Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Teachers Union is to Education as....

Like many parents, I'm unhappy with the state of education in the U.S. today. We spend vast amounts of money on education, yet fall behind other countries. Only our unprecedented ability to import the best brains in the world through immigration has kept us on top, and this is threatened by the current economic and cultural booms in India and China.

Many people are to blame for the perilous state of K-12 education in the U.S.--meddling politicians and judges, the parents who aren't sufficiently involved, the kids themselves--but part of the blame has to be shouldered by the teachers' unions which put the quality of teaching last by trying to limit accountability by fighting school choice and standardized testing at every turn.

The Coyote Blog does a fantastic job of summing up the situation: Today's teachers' unions are like the Detroit auto workers unions in the 1970s--wedging out money, banning competition, and doing everything but actually improving the end product.

I am fortunate enough to be able to live in Palo Alto, where the combination of ridiculous land values, involved parents, and a community focus on education have produced some of the finest public schools in the country, but I encourage every parent and politician to consider what the teachers' unions are up to the next time they vote.
A Room of One's Own

In her 1928 essay of the same name, Virginia Woolf argued that, "A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction."

To the same extent, I think the same thing applies to entrepreneurship. Most entreprenuerial dreams die an early death because they are starved of the most precious resource: Time. I can attest to this fact from personal experience; with two small children under the age of 3, I can barely find time to keep up with a real job, let alone work on a new entrepreneurial idea (though I have several, and if you are looking for an idea and an advisory board member, drop me a line!).

An entreprenuer needs money and a room of her own to efficiently and quickly create a company. In my own mind, I've done a hypothetical analysis, and concluded that if I did not have to work a job, had my own office, and $50,000 per year to spend, I could start one new business per year.

Thanks to the relentless progress of Moore's law and the death of distance, it is orders of magnitude cheaper to start a company. I can incorporate online for about $150. I can get a corporate identity designed by Romanian freelancers for $100. I can get an entire custom e-commerce back-end built by Indian programmers for less than $10,000. All of those would have cost 10, 100, or even 1,000 times as much during the pre-Internet era.

I hope that in the not too distant future, I will be successful enough to own my own home, have enough money to pay my living expenses and spend $50,000 per year on business startup expenses, and have the time to be serial entrepreneur. And if you already have those things, what's your excuse? Get out there and create!
The 1,000 Year-Old Man

Cambridge University geneticist Aubrey de Grey believes that most people alive today will live to be hundreds of years old, thanks to advances in anti-aging treatments.

"Each method to do this is either already working in a preliminary form (in clinical trials) or is based on technologies that already exist and just need to be combined.

This means that all parts of the project should be fully working in mice within just 10 years and we might take only another 10 years to get them all working in humans."