Chart of the day

Looks like I’ve done pretty well for just playing a fair amount of pick-up basketball back in high school.  Via the Atlantic:

Are high-school sports conferring leadership skills and self-confidence onto a bunch of otherwise unambitious kids? Or are they simply signals, activities that professionally gifted youth gravitate toward? It’s not exactly clear. On one hand, team sports, with their constant passing of balls, pucks, and batons, might teach children and teens cooperation. And young people might learn something just from being in situations when they’re subordinates. But on the other hand, the likelihood that someone plays a sport could have to do with several variables not recorded in the data: coming from a family that can afford the proper equipment, that has the time to shuttle kids to practice, or that puts a premium on physical activity. Also, “popular” kids might be more likely to play sports, and popularity is really just a proxy for networking prowess—something that the business world prizes.

We don’t have an answer on this yet, but my supposition is that far more than anything else we are looking at selection bias.  I suspect the self-discipline and related non-cognitive skills that it takes to balance official high school athletics with academics, as well as the drive and ambition, reflect individuals who are going to succeed more in life, regardless of whatever teamwork and coaching may teach you.  Regardless, interesting.

Capitalism and higher ed

So, after first seeing this link about canceled programs within the UNC system, I was prepared to outraged.  Then I read the story and I wasn’t (though, I open to the possibility that I should be).

Thursday morning, the Board of Governors educational planning committee voted to discontinue 46 degree programs across the UNC-System, including one at UNC-Chapel Hill: human biology. The entire Board voted Friday to adopt the recommendations voted on by the committee Thursday.

Other schools lost more programs than UNC-CH. East Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro saw eight programs eliminated each.

Junius Gonzales, senior vice president for academic affairs for the UNC-System, led the review of program productivity, which refers to the number of degrees granted in programs annually.

Gonzales said the process was inexact and that it was essential to listen to the thoughts of campus-level officials. He said the frequency of education programs being classified as low productivity due to few majors was an example of a situation where the processes of the UNC system and the interests of the state did not always align.

The share of the link I first saw referenced an end to majors that don’t lead to jobs.  But, no, what seems to be happening is an end to majors with very low enrollments at particular campuses.  That, I can live with.  Especially when I realized that two of these majors were in my own college at NCSU where we had actually discussed this:

Warwick Arden, the provost of N.C. State University, which will see four programs eliminated, said some programs that don’t give out a large quantity of degrees are still valuable, including the women and gender studies and Africana studies programs at the school, both of which will be eliminated and consolidated into less specific programs.

“While they’re not popular majors at N.C. State, they produce huge quantities of credit hours to non-majors,” Arden said.

I don’t know about this “huge number of credit hours” but I do know that these departments have incredibly few majors.  Regardless of the intellectual value, it seems pretty reasonable to me (and, from what I can tell, my liberal colleagues throughout our college) to eliminate the overhead/administration that goes with a department for an area that has only a handful of majors each year.  Especially when you consider we are part of a UNC system and students who really want that specific, unpopular major can seek it somewhere else.

So, UNC Board of Governors not so bad, but then the final line really threw me:

Board member Steven Long, who is the vice chairman of the academic planning committee, expressed concern about the labels applied to the actions, saying that words like “discontinuation” could confuse the public.

“They think you’re eliminating a lot of the cost, but we’re really only eliminating a little bit of the cost,” Long said. “We’re really not discontinuing the whole program; we’re just scaling it back.”

Long said he didn’t think the programs addressed by the report necessarily needed more scrutiny.

“We’re capitalists, and we have to look at what the demand is, and we have to respond to the demand.”

Ugh.  Seriously?  Hey, I love capitalism.  It’s so good for so many things.  Running a system of higher education is not one of them.  We’re not exactly churning out widgets here.  Yes, of course there should be free market principles in higher education, but when free market principles are what’s driving higher ed– as implied in that quote– we’ve got a huge problem.

Quick hits (part II)

1) This was a terrific Fresh Air interview on how the government was instrumental in creating Black ghettos.  Our racial residential patterns are no historical accident or Black people choosing to live in their own places, but the result of intentional government policies designed to keep Blacks out of white neighborhoods.

2) Loved this interactive feature to find the equivalent in popularity for you name from various decades (e.g., in 1900’s I would have been “Joe.”)

3) Jason Furman on the importance and success of government programs that invest in families.

4) We need to let our young kids learn through play!

TWENTY years ago, kids in preschool, kindergarten and even first and second grade spent much of their time playing: building with blocks, drawing or creating imaginary worlds, in their own heads or with classmates. But increasingly, these activities are being abandoned for the teacher-led, didactic instruction typically used in higher grades. In many schools, formal education now starts at age 4 or 5. Without this early start, the thinking goes, kids risk falling behind in crucial subjects such as reading and math, and may never catch up.

The idea seems obvious: Starting sooner means learning more; the early bird catches the worm.

But a growing group of scientists, education researchers and educators say there is little evidence that this approach improves long-term achievement; in fact, it may have the opposite effect, potentially slowing emotional and cognitive development, causing unnecessary stress and perhaps even souring kids’ desire to learn…

Over the past 20 years, scientists have come to understand much more about how children learn. Jay Giedd, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Diego, has spent his career studying how the human brain develops from birth through adolescence; he says most kids younger than 7 or 8 are better suited for active exploration than didactic explanation. “The trouble with over-structuring is that it discourages exploration,” he says.

5) Fascinating Slate piece on the origins of race-based slavery (had never really thought about the fact that slavery existed long before, but was not necessarily based on race).

6) How some men (but not women) fake an 80 hour work-week.

7) Speaking of which, one of the reasons I so loved Mad Men was because it was such a great exploration of the role of gender in the workplace.

8) Let’s keep the gender theme rolling… a couple good links from a commenter about rape, nudity, etc., on Game of Thrones.

9) USA Today editorial on the wrongness of Chipotle’s anti-GMO policy.

10) Surprise, surprise, the Patriot Act is not actually helping the FBI catch terrorists.

11) When it comes to social issues, liberals have caught up with conservatives.

12) Not only do we need better train infrastructure, we need the War on Drugs to not blatantly and horribly violate people’s rights while they are riding trains.  Seriously, the War on Drugs just has so much more harm than good that I think only those truly ignorant of what is going on can support it.  Or fascists.

13) Yes, there was huge fraud in political science, but because of how the scientific method works, it was actually caught out pretty quickly.  And a handy chart on how to spot bad science.

14) Okay, so this Slate piece freaked me out about ticks pretty good.  Actually think I am going to spray my kids’ shoes and socks as a result.

Quick hits (part I)

1) I’ve been using Flickr for a while and really like it.  David Pogue writes about 7 great new features.

1) Interesting story of the 1 juror holding out in the Etan Patz trial.

The defendant, Pedro Hernandez, 54, had confessed to killing Etan almost 33 years after he disappeared, but there was no physical evidence tying him to the crime. Defense lawyers argued that the confession, which he repeated later to a prosecutor, was a fiction made up under police pressure by a man with a low I.Q. and a personality disorder clouding his ability to tell fact from fantasy.

Given what I know of coerced confessions, if there’s no physical evidence and the chief evidence is a recanted confession, that’s sure reasonable doubt for me (it does sound somewhat more complicated than that, but the story got a little confusing).

3) Nice NYT Editorial on how racism doomed Baltimore.

4) Seth Masket makes a good point– should we really have primaries to choose candidates anyway?

5) Nice Op-Ed on how NC needs to invest in teachers.

6) Whether you want to call it a “war on science” or not, Republicans sadly don’t believe that government should be supporting science (or that legislators should be listening to what scientists have to say).  John Cassidy:

Cutting NASA and the N.S.F.’s climate-science budgets isn’t going to alter the basic realities of climate change. No one needs an advanced degree to understand this. Indeed, the idea that ignoring a problem isn’t going to make it go away is one that kids should grasp by the time they’re six or seven. But ignoring a problem does often make it more difficult to solve. And that, you have to assume, in a perverse way, is the goal here. What we don’t know, we can’t act on.

“It’s hard to believe that in order to serve an ideological agenda, the majority is willing to slash the science that helps us have a better understanding of our home planet,” Representative Johnson wrote. Hard to believe, but, unfortunately, true.

7) Meanwhile the state of Wyoming (that is, the Republicans in government) seems to have outlawed citizen science.

8) On the bright side, Vox presents an interesting interview with a Republican (of the liberatarian stripe) who has been convinced of climate change and why he has been (and it is a good argument):

So [Litterman] came in to talk to me and my then-colleague, Peter Van Dorn, and laid out what I thought a very powerful argument. In brief it went like this: the issues associated with climate change are not that different from the risk issues we deal with in the financial markets every day. We know there’s a risk — we don’t know how big the risk is, we’re not entirely sure about all of the parameters, but we know it’s there. And we know it’s a low-probability, high-impact risk. So what do we do about that in our financial markets? Well, if it’s a nondiversifiable risk, we know that people pay plenty of money to avoid it.

[Litterman’s] point was that if this sort of risk were to arise in any other context in the private markets, people would pay real money to hedge against it. He did it every day for his clients. Even if Pat Michaels and Dick Lindzen and the rest [of the climate-skeptic scientists] are absolutely correct about the modest impacts of climate change as the most likely outcome, it’s not the most likely outcome that counts here. Nobody would manage risk based on the most likely outcome in a world of great uncertainty. If that were the case, we’d have all our money in equities. No one would spend money on anything else. But we don’t act that way.

9) Assigned this “Bad Feminist” essay by Roxane Gay to my Gender & Politics class.  I really like it.

10) Among the consensus conclusions from my Criminal Justice policy class this past semester was that we need to invest more in better police training.  In Indiana and Arkansas you don’t necessarily need any training.

11) An interesting feature of the Dutch economy is that a lot of people work part-time.  The Economist explains why.

12) Thanks to Mika for sharing this link on a “moneyball” approach with a Danish soccer team.  Fascinating!

13) The story of a doctor who believed in “alternative medicine”– it’s oh-so-compelling when you are looking for any hope in a struggle against autism in a child– and his journey back to science.

14) Dylan Matthews on how giving money to your wealthy alma mater is about the least beneficial thing you can do with your money.  Of course, I was convinced by this logic long ago, which is why Give Directly gets my money and Duke doesn’t.

15) Great Richard Thaler piece on how irrelevant things matter a ton in our economic decision making and classical economists (as opposed to behavioral economists) do their best to pretend this isn’t true:

There is a version of this magic market argument that I call the invisible hand wave. It goes something like this. “Yes, it is true that my spouse and my students and members of Congress don’t understand anything about economics, but when they have to interact with markets. …” It is at this point that the hand waving comes in. Words and phrases such as high stakes, learning and arbitrage are thrown around to suggest some of the ways that markets can do their magic, but it is my claim that no one has ever finished making the argument with both hands remaining still.

Hand waving is required because there is nothing in the workings of markets that turns otherwise normal human beings into Econs. For example, if you choose the wrong career, select the wrong mortgage or fail to save for retirement, markets do not correct those failings. In fact, quite the opposite often happens. It is much easier to make money by catering to consumers’ biases than by trying to correct them.

16) And, lastly, we’ll finish with another long excerpt.  Finally got around to reading this really long essay from a former Lost writer on whether they were just making stuff up as they went along.  (Apparently, much less so than I assumed they were guilty of).  If you were a fan of the show (and you should be) definitely worth reading the whole thing.

First we built a world. Then we filled it with an ensemble of flawed but interesting characters — people who were real to us, people with enough depth in their respective psyches to withstand years of careful dramatic analysis. Then we created a thrilling and undeniable set of circumstances in which these characters had to bond together and solve problems in interesting ways.

Soon thereafter, we created a way for you to witness their pasts and compare the people they once were with the people they were in the process of becoming. While that was going on, we also created an entire 747s worth of ideas, notions, fragments, complications, and concepts that would — if properly and thoughtfully mined — yield enough narrative fiction to last as long as our corporate overlords would demand to feed their need for profit and prestige, and then, just to be sure, teams of exceptionally talented people worked nonstop to make sure the 747 never emptied out.

And then we made it all up as we went.

 

Quick hits (Part II)

1) TNR’s Danny Vinik on how the Republican party is out of ideas.

2) My kids love Phineas and Ferb and alas no new episodes.  This Slate article explains what makes it so good.

3) Nice editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal on how NC Republicans need to value education.  I don’t think they are listening.

4) More and more people seem to be figuring out that the “war on drugs” isn’t just a colossal failure here in America, but around the world.

Many of the harms associated with drug use — the violence, the criminal activity, the loss of life — have been shown to be direct consequences of the way we wage the drug war, rather than of drug use itself. More countries are beginning to acknowledge this troubled history, but the U.N. treaties governing drug policy haven’t been significantly updated since the 1960s.

5) So why is it that college keeps getting so much more expensive?

During the 2001 to 2011 time period, state funding per student fell $3,081 at research universities and $2,067 at nonresearch universities, a decline that was “in near lockstep with tuition increases,” according to the report. The result is a “dramatic shift” in who is paying for the cost of a public education.

6) Among those people who actually research guns, there is a clear consensus that more guns means more dead people.

7) You may have seen a study saying that beards are full of fecal bacteria.  Turns out that study (and the reporting on it) were full of crap.

8)Why most diets don’t actually work.

9) Nice column from Ross Douthat on liberal vs. conservative views on poverty and culture.

10) The Economist looks at the data to answer just how many people out there are gay.

11) Chait argues that HRC has set a trap for Republicans on the issue of immigration.

12) I don’t know that I would call something that happened without any human involvement GMO, but if you want to consider it the non-sexual combination of genes from very different species, nature beat us to it with sweet potatoes thousands of years ago.

13) Tina Fey’s awesomeness knows no bounds.

14) I saw there was a new poll showing 57% of Republicans would like Christianity to be our national religion “we don’t need any stinkin’ separation of church and state!” and I just knew it had to come from PPP.

15) Our bail policies are too punitive towards poor people (oh come on, everything in our criminal justice system is too punitive towards poor people).

16) So all those tax cuts in Kansas— now they can’t even afford to keep their schools open.  Good thing to know we’re trying to follow a similar model here.

17) It’s two years old, but John F just shared on FB.  The love you get from your parents has life-long benefits.  Love may not be all you need, but it sure helps.

18) It’s great to be exonerated for a crime you didn’t commit rather than keep rotting in prison, but there’s still plenty of hardship afterwards.

19) Nice essay from Dahlia Lithwick on how being laid up with a bad back and on pain meds affected her parenting and relationship with her children.

20) Loved this episode of 99% Invisible on “perfect security,” nice to see that Slate did too and added some key visuals.

Quick hits

1) David Goldberg, the husband of Sheryl “lean in” Sandberg, suffered an untimely death last week.  Nice article on his life and how he made it possible for Sandberg to lean in.

2) Private prisons are so wrong.  Among other things, they are incentivized to allow more human suffering to earn greater profits.  They can also sue states if they don’t stay full.

3) The Cleveland Indians have an awesome recycling program that runs on massive garbage disposals.

4) These photography tips are pretty cool; I’m going to have to try some.

5) This point doesn’t get old– inequality is a policy choice.  Nice column on the matter from Kristof.

6) Really enjoyed Ross Douthat’s essay on Pope Francis.

7) The head of the Federal Elections Commission has to sadly admit the FEC will be largely unable to prevent widespread campaign finance abuse in 2016.  Why?  The Republicans on the commission basically believe in widespread campaign finance abuse.

8) John Cassidy on the Republican field for president:

If your head is spinning, join the club. Nobody should be expected, or forced, to keep up with every detail of the G.O.P. primary, especially when, Lord help us, we still have more than eight months to go until the Iowa caucuses. At this stage, the important thing to remember is that there are really two spectacles taking place: a high-stakes horse race for the Republican nomination, and a circus held on the infield of the track. Although the events run concurrently, and are ostensibly geared toward the same end, they shouldn’t be confused with one another. One is a serious political contest. The other is a sideshow, designed to amuse the spectators, give the media something to cover, and further the ambitions, varied as they are, of the participants.

9) This article about an Ebola survivor who discovered later he had tons of the virus in his eyeball was fascinating.  Among other things, I had not known about “immune privilege” of that your eyeball benefits from being immune privileged.

10) It’s really kind of amazing that a local television station– local news generally being the province of fires, crime, and 15 minute weather reports– does a terrific job covering state and local politics.  Fortunately for me, it’s my very own local station.  The great work of Raleigh’s WRAL is recognized in CJR.

11) A future without chocolate?  Perish the thought.  But we’ll have to work at it and that’s what the International Cocoa Quarantine Centre is doing.

12) On the taboo of sharing how much money you make and why we should break it.  I won’t share mine, but it is public record if you really want to know.

13) Mitt Romney literally does not even understand what “mass incarceration” is.  Scary to think he could’ve been president.  And this is so pathetic.  Chait’s on it, so you know it’s a good read.

14) Cut the cord to your cable and think you are done with unwanted bundles?  Not so fast; bundling is coming to internet TV.

15) Congressional Republicans are no fans of making it easier for people to afford a college education.

16) Based on my experience, it always struck me that people would blame their infant’s fussiness on “teething” when there was really no particular reason to think that was the case (among other things, you never feel it all when your permanent teeth come in).  Looks like I’ve got science on my side.

17) Loved the new documentary on Kurt Cobain.  Damn if Kurt Cobain isn’t just the prototype of the tortured artist.  And I remember quite distinctly where I was when I found out he died (I was on a pre grad school visit to Ohio State and there were some guys driving around in a car yelling “Kurt Cobain is dead!”)  I’ve been listening to Nirvana a ton this week as a result (In Utero is playing as a type this post).  Also enjoyed showing my oldest the Smells Like Teen Spirit video which he had never seen.

18) I’ll leave you with this awesome, awesome Amy Schumer video on birth control.  It’s short and brilliant, so watch it already.

Quick hits (part II)

1) David Frum suggests that how Republicans address Americans who would lose their insurance under an Obamacare repeal will be a key question in the 2016 election.

2) Donald Rumsfeld understands the Baltimore riots– or at least he understood riots in Iraq:

While no one condones looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of repression and people who have had members of their family killed by that regime, for them to be taking their feelings out on that regime. And I don’t think there’s anyone in any of those pictures … [who wouldn’t] accept it as part of the price of getting from a repressed regime to freedom.

3) A professor in Texas who decided to fail his entire class.  Unsurprisingly, the university wouldn’t let him.

4) Apparently some organic food still has mad-made chemicals.  Which, of course, is worth a big shoulder shrug.

5) A nice New Yorker post about the viral face/age recognition software.

6) Most people stop listening to music people by age 33.  I’ve added Muse since that age, but that’s about it.  I do listen to a selection of newer stuff via Pandora, but little of it really sticks with me.  (Though, for some reason, I totally love this).

7) Amy Davidson on Samuel Alito’s obsession with polygamy.

8) So, the American Psychological Association helped the Bush administration with torture.  So wrong.

9) Kids will read more if you let them choose books for themselves.  Of course, this presumes they will actually choose something (I’ve got a certain 9-year old in mind).  Actually really interesting survey results.  Kids really love funny.

10) John Cassidy on the disappointing near-silence from Republican presidential candidates on Baltimore.

11)  Just in case you were not aware, we are basically using our prisons as totally inappropriate and inadequate psychiatric hospitals.  And, no, that’s not a good thing for anybody.

12) David Brooks is really good at blaming poor people and not so good at looking at the context:

On Friday, Brooks published another fatuous piece about poverty. This time, naturally, the subject was Baltimore. Brooks tried to undercut the popular trope that funding poor communities like Baltimore will improve conditions. He writes:

The $15 trillion spent by the government over the past half-century has improved living standards and eased burdens for millions of poor people. But all that money and all those experiments have not integrated people who live in areas of concentrated poverty into the mainstream economy.

This passage is instructive for a couple of reasons. First, it illustrates Brooks’ tendency to say something true without offering anything resembling context. For instance, he notes that poor people haven’t been integrated into the mainstream economy but fails to ask why that is. We’ve tossed all this money at the problem, he seems to suggest, yet things aren’t better. How could that be? Perhaps it has something to do with history, with the residual effects of institutionalized racism and the array of structural problems that have plagued Baltimore and communities like it for decades. Dumping federal dollars into a city doesn’t erase these things.

13) A Vox interview on the history of racist policing in America.

14) Simply wearing a suit makes people think differently.  It also makes people treat you differently.

15) Great, great Connor Friedersdorf piece on how conservatives fail to take police abuse seriously.  It’s not that long– read the whole thing:

Meanwhile, most conservatives either ignored or were oblivious to the Baltimore police department’s stunning record of egregious, normalized brutality and civil rights abuses. It would be one thing if these conservative pundits acknowledged that police brutality and violations of the Constitutional rights of black people are epidemic in Baltimore but argued that other factors mostly explain Monday’s civil unrest. Agreeing on what caused the riots isn’t actually vital when taken in isolation.

What’s vexing actually predates the riots: It is movement conservatism’s general, longstanding blindness to massive rights violations by police. The myopia has somehow persisted even in an era when an hour on YouTube providesincontrovertible evidence of egregious brutality by scores of thuggish cops. Per usual, let us acknowledge the many U.S. police officers who serve their communities with honor, courage, empathy, and restraint. One needn’t disrespect them to see that bad policing is common. It is more than “a few bad apples.”

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