Morning Ed: Education {2018.04.04.W]

[Ed1] Justin Stover says there is no case for the humanities.

[Ed2] A look at how the academy forces conformity.

[Ed3] The editors of Bloomberg View go to bat for Chinese students. I am inclined towards agreement, but I’ve heard from enough places that we’re bringing in unqualified students that I am believing there is some truth to it.

[Ed4] Another potential issue is that Chinese students live a world apart.

[Ed5] Republicans are taking a closer look at the Confucius Institutes, China’s entrance into our university system that I have linkied about previously.

[Ed6] This is a lesson plan in need of some revision.

[Ed7] When it comes to active shooter drills and scaring children, the shooters didn’t do that. We did. And if history is any indication, we’re not going to stop.

[Ed8] The good news is that schools have gotten safer, and the students are seeing it despite our best efforts to scare the hell out of them.

[Ed9] It may be a glorified IQ test, but Freddie makes the case for the SAT (and maybe it would help if we required all students to take it). Freddie’s logic tracks a bit with my old Hit Coffee post about using Mario Bros 2.


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Will Truman is the pseudonym of a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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83 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Education {2018.04.04.W]

  1. Ed2 –

    Dr Harper did ask her daughter to tell their guests what the daughter was going to do for Dr Kramer. The daughter replied she was going to make him some chocolate cookies. [REDACTED-NAME] said that Dr Kramer is diabetic and “you don’t give a chocolate cookie to a diabetic and think something good gonna happen to them.”

    Dr. Harper was a terrible mother.

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  2. Ed4: The same thing was true in the 1980s, when I was an undergrad at UC Santa Barbara. How it played out depended on the origin of the student. Chinese students were a pretty new thing at that time. Their reputation was as academic grinds. Then there were the Middle Easterners, who were the opposite: there to party on their parents’ dime. Regardless, there was little sense of meaningful cultural exchange. Rather, the sense was the administration didn’t care, so long as the checks cleared.

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    • Interestingly I think the reputation of Chinese students have changed because of China’s new wealth. Now a lot of Chibese students are seen as being here because of parental wealth. USF has a fair number of Chinese undergrads. They tend to self-congregate and also:

      1. They drive fancier cars (like Maserati fancy); and

      2. The wear much more expensive clothing (like 450 dollar shirt expensive) clothing than American college students. I know the price because I recognize the brand.

      There were plenty of rich kids when I went to college but I don’t think you could tell the rich American kids based on appearance. They also dressed like college schlubs.

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      • Yeah, I think the Illinois flagship University has a joke about how during the day the parking lot is full Ford Escorts and by night the lot is full of BMWs; the explanation being that the teachers have the lots by day and the Chinese students by night.

        The main campus went from around 30 Chinese undergrads to over 3,000 in about 15 years (plus a couple thousand grad students, but I think the extent of the increase in undergrad students is what is significant). This has generated controversy about the role of a public university, with the university pointing out that the concept usually implies public funding. They are paying twice in-state tuition.

        The Chinese students I met in school around 1990, i.e., shortly after Tiananmen Square, weren’t planning on going back. They were not optimistic about China. These days, getting a degree from an American university is perceived to provide greater advantage to getting a good job in China than a Chinese university, though by many accounts the gap is narrowing. Some of the news accounts place a fairly strident tone among Chinese students (Americans just party; this is the Chinese century; brown rice sucks). These are examples of students planning on going back.

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          • Generalizations are only generally true, but I think the linked piece generalizes with an assumption that the schools aren’t doing enough to retain Chinese students after they graduate, when a lot of students have their own plans (or their parents who are paying the freight have their own plans).

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        • Ugh. I remember one of my colleagues in grad school commenting that he could tell when one of the “rich kids from the Chicago ‘burbs” was parked in the faculty lot (or the lot designated for grad students) because the car was about 10 years newer and of a nicer make/model.

          He also alluded to calling Parking Services (which, at the risk of violating Goodwin’s Law, was basically the Gestapo on that campus) on them. Though they probably just laughed off the $20 tickets, I suspect.

          Most of the International students we had were from South Asia (India or Malaysia) and they were not noticeably wealthier than the other students. Where I am now it seems many of our International students are African in origin, and provided their English is okay, they do well in classes. (I may be biased toward them though because by and large they seem to have been raised to be more polite/respectful than your average American kid). Most of the African students we get wish to become medical professionals and return home to serve the country they originated from, and I say more power to them.

          We’re trying to attract Chinese students here right now to combat falling US enrollment. I don’t know. It seems at times they are rather loosey-goosey on this campus about requiring people pass the TOEFL and that causes headaches for the profs. (But then again: no one really cares if the profs have headaches)

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  3. Ed2: I was gonna say “Sayre’s Law, LOL” but that’s no laughing matter.

    Sayre’s Law is for when faculty fight over what color whiteboard markers shall be purchased. The things described in that article are way more broken. And yeah, college teaching/academia attracts some straaaaaaaange birds (I should know: I am one myself but I am mostly the benign flavor of strange) and sometimes people who can’t really interact usefully in a normal social milieu or who have some neurochemical weirdness going on.

    Add in administrations that are super-fearful of any lawsuit or bad PR, and you’ve got a bad mix.

    I will say I do remember being worried a couple semesters by different things: I once had a student claim I was “sexist” in that I held the women in my classes to higher standards than the men (I don’t THINK so, an my grade distribution seems to bear that out). And another student tried to bully me into giving him a higher grade by claiming he had evidence other students cheated, and would reveal that evidence to higher-ups if I didn’t raise his grade. (I didn’t, but I felt kind of sick for several weeks afterward waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did, and the following semester a colleague reported THE EXACT SAME BEHAVIOR on the part of the student in her class, so obviously he was a troll)

    (But yeah: the whole “secure employment for life” thing is becoming more and more of a myth. We have post-tenure review and I have told that two subsequent unfavorable reviews – they are on a three-year cycle – will get you stripped of tenure and likely fired. I’m not willing to test that. Then again, there are people who “know where the bodies are buried” or who are special pets of certain admins, and they could probably get away with it; I assume I could not)

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  4. Ed4: I’ve mentioned before how I had to deal with an enclave of Korean CEE grad students. Nice people, but borderline English skills that were not improved by a couple of professors who were happy to conduct classes and other business in Korean.

    Ed7: One of our High Schools and Middle Schools are about 1000 yds from the local rifle range. The range sits outside of city limits and is over 100 years old (historic site, long pre-dates the schools). Lately folks are talking about closing the range down because they can hear the shooting from the school. In one of the discussions I’ve had with people about this, a lady mentioned how the active shooter drills have scared both her and her children.

    I told her she needs talk to the school about how they are conducting that training, because the purpose of training needs to be to remove fear, to inform people of what to do should the worst happen. It’s supposed to be empowering. I’ve taken a lot of training in my life, between the military & my work with CERT, and none of it has ever left me feeling afraid to go into a dangerous situation. Quite the opposite, I’ve always come away feeling confident that I could not only survive, but also assist others in surviving.

    If we expand this to other things in our society (like, say, oh, I don’t know, the police?), I think we have a population of ‘Professional Trainers’ who are charlatans hawking a dangerous product to people and organizations because they use their training to stoke fears (which, IMHO is so they can encourage people to come back and buy more training). We can’t even reliably look to regulators to try and fix this, because our various levels of government like to peddle fear as well to shore up their power.

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        • The people making these decisions have little reason to care if the training is actually effective in a crisis [1], but have plenty of reason to want to be seen as taking action. If anything, needlessly upsetting and traumatizing people probably better serves that end, since it attracts more attention and means that they can signal how serious they are by showing they’re willing to make people scared and miserable.

          [1] Not really irrationally, because the risk of this sort of crisis afflicting any individual school are quite low.

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          • And it allows them to check a box saying they Did Something, just like requiring every single employees of the campus to sit through an hour long presentation on Why Gender Discrimination is Bad while not ACTUALLY going after the one or two (highly-placed) folks that are known for bad behavior around women on campus.

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      • Slightly different, but: department chairs here were made to take part in a simulation, which took place in a disused dormitory. Yeah, they were essentially NPCs in a FPS game.

        I’m glad they didn’t make regular faculty do that but I expect it’s coming. I have nothing in my background where I could claim the “PTSD exemption” but….I can imagine it being nightmare fuel for me.

        Already we have to sit through a lecture about it every year where they show us a “recreation” of the Columbine shooting (disaster porn, really) and also randomly play a tape of shots fired so we “know what they sound like” and even though I know it’s coming I still jump every year.

        The irony is? One of the things they could do (make doors easily lockable from the inside) isn’t done because it’s claimed it will be “abused” or will be “unsafe in case of fire.” So they’re scaring us every year but not giving us the tools to actually protect ourselves.

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            • It doesn’t help that the vast majority of the costs associated with active shooter drills and the like fall on people who aren’t making the decision to have active shooter drills and the like.

              And, bluntly, because the dichotomy of, “Well, we can traumatize kids/teachers/et c. or we can implement my preferred public policy!” falls apart if we acknowledge that the drills and the like are stupid and harmful even without banning assault weapons or whatever.

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      • Think of it this way. What is a Fire Drill? It’s an evacuation drill. Get everyone out of the building as quickly as possible. People conducting fire drills don’t blast heat and smoke through the building, or do anything to encourage the fear of fire. Just simple, plain, evacuation. When I was growing up, we also had tornado drills, where we would all shelter in the school basement. No scare tactics, just gather orderly in the basement until the all clear is sounded.

        What is an ‘Active Shooter Drill’? It’s essentially a shelter in place drill. Sound the alarm, all students get into a classroom, teacher bars the door, and everyone gets to cover. Very similar to duck & cover exercises from the cold war, or WWII. No scaring of anyone is needed.

        Schools are very robust buildings, a shelter in place drill is useful for a number of reasons not related to an active shooter.

        In the end, it’s all about creating a simple, calm set of actions everyone can take to stay safe. Anything that is done which may introduce an element of fear into the training undermines that goal. Which speaks to ‘s point, that by calling it an ‘Active Shooter Drill’, they can be seen as doing something, and everyone knows they take it seriously.

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        • I think this might be true but kind of misses the point.

          Since liberals generally believe in gun-control measures that would prevent school massacres from occurring in the first place. They don’t want people like Cruz (or people not like Cruz) to have super-easy access to guns especially ones that seem designed more for warfare than hunting. We don’t want active-shooter drills to exist because we want to live in a world where mass shootings are rare events.

          This isn’t an attempt to change opinions on gun control or the 2nd Amendment. But it seems to me that your point might be true in a technical sense but it still feels like condescending to liberals and ignoring the broader point or end that they want. Changing the name isn’t going or explaining this point ad naseum isn’t going to prevent liberals from being upset when they see their pre-schoolers prepare for active shooter drills.

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          • Actually (and this also applies to open workplaces like Youtube) you need to have only 1 vistor entrance to a complex. all others are single person and require an Id badge. Cruze would not have an an active ID badge, so he could not have gotten in just like the shooter yesterday could not have gotten into the complex as she was not an employee or contractor. I observed over 28 years how security in oil company office buildings has tightened up and think in only makes sense in all facilities. In fact today with the state of face recognition you might be able to use face recognition to control entrances. The key element is to ensure that those not authorized have to check in to get entrance.
            There even exist today kiosks that will give temporary badges, that require a drivers licenses and go back to the state records to compare faces.
            (If you noticed the views from above yesterday the patios etc where accessible from the street with no entrance gates.

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          • Or it could be framed in a different way, to continue with the analogy to fire.

            School fires are mitigated by many, many measures besides drills. School buildings have very stringent codes about how they are constructed, out of what materials.. Their corridors, stairs and escape routes are highly regulated. They are mandated to have sophisticated alarm and fire suppression systems.

            We don’t allow schools to be constructed of paper and wood with cluttered exits, and then imagine we can solve the problem by having fire drills.

            I think liberals would be ok with shooter drills if they were enacted after we regulated guns like explosives, as opposed to instead .

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            • I think liberals would be ok with shooter drills if they were enacted after we regulated guns like explosives, as opposed to instead .

              As near as I can tell, active shooter drills aren’t a right/left issue. The more common argument I see from the left is actually the opposite of this: Because we don’t have gun control, we need ASD. As soon as we have gun control, then we won’t need it anymore. Not that dissimilar from Saul’s thing about wanting to bring about a world in which ASD weren’t necessary.

              This is, to me, just as wrong as your framing (that it’s okay to have ASD but after we implement gun control)

              I link to Mother Jones in part because it’ goes against that grain. Active Shooter Drills (at least, anything tailored to that particular nightmare scenario) is a bad idea with or without gun control.

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          • Let me put it this way. Are you just fine with the idea of scaring the piss out of parents and kids with active shooter drills because it helps your political goals (further gun control)?

            There is no need in any school for an active shooter drill. There are two, maybe three, types of drills a school needs to do: Evacuation, Shelter in Place, Shelter against Storm (when in an area prone to tornadoes).

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        • I still remember being suspicious of the tornado drills, though: go out into the long hall lined with lockers (most of which still had big plate-glass doors at the end), kneel down, and link your fingers over the area where your brain-stem is.

          as if fingers could protect you from debris. And as if every part of your brain BUT your brain stem was destroyed by debris, you’d want to stay alive….

          (On my campus now, we have designated shelters THAT ARE FISHING UNDERGROUND. Oklahoma is a lot smarter about tornado safety than Ohio was)

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        • My original comment got lost but call them Indoor Safety Drill and Outdoor Safety Drill. Tell the kids it is the teacher’s job to keep them safe and sometimes that means leaving the building and sometimes that means staying together inside. It helps the teacher and the kids to practice.

          It works. I know because I did it for 3 years post-Sandy Hook.

          And it helps. In an emergency/panic, you want muscle memory to kick in. Drilling feels monotonous but it works. Helped me twice when kids were choking and my CPR training kicked in without even thinking.

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            • Yes, this. I was an anxious little kid with a too-good imagination and no sense of relative risk: I was SURE that either the school or my house was going to burn down eventually, or we were going to get hit with a tornado.

              the idea of “someone with a gun might come to school and shoot at you or your friends” would have pushed me over the edge. But an “inside safety” and “outside safety” drill might have been easier. (“might,” because I KNOW some kids would be know-it-alls about “Well, they’re doing this because someone might come and shoot up the school” and of course hearsay from other kids is worse than straight talk from adults)

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            • Sadly, though, we’ve been told part of the reason we do the training sessions is partly so WE know how to act if we’re in a lockdown – as in, “if someone uses the ‘magic keys’ on the classroom computer to summon help (1), when the cops arrive, pancake on the floor, keep your hands in full view, because they don’t know who the good and bad guys are.” And also, worse: “If you’re injured, don’t count on getting help until they’re sure all the threats have been neutralized”

              (1) which is why they tell us in case of OTHER emergency – e.g., a student has a medical emergency in class – we need to CALL campus security so we can tell them it is not an armed-intruder threat. What a world we live in. And yes, I fully expect the most likely “emergency” I will ever have in class will be a student having a seizure or a massive allergic reaction to something….

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          • One of the unhappy things I learned when I was working for the state legislature is that sometimes people decide that their lives would somehow be better if they killed a particular politician. We didn’t do Indoor Safety Drill, but there were panic buttons that would lock the building down. The only time ours was hit was when there was a gunman across the street in the Capitol looking for the Governor. We did Outdoor Safety Drill regularly. Mostly they were practice, but over three years there were two bomb threats that resulted in evacuations.

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  5. Ed1: I notice that you are practicing your click bate skills.

    The article did have one very interesting point. The traditional importance of the humanities was to provide class cohesiveness. Young men of the upper in the West studied the Classics because that was considered important. The Chinese gentry studied Confucius and related works because you need to in order to join the Imperial Civil Service and it was seen as what the Chinese gentry did.

    The current global upper class or even the American upper class is too fragmented to need a class unifier like the humanities any more. A Democratic voting professional in a coastal city and a Republican voting business person really don’t feel a common need that they need to know the great books of Western civilization. Both find it irrelevant to what they do for a living or the circles they travel in. The humanities aren’t studied as frequently because they lost their class unifier responsibility.

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    • The current global upper class or even the American upper class is too fragmented to need a class unifier like the humanities any more.

      I think this is almost it, but it’s probably closer to being that university attendance is not the sort of class marker it once was (since it’s gotten a lot more widespread), and thus it isn’t useful for it to provide a cultural education that provides class unity. People who are from the real upper echelons are going to be unified by other experiences and cultural touchstones than the freshman year reading list.

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      • That is another good way of looking at it. College is no longer the preserve of the upper class and upper middle class. There were always from lower social backgrounds but they tended to be much rarer before the mid-20th century and definitely before the 19th century. The global expansion of higher education after World War II got rid of university and the required readings as a class marker. Even going to an elite university like Harvard or Oxford does not a class marker make these days. This means that class connections will come from something besides reading the Iliad and the Odyssey in Greek. If your upper middle class, it might come from an interest in yoga and being very secular with international friends. If your really upper class, something else.

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      • I think the answer is between you and LeeEsq. My anecdotal observation is that the middle-class and upper-middle class parents fall into two camps when educating their progeny:

        1. “You are smart and bright. You should study something that interests you and everything will work out. You have plenty of time to work and find something to do”; or

        2. “Your future is not secure. You need to pick a practical major if you want to live in a nice house like mom and dad. You need to pick a major with a clear path to a job and/or some kind of professional school.”

        My parents were largely in Camp 1. They seem to get a psychic benefit from the fact that I have an MFA and through my knowledge of art, history, etc. I know people whose parents were from Group 2. They are often kind of shocked that my parents let me major in Drama.

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        • My parents were definitely in the first camp, but I think I made it easy on them by being incredibly interested in math and science.

          “What I really want to do is write computer programs that solve differential equations!”

          “Yes, pillsy, but we’re sure you’ll, um, somehow find a career even if you, we, follow your academic bliss without consideration of, ah, practical applications.”

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          • I think a lot about how I would raise my kids. I still marvel at 18 year olds who go to university knowing that they want to major in business or finance. Where do they get such interests and so early?* I suppose there is still part of the eighteen year-old romantic in me that thinks such things are boring.

            I’ve seen people with parents in Camp 2 burn out fast and hard. On the other hand, the kids with practical majors often had less of a career roller coaster.

            *And these are kids from solidly upper-middle class and above backgrounds.

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            • My kids are in elementary school now, which is to say that question is coming up fast. My inclination is camp number 1. College degrees come in two varieties. Some are glorified vo-tech certificates, while others aim at “educated” in some broader sense. The vo-tech certificates are great, and usually necessary, if you want to go into a profession that requires one and you know this early enough that you don’t go down some garden path first. The other kind is better for every other situation. Here in Maryland we have this place. I can totally see my older daughter going there, and I would be thrilled. A lot of people’s minds are bogggled when I say this. They ask what sort of job this would prepare the kid for. My answer is every job that doesn’t require a vo-tech certificate.

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              • I know St. Johns. I wonder if this goes to broader debates of whom or what is a university for. My wondering is that there are probably a lot of kids whom know how to do really well in school but aren’t necessarily intellectually inclined.

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  6. Yeah, that article was actually better than the title, but also seemed to be mostly besides the point of the title. (As in, it wasn’t trying to be ironic or satiric)

    Eta: I think you, Lee are also slightly discounting how much higher education (in the US) *was* a trade school for clergy, and to a lesser extent lawyers, up to the mid 19th century, and how few people in absolute terms went to these schools.

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    • I think what we now call the Ivies and other colonial era became a finishing school for the wealthy before the Revolution and remained as such until the mid-20th century. Other colleges were training schools for clergy though.

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      • Actually if you go back to its founding Harvard was a vocational school for the clergy (as indeed was Yale). It is just like a large number of schools in the US started out as normal schools or teachers colleges with 1-2 year programs to train teachers. In addition of course the land grant schools were founded on a vocational basis for engineering, ag, and military science. All decided they needed over time to upgrade and add the liberal arts.

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  7. [Ed2] There’s a lot to think about there.

    [Ed7] I’m not sure what the third link is supposed to imply – that fire drills in schools are useless safety theatre since so few mass deaths from fire take place in schools?

    If that’s the intent, I don’t think the point is really valid. Fire drills are generally relevant – even if the particular school you’re in is entirely masonry, without a stick of wood framing anywhere, so a burning curtain would not do more than fill one room with smoke… The general idea of an orderly exit and meeting at a pre-determined marshall point should the fire alarms go off – that’s useful at home, church, theatre, archery range, wherever the kid goes.

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    • I link to it mostly as an indication that the measures we take may be somewhat divorced from actual level of risks. Not a conclusive argument, but relevant to the discussion, it seems to me. Even if the shootings stop, maybe the drills won’t.

      We assume it’s useful. I’d always assumed it was useful. But.. is it? Or is it just something that we do because we’ve always done and it intuitively seems like it would be? So I guess the questions are:

      1) How often are orderly exits necessary?
      2) How orderly are the exits?

      I can be convinced that the neither is reflected in the data about the things that we most worry about – dangerous fires and the like – but it’s not clear. The best that can be said is that the drills are not traumatizing to the kids and actually kind of a fun break from the monotany, so the costs are marginal. But it’s actually got me thinking.

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      • I think we do a lot of stuff that probably doesn’t help because it also really doesn’t seem to hurt. “The costs are small, even if they outweigh the possibly nonexistent benefits,” may not be a good reason to start doing something, but is actually a reasonably good argument for not stopping doing something.

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      • I did find this

        https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v14i14.pdf

        4,000 school building fires in 2-3 years, as compared to, what, a few tens of shootings? (of which many would have probably been “fist fight turns into gun fight” so would not necessarily have benefited from a lockdown)

        Table 2 is an interesting one

        School building vs. other non-residential building fires
        0.4 vs 1.0 deaths / 1000 fires
        13.5 vs 9.8 injuries / 1000 fires
        $14,000 vs $27,000 property damage / fire

        Given schools are pretty densely occupied (probably reflected in the higher injury rates) I’d say the much lower death rates are a suggestion that the fire drills are working.

        If the fire drills at school prompt kids to go home and ask about the fire evacuation plan at home – maybe leading to their parents making one when there hadn’t before – that could easily save a lot more lives at home than at school.

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      • This is something similar to what I was thinking all along.

        If the only fire drill I get at a refinery (chemical plant, power plant, wherever the BA sends me) is when a fire actually occurs, then what is the difference between a legitimately dangerous situation and the school simulation?
        And the answer is the backdrop of the professionalism of the tradesmen.
        They already know how to evacuate orderly, and already know where their designated area is.

        The purpose of the drill, then, is to teach these skills to children, the process of orderly evacuation and gathering in a designated area.

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  8. Interesting to pair Justin Stover’s essay in Ed1 with this one in The Atlantic by Ian Bogost

    Bogost writes about how after the Youtube headquarters shooting, the tech leaders in Silicon Valley stumbled in halting inarticulate statements, unable to say anything meaningful, that they literally “had no words” to say to comfort, enlighten, instruct, or motivate.

    It feels profane to suggest that the craftwork of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and CEOs might have replaced the role of literature, philosophy, and religion. But it’s not an overstatement, not entirely. Mark Zuckerberg, emperor of a technologized global community, has become an accidental political philosopher. Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the information gods, play at epistemology. Jeff Bezos is the new ontologist, promising that people, recast as consumers, can find and discover anything. Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, accidental literary theorist, reinvents poetry as an endless stream of largely angry quips. Travis Kalanick, who melted jobs into flex work at Uber, became gig work’s leading economist.

    It’s ironic, I think, that at a time when the value of humanities is being questioned, we have such a dramatic revelation of how empty and weak the pillars of our public culture are.

    Our President speaks with the vocabulary and depth of a 12 year old child, the titans of industry can’t summon up a thought deeper than a Hallmark card and religious figures at megachurches hector us about our sex lives in between appeals for a new private jet.

    No wonder, I guess, why disaffected young men turn to people like Jordan Peterson in a desperate search for meaning.

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        • The fact that we reduce national discourse to “comforting words” is part of the problem.

          OK, so lets say that Cornelius Vanderbilt or Andrew Carnegie couldn’t speak like a Lincoln either.

          But for that reason we don’t laud them as anything other than lucky and conniving robber barons who pilfered and gambled their way to fortune.

          Even in darkest days of the Gilded Age, it would have seemed weird for anyone to say “Lets run government like a business!” as if Boss Tweed was someone to inspire us to greatness.

          But now we do!
          We just elected a guy whose chief claim to the Presidency was that he was a businessman, and we have endured a couple decades now of lionizing CEOs as magical talented people who can Set Things Right.

          How many people here have heard endless TV commercials for candidates solemnly swearing that “he is not a career politician, but a BUSINESSMAN!”

          So the task of ordering society, of achieving justice and domestic tranquility and providing for the general welfare,and the freaking red button to Armageddon is now assigned to…people who can’t utter a single sentence above the 8th grade level?

          Who when pressed, retreat to the bailey of “Hey, don’t expect so much from me, I’m just a greedy sumbitch who got lucky getting people to click on a button to find out their secret personality.”

          Really?

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          • I don’t think we should reduce national discourse to comforting words (and don’t disagree with the bulk of what you said), but at the same time, comforting words do have a place as part of that discourse. I do think this is somewhat relevant to the humanities historical role as part of vocational training for clergy, who do have such utterances squarely in their wheelhouse, but that history is, well, pretty much history, and doesn’t really apply so much to Philosophy PhDs[1]anyway.

            [1] I really can’t shake the feeling that “Philosophy PhD” is a pleonasm.

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            • Maybe what sets me off is the combination of the scorn for humanities, and celebration of The Businessman as some latter day Cincinnatus who rises up to fix what the sniveling bureaucrats and pointy headed intellectuals messed up.

              There is this idea that governance is really just being The Boss on steroids, the guy who summons the little people into his office and says “You’re fired!”

              What seems lost is the larger idea that democracy needs to elevate people of wisdom and reflection as its leaders, people who grasp the deeper ideas of justice and philosophy.

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              • What seems lost is the larger idea that democracy needs to elevate people of wisdom and reflection as its leaders, people who grasp the deeper ideas of justice and philosophy.

                Indeed, too bad it’s more satisfying to the id & ego to elevate the guy who promises to step on the neck of the other, in whatever form is appealing.

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                • I’m not so sure the premise quoted is at all accurate.
                  In fact, I question its aspirational value.

                  Wisdom and reflection were never strong points of Democracy-writ-large; in fact, quite the opposite.

                  NOTE: I’m going to make this a very abbreviated argument, for reasons too lengthy to go into now, as this would defeat the purpose of an abbreviated argument.

                  It occurs to me that the basic difference between our dominant political parties is that of the duty of society, on which there are two very different views. But we can see that society has a different set of duties toward its members than the foreign peoples.
                  Attached to this is the notion of rights and liberties, both of members and foreigners. Here, “Right” should not be conflated as the freedom to do something, but as a property claim; i.e., an infringement on liberty is compensable to the extent of the property claim, and often this claim is only to a procedure of some kind, no matter how empty.

                  The overarching question is this:
                  Of what value is liberty to a people such as this?
                  Are they even deserving of rights, any whatever?

                  The sad fact is that, no matter how much adequate information you place in front of people, no matter how much understanding engendered, the vast majority are not inclined to act on it.

                  Thus, the very notion that these are a people to whom liberty is owed, a people who may properly maintain rights, any whatever, is merely a tyranny of the minority.
                  Intelligence is merely an affliction.
                  To tend to understanding is only to cultivate a heavy heart.

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          • This is, essentially, a question of the metric by which success is measured.
            For now, we have the old monetary dollar amount to go by.
            I see this as a leftover of a fading Boomer culture.*
            Successive generations are much more concerned with work/life balance.

            * For , though in the past I have advocated smothering Boomers with pillows** as an alternative to Obamacare, please do not conflate this with hangings. Pillows are warm and cozy; rope, not so much.

            ** For Sam W, concerned about police shootings, this schema could well lead to more, as “He was holding a pillow when I got there” would then be a reason for an officer to shoot.

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            • See, although I would object Very Loudly to you threatening anyone on this board with smothering, or calling for a National Day of Smothering or something**… I can also quite reliably tell that you are not actually, ever, wanting to smother any actual Boomers (at least not ones you don’t have a personal, individual-basis reason to want to smother, we all want to smother somebody sometimes).

              And even if you were, no one is (as far as I know) giving you a nice fat paycheck and a respectability-seal-of-approval to share your opinions with the world, so the energy I would have to object to your so-far-entirely-hypothetical-from-my-perspective-and-please-don’t-essay-to-convince-me-otherwise-i’m-very-worn-out-this-week purported desire to commit mass smotherings is minimal.
              ___
              **it even made me uncomfortable with myself and eager to point out I’m KIDDING to type out “National Day of Smothering” … sigh. but also ugh.

              PS Wandering ever further from actual topics, smother is one of those words, to my ears at least, that is anti-onomatopoeic – it doesn’t sound like killing someone, it sounds rather delightful and like it should refer to … marshmallows. Or like its other common meaning, covering a delicious burrito in equally delicious green chile. Something lavish and/or snuggly and/or warming and/or delightful .. it’s much too fun to say to be such a horrible word. Suffocate, on the other hand, sounds like what it is.

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          • The problem is real, but I don’t think you have it quite right. Trump’s inarticulacy may be the thing about him that gets the most press, but it’s not in my top 10 reasons why he shouldn’t be President. It’s how he thinks, not how he talks that’s the real problem here.

            And frankly, I’m not convinced more of the Humanities would help here, especially literature, which seems to get all the focus in these debates. I’ve yet to hear how reading fiction would make Trump less Trumpy. Solving policy problems is a specialist skill, and if expertise matters, then that’s what our political leadership should specialise in.

            I do agree that the obsession with business people with no political experience is a bad trend though.

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            • ” I’ve yet to hear how reading fiction would make Trump less Trumpy”

              There are about a jillionty studies that suggest that reading fiction leads to increased empathy. In *most* people that would lead to an improvement.

              OTOH increased empathy, as an *ability*, in someone who fundamentally enjoys hurting other people can make things significantly worse, not better.

              We should, perhaps, be grateful he doesn’t read novels, not just indifferent to it. If he understood people better, he’d probably just be better at harming them.

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                  • …and explained how he was a better golfer than anyone on either PGA tour…

                    I used to play* and simply refuse to believe that there’s anyone that disconnected from reality. He can shoot in the low 70s from the blue tees riding a cart. The non-senior tours require players to walk (four to six miles for 18 holes, typically). The pro tees are anywhere from 15 to 60 yards farther back. No club player who stands at the pro tees and looks at the difference can delude themselves into believing they could shoot the same scores from there. Like almost all sports, the pros simply play a different game than us mere mortals.

                    * I gave up because of the frustration of my back and hips losing the flexibility to allow me to swing properly.

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              • OTOH increased empathy, as an *ability*, in someone who fundamentally enjoys hurting other people can make things significantly worse, not better.

                Yeah, that was my thought too. Trump’s primary career is basically as a con artist, and con artists typically have very good empathy – you need to be able to understand what drives people to be able to grift them. Trump lacks sympathy, but that’s a different problem.

                And while a lack of sympathy is definitely on my top 5 list of Trump problems, its not at the top – his zero-sum thinking, blindness to procedural fairness, hideously simplistic approach to problem-solving and general stupidity are all bigger problems in my opinion.

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            • I’m not saying it’s necessarily in the top 10 reasons Trump is bad, because it’s such an embarrassment of riches (or impoverishments), but being able to address the public in a comforting way in times of crisis is, IMO, a real but informal part of the President’s responsibilities, which flows from the ceremonial aspects of the office.

              It’s just that it’s generally something that, in the past, anybody who was able to actually win the Presidency had sufficient political skill to manage.

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