David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America close the week with three crazy martinis. They unload on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Jim Sciutto for speculating on air that the radical Muslim terrorist in Barcelona got the idea for a van attack from watching the events in Charlottesville. They also hammer Antifa’s argument that it engages in violence to protect nonviolence and only against white supremacists, pointing out that Antifa viciously attacks anyone it doesn’t agree with and that it is the job of police to protect nonviolence. And they sigh as liberals start calling for the removal of statues of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, just as their critics predicted earlier in the week.

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Recorded on July 24, 2017
With schools in session across the country, Hoover senior fellow Paul Peterson details this year’s survey of American education by Education Next. Among the more notable results: teachers are wary of their colleagues’ performance; parents are increasingly dissatisfied with charter schools.

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David French of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see Kim Jong-Un has publicly back down from his threats to fire missiles towards Guam and discuss whether some new blunt talk from Defense Secretary James Mattis made the decision an easy one. David rejects the push by the left and some on the right to move or remove Confederate memorials and statues and instead proposes more memorials to honor Union, slave, and free black figures from the war to provide more context. And they roll their eyes as an ESPN commentator says he hopes a positive outcome from Charlottesville will be Colin Kaepernick getting a job in the NFL again.

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RaShaunda and Shenicka Sitting in a Racist Tree

 

My wife is back in university retooling for another run at the rat race employment. To that end, being a while out of university life she is taking a series of workshops to get back into the education mode and out of real-life mode. One of today’s workshop was writing where they use a website called chompchomp.com for grammar instruction. In one of the examples/lessons on comma splice or fused sentences, the following sentence was presented for class discussion and diagramming.

During English class, Anthony kept flirting with RaShaunda because his behavior was keeping Shenicka from understanding the lecture, Shenicka whacked him over the head with her heavy dictionary.

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In this AEI Events Podcast, AEI’s Nat Malkus welcomes Liberian Education Minister George K. Werner to deliver a keynote address on Liberia’s new education initiative, the Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) program, in which eight non-state operators manage 93 public primary schools. Dr. Malkus opens the event by describing Liberia’s recent history and the state of the education system. A short video is shown, detailing a typical Liberian school and outlining the PSL program. Following, Minister Werner delivers his address, discussing the rationale behind the program and its early successes.

Following Minister Werner’s remarks, panel of experts on education in the developing world discusses the implications of the PSL program. Alejandro Caballero of the International Finance Corporation states that private operators could provide substantial benefits to developing world schools. Amy Black of Results for Development stresses the importance of the government’s role in partnerships between public and private schools. Seth Andrew of Democracy Builders and Bridge International Academies believes that delaying the expansion of the model to analyze the program results, though understandable, would hurt students who are in failing schools.

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On Conservatives and Cowardice

 

In college I was fairly open about my politics. I was, even then, a conservative, though I think my particular “style” of conservatism was different from what it is now: Limbaugh vs. Buckley, populist vs. intellectual, angry and conspiratorial vs. classical liberal. When I landed in an English literature class with an outspoken progressive professor, a man who promised at the start of the semester that he would transform us all into marching social justice warriors, then proceeded to deliver on his promise by having us read far more Chomsky than Shakespeare, I pushed back often and loudly. I did pretty well in the class, but I felt at the time that, if not for my politics, my B+ would have been A. At the end of the semester the professor wrote me a personal note in which he expressed regret that I “didn’t learn anything.” In other words, he didn’t convert me.

I clammed up a lot more as I got older because I finally decided to get a Ph.D. in History, and as I married and had children, I grew extra sensitive to jeopardizing my educational and career prospects by saying the wrong thing or just being the wrong kind of person for my graduate school advisers and potential employers. I showed up for class, did my work, spoke up in historical discussions, but shut up when things turned political, even when professors spoke derisively and intolerantly of people and ideas that mattered deeply to me.

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This week on the Confab, senior writer Michael Warren tells why the Trump administration is sticking with the Iran nuclear deal—for now. Reporter Alice Lloyd reports on an Education Department summit about how colleges should treat accusations of student sexual assault. And senior editor Andrew Ferguson comes by to talk about the lost journalism of the great writer Ring Lardner.​

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Grad School in the Humanities: The Smart Ones Left

 

Note: In general contours, this is a true account, but every name that could be changed has been to protect myself from the vindictive (with the exception of a street name).

Dave was on balance both better dressed and more serious in his demeanor than most of the PhD Students in the Department for German and Related Languages at Gigantic Midwestern Research I University. He usually wore khakis and button down Oxford pinpoints, looking quite professional, where most of the rest of us were in the rotation of jeans t-shirts that were either politically antagonistic (“Bush/Halliburton” or slightly later “End Mad Cowboy Disease”) or pop-culture derivatives (college-themed variations of Calvin and Hobbes or other already aging 1990’s pop culture references). I was the polo shirt guy, which put me closer to Dave on the sartorial scale than to the rest of our cohort. What really set him apart, though, was something he said one night after one of our monthly departmental guest lectures. The lecturer had a been a foreign language pedagogy expert from a well-known and then well-respected east-coast university who had achieved some notice in the AATG and MLA circles by reversing, almost single-handedly, the constant decline of enrollments in German that the field had seen since the end of the Cold War at her institution. German pop culture tie-ins! Student writing and creative arts portfolios in German! Internet chatrooms with StudentInnen in Karlsruhe! Our faculty and some of the older grad students, those a couple of years ahead of us, had eaten her Spiel up like fresh Apfeltaschen. Not Dave.

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Welcome to the Harvard Lunch Club Political Podcast for July 5, 2017 it’s the “Podcast of Record” edition of the podcast with your hosts Mike Stopa and Todd Feinburg. On this celebratory weekend of America’s birthday we bring you two stories from the Grey Lady herself, the New York Times, (who says it’s all fake news???) describing (1) how liberals are segregating America and (2) how they are attempting to invoke sympathy for Central Americans who are forced to cancel their well laid plans for trekking with human smugglers across the desert, children in tow, to enter America illegally.

First, the august NYT describes the current state of the “Fair Housing Act” (from 1968) and how these days what it is doing is offering tax exempt funding for low income housing that builders can only find already impoverished communities to build in (Program to Spur Low-Income Housing is Keeping Cities Segregated).The result: more segregation. Who could have imagined such a well-intentioned government program having consequences that, well, nobody thought of???

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Stop the Funeral Dirges for Academic Rigor, Please

 

I admit to being a hopelessly disorganized individual, and working in a cluttered corner “office” in my home. The “logical (to me) chaos” of my workspace right now says something meaningful about the state of academic rigor today, thanks to a couple of completely coincidental items. On my desk there is a pile of paper that represents the first 50 or so pages of a nearly 500-page manuscript, and an iPad with a somewhat related book in my Kindle queue waiting for me to complete.

The book is The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, by Tom Nichols, and the manuscript is on a theory of “political Darwinism.” They are definitely polar opposites on just about any scale one would like to use to compare them, which makes them remarkably similar. Nichols is pointing out how society — particularly America — has shifted to a point where all experts are considered untrustworthy. The author of the manuscript is showing how the shifting trends in politics are actually following a fairly logical evolutionary process that needs a severe interruption if we prize freedom at all. The similarity between them lies in both their serious tones of warning against the track our society is following now, and their extreme attention to detail in an academic sense. The other item of note about them is that the book is authored by someone who is generally conservative, and the manuscript’s author is essentially a libertarian.

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In this AEI Events Podcast, AEI’s Gerard Robinson hosts Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who addresses the bipartisan Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 he cosponsored with Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and several other lawmakers. This aims to cut mandatory minimums, grant judges greater sentencing discretion, and help prisoners successfully return to society.

Following Chairman Grassley’s remarks, Hayne Yoon (Vera Institute), John Huffington (Living Classroom Foundation), and the Pat Nolan (American Conservative Union Center for Criminal Justice Reform) discuss how to prepare prisoners for life after prison, reduce recidivism, provide opportunities for returned citizens, and reform the criminal justice system to create safer communities and more stable families. The panelists also address improving prison conditions for women, introducing prosecutorial discretion in sentencing, and funding and operating correctional education programs.

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In this AEI Events Podcast, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx of the House Education and Workforce Committee (R-NC) delivers a keynote to discuss the opportunities of career and technical education, followed by a discussion with AEI’s Andy Smarick. Chairwoman Foxx states that CTE can help fill jobs in in-demand fields, potentially increase graduation rates, and give students more schooling options.

Mr. Smarick and Chairwoman Foxx then discussed the federal government’s role in expanding CTE, with Chairwoman Foxx stating that local-level decisions on the subject were more beneficial. She also stressed the importance of online and distance learning.

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On Being a Public School Insurgent

 

For a conservative (particularly a social conservative), working as a teacher in America’s public school system feels an awful lot like being an exile in a strange and hostile land.

Earlier in my career, collaboration between teachers, while encouraged, was not mandatory. A teacher’s classroom was one’s own domain. As long as one could substantiate to their principal and students’ parents that their lessons met the curricular objective established by the district, teachers were under no compulsion to teach the same lessons as their colleagues. Those days are long gone. Starting with No Child Left Behind, and accelerating under Common Core, delivery of classroom instruction and assessment is under the direct control of district and school site administration. The “perfect” lesson is one that is “teacher-proof,” sanitized of any distracting individuality, conveying the authorized and approved content with a predictable, mechanical reliability. Such lessons almost universally reflect the progressive dogma prevalent in society currently.

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In this AEI Events Podcast, Princeton Professors Robert P. George and Cornel West discuss their close friendship that thrives despite their deep political disagreements—a surprising message in a politically polarized culture. Their lively conversation with Ramesh Ponnuru—who was their student at Princeton—seeks to answer one question: What is the purpose of a liberal arts education?

West and George have spent the past several years teaching and lecturing together to accomplish a common goal: the provision of a true liberal arts education to their students. Through their courses and their friendship, they have served as examples of how, when two knowledgeable and principled individuals come together in an honest and nonadversarial pursuit of truth, the competition of ideas deepens their own understanding of that truth.

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College vs. the Love of Wisdom

 

Part I: A sad realization

While we Ricochetti may find it regrettable, the vast majority of human beings aren’t interested in ideas. In my Advanced International Relations class, we met once a week after reading a book. It was mentally electrifying. We ran the gamut of different ideas and theories and hammered out what they all meant. The teacher was superb, and it was a smaller class, so it was perfect for discussion. The class was among the most intellectually productive things I’ve ever done. Sadly, I doubt that a majority of the students were really into it. I asked my Professor why the students were so uninterested in the morality of torture and wars and Empires. He shrugged and said that while he always found it odd, it was usually that way.

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School Daze

 

I’ve taught school, officially, for 22 years now. I mean, as a contracted teacher. I also worked as a teacher’s aide, and as a short-term and long-term, substitute teacher for a couple of years, as I finished the credential program in California. I went to college, for a couple of years, fresh out of high school, but wasn’t a dedicated student. So I dropped out, got married, had five children, then decided to go back and finish my degree (because I had so much spare time). But, this second attempt at college was more successful because I’d gained more self-discipline, and better stick-to-it skills as a mother. I became a full-time teacher when my “baby” was in eighth grade. It was a really hard transition because I didn’t realize how much time was involved in being The Teacher. Wow … lots of work and time. But, it is a very entertaining profession. I’ve taught in California, Maryland, and Nevada, and have been in 4th grade for my whole career … I love them.

Here are few anecdotes:

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I Am Wombat, Hear Me Roar

 

Please note: Although the terrible shooting in Virginia this morning must still be fresh in everyone’s mind, I’ve been meaning to post this for a while. I cannot think of another forum in which to share this. For the record, I have embraced diversity in all aspects of life since I was small. Rather, I wonder if mandatory, ham-handed “sensitivity” training that has been de rigueur in U.S. academic institutions since the late 1980s have backfired and contributed to the current climate of absurd intolerance. I’ve wanted to write this for almost 30 years: this is my “coming out” essay.

As a teenager during the late 1980s, I was a serious student. In fact, my fellow classmates voted me “most likely to enjoy writing a research paper.” Academics were my life. I had no close friends, preferring mostly to hang out with boys because they made little personal demands on me. We could talk about anything, as long as it did not creep into the realm of the serious. I wasn’t looking to make a significant personal connection with anyone. Sure, I was horny, but I also feared my own sexuality. Junior year, I had a boyfriend for a hot minute. He touched me—once—and I literally swooned. A week later, he dumped me to resume sexy times with his more experienced ex.

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Kitchen Math: The Pythagorean Theorem Is Lurking Behind Your Sink

 

Maybe you hate the backsplash tiles behind your kitchen sink. I know I do. Not your tiles, I mean – mine. Their pattern is a boring grid; their color, a grubby off-white (if you’ve ever dug up grubs in your garden, you know what color I mean). A few of the tiles are stamped with chintzy brown sunflowers in a listless attempt at cheer. It probably doesn’t help that I hate our kitchen sink as well, a sink wedged in a countertop corner for added inconvenience.

But maybe you’re lucky. Maybe you have a convenient kitchen sink and exciting backsplash tile. If your backsplash tile is laid in a hopscotch pattern, you even have the Pythagorean theorem lurking right behind your sink. To the left is a backsplash much nicer than mine, tastefully tiled in a hopscotch pattern (well, tasteful aside from the peculiar choice of blue grout). To mathematicians, the hopscotch pattern is known as “Pythagorean tiling”, because of how beautifully it illustrates the Pythagorean theorem. Several proofs of the Pythagorean theorem exist, some of which are more intuitive than others. To me, the diagram superimposed on the hopscotch tiling produces one of the most intuitive proofs, especially for children. If you like, you can knock off reading right now and do the proof yourself: the diagram has all the labeling you need.

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