We’re number 50!

Latest ranking of worst state for teachers.  Well, DC counts, so at least we’re not dead last:

Once again, North Carolina is bringing up the rear when it comes to states that offer the best opportunities for teachers, at least according to WalletHub.

The personal finance website bases its annual ranking of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., on metrics including teacher salary rates, quality of school systems and public education investment…

“We got a lot of work ahead of us,” state Rep. Craig Horn, a Republican who sits on the Education Committee, told WBTV. “It’s not all doom and gloom, but this report again points up the fact that we need to do more for all of our teachers.”

That report added that other states — notably, Texas — are already luring teachers away from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other N.C. districts.

South Carolina came in just a few spots ahead of North Carolina on the Wallethub ranking, coming in at No. 45. The only state to rank lower was West Virginia.

The good news, if there is any? The Tar Heel State moved up from No. 51 — dead last — on the 2014 ranking, WBTV noted.

Reminded me of this quote I read back when the Senate passed the budget:

Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, however, suggested that more funding isn’t necessarily the answer. “Money doesn’t fix problems. People fix problems, and we are blessed to have some of the best teachers in the country here,” he said.

And this is based on what exactly?  Because Tom Apodaca says so?  As a general rule, teachers do not exactly flock to the states where they are paid and respected the least (and, yes, those two are very much related).  What utter BS.  Forget about paying teachers well and supporting public education because we have some great teachers?!  Umm, not for long.  And these are the morons literally running this state (into the ground).  So depressing.

Just how much sexual assault on campus

As always, disclaimer: sexual assault on campus is a real problem and we should certainly do all we can within reason to minimize it.  Of course, “within reason” does not include violating all standards of due process for the accused or using wildly inflated statistics to make a point.  I meant to write about the latest study responsible for plenty more “1 in 5 college women are raped” etc., headlines.  Of course, that’s not what the study showed.  Of course, nobody wants to be kissed against their will either, but only one of these things is actually a felony.

Anyway, since I never did write anything critiquing the survey, my procrastination has paid off as the Post recently published a really interesting critique from Brookings scholar and National Journal senior editor, Stuart Taylor  (i.e., this is no anti-feminist with an ax to grind).  Here’s some of the more compelling points that are left out of most discussions of the issue:

Below are three ways in which the 288-page AAU survey report is grossly misleading, as are others like it and the credulous media coverage of them all.

First, the extraordinarily low response rate of students asked to participate in the AAU survey — 19.3 percent — virtually guaranteed a vast exaggeration of the number of campus sexual assaults.

Even the AAU acknowledged that the 150,000 students who responded to the electronic questionnaire were more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the 650,000 who ignored it because “non-victims may have been less likely to participate.”

Start with the fact that 60 percent of the 150,000 students who responded were female, even though half of all students at the surveyed schools were male. Then ask yourself whether you would be more likely to take the time to respond to such a survey if you were a sexual assault victim or if you were not.

Yep.  Huge potential problem with non-response bias.  There is every reasonable reason to believe that those who did respond to the survey are systematically different than those that did not.  I find this next bit particular damning (all emphases in original):

These tables indicate that about 2.2 percent of female respondents said they had reported to their schools that they had been penetrated without consent (including rape) since entering college. If extrapolated to the roughly 10 million female college student population nationwide, this  would come to about 220,000 student reports to universities alleging forced sex over (to be conservative) five years, or about 44,000 reports per year.

But this would be almost nine times the total number of students (just over 5,000) who reported sexual assaults of any kind to their universities in 2013, the most recent data available, according to the reports that universities must submit to the federal government under the Clery Act.

Some other issues:

Worse, the AAU also tallied as victims all respondents who said yes when asked whether anyone had sexually touched them “without your active, ongoing voluntary agreement” — for example, attempting more intimate contact “while you were still deciding.”

No criminal law in America requires such “affirmative consent” to make sex lawful, although some (not all) universities have recently moved in that direction…

Third, a red flag should go up for any reporter or other reader who notices the AAU’s acknowledgment that — for the vast majorities of poll respondents who said they had not reported to campus authorities the events that the AAU classified as sexual assaults — “the dominant reason was it was not considered serious enough,” (emphasis added)…

More astonishing still, 75 percent of respondents who told researchers that they had been “penetrated using physical force” said they had never reported this to authorities — and 58.6 percent of that 75 percent said they “did not consider it serious enough” to report. [emphasis mine]

This most plausible explanation is that most of those classified by the survey as “victims” of sexual assault or rape did not really think that they had been sexually assaulted.

Wow.  Quite the critique.  And again, sexual assault on campus (and not on campus) is a real problem that we should definitely work to reduce.  But scaring people and influencing policy with super-dubious statistics is never a good thing.

(Also, a great take from Emily Yoffe).

Quick hits (part II)

1) Nice column from Kareem on education under assault from right and (sadly) left:

The attack on education isn’t on training our youth for whatever careers they choose, it’s on teaching them to think logically in order to form opinions based on facts rather than on familial and social influences. This part of one’s education is about finding out who you are. It’s about becoming a happier person. It’s about being a responsible citizen. If you end up with all the same opinions you had before, then at least you can be confident that they are good ones because you’ve fairly examined all the options, not because you were too lazy or scared to question them. But you—all of us—need the process. Otherwise, you’re basically a zombie who wants to eat brains because you don’t want anyone else to think either.

2) I’m so with Drum on the great court decision voiding the copyright to “Happy Birthday.”  Can’t wait till my family’s next birthday meal out when the restaurant can sing the real birthday song.

3) North Carolina Republicans are cutting the mental health budget for short-term savings.  Of course, those will be far outweighed by long-term costs.

4) Emily Bazelon on the intellectual battle going on over sex and sexual assault on college campuses.

5) Nice Thomas Mills piece on why he won’t be voting for Bernie Sanders.  Pretty much captures my view as well.  (And a quick skim through the comments makes me even more sure).

6) Everybody predicted that the rise of Super PAC’s would totatlly change the game in presidential primaries.  Turnst out they haven’t.

But it turns out that there are some things that Super PACs can’t do. Hard money can pay for the full gamut of campaign expenses, from hiring staff to purchasing printer toner to putting ads up on television. Super PACs can pay for television ads, but they can’t pay for campaign staff.

Perry and Walker were hoping to hang on for long enough to allow nominally independent Super PACs to flood the airwaves with supportive ads. But long before the first caucus, their hard dollars dried up, leaving them unable to make payroll.

7) Love this research that is such a compelling demonstration of the power of motivated reasoning.  Americans feel totally different about the same policy if it purportedly comes from a Democrat or a Republican.  People like to think that their issue positions drives their partisanship.  Alas, the causality works far stronger in the other direction.

8) Bill Ayers on Republicans’ fear-based, “Dirty Harry” approach to politics.

9) It ain’t easy being Chief Justice John Roberts and actually having an intellectually consistent (as opposed to ideologically/ and or partisanly (yes, I made that up) consistent) judicial philosophy.


10) So, the government’s college scorecard doesn’t rank schools, but it’s not hard to do it on your own with some basic criteria.  So NPR does.  Nice to see my alma mater as #1 for “schools that make financial sense.”  And go University of California system for so much social mobility.

11) The conservative case against the death penalty making some headway in NC (personally, I support both the conservative and the liberal case against it).

12) Jeb Bush– just as enlightened as Mitt Romney about minority voters.

13) Yeah, so I get totally freaked out by insects.  To the consternation of my wife and the amusement of my children.  But I sure would not jump out of a car I was driving leaving children behind, as this parent did at the sight of a spider.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Getting really tired of reading highfalutin commentary such as this on how powerpoint “ruins critical thinking.”  Oh please.  Powerpoint is a tool.  That’s all.  It can be used well or poorly.  But it’s got almost nothing to do with whether students learn critical thinking.

2) We so need more criminal punishments for corporate malefactors that think they can knowingly poison people and then just hide behind their corporation.  So glad this guy got almost 30 years for killing (and seriously sickening) people with peanut butter.

3) Oh, Ben Carson.  Apparently Darwin’s theory of evolution is literally from the devil.  On a related note, an interesting short essay on how we think about evolution.  And finally while we’re at it, loved this Radiolab on how viruses may have evolved.

4) Republicans argue that if Planned Parenthood is defunded women can go elsewhere for their health care.  In actuality, of course, it just means that poor women’s health needs will be even more under-served.

5) A Washington school district that wants kids to stop playing tag (they have unspecified alternatives) because, you know, kids touch each other during tag.

6) Cass Sunstein on better government through social science.

7) Carly Fiorina does not like being criticized.  So she just lies about people.  I’m really thinking she’s not such a good person.  Also, Ezra Klein at his best on why it doesn’t even matter whether she was a good or bad CEO.

8) You know who is a good person?  Pope Francis.  John Cassidy on the symbolism in his papcy:

What has lifted Pope Francis above the political fray and reinvigorated his office in a way that could barely have been imagined under Pope Benedict, is his peerless ability to convey to ordinary people of all religions and political views his version of Catholicism—a version based largely on the life and teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan Order. From choosing to live in a modest guest house, rather than the Apostolic Palace, to washing the feet of a young Muslim prisoner, to inviting dozens of homeless people to tour the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis has lifted up the papacy by puncturing its grandeur, infusing it with humanity, and, where necessary, cleverly exploiting the power of imagery.

9) Not surprisingly, but cool to think about, you’ve got your own personal cloud of microbes following you around.

10) The new research on the nature of student debt deserved it’s own post.  I failed long enough:

And the data suggests that many popular perceptions of student debt are incorrect. The huge run-up in loans and the subsequent spike in defaults have not been driven by $100,000 debts incurred by students at expensive private colleges like N.Y.U.

They are driven by $8,000 loans at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges. Borrowing for both of these has become far more common in recent years. Mr. Looney and Mr. Yannelis estimate that 75 percent of the increase in default between 2004 and 2011 can be explained by the surge in the number of borrowers at those institutions.

11) Eduardo Porter on the growing education gap.

12) So, remember that UNC class on loving the 9/11 terrorists?  The professor wrote a nice Op-Ed in the N&O.

13) On the “ginger supremacist” who sought to kill Prince Charles and Prince William so the red-headed Harry would be king.  Yes, very disturbed man, but I can’t help but love the idea of a ginger supremacist.

14) Seth Masket on why Walker (and Perry) dropped out.  It’s because he actually wanted to be president rather than just running a vanity campaign:

Precisely because Walker and Perry are serious politicians. This is a career for them. Walker, in particular, still has several years left in his term (in an office that isn’t term-limited), and he might make a run for U.S. Senate some day. He might also think seriously about a presidential run further down the road.

He probably could have strung out his presidential campaign a few more months on a shoestring budget, and maybe even found a few eccentric donors to back such an effort. But he’s a smart enough politician to see that probably wouldn’t have succeeded, and he’d have been humiliated in the early primaries and caucuses and just angered some donors who would have seen him as a waste of money. Better to show some discretion than go all in on a suicide mission, especially when he’s only in his mid-40s.

15) Sarah Kliff on the case of daraprim and why American drug prices are so crazy.  And with a great interview on the topic.

16) In truth, most people who have later abortions due so for a really good reason (I’ve personally known multiple cases of pregnancy with anencephaly).  It’s surely hard enough all ready for them.  Here’s a riveting first-person example.

17) I did really love this “Politically Correct Lord of the Flies” in the New Yorker.

18) Thoughtful Connor Friedersdorf piece on the problematic intellectual framework of microaggressions.

19) Really disturbing story of how Afghan warlords have boy sex slaves and American forces are just supposed to accept this part of their culture.


Just embarassing

How incredibly stupid these students at Wesleyan University are.  They seem to have the 1st grade approach to political dialog– I don’t like what you are saying, stoooop.  Don’t ever say it again!  From the Wesleyan Argus:

During the Wesleyan Student Assembly’s (WSA) open forum on Sunday, Sept. 20, members of the Senate discussed a petition calling for a boycott of The Wesleyan Argus and the revocation of its student group funding. The petition will be the focus of aWSA-sponsored town hall meeting next Sunday, Sept. 27. This petition was sparked by a controversial article published in the Opinion section of The Argus last Tuesday, critiquing certain methods of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“The undersigned agree to boycott the Argus, recognizing that the paper has historically failed to be an inclusive representation of the voices of the student body,” the petition reads. “Most specifically, it neglects to provide a safe space for the voices of students of color and we are doubtful that it will in the future.”

The petition, signed by 167 students, alumni, staff and one Middletown community member as of Tuesday night, further lists five demands directed at The Argus. The boycott will include disposing of copies of The Argus on campus and insisting that its funds from the WSA are withheld until the demands are met.

These demands include commitment by The Argus to create work study/course credit positions; a monthly report on allocation of funds and leadership structure; a required once-per-semester Social Justice/Diversity training for all student publications; active recruitment and advertisement; and open space on the front page in the publication dedicated to marginalized groups/voices, specifying that if no submissions are received, The Argus will print a section labeled “for your voice.”

Oh boy, that Social Justice/Diversity training must be a real hoot.  Here’s my favorite part:

Michael Ortiz ’17, who signed the petition, explained the impetus behind his support.

“My concerns with the Argus currently regard mostly its commitment to representing the views of the campus,” he wrote in an email to The Argus. “….That the Argus chose to give this man somewhere to share his disrespectful opinion and to then have the Argus and its staff members defend the publication, hiding behind the argument of ‘well it’s not my opinion but he’s allowed to have it’ is frankly a great disappointment. The Argus’ publication of this opinion is a silent agreement with its content, and a silent agreement to the all too prevalent belief that black [and] brown people do not deserve a voice, and that we are not worthy of respect.”

Hello, moron.  It’s called an Op-ed page.  Clearly a Wesleyan education has failed these students in some critical ways so far.

Oddly enough, this article does not link to the original, but the author wrote a piece about it with a link to the original op-ed here.  Does he unfairly characterize #blacklivesmatter in what actually tries to be a fairly balanced article.  Yes.  But not in any way you couldn’t here on Fox News every single day.  It may be wrong, but this is called reasonable political discourse.  You don’t respond by destroying newspapers.  And, of course, this is just a black mark on all academia even if does mostly take place in the bubble of elite liberal arts colleges.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Sexual violence on campus is a bad thing.  But so is going to far in combating it for universities to ignore basic principles of due process.  Good to see the courts got it right where University of Michigan got it wrong.

2) Really enjoyed this post/video on the importance of aspect ratio in film.

3) Love this— imagine if the media covered alcohol like other drugs.  E.g.,

NEW ORLEANS — An ongoing drug epidemic has swept the US, killing hundreds and sickening thousands more on a daily basis.

The widespread use of a substance called “alcohol” — also known as “booze” — has been linked to erratic and even dangerous behavior, ranging from college students running naked down public streets to brutal attacks and robberies.

4) Are college lectures “unfair” to minorities?  I say no.  To say that sub-optimal teaching is noticeably less effective for students less prepared for college is one thing.  To call lectures unfair seems a bit much.

5) I suppose I’m not surprised the best jobs require you to be a people person.  Also, this advantages women.

6) Just came across this great piece from a couple years ago looking at the failures of American education in a comparative perspective.

7) You”ll surely be shocked as I to learn that changes to tax policy in NC’s latest budget are regressive.

8) It should also be noted in the Ahmed Mohamed case that it was a violation of the 14 year-old’s civil rights to deny his request to have his parents there.  I’ve already told my 15-year old never talk to the police without me.

9) Garrett Epps on what’s worth celebrating about the Constitution on our recent Constitution day.

10) When all my NoVa friends’ kids started school after labor day, I was so pleased to see that my home school system is actually listening to science and has moved back high school start times.

11) Great piece on how regardless of the famous singer, a huge portion of today’s top pop songs come from a bunch of middle-aged Swedish men:

Seabrook describes the pop sound this way: “ABBA’s pop chords and textures, Denniz PoP’s song structure and dynamics, ’80s arena rock’s big choruses, and early ’90s American R&B grooves.”…

More telling is the record executive Jason Flom’s reaction to meeting a young Katy Perry: “Without having heard a note of music, I was sure that Katy was indeed destined for stardom”—a statement that says more about the nature of the industry than about Perry.

12) Risperdal was a great drug for my son Alex for quite a while– really helped calm down the worst features of his autism-induced anxiety and misbehavior.  But he put on too much damn weight (though, not enough to grow breasts as roughly 5% of male patients did).  After a rough transition, he’s done well on the Clonidne patch.  But as for Risperdal, apparently Johnson & Johnson spent years trying to hide its side effects.  Kristoff is on the case.

13) Can we still blame the media for the Donald Trump phenomenon?  John Sides says yes.

14) What happens when Barbie meets Skynet. I imagine it won’t be long before Sarah is wanting the artificially intelligent Barbie.  Kim loved Barbie as a girl and gets such a kick out of sharing that with Sarah (that’s why it’s fun to have both genders of children– you are just more likely to share experiences from your own childhood).  Surely won’t be long before Sarah wants one of these.

15) Krugman on fact and fiction in the GOP debate:

I began writing for The Times during the 2000 election campaign, and what I remember above all from that campaign is the way the conventions of “evenhanded” reporting allowed then-candidate George W. Bush to make clearly false assertions — about his tax cuts, about Social Security — without paying any price. As I wrote at the time, if Mr. Bush said the earth was flat, we’d see headlines along the lines of “Shape of the Planet: Both Sides Have a Point.”

Now we have presidential candidates who make Mr. Bush look like Abe Lincoln. But who will tell the people?

16) It is a very, very bad thing for vaccines to become a politicized issue.

17) Nice little infographic (though, a little business-oriented) on common cognitive biases.

18) I’ve kept this tab on the “Coddling of the American Mind” Atlantic cover story about the changing  intellectual culture on college campuses open long enough without writing a post.  Honestly, it’s simply one of those things that if you are  the type of person who enjoys this blog (and you’ve made it down to the 18th quick hit, so you are) you should read.  So just do it.

Quick hits

1) Really enjoyed this NYT magazine profile of Kareem.

2) As a Catholic, I’ve always been particularly intrigued by the history of Catholic-hating in America.

3) Interesting take from Chait on climate change.  Also interesting to get David Roberts‘ take on Chait’s take.

4) Jon K. will love this.  A feminist conference where they’ve decided that hand-clapping is too anxiety provoking (wtf??) and that audiences should just do jazz hands instead.  No, not the Onion.

5) No, it’s not the actual ranking of colleges promised, but the Obama administration’s efforts to collect and publish data on graduation rates, debt loads, etc., is very useful.

6) There literally is too much good TV out there.  But you should still watch Bojack.

7) The other day my oldest son asked me why they don’t know the age of the new fossil human.  I was excited to be able to send him to this article.

8) Republican state legislators who are complete idiots are always easy pickin’s.  Still, I’d prefer it if they were not in my state.  What a nutjob.

9) How the upper-middle class (income 81-98th percentile) are pulling away from everybody else (though, not as much at the 99th, of course).

10) On how Exxon knew long ago about coming problems with climate change and mobilized it’s resources for denial and obfuscation.

11) Right.  As if Carly Fiorina is going to apologize for her bald-faced lies.

12) Watched Sixth Sense with David recently.  Holds up pretty well.  So different when you know what’s coming.  Really enjoyed this 538 on the death spiral of Shyamalan’s career.

13) Had this open tab about food irradiation too long.  We should just do it.

14) Is it wrong of me to not be upset about how male Colbert’s new writing staff is?

15) Oh damn did I love this take on higher education “quit lit”:

3. If your quit lit essay primarily discusses the unbearable politics, backbiting, and general petty behavior of academics, how you’re mad (or sad) as hell and you just can’t take it anymore, and we really need to do something about all this terrible stuff before the entire academic enterprise collapses, I can only say, welcome to the whole wide world. You just wrote an “I have a job,” essay.

16) Why you shouldn’t pay your kids for grades.  Personally, I’m all about insufficient justification (which would suggest paying low dollar amounts).  Also, you need to let kids learn by screwing up their household chores.

17) Loved this little essay connecting hatred of Ewoks with feminism.

18) You might have heard about the stay of execution in Oklahoma.  Read this to understand why he shouldn’t be on death row at all.

19) Ahmed Mohammed’s school.  Not a big fan of Muslims.

20) On our toxic, anti-family work-place culture.

THE problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the “Mad Men” era, for “Leave It to Beaver” families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care — the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives…

Bad work culture is everyone’s problem, for men just as much as for women. It’s a problem for working parents, not just working mothers. For working children who need time to take care of their own parents, not just working daughters. For anyone who does not have the luxury of a full-time lead parent or caregiver at home.




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