Sympathizing with the terrorists

Okay, so this is just pathetic, a UNC professor teaching a class on “Literature of 9/11” dares to include writings or radical Islamists that blame America.  Obviously, the professor endorses those views and hates America.  Obviously, that is, if you are an intellectually-stunted Fox News conservative.  And you know what else?  Anonymous on-line reviews of the professor say that he only wants to hear his own views parroted back and you better not disagree with him.  (Interestingly, in my experience such angry on-line reviews never consider that low grades stem not from a lack of ideological agreement, but a lack of intellectual performance).  Clearly, this professor is a Jihadi-loving, America-hating threat to our nation’s impressionable college youth.  Oh, and the UNC student who started the whole imbroglio is basing all this simply by looking at the syllabus and not spending a minute reading the material or listening to the professor.  That’s surely highly accurate.  How dare the professor think that students could possibly learn anything by being challenged by the perspective of those who carried out the 9/11 attacks.  Shouldn’t he know that college is simply there to allow students to reinforce their pre-conceived notions of how the world works?

Quick hits (part II)

1) Just a nice montage of typical Fox News sexism.

2) I have actually noticed that Kudzu isn’t really quite the invasive species everybody makes it out to be.

3) Our local minor league soccer teams makes the New York Times because it’s ownership is caught up in the FIFA scandal.  Personally, I really hope they can get new owners because it is a great way to see some reasonably high-level soccer in a fun environment at a great price.

4) NC Republicans not such big fans of a clean environment.

5) Sorry, but the too many law students thing never gets old for me.

6) Chait on Bernie Sanders, #blacklivesmatter, and the new PC:

The trouble with p.c. culture is not, as its defenders tend to sneer, that it oppresses white males. Many of its targets are not white males; anyway, oppression isn’t the main issue, per se. Political correctness is an elaborate series of norms and protocols of political discourse that go well beyond the reasonable mandate of treating all people with respect. Its extravagant imagination of mental trauma lurking in every page, its conception of “safety” as the absence of dissent, and its method of associating beliefs with favored or disfavored groups: They all create a political discourse that is fraught at best, and at worst, inimical to reason…

Of course, anti-rape activists are right to change the culture of male sexual entitlement, and anti-racism activists are right to challenge entrenched biases in the criminal-justice system and other structures. Black Lives Matter has had enormous success in driving police reform and raising awareness of racism, and has, on the whole, changed the country for the better. Liberals believe that social justice can be advanced without giving up democratic rights and norms. The ends of social justice do not justify any and all means. When we’re debating which candidates are progressive enough to be allowed to deliver public speeches, something has gone terribly wrong.

7) Apparently there were virtually no real women at all using Ashley Madison.  Thus, if you know someone in the Ashley Madison database, there’s a super small chance they actually used the site for a successful assignation.

8) The telling priorities of NC Republicans in the most recent budget compromise.  Not big fans of public education.

9) Just to be clear, “anchor babies” (like most consequences of immigration) are good for the economy.

10) Not a bad list of suggestions for students to be successful in college.

11) Vox’s German Lopez on the fact that there’s thousands and thousands of needless gun deaths we don’t talk about because there’s no video.

12) And Kristof on the Virginia shooting and how we need to take a public health approach on guns:

Gun proponents often say things to me like: What about cars? They kill, too, but we don’t try to ban them! [emphasis in original]

Cars are actually the best example of the public health approach that we should apply to guns. Over the decades, we have systematically taken steps to make cars safer: We adopted seatbelts and airbags, limited licenses for teenage drivers, cracked down on drunken driving and established roundabouts and better crosswalks, auto safety inspections and rules about texting while driving.

This approach has been stunningly successful. By my calculations, if we had the same auto fatality rate as in 1921, we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually from cars. We have reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent.

Yet in the case of firearms, the gun lobby (enabled by craven politicians) has for years tried to block even research on how to reduce gun deaths. The gun industry made a childproof gun back in the 19th century but today has ferociously resisted “smart guns.” If someone steals an iPhone, it requires a PIN; guns don’t.

We’re not going to eliminate gun deaths in America. But a serious effort might reduce gun deaths by, say, one-third, and that would be 11,000 lives saved a year.

The United States is an outlier, both in our lack of serious policies toward guns and in our mortality rates. Professor Hemenway calculates that the U.S. firearm homicide rate is seven times that of the next country in the rich world on the list, Canada, and 600 times higher than that of South Korea.

13) Home school parents go nuts and have been able to fend off all sorts of common-sense regulations that would help protect kids and their right to a decent education.

14) On the law and meaning of consent in rape cases.

15) Watched War Games with my oldest yesterday (currently streaming on Netflix).  Great for Cold War Nostalgia.  Not so great for plot holes you could drive an ocean liner through.  Didn’t seem to notice those so much when I was 11.

Quick hits

1) I feel like I wrote something on the stupidity of American lawns pretty recently.  But given drought conditions in much of the country, lawns are dumber than ever.  And this is a nice story on it (that also links to a great 99% episode on the matter).

2) Speaking of wasting water.  Stop drinking bottled water.  Seriously.

3) And stop trying to be so original with your baby names.  Today’s uncommon may well be tomorrow’s top 10.

3) Re-thinking addiction not as a disease after all.  Really interesting take.

The title of his manifesto lays out Lewis’s basic argument, which he insists upon throughout the book. “I’m convinced that calling addiction a disease is not only inaccurate, it’s often harmful,” he writes (repeatedly). “Harmful first of all to addicts themselves.” The alternative, he asserts, is to call addiction what it is: a really bad habit caused by a constellation of variables and a brain that is receptive to compulsively reinforcing really bad habits. Most important, that habit is possible to break, not by becoming a “patient” getting medical attention in order to “recover” but by becoming a responsible adult with a solid vision of the future who has at last decided to break a destructive habit.

4) Destroying mountains for coal removal?  All good for this Southwestern, Virginia community.  “Ruining” the view with windmill farms?  Not so much.  Oh, and wasting an absurd amount of money to build a modern “technology park” in basically the middle of nowhere?  Oh, yeah, on that.  Tech workers love locating to extremely rural areas.  Surely a great way to attract business development.

5) Bojack Horseman is my new TV obsession.  Season 1, down.  Starting season 2 tonight.  How can I not love comparing Bojack to Mad Men.

6) Donald Trump as the political equivalent of chaff.  Love it.

Donald Trump is the political equivalent of chaff, a billion shiny objects all floating through the sky at once, ephemeral, practically without substance, serving almost exclusively to distract from more important things — yet nonetheless completely impossible to ignore.

7) Speaking of Trump, nice take from Yglesias comparing him to the far right movements in Europe.

8a) So much wrong about college football (but I just keep watching it)

All of which makes Gilbert M. Gaul’s “Billion-Dollar Ball” a hard and challenging book, but one that I hope college football diehards will join me in reading. Gaul, a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and The Washington Post, forces us to confront what major college football has become. When we cheer for our schools and our teams, we’re also supporting a powerful and autonomous entertainment business that monetizes every aspect of the game, an operation that is not only divorced from the mission of higher education but that often undermines it.

8b) Much of which can be seen in Under Armour’s relationship with University of Maryland.

9) You’ve all read me brag about the great diversity in my kids’ schools, but sadly, Wake County is going in the wrong direction on this.

10) I hope some graphic designer was fired over this.

11) Nice essay on how we need to move past the idea that the ideal worker is one who sacrifices family life.

Mr. Groysberg and Ms. Abrahams found that “even the men who pride themselves on having achieved some degree of balance between work and the other realms of their lives measure themselves against a traditional male ideal.” They quoted one interviewee as saying, “The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.” Men who are counting their caregiving in terms of the last 10 minutes of a day are not playing a caregiving role on a day-to-day basis.

12) Time for the media to start treating the names of mass murderers like the names of rape victims?  There’s definitely something to be said for the idea.

13) Irony is when the guy wearing the “less government; more freedom” t-shirt has his butt saved by firefighters.

 

14) Love this metaphor in the case for teaching ignorance.

Michael Smithson, a social scientist at Australian National University who co-taught an online course on ignorance this summer, uses this analogy: The larger the island of knowledge grows, the longer the shoreline — where knowledge meets ignorance — extends. The more we know, the more we can ask. Questions don’t give way to answers so much as the two proliferate together. Answers breed questions. Curiosity isn’t merely a static disposition but rather a passion of the mind that is ceaselessly earned and nurtured.

Mapping the coast of the island of knowledge, to continue the metaphor, requires a grasp of the psychology of ambiguity. The ever-expanding shoreline, where questions are born of answers, is terrain characterized by vague and conflicting information. The resulting state of uncertainty, psychologists have shown, intensifies our emotions: not only exhilaration and surprise, but also confusion and frustration.

15) Not the least bit surprised that a documentary about the evils of sugar is chock full of pseudo-science (not to argue that sugar is all great shakes, but anytime something gets demonized like this, you should probably be skeptical).

16) The Duke freshmen who can’t read handle reading a book with lesbian sex(!!) in it need to get over themselves.  Local columnist Barry Saunders with a nice take.

17) I’ve been meaning to give this Ezra Klein piece on how conservative media helped the far right take over the Republican Party it’s own post for a long time.  I’ve failed long enough.  To quick hits it goes.  Read it.

What’s public education for anyway?

This from John Green is three years old, but a friend shared it today with NC schools starting this week.  I sure wish our legislators were smart enough to understand it’s message.

Quick hits

1) Shankar Vedantam on cognitive biases, shorter showers, and low-flow toilets.

2) Josh Vorhees on how Trump getting specific with policy proposals is bad for the GOP.  I think he’s right as this will pull candidates who can win further to the right than they want to be for the general.  To wit, we’ve even got Jeb saying “anchor babies” now.

3) The Connecticut Supreme Court with a strong argument against capital punishment.

4) How gender bias in academia is a very real thing.  My personal fight against it?  Cutting and pasting descriptive phrases from previous recommendation letters irrespective of the gender of the person I am recommending.

5) I’m sure Upworthy has sanitized this version, but it’s pretty clear that treating heroin addiction as a disease to be treated instead of a felony is a win-win, policy-wise.

6) Why is Black Lives Matter going after Bernie anyway?  Jamelle Bouie explains (short version: stategery).

7) Physician Ben Carson doesn’t really seem to understand abortion and emergency contraception all that well.

8) Seth Masket went to both a Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump rally last week:

 And then, of course, there was the music. Clinton’s team played Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” to warm up the crowd before the candidate’s appearance. Trump’s team played ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” and Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.” I don’t know what this means, but it’s entirely possible that whoever chooses songs for Clinton is a perky, empowered woman in her 20s and whoever chooses songs for Trump is a middle-aged guy with hair issues who longs for the ’80s. Or maybe they’re just trying to reach out to those demographics.

9) Are you smarter than other NYT readers?  Damnit, I wasn’t.  But my response showed some minimal intelligence.

10) Are you gluten sensitive?  Perhaps you should find another blog to read that is not so enamored with science.  And as long as we’re talking diets, I always enjoy a good takedown of Paleo (Vox style).

11) My stepmom is convinced Carly Fiorina would be a great president.  Why?  Fiorina’s daughter is her bible study.  Also, she thinks Fiorina is a great businesswoman.  Evidence says otherwise.

12) Fortunately, I have not had to spend too many nights in hospitals.  But Good God they need to find a way to let people sleep better at night without constant interruptions.

13) This new female libido drug seems as flawed as anything that’s ever made it to market.  Serious side effects for .5 more sexual episodes per month.  Sure doesn’t pass the cost/benefit test (though, many husbands surely feel otherwise during that extra session of sex every two months).  I’ve read enough to think this is a real issue that could potentially be improved with the right medication.  This drug isn’t it.

14) Call me crazy, but I don’t think national parks should be wide-open shooting ranges.  I’m okay with preserving limited, regulated areas for that purpose.  But you shouldn’t have to fear for your life (or hear constant gunfire) just because you want to go hiking or camping.

15) And your long read for the day… great, great GQ profile on Stephen Colbert.  What an amazing human.

When school kids misbehave

I really liked this article from last month about re-thinking school discipline.  It resonated with me on many levels.

Which begs the question: Does it make sense to impose the harshest treatments on the most challenging kids? And are we treating chronically misbehaving children as though they don’t want to behave, when in many cases they simply can’t? [emphasis mine]

That part above strikes me as so true.  I had a parenting epiphany about 7-8 years ago where I was threatening David with punishment by taking away his favorite thing in life (time to play is video game).  He kept misbehaving even as I threatened to take away more and more time from playing.  Then it hit me– David’s brain was literally incapable of conforming to my behavioral expectations at that moment.  Of course, David hated the prospect of not playing the game, yet he continued his misbehaving in the same way.  It struck me that he wouldn’t have continued the misbehavior unless he literally couldn’t control it.  It changed how I parent.

Just last summer, Alex (the one with autism and intellectual disability) was in a summer program and when I walked him  to pick him up they basically had him in a coercive hold and told him they wouldn’t let him go until he agreed to calm down.  But his brain was literally incapable of agreeing to calm down at that moment, because all he could think about was his need to get out of that coercive hold.  It was very frustrating to see.  Alex was not back in that program this summer.

More on the matter…

That might sound like the kind of question your mom dismissed as making excuses. But it’s actually at the core of some remarkable research that is starting to revolutionize discipline from juvenile jails to elementary schools. Psychologist Ross Greene, who has taught at Harvard and Virginia Tech, has developed a near cult following among parents and educators who deal with challenging children. What Richard Ferber’s sleep-training method meant to parents desperate for an easy bedtime, Greene’s disciplinary method has been for parents of kids with behavior problems, who often pass around copies of his books, The Explosive Child and Lost at School, as though they were holy writ.

His model was honed in children’s psychiatric clinics and battle-tested in state juvenile facilities, and in 2006 it formally made its way into a smattering of public and private schools. The results thus far have been dramatic, with schools reporting drops as great as 80 percent in disciplinary referrals, suspensions, and incidents of peer aggression. “We know if we keep doing what isn’t working for those kids, we lose them,” Greene told me. “Eventually there’s this whole population of kids we refer to as overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. Anyone who works with kids who are behaviorally challenging knows these kids: They’ve habituated to punishment.”

Under Greene’s philosophy, you’d no more punish a child for yelling out in class or jumping out of his seat repeatedly than you would if he bombed a spelling test. You’d talk with the kid to figure out the reasons for the outburst (was he worried he would forget what he wanted to say?), then brainstorm alternative strategies for the next time he felt that way. The goal is to get to the root of the problem, not to discipline a kid for the way his brain is wired.

“This approach really captures a couple of the main themes that are appearing in the literature with increasing frequency,” says Russell Skiba, a psychology professor and director of the Equity Project at Indiana University. He explains that focusing on problem solving instead of punishment is now seen as key to successful discipline.

I actually have cousin Ross’ book (kidding, I’m not actually related to any other Greene’s out there) on my shelf but never got around to reading it.  From my perspective, though, he’s clearly onto something and the more these ideas catch on with schools in helping kids with behavioral problems, the better.

Getting the most out of college

First day of class for the academic year today.  Starting my 14th year at NC State.  Yesterday the N&O ran a terrific column on getting the most out of your college experience.  So much great advice.  Every college student should read this.  Here’s the points I especially liked:

▪ Talk to people. Colleges put a lot of time and money into recruiting a diverse group of students, to say nothing of faculty and staff. This isn’t just to make the brochures look nice. You’re meant to learn something from all of these fellow travelers. They’ve lived in ways you haven’t, been to places you haven’t, read and seen and done things you haven’t. Ask them about it, and listen…

▪  As much as possible, pick your classes based on the instructor rather than the subject. A great teacher can make any topic compelling, and a bad teacher can make any subject numbing. Ask upperclassmen which professors have challenged them and made class memorable. Seek out those teachers.

▪  Drinking yourself silly is an idiotic waste of time. Regular inebriation is not a rite of passage; it is insecurity masquerading as ritual. The majority of your classmates will find more wholesome, less destructive and far more interesting ways of passing the time. Join them.

▪  Attend events. Never again will so many fascinating things take place within walking distance, and mostly for free. Never been to a symphony or a dance performance? Now’s the time. Ever heard a diplomat talk about life overseas? Here’s your chance. You’ll have the rest of your life to watch Netflix, so pay attention to the campus calendar and get out of your dorm room…

▪ Coffee is safe, legal and inexpensive. If you feel the temptation to dabble in chemical stimulants, stick with that one…

Most importantly, relish these days. The opportunity to think and learn and figure out your place in the world is an enormous privilege. Do not, do not, do not waste it.

I guess that’s why I never left.

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