Open Thread for Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Haven’t had one of these in a while. So here ya go:

  1. He worked with McMaster to elect Caslen. Now he’s leading USC’s new presidential search — I’m not so sure that’s good thing. I dunno. Is it a good thing? Or is it more like time to change the way we govern public higher ed in South Carolina?
  2. How America Is Marking the Anniversary of George Floyd’s Death — A couple of days ago, I was wondering why I was seeing so many opinion pieces talking about George Floyd (such as the one that follows). Then I figured out why. I’ve never had a lot to say about anniversaries of recent news events, but maybe you do. Thoughts?
  3. If Only There Were a Viral Video of Our Jim Crow Education System — I thought this was the best of the George Floyd pieces I saw. It’s by Nicholas Kristof, and I think it’s dead-on, because it brings up an actual policy problem that we can do far more about — if only we will — than we can anything specific to Mr. Floyd’s horrific death. As Kristof writes, the circumstances of that death enable people “to feel indignant and righteous while blaming others. But in some areas, such as an unjust education system, we are part of the problem.” Yup.
  4. McMaster signs law protecting free South Carolina beach parking, amid home rule concerns — Hey, I can really dig that! But I have to say, Henry, I share those concerns. Nothing like throwing the voters something that doesn’t cost you anything, without considering the locals in the places where the cars descend.
  5. Giant Marilyn Monroe Statue Divides Palm Springs — This one’s pretty interesting, but I need to find a link without a paywall so y’all can read it. I’ll get back to you on that. Gotta run right now.
The statue recreates this moment.

The statue recreates this moment.





36 thoughts on “Open Thread for Tuesday, May 25, 2021

  1. Bryan Caskey

    Kristof’s piece essentially frames the school inequality problem as:

    “More broadly, we in the United States embrace a public education system based on local financing that ensures that poor kids go to poor schools and rich kids to rich schools.

    Yes, it’s a “public” school system with “free” education. So anyone who can afford a typical home in Palo Alto, Calif., costing $3.2 million, can then send children to superb schools. And less than 2 percent of Palo Alto’s population is Black.”

    This is certainly true. More affluent residential areas yield higher local tax revenues than poorer neighborhoods, so there are that more or less funds the schools in that area depending on where you live. Also, not mentioned (but he assumes you know this) is that public schools don’t let you attend anywhere else but where you live. The poor family living on one side of town can’t just go enroll their kid in the better school on the other side of town.

    So that’s the problem Kristoff addresses. In my opinion, it’s a good diagnosis of the problem. However, his prescription seems to not address the problem at all…

    “We don’t have perfect solutions, but many programs promote opportunity and reduce race gaps over time. The time to start is early childhood, with home visiting, quality child care and pre-K. Baby bonds can reduce wealth gaps, and child tax credits cut child poverty. Job training and a higher minimum wage can help families.”

    I have no idea what a “baby bond” is, but you’re never going to get people out of poorer neighborhoods by increasing the minimum wage unless you increase it to something astronomically high. The difference between $12 and $18 per hour isn’t going to get folks into the Palo Alto neighborhood he holds us as an example. Neither will “home visiting” (whatever that is) or quality child care, or pre-K.

    None of those things address his stated problem. It’s like the guy who wrote the first part of the piece is not the same guy who wrote the second part.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Actually, I think the first step is for the burden for supporting public schools to fall completely on the state — so it doesn’t depend at all on local property taxes or local anything else.

      That still leaves a lot more to do to provide fairness, but it’s a great start toward eliminating the advantage enjoyed by wealthier communities.

      We need an education that provides everyone with the chance to build a better future. We’re still a long way from that now.

      It will make school board members in both rich AND poor districts angry, but the state needs to be in charge of both funding and administration, as much as possible.

      And this is consistent with my support for the concept of subsidiarity. The principle holds that every should be handled on the lowest, smallest, most local level that is competent to handle it. With schools, this works great for rich districts, but terribly for poor ones — and yet those running the poor districts will often resist the loss of control fiercely….

      1. James Edward Cross

        Think about where and what the makeup is of those poorer districts and one might be less surprised about distrust over the state taking over ….

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I don’t find it surprising. I find it problematic, though.

          These districts lack what they need to provide the kind of education kids get in the wealthy suburbs…

      2. Bryan Caskey

        “Actually, I think the first step is for the burden for supporting public schools to fall completely on the state — so it doesn’t depend at all on local property taxes or local anything else.

        That’s at least a proposal that logically relates to the problem.

    2. Randle

      I’m pleasantly surprised to see that the concept of home visits is still being bruited about in education circles. This is the second or third time I’ve seen it mentioned recently. I wrote an article on the subject about 30 years ago when a wonderful educator at USC, Dr. Kevin Swick, was developing an outreach program for poor students in underserved communities based on home visits. I visited the Allendale Primary School where the program was being tested, and the results were encouraging. Essentially, the program involved educators and social workers going regularly to the homes of parents whose young children were at risk of doing poorly at school. The home-school workers would teach parents what some would consider basic parenting skills, including introducing their children to books and encouraging parents to converse with their children, especially infants, to develop the language skills needed for academic success. They would also work with the schoolchildren to improve their academic skills. Creating a successful home-school connection was critical in a community where generations of African-Americans had been unwelcome, poorly taught and unsuccessful in the local schools. The one-on-one approach would build trust and address specific needs. There’s more to it, but I won’t attempt to go into it further here.
      It made sense. You don’t know what you don’t know, but if somebody takes the time to show you, you can learn. And success tends to build on success.
      At the school, I saw parents, many of whom were illiterate, sitting at computers following the programs and practicing their reading and writing along with their children. Students in the program were doing better in school and were enthusiastic, the principal said. My question was: Who would be willing to fund this on a large scale?
      My editor wasn’t interested in running the story, and I don’t remember what happened with the program, although I remember talking to Dr. Swick about it later. It had promise. I’m glad to see it’s still being promoted.
      Not everyone needs to go to school in Palo Alto to succeed. But everyone needs a decent environment where learning is encouraged, promoted and supported. Sometimes the local “village” can do it, sometimes it takes more effort and resources. We can probably figure out who needs what, if we want to.

      1. Doug Ross

        85% of the kids in Allendale are failing by second grade. There has been no improvement there in decades.

        1. Randle

          This was a pilot program conducted 30-some years ago, Doug, if you will actually read the post. I don’t think it went much, if at all, beyond the test phase, so there was no way to measure its effectiveness. I’m giving an example of what a home-visit program might look like, as someone on the blog mentioned he had no idea what such a thing was. This was such a thing, designed by a well-respected early childhood educator. I suspect lack of funding killed it, as I thought it would. You would have to hire a lot of people over a long period of time, to determine if such a program could work. A huge commitment of resources. But actually going into homes, working one-one with people who have never had access before to the social capital success requires — could, over time, yield positive results. What I saw and heard and what parents, children and teachers told me was encouraging. I just couldn’t see this society making that kind of investment.

            1. Bob Amundson

              OMG! Moderation time out. I hang my head in shame. WHAT HAVE I DONE! STELLA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Hey, Bob, you probably missed this memo. Everyone is moderated now, and I get to them when I get to them…

                I would say sorry, and I am, because I tried not to do this for 16 years. But I finally became convinced that the only way to build a truly civil forum is to make sure in advance that everything is civil. Everything else I’ve tried has failed.

                I’m looking for an alternative for this, but I’ve been very busy lately and haven’t had time to invent one. So for now, we have this inconvenience — for me more than anyone…

              2. Bob Amundson

                “Busy making money

                To support my writing habit.

                Modern Ruralism – my term – it is a movement.

                And we write. Walden Pond …”

                I sent this in an email to Brad. Since then, I realize I do active reflection (hiking, understanding my landscape – form fits function, and all that) whereas Thoreau wrote from a much more passive reflection. Sometimes I forget where I am and what I am doing. Hour past sundown – sunrise around 0530. Time for bed. Make hay while the sun shines, now and then.

                1. Bob Amundson

                  And to our LIbertarian Capitalist friend Doug, come back to the mountains of the rural northeast and see the new way money is made in rural America. You can stay at my farm – resort – event center on comp! My real money is made from transient construction workers. They fund the other,less profitable “stuff.” A riff on Robin Hood, hence the “Voluntary Robin Hooding” principle.

                  I am working with a consultant from National Geographic. She commented “I want to do what you are doing.” I sad – “Yup.” KISS, then and now.

                  Ok, one more. I pick old RVs. I am “English,” accepted in the Amish Culture, and I buy their crafts (e.g., 4×6 foot black walnut conference table supported by pegged reclaimed hand-hewn barn beams – $4125). Diversity in hard and soft skills, then and now.

    3. Doug Ross

      There is no correlation between spending and academic performance. There is a correlation between two parent homes with each parent having at least a high school diploma and improved performance.

      Allendale total spending per student 2020: $17,804 Up from 14, 316
      Rock Hill total spending per student 2020: $9,061 Up from 8696

      So, with nearly twice the spending per student, I’m sure we can see some amazing results, right?

      English Language Arts (Reading and Writing) – Percent Met or Exceeding
      Allendale County Schools15.3% (72 / 470) 15.3%
      York 4/Fort Mill66.2% (4569 / 6898) 66.2%

      Mathematics – Percent Met or Exceeding
      Allendale County Schools18.1% (85 / 470) 18.1%
      York 4/Fort Mill72.2% (4983 / 6898) 72.2%

      End-of-Course Assessment Results in English 1 and Algebra 1
      English – Scoring C or Higher
      Allendale County Schools19.8% (20 / 101) 19.8%
      York 4/Fort Mill80.9% (745 / 921) 80.9%

      Algebra – Scoring C or Higher
      Allendale County Schools30.7% (31 / 101) 30.7%
      York 4/Fort Mill86.3% (793 / 919) 86.3%

      It’s not a spending issue. It’s broken families having children they cannot support issue. If doubling the spending for decades hasn’t made any progress, why would anyone think spending more would?

      States that have implemented school vouchers for low performing districts have seen success. Better to save some of the kids than just trap them all in the failure factories.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        OK, Doug. And how do you suggest we save the many, many, many kids who don’t have a two-parent home, with each parent having at least a high school diploma?

        Because that’s the issue — how do we provide equality of opportunity to kids who don’t have equality of home life? That’s what all the debates about public education are about.

        To the best of my knowledge, no one has a time machine that allows us to go back in time and cause these disadvantaged kids to cease to exist. And if someone did, I’d have a lot of serious ethical problems with using it that way…

        1. bud

          No we don’t have a time machine. However, to Dougs point shouldn’t we be more proactive ensuring birth control is readily available going forward?

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Ask Doug. It’s his plan. I’m not for making people not exist, in the past, present or future. I’m for doing everything we can to help the people who do exist, in the world that we all actually inhabit…

            1. bud

              You’re not for making people not exist. Now there’s an awkward sentence structure. But what that really says is you’re FOR having as many children as is biologically possible. Thankfully most people reject that worldview.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Actually, that’s not what it really says. But yeah, it’s a deliberately awkward sentence structure meant to highlight the awkwardness I perceive, that of wishing other human beings out of existence.

                But anyway, I only weigh in to tell you here that I edited your comment slightly in order to keep it in line with my increasingly strict civility rules, which only I understand. As for the rest of you — all I seek, folks, is moderation.

                Back to work…

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “OK, Doug. And how do you suggest we save the many, many, many kids who don’t have a two-parent home, with each parent having at least a high school diploma?”

          Well, to Doug’s point (as driven by data) it doesn’t seem the answer is to simply spend more money.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Wait, I think maybe he has offered to pay people NOT to have kids. Which I think he sees as more economical in the end.

              But when I’m asking how we should successfully educate kids who aren’t born with silver spoons in their mouths, I’m really looking for an answer other than, “let’s cause them not to exist.”

              But that’s me. We all have our prejudices. Doug likes answers that cost less. I like answers that embrace the concept of other people’s right to live on this Earth. Both of us are subject to being dismissed for holding to these attitudes…

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                There’s also the fact that, aside from my prejudice against paying to make future kids not exist, I have my doubts that it would work.

                Of course, if I wanted to take Doug’s side, I would say that our recent history indicates that it IS possible to shift to having fewer children. I haven’t seen any convincing evidence that we understand why it has happened, but we have a severe problem with a drop in fertility in this country, which threatens our future prosperity in a number of ways.

                I know Bud thinks that’s great, but most people don’t.

                That reminds me, there was a good podcast of The Daily on that subject recently that I meant to share with Bud. Here it is. And here’s a transcript.

                Looking that up, I see that there was a followup the next day, looking at what has happened in Japan. I’ll pass that link on, too…

                  1. Barry

                    And from what I’m hearing, the 16-25 year old crowd now has less interest in getting married and/or having children than any group ever.

                    My 18 year old tells me that most all of his friends don’t even date. I saw pictures of the recent prom at his high school. I’d estimate 80% of the people there were not there on dates. They were there with big groups of friends.

                1. bud

                  Brad you stubbornly miss the point. There certainly will be adjustments if birth rates get too low in some countries. But the arithmetic is 100% certain that a world growth rate of 1.2%, which is what we have now, is NOT sustainable. That is just a mathematical certainty. There’s no counter argument. It just a fact. Full stop. It’s far more likely that Trump actually won the 2020 election than a 1.2% annual growth rate can be sustained. That would require terraforming other planets. But eventually that too would not be enough.

                  Ideally Japan’s rate should be a bit higher. They may need foreign labor to help out for a while. (South Korea is even lower). The US birthdate is probably about right. A bit more immigration can easily address any labor shortage. But the huge disaster that must be addressed is third world growth, mainly in Africa.

    4. Mark Stewart

      What I am learning is that children’s developmental trajectory is basically set by 36 months of age. After that, it is very difficult to sustain interventions across elementary, middle and high school. I believe that is what Kristoff was getting at, without mentioning the root issue. The truth is, the better the early parenting, the better the developmental outcome. Unlike what Doug suggests, it isn’t just two parents (or parents with a high school degree), what matters is parental engagement with the child. That means time. Time equals resources. Kristoff is suggesting ways to support the family household at toddler age – and that seems to be what the current research is showing. If we really want to make changes that stick generationally, we a going to need to move our attention from schools-based support to home support where young children reside.

      It is a thorny problem, requires a re-conceptualization of our outlook, and a multi-pronged approach. so not easy lifting.

      1. Bob Amundson

        We must identify trauma early – as Mark points out, part of the problem is how much development occurs in the first 36 months. Studies show intervention with at-risk families when a child is born works. It just costs money short term, results are long term, so as usual, we irrational humans prefer short-term, heuristic (Brad? 🙂 ) solutions rather than longer, more complex ones.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      The Swingin’ Medallions!

      All, right, Bill — now you’re getting serious with these videos…

      The Swingin’ Medallions are the eternal band! When I was a kid of about 11 living in New Orleans, there was a kid in my neighborhood who claimed his brother had once been in that band. Then, more than 30 years later, I knew a musician — who gave my son guitar lessons — who had also played with that band.

      They’re everywhere, and in all times since the Stone Age, and everybody played with them at some time or other! They’re cosmic… And although I first heard of them in New Orleans, they started right here in South Carolina

      1. Bill

        We had a drummer who played w/ The SM and SC’s own,Chris Potter(Pug’s in 5 points)as well as Drink Small(!)… Go *ocks!

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