Open Thread for Thursday, February 19, 2015

Some possible conversation-starters:

The Kitzman confirmation hearings begin — It will be interesting to see whether the Senate really holds the governor accountable on this one. The story at doesn’t say much so far, but you might want to peruse Jamie Self’s Twitter feed. Here are some items that interested me:

On to other topics:

Senate bill calls for ousting SC State trustees — The lurid saga continues. By the way, I saw an interesting headline in the NYT this morning, but haven’t had time to read it: “How to Hold Colleges Accountable.”

No, it doesn’t matter that Hillary Clinton is a woman — I just thought I’d take a second to argue with this piece in the WashPost this morning headlined, “Why it matters that Hillary Clinton is a woman.” The writer notes that three-fourths of voters say it doesn’t matter, and goes on to explain why they’re wrong and don’t even know their own motivations. Well, I’m a pretty introspective guy, and I can say with confidence that it doesn’t matter to me. I’ll neither vote for her (if I vote in the Democratic primary, which seems unlikely this time, since the only contest in doubt will be on the other side) nor against her because she is a woman (if I vote against her in the general, it will be because the Republicans have nominated someone I like better; if they don’t, I’ll vote for her). And if anyone else is going to vote for or against her because she’s a woman, then I wish they’d stay home. Choosing the president of the United States calls for deeper thinking than that.

Or, whatever y’all want to talk about…

54 thoughts on “Open Thread for Thursday, February 19, 2015

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Actually, going back and looking at it more closely… the Hillary Clinton piece says a couple of times, quite emphatically, that no matter what people say in polls, “It matters.” But then doesn’t go on to make any kind of a case for that… At least, I wasn’t at all impressed. Hardly worth arguing with…

  2. Kathryn Fenner

    All things being equal, I’d most definitely vote for a woman over a man. For one thing, women are seriously outnumbered, and do see a lot of issues, on average, differently. On average.

    All things being equal.

    1. Brad Warthen

      The “women are seriously outnumbered” argument seems to me one that has relevance to a legislative body, where you might want to establish a greater balance among different viewpoints and types.

      But choosing a president based on anything having to do with groups, basing it on anything other than choosing THE best INDIVIDUAL, is insupportable…

  3. bud

    Rudy Guilliani made an ass of himself saying POTUS does not love the USA. Ultimately he had to walk it back of course since it was so foul. Typical GOP hate talk. Nothing new.

  4. Doug Ross

    I thought this was an interesting article explaining why Finland’s schools are so much better than American schools and why it is unlikely we could ever do what would be required to match their success. Here’s the nine reasons which are explained in the article:

    1) Finland’s teachers have high status, professional support, and good pay
    2) Finland has more selective and rigorous schools of education
    3) Finland doesn’t give standardized tests (imagine trying to get THAT passed in the U.S. now)
    4) Finland emphasizes subjects other than reading and math
    5) Finland has a history of tight oversight for schools
    6) It’s easier to learn to spell in Finland
    7) Finland has low child poverty and state support for parents
    8) Finland’s schools aren’t better — they’re just homogenous
    9) Finland is culturally different

    It’s easy to say things like “We should emulate Finland’s education system” or “We should adopt Canada’s healthcare system” but the reality is that there would be too many people who would have to give up too much to make it happen.

  5. Doug Ross

    This quote from C.S. Lewis showed up on my Facebook page today… this will likely hurt the feelings of many commenters on Brad’s blog because he’s talking about them…

    ““Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

    1. Norm Ivey

      I saw Infants, Imbeciles and Domestic Animals at Carolina Coliseum in 1978 during their Hell on Earth tour.

    2. M.Prince

      A common ploy of conservatives is to rip quotes from their original context in an attempt to enlist words uttered or written by this or that well-known person into one or the other conservative cause. (Jefferson is a frequent victim of this.) Such is the case here. The quotation from C.S. Lewis’s essay, “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” has nothing to do with “nanny government” (as is implied here) and instead dealt with the British penal system. Lewis was in particular criticizing what he saw as a questionable approach to criminal justice by which prisoners were to be re-fashioned (“cured” in the quote) through psychotherapy, according to a predetermined definition of what is “normal”. He favors the “old view,” which distinguishes between crime and disease. He also worries that psychology, because it interprets religion as a neurosis, could be used to persecute the faithful, (which he of course considered himself to be).

          1. M.Prince

            Funny, I always thought government was about forming a more perfect union, establishing justice, insuring domestic tranquility, providing for the common defense, promoting the general welfare and securing the blessings of liberty.

            Guess somebody’s been pulling my leg all this time.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I’m with you on that, M.

              I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say government is civilization, and civilization is government, but you can’t HAVE civilization without it…

            2. Doug Ross

              Yeah, that’s all it SHOULD do, right? Not monitor school snacks, close arbitrary businesses on the holy day, put people in jail for ingesting a substance…

            3. M.Prince

              Hm, not sure precisely what those refer to, but I suspect they’d fall under the rubric of: promote the general welfare. Yes, I know the term “welfare” is like a red flag to some – but, hey, it wasn’t me that slipped it into the Constitution. Musta been a paleo-communitarian.

  6. Doug Ross

    The expected (by some of us) problem with linking Obamacare to the IRS is now rearing it’s head. If there was a more braindead way of implementing an insurance system, I don’t think it could be possible.
    You know it’s bad news when the government releases the information on a Friday.

    “About 800,000 customers got the wrong tax information from the government, the Obama administration said Friday, and officials are asking those affected to delay filing their 2014 returns. The tax mistake is a self-inflicted injury that comes on the heels of what President Barack Obama had touted as a successful enrollment season, with about 11.4 million people signed up.
    California, which is running its own insurance market, on Thursday announced a similar problem affecting about 100,000 people in that state.The errors mean that nearly 1 million people may have to wait longer to get their income tax refunds this year. And they could also affect the size of those refunds.
    Another 50,000 or so who already filed may have to resubmit their returns.”–politics.html

    1. Bryan Caskey

      A common ploy of conservatives is to rip quotes from their original context in an attempt to enlist words uttered or written by this or that well-known person into one or the other conservative cause. (News Reports are a frequent victim of this.) Such is the case here.

      The quotation from the Associated Press, “800,000 customers given wrong tax info” has nothing to do with “Obamacare” (as is implied here) and instead dealt with the nuance and complicated regulatory matters facing the benevolent government in the face of obstructionist GOP saboteurs. The AP writer was in particular criticizing what he saw as a questionable approach to health insurance by which people’s health insurance polices were to be re-fashioned (“cured” in the piece) through an administrative mechanism, according to a predetermined definition of what is “a qualified policy”. He favors the “old view,” which is single-payer, wherein the government is the sole provider of health care. He also worries that this current system, because it still relies on private enterprise to a small extent, could be used to persecute the faithful, (which he of course considered himself to be).

  7. Barry

    I see Senator Darrell Jackson quizzed Kitzman repeatedly..

    I had to wonder why the king questioner wasn’t so concerned when Lillian McBride was the one that was supposed to answer questions. Instead, he ran cover for her.

    As Kevin Fisher pointed out in this column where Kevin reminds folks that Jackson actually cut off another person’s question to McBride.

    Sorry Senator Jackson- you have no credibility on anyone’s fitness for office.

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        One can raise valid questions about Candidate B even though one failed to do so about Candidate A. This is a form of ad hominem deflection–I believe that neither candidate is/was qualified, although McBride had more credentials on paper than Kitzman for their respective positions.

        1. Barry

          Let me correct you – I didn’t say his questions weren’t legitimate- or valid of Kitzman

          I said he had credibility on the issue because of his running cover for McBride – and cutting off other people trying to question her.

          1. Barry

            “He had NO credibility”

            if you are going to accuse me of “ad hominem deflection: – at least take the time to get my point correct.

  8. Bryan Caskey

    In other news, the Great Lakes are likely to have the most ice since records began.

    Also, under the “How did they miss this?” category:

    “Global warming may not be damaging the Earth as quickly as feared after scientists found that plants can soak up more carbon dioxide than previously thought. According to researchers, climate models have failed to take into account that when carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, plants thrive, become larger, and are able to absorb more CO2.

    I’m just a moron, but even I know that plants dig on CO2. It’s one of their main intakes. I mean, plants love CO2 like Don Draper loves bourbon. They’re really into the stuff.

    So you would think that any sophisticated model measuring CO2 levels would take plants and (and how the plants would react) into account. It’s almost like all of these models predicting horrible change are completely based on assumptions that don’t reflect actual reality.


      1. Norm Ivey

        It looks like it originally came from an article in The Telegraph back in October. I’ve tried to locate the original study mentioned in the article, but cannot locate it. The article credits the “Wyoming University”, which I guess means the University of Wyoming. I’d like to take a look at the original study.

      2. John

        The article in the Telegraph is wrong. I read this paper when it came out – it addresses some important book keeping in CO2 model budgets but in no way does it suggest anything like what the Telegraph implies. The article discussed was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in November of 2014, vol 111, pgs 15774-15779. I believe it is open access. The referring author is Robert E. Dickinson, a very famous member of the University of Texas Austin School of Geosciences. He is a US National Academy of Sciences member and the scientist quoted in the Telegraph as a professor from Wyoming University (?) is actually his post-doc, Dr. Ying Sun (I am not trying to minimize Dr. Sun’s contribution here, he was the lead author). Dickinson’s group noted that one of mechanisms for vascular plant uptake of CO2 was underestimated in the current computer models for CO2 increase and presented a new way to calculate it. The result? A more certain model of CO2 increase. This was actually a great example of the self-correcting nature of science, but read the paper, in no way were the authors trying to imply the content of the Telegraph article. The authors were just trying to understand why the computer models were estimating slightly different numbers than the measurements were showing.

        Re the models – Bryan, they do take that into account. The whole paper is about how those things are taken into account. It’s actually a great view of the sausage making process so please dive in.

        By the way, the Telegraph article really is an example of terrible reporting. Maybe from London fictitious schools in Wyoming and a real one in Austin TX look closer than they really are…

        1. Norm Ivey

          Thanks for the additional info. I can’t find a public copy of the study, but with the title of the study I was able to find several expert responses to it. I particularly like this one from Dr Roger Dargaville, research fellow and leader of the MEI Energy Futures Group at the University of Melbourne:

          Overall the CO2 fertilisation effect has a modest impact on the global carbon budget, and does not remove the necessity to dramatically reduce fossil carbon emissions over the next 40 years to avoid dangerous climate change.

    1. Norm Ivey

      There have been questions about the CO2/plant aspect for years. It’s not that the models don’t account for the phenomenon, but how accurate the figures used in the models are. The more we can refine the models, the more reliable the predictions become. Isaac Asimov wrote an essay about the Relativity of Wrong. He would argue that the models are not wrong, but incomplete.

      Are you overlooking the phrase as quickly as feared? It doesn’t mean that CO2 is not damaging the earth. There have been a number of findings that show that many of the predictions about the effects of global warming are occurring sooner than expected. And direct measurements still show that CO2 levels are increasing, and the direct measurements would, by their nature, take into account the higher levels of the temporary sequestration of CO2 by plants.

    2. scout

      Well the rainforest trees that have been cut down are not being induced to thrive. This is totally supposition but I’d be surprised if the newly induced thriving of remaining plants can make up for the ones we are rampantly chopping.

    3. bud

      Yes plants thrive on co2. Nice biology lesson. So? If they were soaking up enough then Co2 level would level off. But since they continue to rise that’s sufficient evidence to dismiss plant life as a total solution. But perhaps they are part of the solution. The ultimate answer is to slow and eventually reverse population growth.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Well, if breeders stuck with just two kids, we’d reverse it–because everyone cannot or does not breed.

      1. Norm Ivey

        I agree with Bud. Slowing and reversing population growth would go a long way towards solving many of the world’s ills, including global warming. Any biome can only support a limited number of organisms. However, the ideas that come to mind about how to actually do reverse population growth frighten me.

    1. Doug Ross

      Norm – if teachers know best about what to do about education, why are they often so silent in addressing the issues? I rarely see teachers make public statements about what should be done. They seem to just talk among themselves.

      I’d love to hear what teachers think of PASS tests, discipline, parental involvement, spending within the school district on bricks-and-mortar instead of salaries, and whether the investment in technology is actually leading to improved classroom performance.

        1. Doug Ross

          Who would want a job where you spend your career in fear of speaking out or promoting positive change?

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            Lots of people do not have our drive to make the world a better place by speaking out. They think they ARE making the world a better place by showing up every day and teaching students to the best of their ability.

      1. Norm Ivey


        I agree with you. We, as a profession, do a poor job of advocating for ourselves, our profession, and education policy. Part of it is what Kathryn alludes to–the work load of a teacher during the school year is tremendous (ask any teacher’s spouse), and it’s difficult to appear critical of our supervisors, especially when they often agree with our point of view. We are overseen by elected officials–school boards and the legislature–and that introduces a dynamic that doesn’t exist in the business world. And in this state, public education is not treated as a priority.

        Speaking only for myself, I am skeptical the value of some standardized testing for many reasons, but there’s nothing I can do about–nothing. And so I work within the parameters of my job, recognizing that it’s important to my students and their parents as well as to the public. Student work ethic is a greater problem than student discipline. We can address discipline issues effectively; not so much with work ethic. We need bricks and mortar because the kids keep coming. We have to make room for them somewhere. You can’t just shift infrastructure money to salaries because salaries are a recurring expense. If we are going to increase spending on salaries, we should reduce class size, not increase current salaries. The investment in technology is working on many levels, better in some areas than in others, but the most basic takeaway at this point is this students are more engaged, and engagement leads to learning.

        1. Doug Ross

          Thanks for your reply, Norm. I can appreciate your workload but have to ask how you would expect the system to improve (including reducing the workload) if the people responsible for delivering education won’t work to improve the system?

          I am skeptical about the impact of technology on education simply because I don’t see any change in the outcomes. Typically, investing in technology can be assessed using some type of measurement of return on investment. Shouldn’t we be seeing higher test scores, higher graduation rates, higher SAT scores, etc. by now?

          Just this week, there are reports out of Los Angeles saying that they are backing off the investment in technology where every student would have a table/laptop. I couldn’t agree more.

          1. Norm Ivey

            Many of the changes teachers would suggest are beyond our control. We could do much to reduce teachers’ workload by setting the maximum class size at 20 students, or even 15 for ELA classes. We can’t do that, and the public would never accept spending that amount on public education. Let’s increase the number of school days from 180 to 220. Is the public ready to pay the difference in salaries for that? Would they even accept year-round school? I doubt it. By law, we can’t begin the school year before August 15th because the tourism industry needs kids to work during the summer.

            My job as Technology Coach is to help my teachers figure out how to implement technology effectively. We’ve had 1:1 computing in RSD2 for 3 years, and no, I don’t expect to see measurable differences in that short a period of time. Anecdotally, I can tell you that what my colleagues are doing with technology this year has far more impact than what many did during our first year of 1:1. We’re still learning what technology can do for our kids.

            1. It expands to an immeasurable degree the information and resources kids have access to. Whereas previous generations had a textbook and a single teacher’s point of view, now they have no less than the entire world full of information. In this regard our more important mission is to teach them how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

            2. It allows kids to create content rather than simply consume it. We’re beginning to see teachers do things like allow students to blog. Most of their blogging (and other creation of content) still occurs within the confines of the classroom, but imagine what could happen if students began reading and responding to something like this very blog? I’ve been challenged to examine my own views on a number of topics, and I’ve developed a better understanding of other points of view by reading what Brad, Bryan, Kathryn, Bud, Phillip, Mark, you and others have to say. Our kids are just as able to learn from such an exchange as you and I are.

            3. It saves time. Think of all the time you spent copying notes in classrooms. We have teachers who are sharing their notes with the kids digitally, and using their class time to do science labs and other activities that require students to access their notes–far more effective than copying word for word from the board. That’s not to say we don’t teach note-taking skills–we do. We simply spend less time doing it.

            4. It allows for differentiation. With technology, we are able to deliver different levels of content to different students. We can deliver challenges for our advanced students while providing supportive activities for others. All students have the opportunity to experience rigor on their own level.

            5. It removes the classroom walls and the bell schedule. You and I are able to go online for anytime, anywhere learning. Why shouldn’t kids be able to do the same? I am working with a math teacher now who is developing a series of video tutorials for her students. She is posting those videos so her students can refer to them when they are working on practice exercises.

            As long as we continue to use standardized test scores as the primary metric in evaluating the success of schools, we will be disappointed. Such scores do little to measure the critical thinking skills or the contributions of individuals to society.

            Have some patience. Most of our teachers did not grow up using technology, and they’re still learning the best ways to teach with it. They are dedicated, hard-working, smart, skilled people and they are succeeding.

            1. Doug Ross

              “Have some patience. Most of our teachers did not grow up using technology, and they’re still learning the best ways to teach with it. ”

              Norm – I’ve had three kids go through Richland 2 schools with the last one finishing up in 2012. Technology changes (Smartboards, computer rooms, using Powerpoint and the internet) were going on during their entire schooling. I saw no difference over that 15 year period in the quality of their education – in fact I saw it become a way to avoid doing hard work. Need some information? Wikipedia, cut and paste. Don’t want to read a book? Find the summary online. Don’t want to write a paper? Powerpoint.

              I’ve worked in technology since 1977. People are not any smarter in general now than they were then. I run into young people in work situations now who can’t write, can’t read anything longer than a blog post… they are a product of the technology generation and it’s not making things better for them.

            2. Barry

              I’ll say one thing tech does with my wife’s middle school classroom

              having computers allows her to give “computer work” to the kids in her class that are 100% intent on bothering other kids in the middle of class.

              They’ll do the “computer work” she gives them to do, versus other work.

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