Chart of the day

Thought this Atlantic piece on the price of used televisions was really interesting.  Basically, people way over-price their used TV’s on Craig’s List because they price relative to what they paid for them while the price of TV’s is always dropping.  To wit:

My first thought?  Wow– I need to buy a 32″ LCD!  I already have one, but still, damn that’s cheap!  Of course, if I were to sell my existing it would be for decidedly less than the $400+ I paid in January ’09.

Photo of the day

From a Big Picture set of Daily Life photos:

A Pakistani girl uses an umbrella for shelter from the rain while she and her father herd their sheep, near the site of the demolished compound of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, April 29, 2012. (Muhammed Muheisen/Associated Press)

Finland! Yay!

My Finnish friend (though, by choice, not birth) posted this Independent essay arguing that the Brits (and presumably Americans, too) have a lot to learn from Finland.  This is especially true in the realm of education:

Finland may feature consistently in the world suicide rate top 20, but according to the recent UN World Happiness Report, it’s actually the second-“happiest” country in the world (after nearby Denmark), based not only on wealth, but on political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption. The 2011 Failed States Index, compiled by Washington think tank the Fund for Peace, ranked it the globe’s most “successful” country socially, economically and politically.

Its students are also the best in the West, achieving extraordinarily high scores in a triennial survey for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). According to Anu Partanen, a Finnish journalist writing in The Atlantic: “Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the programme that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.”

Finland rivals East Asian educational hothouses such as Singapore and South Korea, but without those countries’ high-pressure homework expectations. There are no nationally standardised tests, inspections or league tables, no private schools or private universities, and no fees. Competition is frowned upon; co-operation is king.

Alright!  Suicide aside (which I believe can substantially be blamed on the limited sunlight during much of the year) sounds about perfect.  I especially love how their success in education has come through the emphasis on equity (and unmentioned here, very high teacher quality) rather than through testing our killing the kids with homework (the Asian model).

Based on what I’ve read before on Finnish education, I’ve been telling David about it for a while when we discuss problems with American education (among other social science issues) on our afternoon walks of the dog.  Thus, David was quite excited to draw Finland for his country to do a report on for Social Studies this week.  He definitely thinks America needs to be more like Finland (he was pretty shocked to learn that Finland has a 100% literacy rate while the U.S. does not).  Anyway, part of his project was to create a “glog” (graphical weblog, I think) on Finland.  It is from there that I have taken the title of this post.  Check it out.  (The link is interactive, the image below is just a preview).  I know I’ve got a disproportionate share of Finnish readers (yeah, Finland!) I’d love to hear if you really think your country is this great.

The complexity of abortion public opinion, part II

So, I was inspired by my previous post on the matter to actually look at some recent data.   Thanks to NCSU’s subscription to the fabulous Roper poll archive I was able to get the entire dataset for last year’s Gallup survey on abortion attitudes.  Most datasets give you questions about policy opinions or “pro-life vs. pro choice” but not both, but this dataset has both, which is awesome.  I’m going to share five separate crosstabs which make it quite clear that being pro-choice vs. pro-life is more complicated than you might think.

First, you can see that even those who are “pro-life” think abortion should be legal “under certain circumstances.”  Meanwhile, a very high proportion of pro-choice fall there as well.  I do wonder about those roughly 5% of each who seem to be in the completely wrong category.

Also quite interesting to note that waiting periods are broadly popular–even gathering a clear majority of “pro-choice” identifiers.

And as for “partial-birth” abortion, again, even most “pro-choice” supporters think this should be illegal.  Yet almost 1/3 of “pro-life don’t necessarily think it should be illegal.

Here we see more of the strong pro-life/pro-choice split you might expect.  I was wondering if this might be due to the fact that this issue recently became politicized, but then I realized that this is 2011 data, so this is one of the larger policy differences.

And finally, we also see a strong split on federal funding for abortion, but I think it is most noteworthy that over 40% of self-identified pro-life are fine with this, yet among political elites who are pro-life you will very rarely find any support for this.

Short version:  It’s complicated.  It’s very complicated.  Don’t let anybody (i.e., journalists and/or pundits) tell you otherwise.

%d bloggers like this: