When Ronald Reagan was Shot


notePage1-1200Some of you may have seen this already; the Dallas Morning News published this four days ago, but if you’ve got a Sunday morning free to read, this is gripping. It’s a really well-researched account of George H. W. Bush’s role in the days after Reagan was shot.

Whenever I see a good, in-depth article like this called a “longread” by the paper it’s in, I sigh–this was once the length of any good piece of investigative reporting. Its very hard to say anything new or useful about something like this in fewer words.


Econ 101 For Colleges


IMG_0484A commonly-held leftist meme is that conservatives hate education. The technical word for this is “nonsense”: conservatives value education just as highly as liberals, and it bears repeating that the majority of college graduates vote Republican. Conservatives do, however, have strong criticisms of academia, which is a related but distinct matter from higher-education itself.

Of late, a new criticism has grown regarding the rise of the government-educational complex, specifically regarding the positive feedback* loop between tuition prices and easy student credit. The more money the government offers at below-market rates, the more colleges raise the fees, prompting even more generous loans, and setting up another cycle of the same. When you further consider that the availability of the loans is completely divorced from consideration of the degrees’ potential value and that their value is almost uniquely protected from normal market pressures, you realize that we’re not dealing with a market failure, so much as a conscious and successful effort to prohibit the existence of one.


Charles Murray on the SAT


shutterstock_99158105For about six years, I tutored high-school students in the Boston area, mostly for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. In most cases, these were high-achieving students who were looking squeeze an extra percentile or two out of their scores. As the instruction was one-on-one, this usually meant traveling to the family’s house, and working with the student at his or her kitchen table. These were generally very nice tables, in very nice kitchens, in very nice houses, themselves in very nice neighborhoods. Instructions as to how to find to the bathroom were often shockingly involved. Suffice to say, most — though not quite all — of these kids were stinking rich.

To left-leaning critics of the test prep-industry — and to many of those within the industry itself — this sort of observation often leads to worries that the tests are merely testing the students’ economic privilege, rather than their actual abilities and knowledge. It seems all the more so when most of your students are sharp-and-rich and those who aren’t are far more likely to be dull-but-rich than sharp-but-poor.


Ithaca College Student Government Considers Anonymous ‘Microaggression’ Tracking System


prevent-snoring-tape-mouthThere is a chilling resolution that is currently under consideration by the Student Government Association (SGA) at Ithaca College, a private university in upstate New York. The resolution, which has the support of many SGA members, seeks to target so-called “microaggressions” on Ithaca’s campus by creating a tracking system that students can use to anonymously report incidents of perceived bias on campus.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a microaggression is a slight against another person—intentional or not—that is perceived to be discriminatory based on the snubbed person’s race, ethnicity, gender, class, or practically any other characteristic that one might think of. Princeton University students have called microaggressions “papercuts of oppression.”


Seduced by Leftism


shutterstock_99949916I have a childhood friend — now an MD and the director of medicine at a prominent hospital — who is obviously very bright, but he is also a fully invested, over the top, leftist. My nephew, a gifted child, is now arguably one of the top applied mathematicians in the world. He works for a non-profit think tank at MIT which in turn works for the federal government. I’m not sure what he does. He, too, is a Prius-driving, vegan Leftist. These two men have active, fertile minds and yet they swing hard left.

My friend the MD had a difficult childhood. His father was a paranoid racist kook and an alcoholic; perhaps a schizophrenic as well. His self-inflicted problems were always the result of conspiracy. The old man abandoned his family, disappeared and was later discovered in rural Maine with a second family. My friend’s mother was so devastated she committed suicide, leaving my gifted friend in the care of his aged grandparents. His developed leftism has something of his father’s kooky paranoia to it.


Valuing College on a Risk-Reward Basis


college_risk_reward_shutterstock_032315Another study, “US university degrees: High cost, high reward,” shows that completing college is a good financial deal. But this one is a bit different in that it looks at the return of investment on a risk-reward basis. As researchers Jeffrey Brown, Chichun Fang, and Francisco Gomes explain, “College-educated workers are less likely to experience unemployment than workers without a high school diploma, but they also face much higher uncertainty in their career paths and lifetime earnings.”

And remember, this all assumes humans are risk averse. Investors, for instance, would rather have a low-risk portfolio than an high one if investment returns are equal otherwise.


Back to School


shutterstock_28662005How many people here have been to college more than once? By that, I mean that years passed between a first and second degree, perhaps even in unrelated fields. When did you go back? Why did you go back? How was it different the second time?

I didn’t make the most of my first college experience. Since I decided to focus my career on my writing skills, an English major seemed appropriate. One doesn’t need a degree to learn to write. But employers expect a degree. So there I was, grudgingly. That grudging attitude wasn’t helpful. Nor were the frivolous elective courses. And if any degree would do, I was stupid to pursue a degree in the Liberal Arts.


Bring Back the Trivium!


Some valid inferences in categorical logic. Long live the Trivium!The world is a complicated place; it’s hard to trace all the world’s problems back to their few root causes. But surely a lack of education is one of them–and, sad to say, a presence of miseducation. To be precise: A lack of good education is one of the root problems.

So what makes a good education? I was raised with the idea that Reading, ‘Riting, and ‘Rithmetic were fundamentals in education, and I don’t disagree with that now. The Lost Tools of Learning by Dorothy Sayers was a wonderful discovery in college. It turns out that there are some other fundamentals, the lost tools of the Trivium: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric–or language, logic, and rhetoric. This is the old way of doing education. One of its surviving relics is the term “grammar school.” (Also, alongside the old and broken, yet newfangled, education system, a renewed, yet ancient and time-tested, education system has sprung up on this model–largely because of the influence of Sayers’ essay [examples here and here].)


Anti-Semitism 101


antisemetismOn Saturday, March 7th, a bus full of University of Oklahoma SAE fraternity members chanted disgusting racism. Someone filmed a 20-second clip of it on their phone. The following day, the video appeared on the Internet, and quickly became viral, worldwide. On Monday, the school severed all ties to the frat.

On Tuesday, two of the students from the video were expelled. Even though the school’s administration acted swiftly and harshly, there were multiple protests & marches. The school’s football and basketball teams and coaches gave the actions even more attention. None of the outrage displayed could stop a highly-recruited football player from decommitting from Oklahoma. Many are saying this requires a “national dialogue,” so we certainly haven’t heard the end of this story.


Alabama Giving School Choice a Try


Alabama’s education system has struggled for years. This August, the state was ranked 48th in the nation in a study evaluating math and reading scores, dropout rates, and student-to-teacher ratio.

This week, Alabama’s leadership took a big step in correcting this seemingly intractable problem. Instead of building elaborate new facilities, handing out iPads, or pumping more money into the broken system, the state is giving choice a chance.