ISIS is going to bring about the collapse of America

Sure, I’m used to hyperbole in political ads, but this pretty much takes the cake (as recounted in an EJ Dionne column):

Brown, the former senator from Massachusetts, decamped over the border [to NH] after his defeat two years ago in an attempt to return to what its members extol as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Yet his ad had little to do with deliberation and played instead on emotion and innuendo. It reflected Republican confidence that whenever the country gets scared by terrorism, it reflexively moves to the GOP.

“Anyone who turns on the TV these days knows we face challenges to our way of life,” Brown says. At this point, a figure clad in black and carrying an Islamic State flag parades across the screen. “Radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country. [emphasis mine] President Obama and Sen. Shaheen seem confused about the nature of the threat. Not me. I want to secure the border, keep out the people who will do us harm and restore America’s leadership in the world. I’m Scott Brown, and I approve this message because protecting the homeland is the first step to making America strong again.”

The “collapse” or our country?!  This is just embarrassing.  Clearly Republicans believe you just can’t go wrong by scaring Americans with a preposterous “terrorists!!” bogeyman.  I’m afraid they are righ.

The biggest threat to the Common Core

The Tea Party.  Okay, and other than that, poor implementation.  From a really good blog post at Edweek:

The history of American education is littered with the failure of reforms that were said to have failed, but in fact were never really implemented.  That fate is the greatest danger faced by the Common Core.  And it is already happening.  Critics of the Common Core are now able to point to hastily prepared curriculum devised by some states in the name of the Common Core and use that curriculum to denounce the Common Core, even though it was not produced by the Common Core authors and makes them cringe when they see it.  Textbook publishers are making cosmetic changes in textbooks predating the Common Core and furnishing them with gold colored seals pronouncing them to be aligned with the Common Core.  Vendors of professional development workshops are repackaging their old wine and putting it in new bottles labeled Common Core.

The Common Core is far more likely to be declared a failure by the general public because the states failed to implement it well than it is likely to be the victim of the attacks of current critics from either the right or the left.

But, while I’m at it, I also really liked this bit earlier in the piece about the value of the Common Core.

The Common Core is set to a very different standard.  It requires the students not simply to be able to execute the standard mathematics algorithms accurately, but it requires students to understand why those algorithms work, which is a much more demanding, requirement.  It requires that students be able to marshal knowledge from many different arenas in order to make carefully reasoned and persuasive arguments in good English, which is much more than most can do now.  But there is no reason to believe that our teachers are better writers than the average college student, and that is a lower standard than the authors of the Common Core had in mind.

There is no nation that has attained the upper ranks of national student performance that has not done a lot of work to devise a very strong curriculum as the heart of its national instructional system.  [Emphasis mine]

And that is why we need Common Core to work.  It would be nice if we could be beyond the silliness of “federal mandates!” “crazy math problems” and “Obamacore” to actually focus on more effective implementation.

Infographic of the day

Love this from NPR on the infectiousness of Ebola (not very).

A comparison of reproduction numbers, or R0s, for several viruses. R0 is one measure of contagiousness.

The great thing about Ebola is that people are not infections until they start showing symptoms.  Many of the most infectious diseases are especially so because they are infections before (and after) people show symptoms (I’m looking at you Measles).  And to think about all the people out there who are not getting MMR vaccines.  Ugh.  Fairly often people write in on an autism list-serve I subscribe to in order to get advice on how to get away with skipping the MMR vaccine (with no proven relationship to autism!).  I always want to write in, but I know that’s a no-win.

Photo of the day

Pretty much every photo in this In Focus gallery of National Geographic photo contest finalists double deserves to be photo of the day.  If you enjoy photos, this is truly a must-see gallery.  Here is one of my many favorites:

Yosemite National Park, seen from Glacier Point. This was taken at 3am with a 1 minute exposure showing Half Dome and the fire that was raging in the valley behind it. (© Judge Helbig/National Geographic Photo Contest)

Ouch, the stupid

Picking on Mallard Fillmore strips is pretty low-hanging fruit, but sometimes I just cannot help myself.  Like yesterday’s strip:

Seriously?!  The reason for domestic violence is all because liberals have ruined civility or gender roles or something like that?  The key word here is the now hit women.  Right, as if domestic violence is something new.  It’s just astounding that Tinsley does not seem to realize that we’ve always had domestic violence and that social norms and reporting are what have changed, not liberal ideas causing men to hit women (for the better!).  I suspect the average middle-schooler is smart enough to figure this out.

Third World America

Very interesting article in The Atlantic about America’s poor infant mortality rates.  Apparently, a substantial portion of our much-worse-than-average for advanced nation rates of infant mortality is about what we actually count as infant mortality.  Hooray, we’re not as bad as it seems.  On the other hand, digging into the data reveals a powerful indictment of how we do things here in the US:

In other words, American babies are mostly fine while they’re in the hospital and during their first days at home—but over time, that changes.

Or rather, it changes for some of them. The effects of socioeconomic status on health have been well-documented, and infant mortality is no exception: Unsurprisingly, the states with the highest rates are also among the poorest. “IfAlabama were a country, its rate of 8.7 infant deaths per 1,000 would place it slightly behind Lebanon in the world rankings,” Christopher Ingraham recentlynoted in The Washington Post, while “Mississippi, with its 9.6 deaths, would be somewhere between Botswana and Bahrain.” [emphasis mine]

When the researchers took socioeconomic status into account, they found no significant difference in mortality across the three countries among babies born to wealthy, well-educated women. Lower down the socioeconomic ladder, though, the differences became stark; children of poor minority women in the U.S. were much more likely to die within their first year than children born to similar mothers in other countries.

“I don’t think we have a deep understanding of what’s going on there,” Oster admits.

We may not have a “deep” understanding, but we sure know that massive inequality seems to make for more dead babies who otherwise would have lived.

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