The economics vs. politics of climate change

What do do from an economic, policy-analysis perspective is pretty straightforward.  Politics, alas, is another matter entirely.  Nice piece from David Leonhardt.  I found this part especially noteworthy (and sad):

When I began writing columns in The Times about climate policy more than a decade ago, I, too, was strongly in favor of carbon pricingas the best strategy for attacking climate change. But two big things have changed since then. The financial crisis and its aftermath intensified many families’ economic problems. Income growth has since been sluggish. Amazingly, the wealth of the median American household has fallen 30 percent since 2007, according to the most recent Federal Reserve data, making higher energy costs an even harder sell.

The second change is political. A decade ago, there was reason to think that carbon pricing could be bipartisan. It borrows from the best traditions of liberalism and conservatism by using the government to address a failure of the private market while still relying on that market. President George H.W. Bush’s administration used a pricing scheme to solve the problem of acid rain. John McCain favored such a carbon scheme.

Today, however, the Republican Party has become radicalized. It opposes once-bipartisan ideas as a matter of course: an assault-weapons ban, Obamacare (which was shaped by ideas from the Heritage Foundation and Mitt Romney) and virtually any effort to slow climate change. The G.O.P.’s radical turn means that climate activists can no longer search for a compromise between the two parties, in the hope that their leaders will try to sell it to skeptical voters. Republicans have made clear that they will instead stoke the skepticism for their own ends. Doing so pleases the oil and coal industries, which are generous campaign donors. It also helps win elections. [emphasis mine] To a lesser degree, the conservative parties in Australia and Canada are mimicking this strategy.

In response, climate activists are realizing that they instead need to find policies that are popular enough to survive the inevitable attacks on them.

Chart of the day

It was immigration policy in PS 310 this week.  In thinking about the current politics of the matter, I think this chart from Pew is pretty amazing:

Partisan gap in views of immigrants as wide as at any point in at least 25 years

There was basically no partisan difference at all on the overall value of immigration until the mid 2000’s.  And, then, the big change is not Republicans moving right, but Democrats moving dramatically left.  That’s gay marriage, legal marijuana type movement (if not even more rapid and dramatic).  Policy-level aside, in 2019 America, to be a Democrat is pretty much to be pro-immigrant.


Improving college teaching

Really liked this piece in Chronicle of Higher Ed about how research universities need to do a better job encouraging good teaching.  I especially like the emphasis on frequent peer observation and collaboration as that has proven to be very effective in K-12.

Q. What would fix it?

A. There are three huge interventions that would help. First is careful, ongoing training of TAs. Ongoing training during their first two years of teaching, in which they are systematically observed by faculty who have been trained in observation protocols. Also that they observe each other, and they regularly are prompted to convene and discuss problems of practice.

The second thing is to work with very early assistant professors. What we typically do is someone goes into your classroom once a semester, maybe. Much better would be, again, for them to be given training, for them to be convened and given incentives to participate in other kinds of professional development.

The third thing would be to simply — this is quite hard to do, so I’m not saying it’s not difficult, I just don’t think it’s very expensive — incentivize departments to regularly and systematically meet as groups discussing problems of practice. My department does that now. We have a monthly brown-bag, bringing in experts or discussing, for instance, how do you make a productive discussion happen in a lecture class? What type of feedback do you give students on their papers? Problems of that kind.

I certainly wish there was more of a culture of this in my own department, but I’ve definitely appreciated (and definitely benefited from) all the conversations I’ve had on teaching facilitated by our faculty development center.

Actually, just yesterday came to a fresh insight about my own teaching.  No matter the class, I’m always asking questions and wanting students to talk.  I was talking with a student who was in a relatively small class with another professor where the students never talk at all.  That just seemed like a real shame to me.  And it made me think about why I value having an interactive classroom so much.

The truth is, most student comments, questions, etc., are something I could have said myself more clearly.  But it’s not about just delivering content.  It’s about keeping minds engaged, and you are far more engaged if you might contribute at any time or, for the quiet ones, if you have the opportunity to think about what your classmates have been saying.  Or what you would say if you weren’t so quiet.  And even if most of the student-contributed content is fairly prosaic most of the time, often enough students raise really good, interesting, unusual points that I simply never would have.  What a shame it would be to lose that.

Anyway, lots of stuff us professors can do to be better teachers (let students be a fundamental part of the learning process for sure!) and that universities should be doing to encourage us all to be better teachers.

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