of course millions of other people all over the country would say the same sorts of things about their own educations.  Many refer to what is happening to our society as “the dumbing down of America”, and if we don’t get things fixed the United States is on course to become a second class nation.

If you believe that I am exaggerating, I would like you to consider the following numbers.  The following are 14 facts that prove that America’s absolutely pathetic system of education deserves an “F” grade…

#1 Somewhere around 50 million students attend public schools in America today.

#2 Education is the most expensive item in 41 different state budgets.

#3 The latest PISA tests show that U.S. students are below average compared to the rest of the industrialized world…

One of the biggest cross-national tests is the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which every three years measures reading ability, math and science literacy and other key skills among 15-year-olds in dozens of developed and developing countries. The most recent PISA results, from 2015, placed the U.S. an unimpressive 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. Among the 35 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sponsors the PISA initiative, the U.S. ranked 30th in math and 19th in science.

#4 A report from the Educational Testing Service found that American Millennials are way behind Millennials in most other industrialized nations…

Half of American Millennials score below the minimum standard of literacy proficiency. Only two countries scored worse by that measure: Italy (60 percent) and Spain (59 percent). The results were even worse for numeracy, with almost two-thirds of American Millennials failing to meet the minimum standard for understanding and working with numbers. That placed U.S. Millennials dead last for numeracy among the study’s 22 developed countries.

#5 According to one very disturbing study, fewer than half of all high school graduates “are able to proficiently read or complete math problems”.

#6 According to U.S. News & World Report, “inflation-adjusted spending per student in American public schools has increased by 663 percent.”

#7 In 2015, the percentage of students in our public schools coming from low income homes crossed the 50 percent mark.  That was the first time that had happened in at least 50 years.

#8 One study found that a whopping 76 percent of all high school graduates “were not adequately prepared academically for first-year college courses.”

#9 The following are five numbers which show how far the quality of college education has fallen in the United States…

-“After two years in college, 45% of students showed no significant gains in learning; after four years, 36% showed little change.”

-“Students also spent 50% less time studying compared with students a few decades ago.”

-“35% of students report spending five or fewer hours per week studying alone.”

-“50% said they never took a class in a typical semester where they wrote more than 20 pages.”

-“32% never took a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.”

#10 Just 36 percent of all full-time college students receive a bachelor’s degree within four years, and just 77 percent of all full-time college students have earned a bachelor’s degree by the end of six years.

#11 One survey found that nearly 10 percent of our college graduates believe that Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court…

#12 Another survey found that 29 percent of all U.S. adults cannot name the Vice-President.

#13 And yet another survey found that only 43 percent of all U.S. high school students knew that the Civil War was fought some time between the years of 1850 and 1900.

#14 Perhaps worst of all, 75 percent of our young adults cannot find Israel on a map of the Middle East.

This is what happens when we put federal bureaucrats in charge of education.

All over the country there are calls to abolish the Department of Education.  For example, the following was published on CNBC

The DOE currently employs 5,000 government workers and has an annual budget of $73 billion, yet according to the CATO Institute, it has not affected student outcomes in any demonstrable way over its 40-year history . It has successfully created a system that requires educators to teach reams of “politically-correct” content and focus on scoring well on standardized tests. It has created an atmosphere of testing in our schools, putting intense pressure on teachers and students to “ace the test” rather than mastering the material. This promotes a culture of teaching to the test and score tampering.

Unfortunately, abolishing the Department of Education is not going to be easy, because there is a tremendous amount of money at stake.  And whenever there is a tremendous amount of money at stake, there are going to be very powerful interests that are determined to keep things just the way that they are…

The major stakeholders in K-12 public education are at an impasse. Teachers’ Unions are primarily concerned with self-preservation, maintaining extravagant perks for union administrators and exerting disproportionate political influence. A handful of publishing houses sell us $8 billion worth of warmed- over text books every year. Testing companies collectively spent tens of millions lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014. These politically powerful, entrenched special interests are heavily invested in maintaining the failing status quo.

But even though there is going to be a lot of resistance, I am going to try to abolish the Department of Education anyway.  I believe that full control over education should be returned to the state and local levels, but that is just the beginning.

Ultimately, we need to rebuild our system of education from the ground up.  Instead of politically-correct indoctrination centers that endlessly pump progressive propaganda into impressionable young minds, we need to transform our public schools into institutions that focus on the essentials.  We need a renewed emphasis on reading, writing, math and the skills that will enable our young people to function successfully once they get out into the real world.

At one time America’s system of education was the best in the world, and we can get there again.  But of course the left is going to fight against the changes that need to be made every step of the way.

The Central Banks Are Losing Control Of The Financial Markets

Dollars And Euros - Public DomainEvery great con game eventually comes to an end.  For years, global central banks have been manipulating the financial marketplace with their monetary voodoo.  Somehow, they have convinced investors around the world to invest tens of trillions of dollars into bonds that provide a return that is way under the real rate of inflation.  For quite a long time I have been insisting that this is highly irrational.  Why would any rational investor want to put money into investments that will make them poorer on a purchasing power basis in the long run?  And when any central bank initiates a policy of “quantitative easing”, any rational investor should immediately start demanding a higher rate of return on the bonds of that nation.  Creating money out of thin air and pumping into the financial system devalues all existing money and creates inflation.  Therefore, rational investors should respond by driving interest rates up.  Instead, central banks told everyone that interest rates would be forced down, and that is precisely what happened.  But now things have shifted.  Investors are starting to behave more rationally and the central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and that is a very bad sign for the rest of 2015.

And of course it isn’t just bond yields that are out of control.  No matter how hard they try, financial authorities in Europe can’t seem to fix the problems in Greece, and the problems in Italy, Spain, Portugal and France just continue to escalate as well.  This week, Greece became the very first nation to miss a payment to the IMF since the 1980s.  We’ll discuss that some more in a moment.

Over in Asia, stocks are fluctuating very wildly.  The Shanghai Composite Index plunged by 5.4 percent on Thursday before regaining all of those losses and actually closing with a gain of 0.8 percent.  When we see this kind of extreme volatility, it is a very bad sign.  It is during times of extreme volatility that markets crash.

Remember, stocks generally tend to go up during calm markets, and they generally tend to go down during choppy markets.  So most investors do not want to see lots of volatility.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what we are witnessing all over the world right now.  The following comes from the Wall Street Journal

Volatility over the last days has been breathtaking, especially in bond markets,” said Wouter Sturkenboom, senior investment strategist at Russell Investments. He said that it rippled through equity and currency markets, which overreacted.

The yield on the benchmark German 10-year bond touched 0.99%, its highest level since September, before erasing the day’s rise and falling back to 0.84%. The 10-year U.S. Treasury yield, which hit a fresh 2015 high of 2.42% earlier Thursday, recently fell back to 2.33%. Yields rise as prices fall.

Sometimes when bond yields go up, it is because investors are taking money out of bonds and putting it into stocks because they are feeling really good about where the stock market is heading.  This is not one of those times.  As Peter Tchir has noted, the huge moves in the bond market that we are now seeing are the result of “sheer panic in the market”

In a morning note before the open, Brean Capital’s Peter Tchir wrote: “It is time to reduce US equity holdings for the near term and look for a 3% to 5% move lower. The Treasury weakness is NOT a ‘risk on’ trade it is a ‘risk off’ trade, where low yields are viewed as a risk asset and not a safe haven.” And Tom di Galoma, head of fixed-income rates and credit at ED&F Man Capital Markets, told Bloomberg, “This is sheer panic in the market from the standpoint of what’s been happening in Europe … Most of Wall Street is guarded here as far as taking on new positions.”

But this wasn’t supposed to happen.

After watching the Federal Reserve be able to successfully use quantitative easing to drive down interest rates, the European Central Bank decided to try the same thing.  Unfortunately for them, investors are starting to behave more rationally.  The central banks are starting to lose control of the financial markets, and bond yields are soaring.  I think that Peter Boockvar summarized where we are currently at very well when he stated the following…

I’ve said this before but I’m sorry, I need to say it again. What we are witnessing in global markets is the inherent contradiction writ large that is modern day monetary policy where dangerously ZIRP, NIRP and QE are considered conventional policies. The contradiction is simply this: the desire for higher inflation if fulfilled will result in higher interest rates that central banks are trying so hard and desperately to suppress.

Outside of the short end of the curve, markets will always win for better or worse and that is clearly evident now. The ECB is getting their first taste of the market talking back and in quite the violent way. In the US, the bond market is watching the Fed drag its feet (its never-ending) with wanting to raise interest rates and finally said enough is enough. The US Treasury market is tightening for them. Since mid April, the 5 yr note yield is higher by 40 bps, the 10 yr is up by 55 bps and the 30 yr yield is up by 65 bps.

And if global investors continue to move in a rational direction, this is just the beginning.  Bond yields all over the planet should be much, much higher than they are right now.  What that means is that bond prices potentially have a tremendous amount of room to go down.

One thing that could accelerate the global bond crash is the crisis in Greece. Negotiations between the Greeks and their creditors have been dragging on for four months, and no agreement has been reached.  Now, Greece has missed the loan payment that was due to the IMF on June 5th, and it is asking the IMF to bundle all of the payments that are due this month into one giant payment at the end of June

Greece has asked to bundle its four debt payments to the International Monetary Fund that fall due in June so that it can pay them in one batch at the end of the month, Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported on Thursday.

The request is expected to be approved by the IMF, the newspaper said. That would mean Greece does not have to pay the first tranche of 300 million euros that falls due on Friday.

Greece faces a total bill of 1.5 billion euros owed to the IMF over four installments this month.

Of course that payment will not be made either if a deal does not happen by then.  And with each passing day, a deal seems less and less likely.  At this point, the package of “economic reforms” that the creditors are demanding from Greece is completely unacceptable to Syriza.  The following comes from an article in the Guardian

Fresh from talks in Brussels, Tsipras faced outrage on Thursday from highly skeptical members of his own Syriza party. A five-page ultimatum from creditors, presented by the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, was variously described as shocking, provocative, disgraceful and dishonourable.

It will never pass,” said Greece’s deputy social security minister, Dimitris Stratoulis. “If they don’t back down, the country won’t be lost … there are alternatives that would cost less than our signing a disgraceful and dishonourable agreement.”

Ultimately, I don’t believe that we are going to see an agreement.

Why?

Well, I tend to agree with this bit of analysis from Andrew Lilico

The Eurozone does not want to make any compromise with the current Greek government because (a) they don’t believe they need to because Greek threats to leave the euro are empty both because internal polling suggests Greeks don’t want to leave and because if they did leave that doesn’t really constitute any threat to the euro; (b) because they (particularly perhaps Angela Merkel) believe that under enough pressure the Greek government might collapse and be replaced by a more cooperative government, as has happened repeatedly before in the Eurozone crisis including in Italy and Greece itself; and (c) because any deal with Greece that is seen to involve or be presentable as any victory for the Greek government would threaten the political positions of governments in several Eurozone states including Spain, Portugal, Italy, Finland and perhaps even the Netherlands and Germany.

Furthermore, it’s not clear to me that the Eurozone creditors at this stage would have much interest in any deal based upon promises, regardless of how much the Greek had verbally surrendered.  Things have gone too far now for mere words to work.  They would need to see the Greeks deliver actions — tangible economic reforms and tangible, credible primary surplus targets and a sustainable change in the long-term political mood within Greece that meant other Eurozone states might eventually get their money back.  That is almost certainly not doable at all with the current Greek government.  The only deal possible would be with some replacement Greek government that had come in precisely on the basis that it did want to do a deal and did want to pay the creditors back.

On the Syriza side, I see no more appetite for a deal.  They believe that austerity has been ruinous for the lives of Greeks and that decades more austerity would mean decades more Greek economic misery.  From their point of view, default or even exit from the euro, even if economically painful in the short term, would be better than continuing with austerity now.

You can read the rest of his excellent article right here.

Without a deal, the value of the euro is going to absolutely plummet and bond yields over in Europe will go through the roof.  I am fully convinced that this is the beginning of the end for the eurozone as it is currently constituted, and that we stand on the verge of a great European financial crisis.

And of course the financial crisis that is coming won’t just be in Europe.  The global financial system is more interconnected than ever, and there are tens of trillions of dollars in derivatives that are tied to foreign exchange rates and 505 trillion dollars in derivatives that are tied to interest rates.  When this giant house of cards collapses, the central banks won’t be able to stop it.

In the end, could we eventually see the entire central banking system itself totally collapse?

That is what Phoenix Capital Research believes is about to happen…

Last year (2014) will likely go down in history as the “beginning of the end” for the current global Central Banking system.

What will follow will be a gradual unfolding of the next crisis and very likely the collapse of the Central Banking system as we know it.

However, this process will not be fast by any means.

Central Banks and the political elite will fight tooth and nail to maintain the status quo, even if this means breaking the law (freezing bank accounts or funds to stop withdrawals) or closing down the markets (the Dow was closed for four and a half months during World War 1).

There will be Crashes and sharp drops in asset prices (20%-30%) here and there. However, history has shown us that when a financial system goes down, the overall process takes take several years, if not longer.

We stand at the precipice of the greatest economic transition that any of us have ever seen.

Even though things may seem very “normal” to most people right now, the truth is that the global financial system is fundamentally flawed, and cracks in the system are starting to appear all over the place.

When this system does collapse, it will take most people entirely by surprise.

But it shouldn’t.

All con games eventually fall apart in the end, and we are about to learn that lesson the hard way.

Experts Are Warning That The 76 Trillion Dollar Global Bond Bubble Is About To Explode

Bubble World - Public DomainWarren Buffett believes “that bonds are very overvalued“, and a recent survey of fund managers found that 80 percent of them are convinced that bonds have become “badly overvalued“.  The most famous bond expert on the planet, Bill Gross, recently confessed that he has a sense that the 35 year bull market in bonds is “ending” and he admitted that he is feeling “great unrest”.  Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Shiller has added a new chapter to his bestselling book in which he argues that bond prices are “irrationally high”.  The global bond bubble has ballooned to more than 76 trillion dollars, and interest rates have never been lower in modern history.  In fact, 25 percent of all government bonds in Europe actually have a negative rate of return at this point.  There is literally nowhere for the bond market to go except for the other direction, and when this bull market turns into a bear it will create chaos and financial devastation all over the planet.

In a recent piece entitled “A Sense Of Ending“, bond guru Bill Gross admitted that the 35 year bull market in bonds that has made him and those that have invested with him so wealthy is now coming to an end…

Stanley Druckenmiller, George Soros, Ray Dalio, Jeremy Grantham, among others warn investors that our 35 year investment supercycle may be exhausted. They don’t necessarily counsel heading for the hills, or liquidating assets for cash, but they do speak to low future returns and the increasingly fat tail possibilities of a “bang” at some future date. To them, (and myself) the current bull market is not 35 years old, but twice that in human terms. Surely they and other gurus are looking through their research papers to help predict future financial “obits”, although uncertain of the announcement date. Savor this Bull market moment, they seem to be saying in unison. It will not come again for any of us; unrest lies ahead and low asset returns. Perhaps great unrest, if there is a bubble popping.

And the way that he ended his piece sounds rather ominous

I wish to still be active in say 2020 to see how this ends. As it is, in 2015, I merely have a sense of an ending, a secular bull market ending with a whimper, not a bang. But if so, like death, only the timing is in doubt. Because of this sense, however, I have unrest, increasingly a great unrest. You should as well.

Bill Gross is someone that knows what he is talking about.  I would consider his words very carefully.

Another renowned financial expert, Yale professor Robert Shiller, warned us about the stock bubble in 2000 and about the real estate bubble in 2005.  Now, he is warning about the danger posed by this bond bubble

In the first edition of his landmark book “Irrational Exuberance,” published in 2000, the Yale professor of economics and 2013 Nobel Laureate presciently warned that stocks looked especially expensive. In the second edition, published in 2005 shortly before the real estate bubble crashed, he added a chapter about real estate valuations. And in the new edition, due out later this month, Shiller adds a fresh chapter called “The Bond Market in Historical Perspective,” in which he worries that bond prices might be irrationally high.

For years, ultra-low interest rates have enabled governments around the world to go on a debt binge unlike anything the world has ever seen.  Showing very little restraint since the last financial crisis, they have piled up debts that are exceedingly dangerous.  If interest rates were to return to historical norms, it would instantly create the greatest government debt crisis in history.

A recent letter from IceCap Asset Management summarized where we basically stand today…

Considering:

1) governments are unable to eliminate deficits

2) global government debt is increasing exponentially

3) 0% interest rates are allowing governments to borrow more to pay off old loans and fund deficits

4) Global growth is declining despite money printing and bailouts And, we’ve saved the latest and greatest fact for last: as stunning as 0% interest rates sound, the mathematically-challenged-fantasyland called Europe has just one upped everyone by introducing NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES.

As of writing, over 25% of all bonds issued by European governments has a guaranteed negative return for investors.

Germany can borrow money for 5 years at an interest rate of NEGATIVE 0.10%. Yes, instead of Germany paying you interest when you lend them money, you have to pay them interest.

These same negative interest rate conditions exist across many of the Eurozone countries, as well as Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland.

Negative interest rates are by nature irrational.

Why in the world would you pay someone to borrow money from you?

It doesn’t make any sense at all, and this irrational state of affairs will not last for too much longer.

At some point, investors are going to come to the realization that the 35 year bull market for bonds is finished, and then there will be a massive rush for the exits.  This rush for the exits will be unlike anything the bond market has ever seen before.  Robert Wenzel of the Economic Policy Journal says that this coming rush for the exits will set off a “death spiral”…

Anyone who holds the view that the Fed will not soon raise interest rates,and soon, fails to understand the nature of the developing crisis. It will be led by a collapse of the bond market.

Market forces, somewhat misleadingly called bond-vigilantes, will lead the charge.

I am not as bearish in the short-term on the stock market. The equity markets will be volatile because of the climb in rates and look scary at times but the death spiral will be in the bond market.

As this death spiral accelerates, we are going to see global interest rates rise dramatically.  And considering the fact that more than 400 trillion dollars in derivatives are directly tied to interest rates, that is a very scary thing.

And in case you are wondering, the stock market will be deeply affected by all of this as well.  I believe that we are going to witness a stock market crash even greater than what we experienced in 2008, and other experts are projecting similar things.  For example, just consider what Marc Faber recently told CNBC

“For the last two years, I’ve been thinking that U.S. stocks are due for a correction,” Faber said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Trading Nation.” “But I always say a bubble is a bubble, and if there’s no correction, the market will go up, and one day it will go down, big time.”

“The market is in a position where it’s not just going to be a 10 percent correction. Maybe it first goes up a bit further, but when it comes, it will be 30 percent or 40 percent minimum!” Faber asserted.

Where we are right now is at the end of the party.  There are some that want to keep on dancing to the music for as long as possible, but most can see that things are winding down and people are starting to head for the exits.

The irrational global financial bubble that investors have been enjoying for the past few years has stretched on far longer than it should have.  But that is the way irrational bubbles work – they just keep going even when everyone can see that they have become absolutely absurd.  However, eventually something always comes along and bursts them, and once that happens markets can crash very, very rapidly.

11 Signs That We Are Entering The Next Phase Of The Global Economic Crisis

Earth Puzzle - Public DomainWell, the Nasdaq finally did it.  It has climbed all the way back to where it was at the peak of the dotcom bubble.  Back in March 2000, the Nasdaq set an all-time record high of 5,048.62.  On Thursday, after all these years, that all-time record was finally eclipsed.  The Nasdaq closed at 5056.06, and Wall Street greatly rejoiced.  So if you invested in the Nasdaq at the peak of the dotcom bubble, you are just finally breaking even 15 years later.  Unfortunately, the truth is that stocks have not been soaring because the U.S. economy is fundamentally strong.  Just like the last two times, what we are witnessing is an irrational financial bubble.  Sometimes these irrational bubbles can last for a surprisingly long time, but in the end they always burst.  And even now there are signs of economic trouble bubbling to the surface all around us.  The following are 11 signs that we are entering the next phase of the global economic crisis…

#1 It is being projected that half of all fracking companies in the United States will be “dead or sold” by the end of this year.

#2 The rig count just continues to fall as the U.S. oil industry implodes.  Incredibly, the number of rigs in operation in the United States has fallen for 19 weeks in a row.

#3 McDonald’s has announced that it will be closing 700 “poor performing” restaurants in 2015.  Why would McDonald’s be doing this if the economy was actually getting better?

#4 As I wrote about the other day, we could be right on the verge of a Greek debt default.  In fact, we learned on Thursday that the Greek government has been “running on empty” for months…

Greece warned it will go bankrupt next week after failing to stump up enough cash to pay millions of public sector workers and its international debts.

Deputy finance minister Dimitras Mardas set alarm bells ringing yesterday when he declared the country had been ‘running on empty’ since February.

With a debt repayment deadline looming on May 1, Greece faces the deeply damaging prospect of having to snub its own employees to make a €200m payment to the International Monetary Fund.

#5 Coal accounts for approximately 40 percent of all electrical generation on the entire planet.  When the price of coal starts to drop, that is a sign that economic activity is slowing down.  Just prior to the last financial crisis in 2008, the price of coal shot up dramatically and then crashed really hard.  Well, guess what?  The price of coal has been crashing again, and it is already lower than it was at any point during the last recession.

#6 The price of iron ore has been crashing as well.  It is down 35 percent in the last nine months, and David Stockman believes that this is because of a major deflationary crisis that is brewing in China…

There is no better measure of the true contraction underway in China than the price of iron ore. The Wall Street stock peddlers will tell you not to be troubled by the 70% plunge from the 2012 highs and the 35% drop just in the last nine months. According to them, its all the fault of the big global miners who went overboard opening up massive new iron ore pits and mining infrastructure.

#7 At this point, China accounts for more total global trade than anyone else in the world.  That is why it is so alarming that Chinese imports and exports are both absolutely collapsing

China’s monthly trade data shows exports fell in March from a year ago by 14.6% in yuan terms, compared to expectations for a rise of more than 8%.

Imports meanwhile fell 12.3% in yuan terms compared to forecasts for a fall of more than 11%.

#8 The number of publicly traded companies in the United States that filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter of 2015 was more than double the number that filed for bankruptcy during the first quarter of 2014.

#9 New home sales in the United States just declined at their fastest pace in almost two years.

#10 U.S. manufacturing data has been shockingly weak lately…

On the heels of weak PMIs from Europe and Asia, Markit’s US Manufacturing PMI plunged to 54.2 in April (from 55.7). Against expectations of a rise to 55.6, this is the biggest miss on record. Of course, this is ‘post-weather’ so talking-heads will need to find another excuse as New Orders declined for the first time since Nov 2014.

#11 When priced according to “the average blue-collar hourly wage“, U.S. stocks are the most expensive that they have ever been in history right now.  To say that this financial bubble is overdue to burst is a massive understatement.

For a long time, I have been pointing to 2015 as a major “turning point” for the global financial system, and I still feel that way.

But for the first four months of this year, things have been surprisingly quiet – at least on the surface.

So what is going on?

Well, I believe that what we are experiencing right now is the proverbial “calm before the storm”.  There is all sorts of turmoil brewing just beneath the surface, but for the moment things seem like they are running along just fine to most people.  Unfortunately, this period of quiet is not going to last much longer.

And those that are “in the know” are already moving their money in anticipation of what is coming.  For example, consider the words of  Snapchat founder and CEO Evan Spiegel

Fed has created abnormal market conditions by printing money and keeping interest rates low. Investors are looking for growth anywhere they can find it and tech companies are good targets – at these values, however, all tech stocks are expensive – even looking at 5+ years of revenue growth down the road. This means that most value-driven investors have left the market and the remaining 5-10%+ increase in market value will be driven by momentum investors. At some point there won’t be any momentum investors left buying at higher prices, and the market begins to tumble. May be 10-20% correction or something more significant, especially in tech stocks.

It may not happen next week, or even next month, but big financial trouble is coming.

And when it finally arrives, it is going to shock the world, even though anyone with any sense can see the coming crisis approaching from a mile away.

20 Completely Ridiculous College Courses Being Offered At U.S. Universities

Lady Gaga In Toronto - Why Would U.S. College Students Study This In Class? - Photo by Robbie VWould you like to know what America’s young people are actually learning while they are away at college?  It isn’t pretty.  Yes, there are some very highly technical fields where students are being taught some very important skills, but for the most part U.S. college students are learning very little that they will actually use out in the real world when they graduate.  Some of the college courses listed below are funny, others are truly bizarre, others are just plain outrageous, but all of them are a waste of money.  If we are going to continue to have a system where we insist that our young people invest several years of their lives and tens of thousands of dollars getting a “college education”, they might as well be learning some useful skills in the process.  This is especially true considering how much student loan debt many of our young people are piling up.  Sadly, the truth is that right now college education in the United States is a total joke.  I know – I spent eight years in the system.  Most college courses are so easy that they could be passed by the family dog, and many of these courses “study” some of the most absurd things imaginable.

Listed below are 20 completely ridiculous college courses being offered at U.S. universities.  The description following each course title either comes directly from the official course description or from a news story about the course…

1.What If Harry Potter Is Real?” (Appalachian State University) – This course will engage students with questions about the very nature of history. Who decides what history is? Who decides how it is used or mis-used? How does this use or misuse affect us? How can the historical imagination inform literature and fantasy? How can fantasy reshape how we look at history? The Harry Potter novels and films are fertile ground for exploring all of these deeper questions. By looking at the actual geography of the novels, real and imagined historical events portrayed in the novels, the reactions of scholars in all the social sciences to the novels, and the world-wide frenzy inspired by them, students will examine issues of race, class, gender, time, place, the uses of space and movement, the role of multiculturalism in history as well as how to read a novel and how to read scholarly essays to get the most out of them.

2.God, Sex, Chocolate: Desire and the Spiritual Path” (UC San Diego) – Who shapes our desire? Who suffers for it? Do we control our desire or does desire control us? When we yield to desire, do we become more fully ourselves or must we deny it to find an authentic identity beneath? How have religious & philosophical approaches dealt with the problem of desire?

3.GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity” (The University Of Virginia) – In Graduate Arts & Sciences student Christa Romanosky’s ongoing ENWR 1510 class, “GaGa for Gaga: Sex, Gender, and Identity,” students analyze how the musician pushes social boundaries with her work. For this introductory course to argumentative essay writing, Romanosky chose the Lady Gaga theme to establish an engaging framework for critical analysis.

4.Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame” (The University Of South Carolina) – Lady Gaga may not have much class but now there is a class on her. The University of South Carolina is offering a class called Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.  Mathieu Deflem, the professor teaching the course describes it as aiming to “unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga with respect to her music, videos, fashion, and other artistic endeavours.”

5.Philosophy And Star Trek” (Georgetown) – Star Trek is very philosophical. What better way, then, to learn philosophy, than to watch Star Trek, read philosophy, and hash it all out in class? That’s the plan. This course is basically an introduction to certain topics in metaphysics and epistemology philosophy, centered around major philosophical questions that come up again and again in Star Trek. In conjunction with watching Star Trek, we will read excerpts from the writings of great philosophers, extract key concepts and arguments and then analyze those arguments.

6.Invented Languages: Klingon and Beyond” (The University Of Texas) – Why would anyone want to learn Klingon?

7.The Science Of Superheroes” (UC Irvine) – Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars? Would a “gamma ray” accident turn you into the Hulk? What is a “spidey-sense”? And just who did think of all these superheroes and their powers? In this seminar, we discuss the science (or lack of science) behind many of the most famous superheroes. Even more amazing, we will discuss what kind of superheroes might be imagined using our current scientific understanding.

8.Learning From YouTube” (Pitzer College) – About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments.  Class lessons also are posted and students are encouraged to post videos. One class member, for instance, posted a 1:36-minute video of himself juggling.

9.Arguing with Judge Judy” (UC Berkeley) – TV “Judge” shows have become extremely popular in the last 3-5 years. A fascinating aspect of these shows from a rhetorical point of view is the number of arguments made by the litigants that are utterly illogical, or perversions of standard logic, and yet are used over and over again. For example, when asked “Did you hit the plaintiff?” respondents often say, “If I woulda hit him, he’d be dead!” This reply avoids answering “yes” or “no” by presenting a perverted form of the logical strategy called “a fortiori” argument [“from the stronger”] in Latin. The seminar will be concerned with identifying such apparently popular logical fallacies on “Judge Judy” and “The People’s Court” and discussing why such strategies are so widespread. It is NOT a course about law or “legal reasoning.” Students who are interested in logic, argument, TV, and American popular culture will probably be interested in this course. I emphasize that it is NOT about the application of law or the operations of the court system in general.

10.Elvis As Anthology” (The University Of Iowa) – The class, “Elvis as Anthology,” focuses on Presley’s relationship to African American history, social change, and aesthetics. It focuses not just on Elvis, but on other artists who inspired him and whom he inspired.

11.The Feminist Critique Of Christianity” (The University Of Pennsylvania) – An overview of the past decades of feminist scholarship about Christian and post-Christian historians and theologians who offer a feminist perspective on traditional Christian theology and practice. This course is a critical overview of this material, presented with a summary of Christian biblical studies, history and theology, and with a special interest in constructive attempts at creating a spiritual tradition with women’s experience at the center.

12.Zombies In Popular Media” (Columbia College) – This course explores the history, significance, and representation of the zombie as a figure in horror and fantasy texts. Instruction follows an intense schedule, using critical theory and source media (literature, comics, and films) to spur discussion and exploration of the figure’s many incarnations. Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.

13.Far Side Entomology” (Oregon State) – For the last 20 years, a scientist at Oregon State University has used Gary Larson’s cartoons as a teaching tool. The result has been a generation of students learning — and laughing — about insects.

14.Interrogating Gender: Centuries of Dramatic Cross-Dressing” (Swarthmore) – Do clothes make the man? Or the woman? Do men make better women? Or women better men? Is gender a costume we put on and take off? Are we really all always in drag? Does gender-bending lead to transcendence or chaos? These questions and their ramifications for liminalities of race, nationality and sexuality will be our focus in a course that examines dramatic works from The Bacchae to M. Butterfly.

15.Oh, Look, a Chicken!” Embracing Distraction as a Way of Knowing (Belmont University) – Students must write papers using their personal research on the five senses. Entsminger reads aloud illustrated books The Simple People and Toby’s Toe to teach lessons about what to value by being alive. Students listen to music while doodling in class. Another project requires students to put themselves in situations where they will be distracted and write a reflection tracking how they got back to their original intent.

16.The Textual Appeal of Tupac Shakur” (University of Washington) – The UW is not the first college with a class dedicated to Shakur — classes on the rapper have been offered at the University of California Berkeley and Harvard — but it is the first to relate Shakur’s work to literature.

17.Cyberporn And Society” (State University of New York at Buffalo) – With classwork like this, who needs to play? Undergraduates taking Cyberporn and Society at the State University of New York at Buffalo survey Internet porn sites.

18.Sport For The Spectator” (The Ohio State University) – Develop an appreciation of sport as a spectacle, social event, recreational pursuit, business, and entertainment. Develop the ability to identify issues that affect the sport and spectator behavior.

19.Getting Dressed” (Princeton) – Jenna Weissman Joselit looks over the roomful of freshmen in front of her and asks them to perform a warm-up exercise: Chart the major moments of your lives through clothes. “If you pop open your closet, can you recall your lives?” she posits on the first day of the freshman seminar “Getting Dressed.”

20.How To Watch Television” (Montclair) – This course, open to both broadcasting majors and non-majors, is about analyzing television in the ways and to the extent to which it needs to be understood by its audience. The aim is for students to critically evaluate the role and impact of television in their lives as well as in the life of the culture. The means to achieve this aim is an approach that combines media theory and criticism with media education.

Are you starting to understand why our college graduates can’t function effectively when they graduate and go out into the real world?

All of this would be completely hilarious if not for the fact that we have millions of young people going into enormous amounts of debt to pay to go to these colleges.

In America today, college education has become a giant money making scam.  We have a system that absolutely throws money at our young people, but we never warn them about the consequences of all of these loans.  The following is an excerpt from an email that one reader sent me recently about the student loan industry…

For example, one woman told me that her and her husband sat down and thought of every possible expense they could when they were applying for parent/student loan for their daughter. When the approval came back, they were approved for 7k more than they asked for…how about ****! Of course at 7%, why not! Funny thing is they kept the 7k, because she’s in wealth management and said she could “easily” get more than 7% in the stock market……awesome! I have another example of a younger friend of mine who graduated law school from Vanderbilt with 210k in student loans. I asked if tuition was that much there. She said kind of, but they kept offering more than the actual tuition, so she took it and used it for a better lifestyle. Now 20% of her income goes to pay those loans, and it’s still not enough to touch one dollar of the principal…so all she is doing is paying interest, and building on principal…like a revers amortizing mortgage. To make it worse, she was able to save 25k, so she is going to buy a house somehow. Having explained to her that the best investment in the world is to pay off a high interest loan, she said I’m tired of waiting to have a life.

In a recent article entitled “The Student Loan Delinquency Rate In The United States Has Hit A Brand New Record High” I detailed how nightmarish our student loan debt bubble is becoming.  According to the Federal Reserve, the total amount of student loan debt has risen by 275 percent since 2003, and it just continues to soar.

A college education can be a wonderful thing, but right now we have got a system that is deeply, deeply broken.

So what do you think about our system of higher education?

Please feel free to express your opinion by posting a comment below…

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