Quick hits (part II)

1) Alas, as important as good writing is, there’s simply no agreed-upon best way to teach writing.  And damn do we need to do a better job teaching it.  Great Dana Goldstein article on the matter and lots of good comments, too.  Personally, the “musical” approach appeals to me,

A musical notion of writing — the hope that the ear can be trained to “hear” errors and imitate quality prose — has developed as a popular alternative among English teachers. But what about those students, typically low income, with few books at home, who struggle to move from reading a gorgeous sentence to knowing how to write one? Could there be a better, less soul-crushing way to enforce the basics?

I often wonder, how can a student write that sentence and possibly think it sounds okay.  And, I’ve got to think, that at some level, lots of reading leads to better writing.

2) An NYT feature asks, “Opioid Users Are Filling Jails. Why Don’t Jails Treat Them?”  I know, I know!  Because this is America and we are hopelessly backward and ignorant when it comes to dealing sensibly with drugs.

3) “Autonomous ambiguity” is becoming a real problem for sort-of self-driving cars.

4) The best running stride?  The one your body naturally defaults to.

5) Nice Douthat column on the GOP’s empty majority:

The same feckless G.O.P. that exists in a constant state of low-grade civil war controls not only Congress and the White House, but most statehouses and state legislatures as well. All of the contemporary Republican Party’s critics — left-wing and centrist and conservative — keep saying that the G.O.P. is broken and adrift, and years of government shutdowns and Obamacare debacles and everything about the Trump era keep proving us correct.

Yet Republican power endures, and while it’s politically vulnerable, there’s no reason to be sure it can’t survive the 2018 midterms and indeed the entire reign of Donald Trump.

This strange endurance is a central fact of our present politics. We have an empty majority, a party that can rule but cannot govern. And whether you’re a conservative who wants to reform the G.O.P. or a liberal who wants to crush it, you need to wrestle with why Republicans keep getting returned to office even though it’s clear that debacles like what we’ve been watching on health care are what they’re likely to produce.

6) On the history and wrongness of the phrase “government schools.”

7) Don’t know much about Rob Bell, but I find his hell-free version of Evangelical Christianity far more compelling than the regular one.

8) And, as long as we’re on conservative Christians, loved this:

In record numbers, the American Church is consistently and surely making Atheists—or at the very least it is making former Christians; people who no longer consider organized religion an option because the Jesus they recognize is absent. With its sky-is-falling hand-wringing, its political bed-making, and its constant venom toward diversity, it is giving people no alternative but to conclude, that based on the evidence of people professing to be Godly—that God is of little use. In fact, this God may be toxic.

And that’s the irony of it all; that the very Evangelicals who’ve spent that last 50 years in this country demonizing those who reject Jesus—are the single most compelling reason for them to do so. They are giving people who suspect that all Christians are self-righteous, hateful hypocrites, all the evidence they need. The Church is confirming the outside world’s most dire suspicions about itself.


9) Of course Republicans cut legal aid to poor people in NC.  The headline says, “North Carolina legal aid gets cut again, it’s unclear why.”  My friend who shared the article rightly answered, of course it’s clear– they hate poor people.  Hard to disagree.

10) Headline says it all, “U.S. Citizen Who Was Held By ICE For 3 Years Denied Compensation By Appeals Court.”  This country of ours just disgusts me some times.

11) Oh, and speaking of which, it is so frustrating that we so rarely hold prosecutors responsible for their misconduct.  Excellent NYT Magazine feature from Emily Bazelon.

12) Radlley Balko on Trump, Policing, and the teenage brain:

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued that the [Boy Scout] speech couldn’t have been inappropriate because all the Boy Scouts seemed to be cheering. As if teen boys only cheer at appropriate things.

But it makes sense that Trump would find such an enthusiastic audience at the jamboree. Teen brains are both raging with hormones and still developing the tools vitally important for negotiating the adult world, such as impulse control, risk assessment and being able to ponder what might happen more than 20 minutes into the future. Teens are more likely than adults to act first to preserve ego, without thinking through the repercussions of those actions. This is why teens tend to lash out emotionally, say and do dumb things on the Internet and are generally more prone to make bad decisions, from sex to driving to drug use.

Trump also has problems with impulse control. He, too, writes dumb things on the Internet and often says (and tweets things) he later regrets (or at least ought to). Like a teenage boy, Trump is obsessed with who his friends are and who they aren’t. He’s obsessed with image. Like a teen, Trump is narcissistic and can’t help but let his ego get in the way of his goals. If it weren’t for that ego, his travel ban probably would have been implemented months ago. Finally, Trump certainly has a teen boy’s attitude toward women — there’s his obsession with the “hot wife” as a status symbol, his creepy comments about young girls, his boasts about sleeping with the significant others of his critics, and of course, the notorious “grab them by the p–––y” remark.

13) It really is something to see it laid bare how Jared Kushner’s dad really-and-truly bought his way into Harvard.

14) We actually pretty much have the answers on how to stop the epidemic of deadly opioid overdoses.  The question is, do we have the political will to implement the necessary measures (I’m betting on “no”).

15) You know you can’t wait to see a new batch of topless Putin photos.

16) Lynn Vavreck on the great divide in political identity.

Within the Republican Party, however, differences emerged with respect to the importance of European ancestry. Only 9 percent of G.O.P. primary voters who reported supporting John Kasich (when asked in a July 2016 wave of the survey) thought European background was important to being an American, while 16 percent of Ted Cruz’s supporters, 22 percent of Marco Rubio’s supporters and 30 percent of Mr. Trump’s supporters thought so.

Across all primary candidates in both parties, Mr. Trump’s backers stand out on this issue.

17) On a short vacation and doing some movie watching with my son, David.  Re-watched “The Prestige” for the first time since it was new.  Really enjoyed it again.  I do love that Jonathan and Christopher Nolan screenwriting tandem.  Also gave David his first exposure to Ferris Bueller.  Still enjoyed it (especially all the places I recognized in Chicago), but, damn, that Bueller really is a selfish ass.

18) Really, really enjoyed this NYT feature on how Weight Watchers has tried to reinvent itself (with the help of Oprah) in the contemporary anti-dieting age.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

5 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Nicole K says:

    1)As much as I hated diagramming sentences and being drilled on the components of a sentence when I was a kid, I sure am glad I was forced to do it. I believe knowing the mechanics of grammar has made me a better writer. Learning this made it possible to move on to something like the musical approach. I don’t understand how you could get to that more advanced level of writing without a strong foundation in the basics of grammar.

  2. R. Jenrette says:

    I agree with Nicole. I groaned when I found Mrs. Roe was my 8th grade English teacher. Then I had her again in 9th grade. It was tough love but I never had to worry about English grammar again.
    Beside that, I was a reader from the beginning. My mother read to me regularly in the evenings.
    Even tho she herself was a newspaper and magazine reader and didn’t read books, she introduced me to them. Both of my grandparents were scholars and maybe I was a throw back.
    Book and other reading is part of my day almost every day of my life.
    That’s why I support so strongly the programs for bringing children’s books into homes that might not have the resources to buy books or the habit of reading them. Introducing children to books early by working with mothers is a big contribution to developing an educated citizenry. I know I left out fathers. I think younger fathers are doing a better job than fathers did once.

  3. Mike in Chapel Hill says:

    #8. Yep. I have become vocally atheist and I despise the cults of religion. Nothing has moved me to be anti-religion more than religion.

  4. Jeremy Tarone says:

    14) Opioids

    Several studies have shown that 75% of those addicted to opioids where not the person for whom the prescriptions were written.

    The drug war hasn’t managed to cut the supply of ANY drug. How are they going to do it for something like Fentanyl, a high value high potency drug that can arrive in a tiny package and is being made in China in quantity?

    Now the media, police and other law enforcement agencies are spinning more nonsense scare stories. They seem unable to just tell the facts, they have to try to scare everyone.

  5. ohwilleke says:

    #1 “But what about those students, typically low income, with few books at home, who struggle to move from reading a gorgeous sentence to knowing how to write one?”

    The basic problem is that these students aren’t just learning how to write. They are learning a different dialect of the English language than their native dialect and are effectively ESL students (this is true not just of African American students but also of Appalachian and poor Southern students).

    Trying to write in a second language is an inherently more difficult problem than the one faced by students learning to write well in their native dialect.

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