Are professors racist

I seem to recall reading about this back when it came out, but failed to blog about it until a former student joking asked to see my sent mail folder in reference to this NPR story from Shankar Vedantam:

VEDANTAM: The bias has to do with how faculty seem to respond to these requests, David. Group of researchers ran this interesting field experiment. They emailed more than 6,500 professors at the top 250 schools pretending to be the students. And they wrote letters saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different.

Let me read you some of the names and you can tell if you can pick up a pattern.

GREENE: Mm-hmm.

VEDANTAM: Brad Anderson. Meredith Roberts. Lamar Washington. LaToya Brown. Juanita Martinez. Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen. Do you see something, David?

GREENE: It sounds like a diverse group. I mean these are names that come from different ethnic and racial backgrounds.

VEDANTAM: That’s exactly what the researchers were trying to establish. And all they were measuring was how often professors wrote back agreeing to meet with the students. And what they found was there were very large disparities. Women and minorities systematically less likely to get responses from the professors and also less likely to get positive responses from the professors. Now remember, these are top faculty at the top schools in the United States and the letters were all impeccably written.

Definitely disturbing.  What bothers me most is that so many people were completely ignored.  Is it that hard to write a “thanks, but I’m just too busy” email?  Apparently, there’s a lot of self-important jerks among the professorate (not that I know any).   As to what my own answer would be, I’d hate to think it would depend upon the name of the student.  In truth, I’d be far more likely to make time for an NCSU Political Science major (or wannabe major), but that’s about it.  Actually, just found a page with the research, and here’s the key chart:

Whoa– watch out Chinese students.  Also, I can’t help but admit taking pleasure in this aspect of the study given my own biases regarding certain academic disciplines:

VEDANTAM: Milkman found there were very large disparities between academic departments and between schools. Faculty at private schools were significantly more likely to discriminate against women and minorities than faculty at public schools. And faculty in fields that were very lucrative were also more likely to discriminate. So there was very little discrimination in the humanities. There was more discrimination among faculty at the natural sciences. And there was a lot of discrimination among the faculty at business schools. Here’s Milkman again.

MILKMAN: The very worst in terms of bias is business academia. So in business academia, we see a 25 percentage point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males vs. women and minorities.

Well, hooray for Humanities (I’d also like to see how Social Science fared) and hooray for public universities.  Anyway, interesting and disturbing stuff.

Oh, and by the way, it really is amazing the number of people out there who just keep insisting that racism and sexism basically no longer exist.  Even in the overtly liberal halls of academia it’s still there, so imagine how bad it is out in the business world.

Why professors matter

Loved this excerpt from a new book in Slate about how and why college professors really matter.  And I can’t say that I meet this description all the time, but it certainly sounds like what I am striving for:

The purpose of a seminar is to enable your professor to model and shape the mental skills she’s trying to instill. She conducts a discussion about the material, but she doesn’t simply let you talk. She keeps the conversation focused. She challenges asser­tions, poses follow-up questions, forces students to elaborate their one-word answers or clarify their vague ones. She draws out the timid and humbles (gently) the self-assured. She welcomes and en­courages, but she also guides and pushes. She isn’t there to “answer questions,” at least not for the most part; she’s there to ask them.

Some of those questions should be ones she doesn’t know the answer to herself. Discussion in a seminar should be collaborative and open-ended, alive with serendipity and the energy of immi­nent discovery—a model, too, of how to think together

I myself became a decent teacher only when I started to relinquish some control over the classroom—stopped worrying so much about “getting my points across” and recognized that those moments of disorder that would sometimes occur, those spontaneous outbreaks of intelligence, were the most interesting parts of the class, for both my students and myself. We were going somewhere new, and we were going there together…

My years in the classroom, as well as my conversations with young people about their college experience, have convinced me there are two things, above all, that students want from their pro­fessors. Not, as people commonly believe, to entertain them in class and hand out easy A’s. That’s what they retreat to, once they see that nothing better is on offer. What they really want is that their teach­ers challenge them and that they care about them. They don’t want fun and games; they want the real thing.

I’ll admit, I probably do try a little too hard on that entertain front (and I’m no easy A; easy B, maybe, but not easy A).  That said, I do think that most of my students do realize that I genuinely do care about them as individuals.  What actually is distressing is how often students express to me how rare it is for them to think that their professors really care about them and their success.  We have got to be a lot more about just transferring information, or we are really little more than over-priced books.  What it really is about, is mentorship:

What they want, in other words, is mentorship…

Lewis speaks of professors in their formal roles as academic advisors, but regardless of whose office they’re supposed to go to, students gravitate toward teachers with whom they have forged a connection. Learning is an emotional experience, and mentorship is rooted in the intimacy of intellectual exchange…

For all the skill that teaching involves, you ultimately only have a single tool: your entire life as you have lived it up until the moment you walk into class. “The teacher, that professional amateur,” said the critic Leslie Fiedler, “teaches not so much his subject as himself.” He provides a model, he went on, “of one in whom what seemed dead, mere print on the page, becomes living, a way of life.” I developed a rule of thumb in graduate school. If a professor didn’t mention something personal at least a single time—a reference to a child, an anecdote about a colleague—then it was a pretty good bet that I had nothing to learn from him. It’s not that I needed my teachers to be confessional; I just needed them to bepresent. “Mortimer Adler had much to tell us about Aristotle’s Ethics,” Saul Bellow wrote about the University of Chicago eminence, “but I had only to look at him to see that he had nothing useful to offer on the conduct of life.”

Students want you to be honest, not least about yourself. They want you to beyourself. You need to step outside the role a bit, regard it with a little irony, if only to acknowledge the dissonance between the institution and the spirit.

Got that part covered.  If anything, I am honest about myself to a fault.  At least good to know that this is the right direction, though.

Quick hits (part I)

Another multi quick-hits weekend.  Enjoy.

1) Pope Francis’ list of tips for becoming a happier person.  Not bad.

2) Five myths about the border crisis.  Myth #1:

1. U.S. immigration policy is to blame for the surge of unaccompanied minors.

3) Hit the reset button on your brain?

Every status update you read on Facebook, every tweet or text message you get from a friend, is competing for resources in your brain with important things like whether to put your savings in stocks or bonds, where you left your passport or how best to reconcile with a close friend you just had an argument with.

If you want to be more productive and creative, and to have more energy, the science dictates that you should partition your day into project periods. Your social networking should be done during a designated time, not as constant interruptions to your day.

Nope, don’t see this happening for me.

4) Speaking of which… fascinating experiment of what happens when a reporter literally “likes” every single post on FB.

5) A happy marriage without children.  Well, of course.  But you damn sure better really like your spouse.

6) Of course, if you do have kids, don’t go to prison.  Our inhumane system will make it absurdly expensive and difficult to stay in touch with them.

7) Also, careful with getting yourself on the sex offender registry.  Even the parent who helped initially push it says it is way over-used now.

8) Was a decrease in testosterone among early human males responsible for eventually leading to civilization?  Makes sense to me.  And some science to support the idea.

9) States with stand your ground laws have more homicides.  I’m shocked.  Shocked.

10) I’m often amazed at how my students’ typos just seem to jump off the page at me whereas my own remain virtually invisible.  Here’s the science behind why this is.  I strongly encourage my students to have a friend read their paper for this reason.  Quite clearly, few actually do (or they have lame friends).  While I’m at… many of them really need to be a lot more careful with their use of the thesaurus.  I don’t have any examples quite this extreme, but my students are using words they don’t actually understand all the time.

11) Great TNR piece from Jason Zengerle about how Civil Rights are going backwards in Alabama.

12)  Veal farmers are adopting more human methods.  On the downside for veal lovers (I never eat it), this apparently means it tastes less like veal and more like regular beef.

13) The Post has a piece on NC Senator Kay Hagan looking to benefit from the backlash against the Republican-led legislature.  I’ve already seen several ads on this theme.

14) Cool study shows that reading about discrimination against “Mudbloods” in Harry Potter can help make kids more tolerant.  Awesome.

Janitors vs. Janitors

When the NC legislature had to find money for the teacher raise this year, apparently they decided to take the money where they could, from with in the overall education budget.   The result is pretty perverse.  WRAL’s Laura Leslie reports:

— Legislative leaders have talked a lot this summer about the raises they gave to public school teachers and most state employees, but they don’t have as much to say about the raises for educational support staff in the state budget.

The $21.1 billion budget, which Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law last week, included raises averaging 5.5 percent, plus longevity pay, for teachers and $1,000 and an extra week of vacation for other state workers. But more than 59,200 non-certified school employees – teaching assistants, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians and administrative staff – received only a $500 raise.

“That’s not equitable. It just doesn’t make sense,” said Chris Bridges, who has worked 21 years in the Wake County Public School System Transportation Office.

Bridges noted that, if he did his job at a state agency instead of a school district, his raise would have been double what he will see in the coming year – and he would have gotten more time off.

“We all work for the public, and we should all get the same thing,” he said. “What you do for one, you do for all, because we’re all in the same boat. I still got to pay my mortgage. I still got to pay the light bill.”

Non-certified school workers are some of the lowest-paid public-sector workers in North Carolina. They haven’t had a real raise since 2008, and Bridges said $500 barely qualifies as one now.

Got that?  Work as a secretary for the state Department of Energy, get $1000 and 5 vacation days.  Work as a secretary for a school, get $500.  Not to mention the total inadequacy of these raises when there’s been almost nothing since 2008.  State employees (including me) have seen a huge decrease in real, inflation adjusted pay.  And why can’t we do better now that the economy is improving?  That’s easy, that money was allocated in last year’s budget to the state’s most well-off residents via hefty tax cuts.

Of course, the perpetrators of this are not so happy about it being made public.  On FB, Leslie also wrote:

Getting blasted on Twitter by the Lockies, Americans for Prosperity and Tillis’s staff for tonight’s story. Must have hit a nerve.


I gave House leaders two days and Senate leaders one day to find someone to put in front of a camera to defend the decision. Not one taker. That tells you something.

Indeed it does.

On liberal indoctrination by college professors

Duke Political Science department chair, former Libertarian candidate for NC governor, and nice guy, Mike Munger, shared a link to a story about his recent comments at a conservative thinktank (yes, Art Pope funded) in NC.  In general, he makes a good point– if liberal professors don’t actually challenge the views of their liberal students, they have done them a huge dis-service.  But then, sadly, he goes way overboard in his depictions of academia:

Too often, American college students face a one-question test, one based not on facts, but on ideology. The test: “Are you a liberal, or conservative?”

The correct answer is, “I’m a liberal, and proud of it.” That concerns me.

However, the nature of my concern may surprise you. I’m not worried much about the students who get it wrong; for the most part, they actually get a pretty good education.

I’m worried about those who get it right. The young people that our educational system is failing are the students on the left. They aren’t being challenged, and don’t learn to think.

Students on the left should sue for breach of contract. We promise to educate them, and then merely pat them on the head for having memorized the “correct” answer!  …

So, the absence, in many departments, of dissenting voices is harmful. Not so much harmful to those who would agree with the dissenting voice, but those who are denied the chance to collide with error.

It’s as if we asked students to play chess, but only taught them one-move openings. They think that pawn to king four is a better move than pawn to king’s rook four, but that’s simply a matter of faith.

Conservative students, by contrast, actually learn to play chess. They study the whole game, not just the first move. They learn countermoves, they consider the advantages of different approaches. They search out empirical arguments, and they read articles and white papers.

As a super-productive researcher, teacher, and traveller of the globe, I do wonder how often Munger is truly getting into all these other classrooms to see the patting of liberal heads.  All I can say is that in my classes, the components of liberal and conservative ideology are such a tiny portion of what I teach them.  Look at something as potentially politically-charged as “the presidency,” but I’m pretty sure that I and my liberal colleagues are doing more than saying “oohhhh, Obama’s awesome.”  No, we encourage all the students to think critically about the nature of presidential power, the limits of that power, the sources of that power, etc.  Whether you like Obama or not or agree with his policies hardly comes into play.  And it is quite easy to make liberal students question an un-reflective, purely partisan support for Obama just as it is to make conservative students question a knee-jerk opposition.  Among the many skilled political science professors I know, I cannot imagine too many simply nodding at the former while questioning the latter.  That’s no way to teach students how to think about politics– which I think most of us (regardless of ideology) do a pretty good job of.

Are there some professors out there who are short-changing their students by simply approving of views they share without forcing students to think critically?  Absolutely.  Are many of them liberal?  Surely.  But any decent professor is constantly trying to get their students to think critically about a whole range of issues and political ideology is ultimately just a smidgen of this.

When is 7% not 7% (NC teacher salary edition)

The Republicans in NC have gotten hammered for the past year over the fact that they have let average teacher salary in NC fall to near the very bottom of the nation.  Regardless of what they really think about teachers and public education, to continue this is simply untenable in an election year.  So, recently they approved a raise for teachers.  The headline is a 7% raise for teachers.  I suspect they are counting on that to be the one fact remembered by most voters.  But it is, of course, much more complicated than that.  The N&O Editorial on the matter was excellent:

But that Republican claim comes with serious caveats. For one, the percentage is reached by folding funds used for longevity pay – a year-end bonus for veteran teachers based on time of service – into the overall raise package. If a teacher gets a 7 percent raise but loses a 3.2 percent longevity payment, it’s not a 7 percent raise. And teachers lose longevity pay for good, while all other state employees retain the benefit.

Finally, most of the boost goes to the newest and lowest-paid teachers while veteran teachers gain little, and the pay scale tops out at $50,000 – $3,000 less than the current schedule…

Beyond the smoke and mirrors aspects, there’s also a serious issue about how the pay increase will be sustained. The $282 million cost of the raise is supported in part by extra money from the lottery and one-time sources – reserve funds and federal grants. With the GOP’s excessive tax cuts projected to cost the state $700 million this year and a total of $5.3 billion over five years – $800 million more than originally projected – it’s not assured the state will be able to afford the raise next year, let alone increase it to lift North Carolina salaries from embarrassing to attractive…

This is a budget drawn up by panicked legislators on the eve of midterm elections. That’s reflected in the rush to do something for teachers by cutting of health and welfare benefits for poor people who don’t have much of a voice in elections. The budget reduces subsidized child care for the poor and cuts Medicaid payments to hospitals.

And Rob Christensen:

This is Politics 101. Legislatures often scramble to provide wage hikes during election years, no matter which party is in control. GOP lawmakers are proud of what House Speaker Thom Tillis called their “conservative revolution.” But while some laws are likely to play well politically – Voter ID for example – the polls suggest North Carolina’s drop to 46th in the country in teacher pay is not something you want to put in your campaign brochure.

Not only is the GOP concerned about losing swing seats in November, but Tillis continues to trail Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

Hence, the GOP has suddenly recalled that it was Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s pro education record that helped get him elected to the White House in 2000.

Tillis and Senate leader Phil Berger announced last week that the legislature was going “to provide (the) largest teacher pay raise in North Carolina.”

That seems to be a stretch…

[plenty of evidence that's just a flat out lie]

While the decline in teacher pay began under the Democrats, it should be noted that the Republican minority was not calling for higher wages or higher taxes to pay for raises. In fact, quite the opposite. The GOP minority was calling for repeal of the temporary tax hike the Democrats put on to prevent deeper cuts or layoffs.

When the Republicans took control, the economy was picking up. But their priority was not raising teacher salaries – it was cutting income taxes, corporate taxes and inheritance taxes for those with estates of more than $5 million (the only estate taxes still on the books)…

In the last decade, no state had a greater decline in teacher salaries than North Carolina. Tar Heel teachers received no wage increase for three years and a 1.2 percent increase last year…

The Republican legislature was right to raise teacher salaries, which they project should raise North Carolina teacher salaries from 46th in the nation to 32nd.

But the tax cuts will make it difficult for North Carolina to sustain competitive teacher salaries beyond the election year.

James D. Hogan shows (nice chart at the link) just how bad a deal this is when you take inflation into account:

Read that again: if we were simply comparing the proposed 2014-15 salary schedule to the 2008-09 salary schedule, the average teacher would see a pay increase of $270.  [emphasis in original]

Further more, these are raw numbers. What that comparison fails to take into account is the simple cost of inflation over the last 6 years. If the 2008-09 salary schedule had been kept in place and updated each year to account for inflation, the average teacher would earn $4,212 more than the 2014-15 proposed budget would pay them.

Meanwhile, an excellent WUNC story/documentary putting this all wonderfully into the larger context.

The Republicans have a simple message: we raised NC Teacher salaries 7%.  The Democrats’ message is much more complicated… No you didn’t; a lot of teachers get screwed; the raises are not sustainable, etc.   It will be interesting to see how this therefore plays out in the election.  Presumably, the Democrats will have a simpler message along the lines of, most teachers they you actually screwed them, and they would know.  But we’ll see.

And, lastly, not a bad infographic to summarize all this:

Great teachers are made, not born

Or so that’s the lesson in education research Elizabeth Green’s new book.  There’s an interesting interview with her at Vox:

Libby Nelson: What’s the most important thing about teaching you learned while writing this book?

Elizabeth Green: Teaching is not something that even the most brilliant and gifted among us is born knowing how to do. I think I would have said of course, it’s hard work, it’s important, it’s a skill. Even early elementary school teachers are doing so much more than sitting on carpets and wiping noses. They are really thinking about ideas — numbers theory and algebra in math, and teaching a child to read is an incredibly detailed enterprise…

LN: When we talk about improving teacher education, one idea that tends to come up most is that education schools need to be much more selective — that teaching needs to be like law or medicine.

EG: One place we have to start is with the reality of the scale of the teaching profession. There are 3.8 million teachers in this country, and that number actually understates the challenge because of teacher turnover. In the next several years we’re going to have to have a million new teachers.

That is unlike any other profession. It just totally pales in comparison. We can’t simply expect to get the best and brightest — it’s not a feasible idea at all. If recruiting talented, smart, more academically successful college graduates were enough, then Teach for America would not think it needs to invest so much in training. They obviously invest more in recruiting the best and brightest and even do a better job of it than some investment banks.

There is nothing wrong with elevating the status of the teaching profession. I think that’s a great idea. It’s just obviously not enough.

I’m really looking forward to reading this book because it substantially challenges my own notions about quality teaching– largely formed by watching dozens of new college teachers that come through our graduate program.  Some of the new TA’s have a natural rapport with students in the classroom as well as great enthusiasm and energy.  Most importantly, they seem to intuitively/instinctively have a sense of how to present a topic, engage students, and adjust on-the-fly to the atmosphere in a classroom.  And, sadly, some are lacking in all of these things.  My personal take has always been that every person has a natural ability as a teacher (let’s just put it on a 0-100 scale) and some people start out at a 70.  By really learning the craft, they can max that out close to 100, but, to me, it seems that natural gifts go a long way.  Others, meanwhile, start out more like a 20 or 30 and through learning about the craft of teaching they may be able to get up the 60-70 range through sheer hard work and determination of learning all there is to learn about good teaching.  And, hey, it is quite possible I am wrong about this, but it has always struck me that a huge part of successful teaching comes down a natural ability to engage students in a learning environment.  I shall look forward to reading Green’s book to see if I really need to re-think things.

(Early) Quick hits (part I)

I’m on vacation in the NC mountains for the latter part of the week, so lots of quick hits.  Here’s part I a day early:

1) Wired presents the most ridiculous laws in America, in photos.   Good stuff here.

2) 10 things to do in college (besides going to class).

3) Some potentially nasty effects of climate change.

4) What that happiest cities in America have in common

5) How Dr. Strangelove debunks the ridiculous arguments of the DC Circuit decision.

6) So, about how MOOCs were going to spell the end for traditional universities.

7) FIFA’s complete backwardness on head injuries is truly appalling (though, so is most everything about FIFA).

8) Did you hear about the 12-year old whose science project on Lionfish was a scientific breakthrough?  Well… not exactly.  It’s an interesting and complicated story.

9) If conservatives really wanted to fight poverty, they should send everybody a check.  Seriously.

10) 20 words that once meant something totally different.  On a related note, I recently learned that the origins of “lousy” was to refer to a person infested with lice.

11) The overblown stigma of genital herpes.

12) Drum explains how Republicans latest tax bill in the House actually increases taxes on the poor while lowering them on the rich.  Not that anybody should find this remotely surprising.

13) The latest research suggests that close to 10% of kids with autism actually end up leaving the diagnosis behind.  And, it’s real, not just a mis-diagnosis in the first place.  There’s some correlates with these outcomes, but, sadly, no easy answers.   If you only read one quick hit, this should be it.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Very nice Vox animated short explaining the political uniqueness of North Korea.  Some really interesting historical perspective I was totally unaware of.

2) Eminent health care expert Victor Fuchs on why the US spends so much more on health care than other nations.

3) New York Times on why Americans are not so great at math.

4) It’s really just pathetic and amusing to see conservatives try and explain politics with regards to race by pretending that today’s Democratic party is of a piece with the virulently racist Democratic Party of the pre-Civil Rights era South.  Nice takedown from Jamelle Bouie.

5) Speaking of race, I’m feeling pretty confident these pre-school boys would not have been suspended so much if they were white (and so is their mom).

6) Say what you will about Texas justice (and I’ll say a lot), but give them credit for doing a lot more than many other states to remedy their history of gross injustice.  Here’s an interesting case of a man who was exonerated via DNA and didn’t even know about it until after the fact (he had already finished his prison sentence).

7) Nice essay from national security reporter extraordinaire, Tom Ricks, on why he has found himself moving leftward in recent years.

8) Really interesting analysis of “kidspeak.”  Let’s just say “like” means so much more than you may realize.

9) I talked to the NYT reporter who wrote this story for a good 30 minutes, but not even a single quote.  That said, it was a really interesting conversation and hopefully it will lead to some NYT quotes in the future.  Oh, and it’s a good story on NC politics.

10) This is wild.  Apparently we harvest the blood of horseshoe crabs to create a basic and widely-used test for the presence of bacteria.

11) Really enjoyed this Amy Davidson comment on Republicans and immigration policy:

It is one thing for Republicans to decide that they will not be the party of immigration reform, but it is another to decide that they will be the anti-immigration party. If they do, they will define themselves in opposition to America’s future and, incidentally, to its past—one built by newcomers like the gold prospector from Canada who, in 1876, sailed on a ship around South America and staked a claim that became the town of Oracle. In the short term, there may be benefits, in the form of an energized base, but enjoying them requires a distinct lack of shame. If Adam Kwasman was abashed by his Y.M.C.A. mixup, many of his allies don’t think that chasing down a busload of kids was a mistake at all. No children had been brought to Oracle since then, and that was enough for some to call the episode a victory. For the Republican Party as a whole, it might be better described as a dangerous temptation.

12) There does seem to be a place for “broken windows” policing.  But it seems clear that place is not always and everywhere.  Circumstances matter– who would’ve guessed.  Nice NYT editorial:

Mr. Bratton is a pioneer of broken windows policing and Mr. de Blasio is a stout defender. The tactic was embraced in the crime-plagued New York of 20 years ago. But while violence has ebbed, siege-based tactics have not. The Times reported on Friday that the Police Department made 394,539 arrests last year, near historical highs.

The mayor and the commissioner should acknowledge the heavy price paid for heavy enforcement. Broken windows and its variants — “zero-tolerance,” “quality-of-life,” “stop-and-frisk” practices — have pointlessly burdened thousands of young people, most of them black and Hispanic, with criminal records. These policies have filled courts to bursting with first-time, minor offenders whose cases are often thrown out, though not before their lives are severely disrupted and their reputations blemished. They have caused thousands to lose their jobs, to be suspended from school, to be barred from housing or the military. They have ensnared immigrants who end up, through a federal fingerprinting program, being deported and losing everything.

13) And lastly, the NYT is beginning a series on how we need to end our prohibition on marijuana.  Let me reiterate– I’ve never smoked dope, never will, and will strongly discourage my kids, but our current policy is an utter failure on so many levels and needs to be changed.  Here’s the first of the NYT series on state-by-state policy.

Quick hits (part I)

Another double quick hits weekend!  Here goes…

1) Arthur Brooks (whom I am generally not a fan of) has a nice NYT column on happiness.  Nice pithy headline: love people, not pleasure.

2) RFK Jr is a rabid anti-vaccine advocate.  That’s good for viruses; bad for humans.

3) I loved my summer break from school (and hey, still do) and I love my kids’ summer break.  But I do get why maybe it is not such a good thing.

4) Want less polarization in DC?  Give the political parties more money.  Seriously.

5) How reading on-line is different from reading on paper.  I so much prefer the “real” version and will always choose it when given the choice.

6) TNR’s Danny Vinik on Paul Ryan’s anti-poverty plan.

7) Jeffrey Toobin on redistricting in Florida.

8) Maybe there’s more to it (surely there is) than that everybody needs seven hours of sleep.

9) Oh man, I love the trolley problem in ethics.  Shame to think it might not actually be all that helpful.

10) So, the New Yorker has completely opened up their on-line archives for the next few months.  That’s free access to so many amazing articles.  Here’s a nice compilation of recommended ones.   And another from Slate.

Quick hits (part II)

1) My favorite use for “big data”?  Baby name analysis.  Here’s a cool analysis of trendy baby names, i.e., names that burned bright, but for a short period.  Here’s to you Ashley, Linda, Jason, and Mark.

2) I did not know that almond milk has become a thing among hipsters.  I am a regular soy milk drinker because I simply like it’s taste better than low-fat milk and it has a similar health profile.  I’ve never used almond milk because, despite almonds being full of protein, almond milk is strangely devoid of it.

A single ounce (28 grams) of almonds—nutrition info here—contains six grams of protein (about an egg’s worth), along with three grams of fiber (a medium banana) and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (half an avocado). According to its label, an eight-ounce serving of Califia almond milk offers just one gram each of protein and fiber, and five grams of fat. A bottle of Califia delivers six eight-ounce servings, meaning that a handful of almonds contains as much protein as the mighty jug of this hot-selling beverage.

What this tells you is that the almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.

3) Very thorough look at what the research on bed-sharing with you baby does and does not tell us.  I think a very telling point is that the research groups together those who do it haphazardly with those who do it on purpose and these are very different groups.  All of our children slept in our bed some as infants because when you are breast feeding in the middle of the night, that’s just way easier.

4) Nice to see Weird Al getting so much love with his new videos.  This post makes a case for “Smells like Nirvana” as his finest work.  Nice post  I’m pretty partial to Amish Paradise, myself:

5) I hate tipping.  I’m a reasonable tipper, but I totally object to the concept of it for most all cases.  And I am right to, writes Brandon Ambrosino in Vox.  There was also a nice Freakonomics podcast last year on just how foolish the practice really is.

6) I love Yahoo Tech (formerly NYT) Technology writer David Pogue.  It’s pretty amusing the silly question people write to him with, as he explains in this video.  The best part is I found out about Let Me Google that for You.  So need to use this site with my students.

7) Loved this video on how dark matter forms the invisible structure of the universe.

8) I kind of like how Vox has taken to debunking popular myths/misconceptions about social science and such.  Here, they render the Myers-Briggs (i.e,. I’m an ESTJ) harmless.  Not new, though– Gladwell wrote about these same problems a decade ago.  In a similar vein, they nicely summarize the long-existing evidence that sugar does not make kids hyper.

9) How becoming a father changes your brain.

10) I think the idea of “bandwith poverty” is really important.  Excellent NPR story on the matter.  It is really cognitively demanding to be poor.

11) Want to learn better?  Test, test, test (or quiz, quiz, quiz).

12) No, it will never become law, but I love the idea of this legislation that simply says that abortion clinics should simply be regulated in the same way as all other clinics that provide outpatient medical services.

13) 50 state-themed lego dioramas.  Awesome.

14) The secret of effective motivation.

15) Yet more evidence that if you really want less teen pregnancy and less abortion, you should want more free/low-priced IUD’s.



Quick hits (part I)

Lots this week.  More tomorrow. Here we go…

1) This security system tested at the World Cup seems pretty great.  Would love to see it in airports soon.

2) Krugman’s nice column on the failure of Obamacare to fail.

3) This NYT piece on the utter mis-handling of a rape and a college is truly a must-read.

4) Heck, not just marijuana, the case for decriminalizing all legal drugs.  This Vox piece presents a very even-handed analysis.

5) As if I could somehow ignore an article entitled “We are our Bacteria.”

6) NC Republicans have argued that cutting unemployment benefits has helped get more people working.  The evidence (and Dean Baker) suggest otherwise.

7) Former Obama Budget Director Peter Orzag with a nice column on political polarization.

8) I’ve actually said some nice things about Politico here.  Charles Pierce takes on an article that shows all that is wrong with them.  Remind me never to get on Pierce’s bad side.

9) Fascinating NYT column on just how hard it is to learn a foreign language as an older adult.  And how good it may be for your brain.

10) Sweden has totally embraced vouchers and school choice.  The result?  Declining student performance.

11) Loved this Mark Bittman column on the true cost of a hamburger.  If there’s one concept from public policy, I wish more people understood, it’s externalities.  And hamburgers are all about externalities.

12) I had the same thought as the person Sam McDougle upon seeing the trailer for Lucy.  As if humans only use 10% of their brain.  Sadly, aparently a lot of people still belief this total malarkey.

13) Apparently nitrous oxide, yes, laughing gas, is quite an effective anesthestic for child birth.  It is widely used in Europe, yet hardly in America.  In part, because of a turf battle between anestheloiogists and nurses.

14) Loved this Guardian column on Manuel Neuer’s goalkeeping, especially this part:

 On a football pitch you are looking to gain any advantage you can. Like the opposition, you only have access to 11 players so you must use these players as efficiently as possible. If one of them has no role other than babysitting the net, then you’re already at a disadvantage.

Football is a lot like chess. You have the same number of pieces as your opponent, you face-off on the same playing surface and you both have the same aim. The great chess players know they need to get the most out of each of their pieces to win. This gives rise to the maxim: “The King is a fighting piece – use it.” …

By using your goalkeeper not just to protect your own goals but to actually participate in defending, building attacks and keeping the ball, you are utilising your 11th man. If your opposition are not doing this, you immediately have a man advantage.


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