Tuesday, January 31, 2012

SB 146: Nick Moser Gets This One Right

Representative Nick Moser is one of the South Dakota House sponsors of SB 146, "An Act to provide for an affirmative defense of compulsion for the crime of prostitution."  The brief bill states,
Section 1. That chapter 22-23 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
It is an affirmative defense to a charge of prostitution under § 22-23-1 if the defendant proves by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is a victim of human trafficking under chapter 22-49 or that the defendant committed the act only under compulsion by another person who, by implicit or explicit threat, created a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the defendant that if the defendant did not commit the act, the person would inflict bodily harm upon the defendant.
As I understand it, an affirmative defense is something like claiming self defense if one is attacked and kills the attacker.  I don't know how hard it is to prove "by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant is a victim of human trafficking" but this bill seems a step in the right direction.

According to the UN Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking,

An estimated 2.5 million people are in forced labour (including sexual exploitation) at any given time as a result of trafficking
Further, UN.GIFT reports,
95% of victims experienced physical or sexual violence during trafficking (based on data from selected European countries)
43% of victims are used for forced commercial sexual exploitation, of whom 98 per cent are women and girls.
According to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center, South Dakota had 12 calls from July 1-September 30, 2011, so trafficking may not be a affect a huge number of people, but the magnitude of the crime if it affects even one person deserves all the attention it can get. Its victims deserve all the protection they can get.

Should We Create Education Mortality Panels?

I'm not sure how I'll feel about this Jamie Malanowski proposal  tomorrow or next week , but at first blush it makes some sense.
Here’s an idea. Before my wife worked in education, she worked in health care. It is her observation that when patients have bad outcomes–that is, die–hospitals are very serious about rooting out why. When patients die, especially patients who were not admitted in dire condition, the hospital convenes a Mortality Panel to investigate what happened, with an aim to fixing the problem. Sometimes they find shortcomings by a doctor or a nurse or someone else on the staff, and take steps to address it. But often they find that the outcome wasn’t always within their control. Patients drink, smoke, take drugs, have poor diets, have underlying conditions, suffer environmental insults, and so on. Here’s the idea: if you want to hold teachers responsible for student performance, make the teachers’ performance part of a total evaluation. By all means, examine whether the teacher was up to the job. But other questions should also be asked. Did the student do his homework? Did the student come to class? Does the student possess a learning disability, or an underlying medical or psychological condition that affects performance, and does the school address those issues? Does the student have a parent at home? Did he have breakfast? Did he have a place to sleep? Is the student a discipline problem? What has the school done to address this kid’s challenges? If not, is it because of a funding issue?
I have no desire to defend bad teachers.  I have no desire to defend myself when I have a bad day.  At the same time, some students refuse learn and others return to situations that make the events in the classroom trivial.
By all means, hold teachers accountable. Better yet, hold everybody accountable

I suspect that Governor Duagaard and Melody Schopp won't warm to this proposal because many education mortality panels might discover that last year's funding cuts hurt student achievement even though many teachers and administrators did their jobs well.

The biggest proble, with this idea is that the patients are dead, but the failed students are alive.  Something or someone needs to help them. Nothing in this proposal deals with creating second chances for students who fail.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Are Exit Exams Next?

The White House followed up the State of the Union speech with the following bit of PR:
The Race to the Top: College Affordability and Completion will promote change in state
systems of higher education. The President is proposing a program that would spur systemic
state reforms to reduce costs for students and promote success in our higher education system
at public colleges. This $1 billion investment would incentivize states to:

o Revamp the structure of state financing for higher education.
o Align entry and exit standards with K-12 education and colleges to facilitate on-time
o Maintain adequate levels of funding for higher education in order to address important
long-term causes of cost growth at the public institutions that serve two-thirds of fouryear college students.
The Race to the Top for College Affordability and Completion would incentivize governors
and state legislatures around the nation to act on spurring this innovative reform. Through
cost-saving measures like redesigning courses and making better use of education technology,
institutions can keep costs down to provide greater affordability for students.
Writing for the Sioux Falls Argus Leader's "Not District Policy' blog, Josh Verges points to the similarities between Governor Duagaard's proposals and President Obama's and Secretary of Education:s Arne Duncan's Race To The Top plan.

I have a sinking feelig that we'll hear a plan for exit exams as part of graduation requirements and teacher evaluation plans during next year's legislative session.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Teaching Philosophy In High School: Something That Should Happen But Won't

Brazil is the B of the BRIC nations that some suggest will eventually challenge the United States's hegemony.  Boston Review has an interesting article about Brazil's efforts to teach high school students philosophy in order to promote citizenship.
The official rationale for the 2008 law is that philosophy “is necessary for the exercise of citizenship.” The law—the world’s largest-scale attempt to bring philosophy into the public sphere—thus represents an experiment in democracy.
Given that America's political discourse has devolved, one might think that some states might follow Brazil's lead. Additionally, both Brazil and the United States have some strange people seeking political office.
Voting in Brazil is obligatory, but many think it’s useless. In 2010, the largest number of votes for any member of congress went to Tiririca, a popular TV clown, who ran on the slogan, “I don’t know what a congressman does, but vote me in and I’ll tell you.” 
Even a cursory examination of the program, however, indicates that the US will not follow Brazil's lead. First, many in the US would share the practical objections some notable Brazilians have to the philosophy mandate:.
Among the greatest skeptics of the 2008 law is José Arthur Giannotti, one of Brazil’s most respected academic philosophers. He is a close friend of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who vetoed the law when it was first proposed in 2001, after it had already been approved by the legislature. “Teaching philosophy to students who can hardly read and write,” Giannotti said in 2008, “is sad foolishness.”
Students presented with this objection responded,
 . . .if you can’t establish a just society democratically without the citizens knowing what justice is, and if you can’t know what justice is without philosophy, it would be impossible to achieve justice in an unjust society like Brazil if studying philosophy presupposes justice.
Given how some responded, to the critiques made by the Occupy Wall Street movement, those practical folks might not like students thinking too much about justice.  Further, I can anticipate some practical folk objecting to high schoolers learning Kant's Categorical Imperative, a discussion which might make students begin to wonder if they're being trained to exist solely as means to potential employers' economic ends. The idea that one should always be treated as an end unto oneself is probably as dangerous as the concept of justice.

The article also points out some reasons practical capitalists might object to high school philosophy courses.
Or consider the gap between rich and poor in Brazil, one of the world’s widest. Many here don’t perceive it as unjust. In an elite private school in Salvador, philosophy teacher Luis Rusmando told me, “You’ve come to the most expensive and bourgeois school in town.” An Argentinian Marxist who once wanted to be a guerrilla combatant (two relatives, he told me, were killed by Argentina’s military dictatorship) and joined the fight for agricultural land redistribution when he first got to Brazil, he doesn’t quite know how he ended up at this school. Although about 80 percent of Salvador’s population are Afro-descendants, the only black people I saw in Rusmando’s school are cleaners and kitchen personnel. “Most of my students think that inequality is a law of nature,” he explained. That’s why they find nothing wrong with the social hierarchy that Plato proposes in The Republic. “Only when I tell them that wisdom, not money, rules, according to Plato, they’re confused.” 
Off the top of my head, I see two quick objections that the practical folks will make.  It's clear that discussing the wealth gap leads to Marxists inciting students to engage in class warfare.  Then, of course, there's the dangerous idea that wisdom might be more important than money.

At the Madville Times, Cory offered a counterplan to Daugaard's education proposal.  I like Kritiks better than counterplans, so I'll offer mandating teaching philosophy as my alternative part of my K of Daugaard's tired plan planks of tests and merit pay.

Must State Legislatures Be Weird?

The South Dakota legislature is off to a rocking start.  Representative Stace Nelson and the South Dakota Republican legislative leadership are auditioning for a reality TV series.  Bob Mercer has details here and here,  The effort to change the South Dakota flag has prompted some strong feeling.

These little distractions pale in comparison to legislation proposed in Oklahoma; the vanguard protecting America from Sharia Law may soon debate a bill with the following provision:
"No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients."
I guess I will have to check the label on my Campbell's Chunky soups more carefully. I had always thought Soylent Green was a metaphor.

Tod Kelly reports that this bill's prime sponsor, state legislator Ralph Shorty, has a few other ideas.  These ideas have the virtue at being at odds only with the Constitution not reality.
Bill that would deny US citizenship being recognized in the state for people born of illegal immigrants
Bill that would allow the police to confiscate the cars, houses and all other property of illegal immigrants
Bill that would require a presidential candidate to produce a Th“real” birth certificate in order to be placed on the OK ballot
Meanwhile, the Georgia legislature will debate protecting the public good by allowing hunters to use silencers on their rifles while hunting wild hogs.
In Georgia this week, the state Senate is considering a bill that would allow hunters to use silencers at the ends of their rifles or shotguns. The main objective: to help them quietly battle the scourge of wild hogs proliferating across the state's exurban fringe.
According to the Morris News Service, Senate Bill 301 was sponsored by Sen. John Bulloch, a Republican from the south Georgia town of Ochlocknee. Bulloch said sheriffs had asked him to introduce the bill to help cut down on noise complaints about all of the hunters currently blasting away at a feral hog population that Bulloch described as a "growing problem."

There's no word on other states following New Mexico's lead about returning Pluto's status as a planet.  Of course, one can only hope many legislatures will continue to debate the merits of various regional desserts.

[edited for grammar and completeness 1/29/22 1:53 pm]

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sitcom Nostalgia Part 2

My nostalgia got me thinking about teaching.  The past truly is in the past.  Mr.Kotter would never have a chance with the Sweathogs in 2012.

Charlie Moore would have been unemployed if he tried to ask his young group of geniuses about Fidel Castro's baseball career when everyone knows it isn't part of the Common Core Curriculum.

I know sitcoms ain't life, but what the education reformers proposals ain't education either.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Youth Keeps Slipping Away

The Los Angeles Times reports,
Robert Hegyes, an actor whose character, Juan Epstein, was one of the Sweathogs on the 1970s TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter," died Thursday of an apparent heart attack in New Jersey. He was 60.
I used to love that show; it had a great ensemble cast. I suppose if I watched a few episodes now, I'd find them as dated as that rust colored leisure suit I used to own. 

Still, I want to be too young to have the sitcom stars of my youth dying. Being reminded that I'm not makes me feel a lot older.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Charles Murray On Class Inequality

In the Wall Street Journal, Charles Murray has written a provoacative analysis about inequality in America.

America is coming apart. For most of our nation's history, whatever the inequality in wealth between the richest and poorest citizens, we maintained a cultural equality known nowhere else in the world—for whites, anyway. "The more opulent citizens take great care not to stand aloof from the people," wrote Alexis de Tocqueville, the great chronicler of American democracy, in the 1830s. "On the contrary, they constantly keep on easy terms with the lower classes: They listen to them, they speak to them every day."

Americans love to see themselves this way. But there's a problem: It's not true anymore, and it has been progressively less true since the 1960s.
He enunciates his core thesis as follows:

. . . .What we now face is a problem of cultural inequality.
When Americans used to brag about "the American way of life"—a phrase still in common use in 1960—they were talking about a civic culture that swept an extremely large proportion of Americans of all classes into its embrace. It was a culture encompassing shared experiences of daily life and shared assumptions about central American values involving marriage, honesty, hard work and religiosity.
Over the past 50 years, that common civic culture has unraveled. We have developed a new upper class with advanced educations, often obtained at elite schools, sharing tastes and preferences that set them apart from mainstream America. At the same time, we have developed a new lower class, characterized not by poverty but by withdrawal from America's core cultural institutions.
It can be said without hyperbole that these divergences put Belmont and Fishtown into different cultures. But it's not just the working class that's moved; the upper middle class has pulled away in its own fashion, too.
If you were an executive living in Belmont in 1960, income inequality would have separated you from the construction worker in Fishtown, but remarkably little cultural inequality. You lived a more expensive life, but not a much different life. Your kitchen was bigger, but you didn't use it to prepare yogurt and muesli for breakfast. Your television screen was bigger, but you and the construction worker watched a lot of the same shows (you didn't have much choice). Your house might have had a den that the construction worker's lacked, but it had no StairMaster or lap pool, nor any gadget to monitor your percentage of body fat. You both drank Bud, Miller, Schlitz or Pabst, and the phrase "boutique beer" never crossed your lips. You probably both smoked. If you didn't, you did not glare contemptuously at people who did.
I don't want to just cut and paste the whole piece, and I don't have time this week to comment the way I should, so I'll make one short comment and urge everyone to read the piece. 

The dividing of America seems to me to be more important and pernicious.  The rich and poor have always been with us, but now they live apart.  Politically, we see conservatives and liberals refuse to watch the same news programs.  Murray now shows that Americans seem to be abandoning unifying institutions.  I find it a bit ironic and disconcerting that Murray a libertarian is making a similar point that communitarian Robert Putnam made about a decade ago.  Lincoln and the gospels tell us that a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Big boy bloggers Daniel Larison and Rod Dreher have commented here and here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: What Teaching Is All About Edition

From this John T. Spencer post,
I want my students to figure out what matters in life and then have the courage, patience and endurance to live accordingly. The greatest twenty-first century skill is simply this: to learn to live well. text. (Text color in original)

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Minor Musing About Mobility And Education

The Madville Times posts a Bryan Aukerman guest column.  Aukerman writes,
I’m a young teacher in the state who looks at this horribly misinformed Governor and his plan (which has already proven to be a failure to promote student success in other states) and say in all seriousness that I am likely to move out of South Dakota if it passes. I do not want to work in a toxic work environment where the Governor creates an incentive for me to look at my coworkers as competition.
I don't know Mr, Aukerman; Cory vouches for him and that's good enough for me.  I hope Mr. Aukerman is able to make the move and find a satisfying place to work, but the odds seem to be against most people.

A New York Times Magazine article contends,
The U.S. has always been a remarkably itinerant country, but new data from the Census Bureau indicate that mobility has reached its lowest level in recorded history. Sure, some people are stuck in homes valued at less than their mortgages, but many young people — who don’t own homes and don’t yet have families — are staying put, too. This suggests, among other things, that people aren’t packing up for new economic opportunities the way they used to. Rather than dividing the country into the 1 percenters versus everyone else, the split in our economy is really between two other classes: the mobile and immobile.
The article goes on to point out that the split is also between the knowledgeable and the ignorant; the split between what one knows and who one knows also continues.
Until now, a B.A. in any subject was a near-guarantee of at least middle-class wages. But today, a quarter of college graduates make less than the typical worker without a bachelor’s degree. David Autor, a prominent labor economist at M.I.T., recently told me that a college degree alone is no longer a guarantor of a good job. While graduates from top universities are still likely to get a good job no matter what their major is, he said, graduates from less-exalted schools are going to be judged on what they know. To compete for jobs on a national level, they should be armed with the skills that emerging industries need, whether technical (computer science) or not.
Those without such specialized skills — like poetry, or even history, majors — are already competing with their neighbors for the same sorts of mediocre, poorer-paying local jobs like low-level management or big-box retail sales. And with the low-skilled labor market atomized into thousands of microeconomies, immobile workers are less able to demand better wages or conditions or to acquire valuable skills.

Young teachers like Mr. Aukerman face a different problem.  In another New York Times article, Michael Winetrip writes,
Even if you think the Obama administration’s signature education program, Race to the Top, will not help a single child in America learn more, you have to admire its bureaucratic magnificence.
First, it has had a major effect — reaching into most public schools in America — while costing the Obama administration next to nothing.
The Education Department will spend about $5 billion on the program, and even if you’re thinking, hey, I could use $5 billion, consider this: New York won the largest federal grant, $700 million over the next four years. In that time, roughly $230 billion will be spent on public education in the state. By adding just one-third of one percent to state coffers, the feds get to implement their version of education reform.
That includes rating teachers and principals by their students’ scores on state tests; using those ratings to dismiss teachers with low scores and to pay bonuses to high scorers; and reducing local control of education.
Second, the secretary of education, Arne Duncan, and his education scientists do not have to do the dirty work. For teachers in subject areas and grades that do not have state tests (music, art, technology, kindergarten through third grade) or do not have enough state tests to measure growth (every high school subject), it is the state’s responsibility to create a system of alternative ratings.
The whole article is worth reading, but the introduction makes it very clear that teachers who seek a better environment elsewhere may be moving from the proverbial frying pan into the proverbial fire.

I am reminded once again that many people seem to be using Orwell as a blueprint rather than a warning.  It seems clear that Daugaard and others want all workers everywhere to emulate Boxer from Animal Farm:  Repeat the mantra "I will work harder" or "[The Boss] is always right." and when you're used up we'll kindly send you to the knacker's.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Republican Candidates And Superheroes: Update

Andrew Sullivan was kind enough to link to and quote my original observation about the Republican presidential candidates and superheroes.

I should have done a little research about research about Gingrich before I compared him to Tony Stark/Iron Man because I was more right than I knew.

When I made the blurb, I was remembering Tony Stark statements like "I am a Futurist . . . I could see wars coming, chaos, death, and destruction, and I fixed it.  Whether you know it or not, I saved the world"  Some of the religious aspects of that statement are examined here.

At the time, I had no idea that Gingrich had once called himself a conservative futurist.  I remember him as a fan of Toffler's Future Shock, but I had no idea that he had applied the term to himself.

On the personal front, both have commitment issues.  Stark has had his share of amorous adventures.  In addition to the women on that list, I seem to recall seeing him in amorous embraces with the She-Hulk and Tigra as well.  Gingrich apparently wanted an open marriage.

Finally, both seem to be rather divisive figures.  Stark/Iron Man's action created the necessary conditions for Marvel's Civil War.  According to this Rich Lowry editorial,
If Romney can’t right himself and Gingrich goes on to win Florida, every major elected Republican in the country will panic. Every unlikely scenario to get another candidate in the race will be explored. Because whatever GOP primary voters in South Carolina think about his electability, Gingrich is currently radioactive among the general public.
I wish I were smart enough to figure out if these events are pop culture imitating real life or real life imitating pop culture.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I Teach: I Don't Think Daugaard And Schopp Get It

This morning, I loaded up some of the young'uns in a Suburban and headed to the Watertown Speech Fiesta.

On the trip, without any prompting from the SDDOE or the Governor, we discussed domestic violence, Thomas Hobbes's social contact, the ability of the U.S. to deal with the European debt crisis, the shortcomings of a tech centric mindset, and Yugi-Oh; I suppose the Governor and Secretary Schopp may not approve of the last two topics.

Debate and literature classes promote all sorts of discussion that benefit students even if the state can't develop a bubble test to check on it.

Instead of worrying about all the metrics, the Governor and Secretary Schopp should let teachers teach, an act I accomplished today by listening and driving.  They should also let students learn; something my kids did today because what they were learning wouldn't be on the test.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Plan To Evaluate Legislators

Bob Mercer reports that Nick Moser wants to amend the South Dakota Constitution "to eliminate the provision that legislators receive five cents per mile for their trips to the Capitol at the start of session and their trips from the Capitol at the end of session."

Mercer writes that "[f]or the rest of their trips they already get standard mileage rates paid by state government."  Apparently, legislators want the same mileage rates for the trips to open the legislature and return home at the session's conclusion that they receive at other times

I'm usually not a fan of constitutional amendments, but I will support this one with a few caveats.

First, only those legislators who have degrees in agronomy should be guaranteed the increased mileage payment.  The legislature needs more farmers among its numbers, and this mileage payment might provide an incentive for farmers to run for the legislature.

Second, only the top 20% of the rest of the legislators can receive the increased mileage payment.

Third, the evaluation determining whether one is in the top 20% will be determined as follows.

A. The per capita income in the legislator's district is in at or above the state average.

B. All voters in the legislator's district score proficient or above on a test developed by a Texas company.  The test will cover knowledge of events that transpired during the past session.  After all, legislators should be responsible for communicating information to their constituents.

C. Legislators put a "How am I driving bumper sticker" along with a toll-free phone number on the back of their cars so that constituents can be sure that the tax money is being spent responsibly and complain to the proper authority if it is not
D. Governor Daugaard will dirve behind each legislator and fill out an evaulation on the legislator's driving.
I expect Representative Moser to be "excited about that,”

Surely he will continue to say,
“It is going to come down to what your outlook is on it. It is not going to take away from anyone.  I . . . [am] very excited to have the opportunity to get that bonus. If I wasn’t chosen for the bonus, I would be excited for my colleague who was chosen. I don’t see where there would be any criticism from that.”

Kevin Lein Offers An Evaluation Suggestion

Harrisburg principal*, Dr. Kevin Lein, weighs in on Governor Duagaard's merit pay proposal. In a letter to the editor,  Lein suggests,
Designating a portion of the governor’s proposed funding to train and utilize our retired teachers as an independent evaluation team would generate confidence and fairness in the system of rewarding teachers for their hard work and talent. A large percentage, 70 percent, of the assessment process could lie with educators who have worked in this business for more than 30 years, with the remaining 30 percent of evaluation the responsibility of administrators, peers (as per the Danielson Framework suggestion) and connect with pre- and post-testing that displays student growth.
My first quick and dirty reactions are as follows:

1. It's a small step in the right direction.

2. Will the evaluators have paradigms like high school debate judges?  Right now, I'm pretty sure that one or two recently retired teachers will like what I do and one will hate what I do.

3. I have seen nothing except Danielson's own marketing propaganda that shows her method is the best way to evaluate teachers. 

4. This seems to be an effort to get administrators off the hook.  I'm not sure it changes anything for teachers or students.  Lein writes, "the difficulty of implementation and designation of those deserving of this extra compensation is a problem that will lead to unintended negative morale and circumstance."  I don't know if this plan will mitigate most of those problems.  It may keep morale from sinking below its current floor, but I can't see it raising morale.

5. How will this evaluation or any evaluation affect teachers who mentor student teachers?

6. How many teachers has Lein talked to about this proposal?  Teachers should bein the room when these discussions are being held.

*An earlier version of this post erronously identified Lein as superintendent.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Core Of Contemporary Politics

Stephen Colbert gets it.  For the irony challenged, this ad is satire at its best.

Politics: Perception And Reality

David Frum writes,
Ten years ago, pollsters began to notice a strange phenomenon.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Democrats and Republicans responded fairly similarly when asked to evaluate the performance of the economy. In prosperous years, both acknowledged the prosperity. In bad years, both acknowledged the difficulty.
In the 1990s, however, this seemingly natural connection between perception and reality began to break down. Even in the very prosperous late 1990s, Democrats rated the performance of the economy significantly better than Republicans. Then after 2002, the partisan perceptions abruptly shifted: Republicans rated the economy better than Democrats.As far as anybody could tell, there seemed scant real-world basis for this sudden divergence of perceptions.
It seemed hard to avoid the conclusion: partisanship was overwhelming everything, even direct personal experience. [Emphasis mine]
The bolded part makes perfect sense.  In the US, one's partisan outlook may have an effect on where one chooses to live.
. . . partisans additionally prefer to relocate in areas populated with copartisans, a tendency that is strongest among those who switch parties upon relocation. Whether the role of partisanship is central or ancillary, if it is any part of the decision process, it has the potential to make important imprints on the political landscape of the United States
Partisanship also seems to color how often people go to church; maybe it's the other way around, but religion has become increasingly partisan.

The question that keeps bugging me may be a bit hyperbolic, but I wonder how long it will be before the United States becomes two political nations inside a common border.

Quotation Of The Day: South Dakota Merit Pay Edition

From Bernie Hunhoff in today's Press & Dakotan
[The Governor's] proposal is getting serious attention, even though he acknowledges that it may not work and he doesn’t know where he’ll get the money.
If a legislator of either party proposed a new multi-million dollar program — without a funding source or confidence that it would work — he probably wouldn’t get a co-sponsor or a second in committee.
But now we’re going to spend weeks debating the merits of merit pay when we should be figuring out how to help school districts rebuild from the budget mess created not by them but by Pierre.
I'm encouraged that Rep. Hunhoff expects debate.  I'm discouraged that single-party dominance probably means that the Governor will get exactly what he wants

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A Modest Proposal For Merit Pay

Let's all stipulate that all adults want students to succeed.  Let's further stipulate that all students want to succeed.  Some students may not have discovered that fact; some students may not know how to succeed, but all want to.

For purposes of argument, let's all agree that money does motivate all people to succeed.  I don't agree, but the Governor takes it as a matter of faith.

Let's also stipulate that one should apply stimulus as close as possible to the thing one wants to stimulate.  That's why those who want people to type faster pay more to the keyboardist who hits the most correct keystrokes. They don't pay the bonus to the floor manager who walks around making sure no one spills coffee on the keyboard.

I'm assuming that principle explains why the Governor has not proposed merit pay for administrators and counselors.  Teachers are closer to students.  He may wish to gain revenue from reality TV show featuring principals wrestling, but I digress

There is, however, one group closer to students than teachers: the students themselves.  Why are they left to their own, apparently inadequate, intrinsic motivations?

I, therefore, modestly propose that all students who score in the upper level of the Dakota STEP or its Common Core replacement be paid $300.  Further, all juniors who score one (1) point above the national average on the ACT or SAT be given an additional $500. I would not object if the Governor, who believes STEM is the ultimate end of education, added $200 dollars to those who achieve the overall national average but score two (2) points above average math and science.

I'm not sure why anyone would object to this proposal.  It uses the Governor's logic about money being the best motivator.  It applies the stimulus to the people with the most at stake.  It will probably affect more than 20% of the students, so those with egalitarian impulses should love it as well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Did Tebow Cause The Italian Cruise Liner To Sink?

Tim Tebow did not play well yesterday, but this screen cap from The Daily Beast indicates that he may have caused a more important disaster.

Circled at the right is a picture and a headline that indicates he may have been resucued from the Italian cruise liner.

Quotations Of The Day: Daniel Pink Edition

From this Wall Stree Journal interview:
WSJ: What's at stake for companies that stick to the carrot-and-stick approach?
Mr. Pink: First, it's bad business strategy. These supposedly hard-headed businesses who claim to value facts and evidence are actually in many ways abiding by folklore about what really motivates people. What's at stake is whether business decides to run by folklore or science. I'll take science. The continued overuse of carrots and sticks puts businesses on a path that is extraordinarily dangerous.
Later in the article,
WSJ: Why would employees be less concerned with external rewards, like cash bonuses, now and more concerned about inner motivation, or as you say throughout the book, "the third drive"?
Mr. Pink: Part of it is the nature of work that is this migration from left-brain, rule-based, routine, algorithmic work to right-brain, nonroutine, creative, conceptual work. They're as different as information-age work, industrial-age work, and agriculture-based work. You need a different system to get the best out of people doing different work.
I also think especially now, as we turn the page on this decade, there's a sense that something has gone wrong. That we're not doing things the right way. You see evidence of that in different kinds of business corporations such as the low-profit limited liability corporations -- these are not pure profit maximizers. Even the Harvard Business Review is writing about how profit maximization isn't the answer.
So, reliance on carrots and sticks might be dangerous and profit maximization isn't the answer, but South Dakota will probably go forward with a plan that applies those dangerous and ineffective concepts to education.

Keeping Mind And Soul Together Is Difficult

When I was a kid, the United Negro College Fund ran PSAs like this one with the famous tagline "A mind is a terrible thing to waste."

I worry about the young minds in my class frequently.

"War of Nerves," a classic M*A*S*H episode, contained the following exchange between Sydney Freedman and Father Mulchay added body and soul to the dangerous things to lose list.
Sidney: When Pierce and Hunnicutt lose one, he's out of his misery. When I lose one, I've lost a mind.Father Mulcahy: When I lose one, I've lost a soul.
A recent Barna poll might make those charged with helping souls feel a bit disconcerted.
In a finding sure to disappoint pastors, three out of five church attenders said they could not recall an important new religious insight from their last church visit. Of those who attended in the previous week, 50 percent could not recall walking away with a significant new understanding.
In fairness, "[a]bout a quarter of Americans said their life was greatly affected by church attendance and another quarter said it was somewhat influential."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Daugaard: Vangard Of Old Guard

The Yankton Press & Dakotan reports that Governor Duagaard promoted his merit pay and STEM uber alles plan "[a]rmed with a PowerPoint presentation."  PowerPoint was hardly new when I put together my first deck in 1997.  Granted, many still use PowerPoint to good effect regularly, but Duagaard's use seems symbolic of the rather large disconnect between his proposal and current research.

The Governor said,
“Right now, all teachers are paid as if they are average,” Daugaard stated. “You can have teachers who entered in the same year with the same academic credentials, and they will be paid the same, even if teacher A is very good and teacher B is average. That’s not encouraging to teacher A.”
This YouTube video highlighting the work of Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us illustrates that merit pay of the kind the Governor is proposing works only for jobs that rely on mechanical movement.

Instead, people in jobs that require event rudimentary thinking skills are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

The Governor's plan removes all autonomy; every major decision is being made in Pierre not in classrooms.  The testing regime does not check mastery; instead the tests and the materials designed to teach to the tests seek to raise the bottom not challenge the top.  Finally, my job has a purpose: make the kids better when they walk out the door than they walked in.  There's nothing Daugaard can do to increase my sense of purpose.

Governor Daugaard is selling his plan with old tools and relying on old motivators that will produce the same old results.  In fact, the only new things the plan will produce are unnecessary frustrations.

(HT An Inland Voyage for YouTube video)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Daugaard Fails Logic Test

Governor Daugaard spoke about his merit pay and testing proposal in Yankton yesterday.  According to the Press & Dakotan,

"Some studies have shown that merit pay systems have not improved test scores implemented at schools elsewhere, but Daugaard doesn’t believe those programs were as widespread and all-encompassing as his plan."

Let's follow the logic here.  Studies show key parts of his plan don't work on a small scale, but we are supposed to believe they will work on a large scale.  I wouldn't accept that logic in a paper or debate round.

Logically, the one thing that can be all encompassing if one makes failed programs larger is failure

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Don't Want To Make Cory Think Republicans Don't Like Him Because He Teaches French, But . . .

Politico reports that Newt has attacked Romney for speaking French.
A new Web ad from Newt Gingrich's campaign, "The French Connection," stresses the similarities between Mitt Romney and John Kerry, tying the two Massachusetts politicians together with the fact that both of them speak French.

"Just like John Kerry, he speaks French, too," the ad's narrator says of Romney, showing an often-circulated clip of Romney speaking about the 2002 Winter Olympics in French.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Greed Or Human Rights Edition

From this post on The Daily Beast,
“A conspiracy theory has taken root in China,” says Liu Yawei, director of the China program at the Carter Center in Atlanta. “Some very influential scholars see the whole currency manipulation as a ploy, along with the dollar devaluation and war with Iraq and Afghanistan, as all meant to make China disintegrate.”
And yet, according to Liu, if the Chinese government could vote in the American election, they would probably side with the red states. “The Chinese elite actually like the Republican Party more than the Democratic Party,” he says. “They believe the Republicans just want to make more money, while the Democrats are more concerned with human rights.”

Plains Pops: Education Around The Web

Andrew Sullivan links to two views of AP credits here.  His readers show resounding support here.

Many conservative began showing their disdain for teachers years ago.  Nick Kristoff lets some of his liberal disdain show.
The blog of the Albert Shanker Institute, endowed by the American Federation of Teachers, praised the study as “one of the most dense, important and interesting analyses on this topic in a very long time” — although it cautioned against policy conclusions (of the kind that I’m reaching). [empahsis mine]
After all, teachers know nothing about policy, so one need not take their warnings seriously.

Finally, just because I have been trying and failing to do a bit more to live Philipians 4:8--
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things--
I want to point to this Robin Bates post at Better Living Through Beowulf.  She quotes Wayne Booth who writes,
When I “perform” for myself or attend a performance of King Lear, The Misanthrope, or The Cherry Orchard, when I read Don Quixote, Persuasion, Bleak House, or War and Peace, I meet in their authors friends who demonstrate their friendship not only in the range and depth and intensity of pleasure they offer, not only in the promise they fulfill of proving useful to me, but finally in the irresistible invitation they extend to live during these moments a richer and fuller life than I could manage on my own.
Of course no economist is going to consider that sort of richer and fuller life "value added."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Quotations Of The Day: The Governor's Education Policy Edition

For people who understand reality, there's this conclusion to a post on the Answer Sheet,
The Virginia governor is following right along with the program of the corporate-based education reformers who want to run public education like a business. Given that many — if not most businesses — don’t succeed, that’s hardly a template for the country’s most important civic institution.
Substitute South Dakota for Virginia, one can see an organized Republican effort to weaken public education.  The concluding sentence also illustrates why the effort is so misguided and why it should be opposed.

If one prefers to read fatuous statements, there's this gem by Nick Moser,
“If I were a science or math teacher, I don’t know how you could not be excited about that,” Moser said. “It is going to come down to what your outlook is on it. It is not going to take away from anyone. If I were working in a school, I would be very excited to have the opportunity to get that bonus. If I wasn’t chosen for the bonus, I would be excited for my colleague who was chosen. I don’t see where there would be any criticism from that.”
I don't think one needs much more evidence that South Dakota Republicans will give Governor Daugaard everything he wants, or in Cory's words, they will "just shut up and clap for the Governor."

Some Brief Thoughts On Governor Daugaard's Education Proposals

I should comment about the Governor's education proposal.  Today I lack the energy either to effectively curse the darkness or light a candle, so I will be brief.

Because South Dakota is a single party state, Governor Daugaard's proposals to institute merit pay and eliminate the modest job security protections teachers have will pass easily.  The facts that merit pay is counter productive and that South Dakota K-12 teachers are relatively easy to fire will not matter to the discussion.  The fact that literature. music, history, and foreign languages are as valuable as math and science to a well functioning society will not matter either.

Governor Daugaard is following a classic divide and conquer strategy that pits teachers against themselves.  Because teachers tend to vote Democrat, he is also weakening a political foe.  It would seem that he has stronger opponents to subdue than a rather toothless SDEA, but I'm not a politician.

The Governor should have given credit to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich for proposing some of these ideas first.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

More Signs Of The Apocalypse

I realize the Mayan Calendar may not have been designed to predict world's demise, and the December 12, 2012 date may be 60 days off, but there are other troubling signs that 2012 may be the last year humans wander the face the earth.

For example, the the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock a minute closer to zero.
Citing ongoing threats from nuclear proliferation, climate change, and the need to find sustainable and safe sources of energy, scientists moved the "Doomsday Clock" one minute closer to midnight on Tuesday.
The clock was moved from six to five minutes to midnight.
If that's not a big enough threat, Hostess Brands Inc. makers of Twinkies and Wonder Bread is contemplating another bankruptcy filing.
Twinkies may be indestructible, but Hostess is having some trouble. Hostess Brands Inc. is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, sources tell The Wall Street Journal, possibly as soon as this week. The company carries more than $860 million in debt and owes more than $50 million to vendors, plus it's under pressure from rising prices for sugar and other ingredients.
A world without the preservatives provided by Twinkies and Wonder Bread is surely one step closer to destruction.

Finally, the 2012 Bronycon, an event for adult male fans of My Little Pony, had the "biggest turnout ever."

I'd weep for the future if I thought the world had one.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Porn And Mythology Edition

Writing at The Daily Beast, Lizzie Crocker makes the allusion to draw the link between a California initiative to require actors in adult films to wear condoms and the chief god of Olympus who was known for his many amorous adventures:
Ron Jeremy holds a Guinness World Record for his appearances in porn. He’s starred in 2,000 X-rated films and had sex with more women than Zeus
If Crocker had sat through my mythology class, she would have learned that most of Zeus's conquests could be shown to be a patriarchal religion's efforts to dominate and weaken the symbolic power of the matriarchy, but why should one let facts get in the way of a good one liner.

NCLB: An Anniversary I'd Rather Forget

Sol Stern sums up 10 years of NCLB with a great article at The Daily Beast.  He makes three or four key points.  First, NCLB is hopelessly optimistic and has rendered testing rather useless because it now becomes the test has become a goal rather than a measuring instrument.
Though well intentioned, NCLB’s perverse incentives left the door wide open to the corruption of educational standards. The law stipulated that all American students must become “proficient” in reading and math by 2014 --- a hopelessly utopian goal – and then set sanctions for those states that didn’t make “adequate yearly progress” in meeting that goal. But the law also allowed each state to determine its own proficiency standard. Since men are not angels, it was inevitable that state and local education authorities would dumb down the tests to make themselves look good to the feds and to the voters.
The framers of NCLB might have avoided this outcome if they had familiarized themselves with the work of the great American social scientist Donald Campbell. According to Campbell, “when test scores become the goal of the teaching process, they both lose their value as indicators of educational status and distort the educational process in undesirable ways.” That’s exactly what seems to have happened.
Second, NCLB pushed schools to lower standards and demand less from top students.
One other perverse incentive in NCLB: Because the law emphasized mere “proficiency” and rewarded schools for getting their students to achieve that fairly low standard, teachers and administrators were pressed to boost the test scores of their lowest-performing students but were given no such incentive to improve instruction for the brightest students – the nation’s future engineers and scientists.
Finally, things may not be getting better any time soon.
“We have to stop lying to children,” Obama’s education secretary, Arne Duncan, announced last year at a meeting of the National Governors Association. “We have to look them in the eye and tell them the truth at every stage of their educational trajectory.” A nice sentiment, but Mr. Duncan concocted the biggest lie of all when he replaced NCLB’s 2014 proficiency goal with the pledge that all American children will be prepared for college-level work by the year 2020.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Minor Musing: Stop Confusing Continents With Countries

The Financial Times reports that during last night's debate,
. . . . Mr Romney said a “welfare society creates greater equality, but it creates poverty … I do not want America to follow the path of Europe. Europe isn’t working in Europe!,” he declared.
It's a line that's sure to play well in South Dakota.  I'm surprised that the South Dakota War College crew hasn't put the clip on their site along with a Thune comment that mentions socialism.

I really would like someone to explain to me how people who frequently assert, perhaps rightfully, that "East River" and "West River" should be divorced into separate states because of irreconcilable differences can believe that a whole continent somehow shares the same culture, values, and economic realities.

Granted some countries in Europe are having problems, but the continent is not a monolith.  Writing in the New York Times Magazine, Adam Davidson points out,
In 1994, Denmark modernized a system, which came to be known as “flexicurity,” that offered American-style flexibility (layoffs, transitions into new lines of business) coupled with traditional European security. Laid-off workers were offered generous benefits, like 90 percent of their last salary for two years and opportunities to be retrained.
And it worked incredibly well. After Denmark’s unemployment rate sank to among the lowest in the world, the flexicurity model spread throughout Europe. It has been successfully implemented, in locally appropriate ways, in Norway, Sweden and Finland. But in other countries — like Germany, France and Spain — similar reforms faced stiff resistance from workers who preferred the old way. Several countries applied the measures in a two-tier system: people who already had jobs were protected by pretty much the same old rules, while the unemployed — who were often younger — were offered less secure work at lower pay. Greek unions insisted on so much security and so little flexibility that now the country has neither. Flexibility has done little to help Italy, which remains effectively two countries. There is a rich nation in the north where workers earn great salaries in highly productive and competitive industries; many people south of Rome are living in a broken, developing economy that’s considerably poorer than Greece.
In short, Europe may share a common currency, but countries implement different economic policies and have  experience different results.  I realize, it's fun to stretch facts and create bogeymen.  Hollywood does that quite well with many horror films.  I'd prefer the politics to be a bit more fact based and nuanced.

Perhaps One Should Be A Bit Impractical

Tomorrow, I am going to hear a student ask "When will I ever need this?"  I'll hear it the next day too in a different class.  No matter how I answer the question, I'll hear it again next month and next year.  It may be the last question I get asked in the last class I teach on the day I retire seven or eight years from now.

Writing for the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, Virginia Postrel asserts
. . . . critics miss the enormous diversity of both sides of the labor market. They tend to be grim materialists, who equate economic value with functional practicality. In reality, however, a tremendous amount of economic value arises from pleasure and meaning — the stuff of art, literature, psychology and anthropology. These qualities, built into goods and services, increasingly provide the work for all those computer programmers. And there are many categories of jobs, from public relations to interaction design to retailing, where insights and skills from these supposedly frivolous fields can be quite valuable. The critics seem to have never heard of marketing or video games, Starbucks or Nike, or that company in Cupertino, California, the rest of us are always going on about. Technical skills are valuable in part because of the “soft” professions that complement them.
The practical folks who believe that everything must have a commercial function argue that STEM education is both necessary and sufficient because it helps ensure that students will be employable. Postrel uses something from logic class, a non-STEM field, to illustrate that error.
Those who tout STEM fields [science, technology, engineering, math] as a cure-all confuse correlation with causality. It’s true that people who major in those subjects generally make more than, say, psychology majors. But they’re also people who have the aptitudes, attitudes, values and interests that draw them to those fields (which themselves vary greatly in content and current job prospects). The psychology and social work majors currently enjoying relatively low rates of unemployment -- 7.7 percent and 6.6 percent respectively — probably wouldn’t be very good at computer science, which offers higher salaries but, at least at the moment, slightly lower chances of a job.
Derek Thompson points out that statistics are often a snapshot of a particular moment.
employment and earnings statistics are variable. Real estate was all the rage in 2003. But four years after the housing bust, it won't surprise you to learn that architecture majors now have highest jobless rate among recent college graduates at 14%, nearly three times higher than for Information Services Majors. Or poll business school grads from 2000 or 2008 how flooding into finance worked out. Stats are moving targets.
Finally, what would a Sunday morning post be without a little scripture.  Commenting on the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, England's Prime Minister David Cameron reminds us,
Along with Shakespeare, the King James Bible is a high point of the English language……creating arresting phrases that move, challenge and inspire.
One of my favourites is the line “For now we see through a glass, darkly.”
It is a brilliant summation of the profound sense that there is more to life, that we are imperfect, that we get things wrong, that we should strive to see beyond our own perspective.  The key word is darkly – profoundly loaded, with many shades of meaning.

I feel the power is lost in some more literal translations.  The New International Version says: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror”  The Good News Bible: “What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror”
They feel not just a bit less special but dry and cold, and don’t quite have the same magic and meaning.
When everyone is advocating something, in this instance STEM and practicality, it's good to be reminded that
wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat (Matthew 7:13)
The solution might be found in Romans 12:2:
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
A little beauty,a little renewal, and a little less conformity might be more important that the tech that everyone is looking to as a savior.

The Creative Side Of High School Policy Debate: I Think

I'm positive that a former high school policy debater wrote and produced this Direct TV ad; it has all of the elements of a classic disadvantage.  The original script probably had a nuke war impact.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quotation Of The Day: Television And Human Nature Edition

From this Los Angeles Times article,
Human beings are such gorgeously contradictory creatures — we demand variety (it's the spice of life!) and hate change. Nowhere is that more pronounced than in our attitude toward television; we regularly decry the monotony of the standard formats and then yelp when someone messes with them.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Displaced Plainsman Principle: 1% Accounts For 40%

Wikipedia explains the Pareto Principle:
The Pareto principle (also known as the 80–20 rule, the law of the vital few, and the principle of factor sparsity) states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.[1][2]
Business-management consultant Joseph M. Juran suggested the principle and named it after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population; he developed the principle by observing that 20% of the pea pods in his garden contained 80% of the peas.
Some management folk use the principle as follows:
Expressed in a management context, 20% of a person's effort generates 80% of the person's results. The corollary to this is that 20% of one's results absorb 80% of one's resources or efforts. For the effective use of resources, the manager's challenge is to distinguish the right 20% from the trivial many. 
Many studies seem to indicate that the top 1% control about 40% of the wealth.  In April, NPR reported,
One percent of the U.S. population owns approximately 40 percent of the nation's wealth. That's a distribution that most Americans don't know about, Dan Ariely of Duke University discovered in a recent study. Respondents of all demographic categories mistook Sweden's even wealth distribution for that of the United States. Host Noah Adams speaks with Ariely about his study.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported,
The world’s congested mobile airwaves are being divided in a lopsided manner, with 1 percent of consumers generating half of all traffic. The top 10 percent of users, meanwhile, are consuming 90 percent of wireless bandwidth.
 I know that random correlations don't really mean much, but if peas can be used to describe human behavior, it seems that similarities in behavior can be used to create a principle that describes behavior.  I just want credit for enunciating the idea that the top 1% in any given situation will consume or hold at least 40% of the resources.

Philosohy Without A License: Rick Santorum Edition

Writing at Salon, Linda Hirshman concludes
In this context, Rick Santorum’s candidacy, and the Republican Party that hungers for it, looks like a handful of the left-behind fighting a rear-guard action against modernity, which has passed them by. It’s understandable that they would focus their efforts on sex, where Augustine struggled so hard for control. Like Augustine and his unruly member, the modern world, especially modern capitalism, makes people feel like they have lost control. As recent events reflect, this is not foolish. They have suffered from forces way beyond their control. But the solution to gaining some mastery over the environment lies in embracing modernity through modern institutions like the rule of law, collective action, proper regulation, counter-cyclical economic policy, rather than rejecting it. . . . .
Western history since the Enlightenment has been peppered with such revolts against the modern world. Usually they are a sign of desperation and find their way, unassisted, to the dustbin of history. On the rare occasion when they take hold, however, they can be extremely dangerous.
Attacking Santorum voters for "rejecting modernity" strikes me as counterproductive.  They have conflated "modernity" with post-modernism and the relativism that accompanies it.  For them, Hirshman's accusation is a badge of honor because it means they are upholding eternal verities.  They are proud of being a "rear guard" in the war for hearts and minds of American voters.

Quotation Of The Day: NCLB Edition

Yesterday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader contained an editorial about NCLB and South Daktoa's efforts to obtain a waiver.  I'm less sanguine about SDDOE's efforts than the Argus Leader's editorial writers.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that the state will preserve or exacerbate NCLB's flaws.

That being said, this analysis is spot on.
For today’s high school freshmen, who started kindergarten the year NCLB became law, it provided a decade of underachieving standards and misplaced efforts. NCLB left behind a well-rounded education, and national test data show that students made greater strides in reading and math before the law was enacted.

Voracious--But Pleasant Company

In an effort to gain some sanity, I have been reading the daily passages in A Year with Thomas Merton.  Yesterday's excerpt from Merton's journals contained the passage "The fire is voracious--but pleasant company."

I certainly cannot match Merton's wisdom, but it strikes me that the attributes "voracious" and "pleasant" create more than a bit of danger.  We all have a nearly insatiable desire for comfort and ease--the good things in life.  Merton may have been able to be satisfied with the simple things, a fire and coffee.  I'm not sure the rest of us can always find the simple so pleasurable.
I also wonder about those of us who follow politics and suffer from Clinton/Bush/Obama/name the politician of choice derangement syndrome.  That anger is also insatiable but often pleasant.  I'mafraid, however,  that it may destroy a large chunk of the soul.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Some Updates

I posted about 2011 being a bad year here.  Dave Barry creates a big picture here.  My favorite paragraph:
I’m not saying that the entire year was ruined by sleaze. It was also ruined by other bad things. This was a year in which journalism was pretty much completely replaced by tweeting. It was a year in which a significant earthquake struck Washington, yet failed to destroy a single federal agency. It was a year in which the nation was subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of highly publicized pronouncements from Charlie Sheen, a man who, where you have a central nervous system, has a Magic 8-Ball. This was a year in which the cast members of “Jersey Shore” went to Italy and then — in an inexcusable lapse of border security — were allowed to return.
I pointed to Conor Friedersorf's analysis of Santorum's chances hereGeorge Will seemingly believes that Santorum has a rose colored 3/4 full glass.
White voters without college education — economically anxious and culturally conservative — were called “Reagan Democrats” when they were considered only seasonal Republicans because of Ronald Reagan. Today they are called the Republican base. . . .
Santorum exemplifies a conservative aspiration born about the time he was born in 1958. Frank Meyer, a founding editor of William F. Buckley’s National Review in 1955, postulated the possibility, and necessity, of “fusionism,” a union of social conservatives and those of a more libertarian, free-market bent.
If the Republicans’ binary choice has arrived, and if new technologies of communication and fundraising are repealing some traditional impediments to fluidity in political competition, Santorum can hope to win the nomination. Yes, in 2006, a ghastly year for Republicans (who lost 30 seats and control of the House, and six Senate seats), Santorum lost by 17 points in his bid for a third term. But, then, Richard Nixon was defeated for governor of California six years before being elected president, carrying California.
Even if Santorum is not nominated, he might galvanize a constituency that makes him a vice presidential choice. For Obama, getting to 270 electoral votes without Pennsylvania’s 20 is problematic. But so, just now, are Republican prospects of getting to 270 with their narrowing choice of candidates.
David Brooks also seems enamored with the former Pennsylvania senator.
The Republican Party is the party of the white working class. This group — whites with high school degrees and maybe some college — is still the largest block in the electorate. They overwhelmingly favor Republicans.
direct not just provide voice overs.
It’s a diverse group, obviously, but its members generally share certain beliefs and experiences. The economy has been moving away from them. The ethnic makeup of the country is shifting away from them. They sense that the nation has gone astray: marriage is in crisis; the work ethic is eroding; living standards are in danger; the elites have failed; the news media sends out messages that make it harder to raise decent kids. They face greater challenges, and they’re on their own.
The Republicans harvest their votes but have done a poor job responding to their needs. The leading lights of the party tend to be former College Republicans who have a more individualistic and even Randian worldview than most members of the working class. Most Republican presidential candidates, from George H.W. Bush to John McCain to Mitt Romney, emerge from an entirely different set of experiences. . . .
I wrote about Gingrich as a sandwich here;  apparently, he is not content with being a ham, he also wants to produce and
Newt Gingrich is out with his first “contrast” television ad airing in both New Hampshire and South Carolina Thursday, marking a new phase of his presidential campaign.

The TV ad, which calls Mitt Romney’s economic plan “timid,” is a switch from the positive-only ads the campaign was running in Iowa -- all of those ads featured Gingrich doing the narration.  .. . .

Keeping the ads “factually accurate,” at least by his standards, is very important to Gingrich, who was heavily attacked by Romney, as well as many other candidates, the weeks leading up to the first-in-the-nation caucus.

“As long as it’s factually accurate, it can’t be seen as a negative campaign to describe accurately somebody’s record,” Gingrich said the day of the Iowa caucus.

The campaign will not confirm the size of this TV buy, but does say it is "significant" and will continue to run similar “contrast” ads in the early nominating states.