There is absolutely horrifying news coming out of Newtown, CT, where 27 people–18 of them young children–are reported dead in a gun rampage.
The President’s spokesperson, Jay Carney has already said today is not the day to talk about gun control laws. (Update: Obama did speak briefly. It was a very touching statement that promised action.)
Can we talk about this, then? A bill passed in the MI legislature’s last day frenzy last night will expand concealed carry to include schools, day care centers, churches, and stadia.
Changes to the concealed weapons law passed the state House and Senate late Thursday, allowing trained gun owners to carry their weapons in formerly forbidden places, such as schools, day care centers, stadiums and churches.
Schools, however, and privately owned facilities could opt out of the new law if they don’t want people carrying guns in their buildings.
The bill also would transfer the power of granting concealed-weapons permits from county gun licensing boards to the county sheriff.
State Rep. Joel Johnson, R-Clare, called the bill a “pro-public safety bill” because it allowed gun owners to be an asset to public safety in volatile situations.
Again, this bill is not yet–at least according to reports–law. Governor Snyder has not yet signed it.
If we take one immediate lesson from Newtown, shouldn’t that be schools and day cares are no place for guns?
Update: The MI House GOP just issued a statement in response to the CT massacre. They start by saying the culprit was intent on spreading evil–not death. (h/t Josh Pugh)
Regarding the school shooting in Connecticut, our first concern is thinking about the families and the tragedy they have suffered at the hands of a criminal bent on spreading evil.
After that show of concern is done, they spend four paragraphs defending their bill in the name of public safety.
Therefore, having well-trained individuals with the freedom to carry a concealed pistol may be considered a public safety asset that could act as a deterrent against such shootings or, if an evil criminal does strike, may prove to serve as protection for innocent bystanders.
It is the belief of many representatives in our caucus that it is criminals who have no intention of following any law that are the perpetrators of such heinous crimes as school shootings. Strict gun-control laws do not stop criminals from committing evil acts, they merely infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens who might be able to take action against evil if given the chance.
The only way this statement makes sense in the context of the CT shooting is if they imagine kindergartners as the “law-abiding citizens who might be able to take action.”
Finally, in a press release lobbying for their bill in spite of the massacre that four guns in a school just caused, they beg people not to politicize CT.
Regardless of where anyone stands on the gun-rights debate, however, we will encourage everyone to try to refrain from politicizing the tragedy in Connecticut.
As you read this, remember that these are the “pro-life” people who also just rammed through a bill requiring that women be counseled on burial options if they want an abortion.
Incidentally, the gun bill is still on Governor Snyder’s desk. But don’t worry. He issued a tweet offering thoughts and prayers, but not veto.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and the families in Connecticut.
I confess, I went to sleep last night when Seattle QB Russell Wilson threw a pick with about 3 minutes left in the game [Update: actually, in retrospect it was a missed 4th down throw]. With the Squawks down 5, I figured there was no way they were coming back.
And there was no way they were coming back. Plus, by that point, the game had already descended into a series of plays the outcome of which were randomly determined by arbitrary calls from the refs. It just wasn’t a contest between athletes anymore; it was an art project by a bunch of inexperienced refs.
And so, when Wilson threw a Hail Mary in the last 8 seconds of the game and Packers DB M.D. Jennings caught it, the refs instead called it a Golden Tate TD. What I’m gonna call the Scab Grab. Win, Squawks.
Which has led to all sorts of people who for years have been advocating the replacement of union auto workers, cops, and teachers, to embrace union workers over greedy owners. Perhaps the most stunning of these is this guy:
— Governor Walker (@GovWalker) September 25, 2012
(The replies to this tweet are definitely worth the laugh, btw.)
The entire country has discovered that unions do more than just inconvenience them. They ensure that experienced workers are not prevented by greedy profit-seekers from placing safe quality work over profit.
But consider: this is the same kind of fight on which the same union busters were on the other side, just weeks ago, on the Chicago Teachers strike. There, experienced teachers were–and still are–at risk of being replaced by inexperienced workers with no control over educational conditions captive to the profit-seeking motives of a bunch of capitalists. And yet on that fight, so many liberals (to say nothing of Scott Walker and Rahm Emanuel) cheered on busting the union with cheap replacements. Perhaps because we don’t get to see how inexperienced teachers struggle to manage a classroom–just as scab refs struggle to manage a game–the effects of the union-busting are applauded, not jeered.
It seems Americans are more willing to entrust their children to inexperienced union-busting replacement workers than they are their spectator sports.
Update: This great Sarah Jaffe post explains why this lockout–and the NHL lockout–matter for workers rights generally.
Matt Yglesias has solved the riddle of why so many purportedly liberal wonks hate teachers unions, even while they claim to support unions generally.
The most salient difference, completely absent from his armchair psychologizing, is surely thatpublic school teachers work for the government. If AT&T workers get a better deal for themselves, that may well mean a worse deal for people who bought AT&T stock in past years but I’m not going to cry on their behalf. By contrast, if Chicago public school teachers get a better deal for themselves that may well mean a worse deal for Chicago taxpayers.
Indeed, what baffles me about these discussions is the tendency of labor’s alleged friends to simply refuse to look this reality in the face and instead insist that any hostility to specific union asks must secretly reflect the skeptic’s hostility to the existence of the union or its members. [my emphasis]
Look what Yglesias has done here. He has defended purportedly liberal pundits who are opposed to teachers unions based on a concern for taxpayers.
This is funny for several reasons. First, because a plurality of actual Chicago taxpayers–47%–support the strike, with 39% opposed. So Yglesias is arguing that his pundit friends don’t like this strike because they’re concerned for taxpayers who actually do like the strike.
That’s so … paternalistic.
But also look at how Yglesias has constructed this: if teachers get what they want, it may be a bad deal for the taxpayers.
Somehow, in a post about schools, Yglesias thinks this is about citizens as taxpayers and not citizens as parents or even just community members.
He doesn’t consider the possibility that if teachers get what they want, it may be a great deal for taxpayer-parents. Continue reading
As you may have heard, the Chicago Teacher’s Union went out on strike last night.
The traditional news has spun this to largely be about wages.
Late Sunday, Mr. Emanuel told reporters that school district officials had presented a strong offer to the union, including what some officials described as what would amount to a 16 percent raise for many teachers over four years — and that only two minor issues remained.
Negotiations have taken place behind closed doors since November, concerning wages and benefits, whether laid-off teachers should be considered for new openings, extra pay for those with more experience and higher degrees, and evaluations. District officials said the teachers’ average pay is $76,000 a year.
Many of them neglect to mention the background: that last year Rahm withheld a scheduled 4% raise and expanded the school day by 20%. Over the summer, the Chicago Public Schools hired more teachers to do this work, but as some teachers went back to work in August, it became clear the expanded day still represented an increased work load for them (for example, some teachers were being asked to supervise recess during their prep period).
And while health care is a big remaining compensation-related issue, many of the other issues have to do with pedagogy and evaluation and with basic conditions for the students.
For example, the CTU objects to tying teacher pay to new high stakes tests, particularly given that the district is leaving teacher training at the same or lower levels, and that teachers believe the tests in question are inappropriate to their students.
And it objects to all the money Rahm is funneling into new charter schools, basically pulling money out of neighborhood schools and putting it into schools that often exclude disadvantaged students or those with learning challenges.
The union wants a limit to how many kids can be put in one class–and particularly ensure that inner city schools rival the student-teacher ratios of the suburbs.
Finally, teachers are striking to make sure the school roofs and climate control work adequately. Just a few weeks ago, they won the big concession of having textbooks in hand for the first day of school!
Ultimately, though, this strike is about whether the “reform” movement has to include teachers as partners, or instead can continue to treat them as obstacles to downsizing and privatizing schools.
Granted, it pertains to my right-wing governor, so it’s personal. But this NYT profile of Rick Snyder is a remarkable example of the perverse journalistic fetish for “balance” gone so badly awry it amounts to disinformation.
Let’s start with this summarized claim.
Republicans and business leaders here widely praise Mr. Snyder, crediting him with balancing the state’s once-troubled budget, dumping a state business tax and presiding over an employment rebound in a state that not long ago had the highest jobless rate in the nation. [my emphasis]
You’d think a newspaper might want to point out that MI’s unemployment actually turned around in August 2009–well before Snyder’s election in 2010 and not coincidentally the month after GM came out of bankruptcy. Unemployment dropped 3.3% before Snyder took over, dropped a further 2.6% after he did. But more significantly, unemployment in MI has started to creep up again–it’s up .7% since its recent low in April, to 9%.
Setting that record straight is critical to the rest of the article, since it repeatedly gushes about Rick Snyder refusing to deny Obama credit for MI’s turnaround.
Just before the Republican primary in Michigan in February, Mr. Snyder was asked in an interview whether Mr. Obama ought to be given credit for the state’s economic improvements. “I don’t worry about blame or credit,” he said. “It’s more about solving the problem.”
Nowhere in the article does “reporter” Monica Davey consider the possibility that Obama–and, in fact, Jennifer Granholm–have more to do with the turnaround than Snyder. Yet even many Republicans in this state would grant that the successful bailout of Chrysler and GM had a lot to do with the turnaround (though Republicans almost universally ignore the energy jobs Obama focused on MI).
So maybe Snyder refuses to deny Obama credit because such a claim would not be credible? It’s not a possibility the NYT article–which is supposed to be a celebration of a lack of ideology–even considers.
Which brings me to the other area where NYT’s idea of what constitutes balance is completely whacked: its treatment of the right to organize.
By odd stroke of timing, the American Federation of Teachers is meeting this weekend in Detroit–just as the city’s Emergency Manager insists that the solution to Detroit’s budget woes is to teach the next generation in classrooms of 61 students. That means AFT President Randi Weingarten will go lobby the school district’s Emergency Manager, Roy Roberts, herself this morning. It means AFT members will join Michiganders in canvassing to support the Protect Our Jobs referendum, which would add collective bargaining to the MI Constitution.
The AFT is in Detroit at a time when Detroit is the latest ground zero of the attack on public teachers.
But at least as represented by Weingarten’s opening speech, the emphasis is on larger social issues, of which education is just one key part, not just teacher’s salaries or class sizes.
Weingarten noted, for example, that public education is the best way to reverse the loss of wealth brought about by the banksters’ crash.
A study by the Federal Reserve found that the average American family has lost approximately $50,000 since the start of the recession—nearly 30 percent of their wealth. That figure is 53 percent for the average African-American family and 66 percent for the average Latino family. Yet our opponents want to abandon our best long-term strategy for broad-based prosperity: a world-class system of public education.
She focused on the AFT’s partnership in McDowell, WV (among others, with Joe Manchin’s wife) to address both the educational challenges but also the underlying poverty.
The area’s educational challenges are inseparable from many other problems affecting the county. So our focus is not just on schools, but on jobs, transportation, recreation, housing, healthcare and social services. And then there is our intangible, but perhaps most important goal—that Reconnecting McDowell will bring back the light of hope. [snip]
Is what we’re doing in McDowell our job? Technically, no. But as a labor union with most of our members working in education, the AFT stands at the intersection of two important social movements—creating educational opportunity, and advancing economic dignity. That’s who we are.
And she talked about investing AFT pension funds in projects that will create jobs.
By working with pension trustees and encouraging allocations of some of our pension money—in a responsible and sound manner—to support projects to rebuild our infrastructure, and retrofit out-of-date buildings to make them more energy efficient, we’re creating win-win-win situations.
In other words, at least as Weingarten kicked off the Convention, the focus is as much on solutions to the problems of society generally, as it is on more focused educational issues.
These are the people the billionaires are demonizing as greedy.
Back in early March, Catherine Rampell wrote in the New York Times about the ongoing trend since the mid 1980′s to cut state funding for higher education, noting that it has led to cutbacks in some of the very few areas of instruction where graduates actually face better employment prospects. She put up a companion piece at the Times’ Economix blog, where she was even more explicit about how it is the refusal by state legislatures to adequately fund higher education that is leading to the current problem of decreasing educational offerings despite skyrocketing tuition costs:
But at least at public colleges and universities — which enroll three out of every four American college students — the main cause of tuition growth has been huge state funding cuts.
There was quite a Twitter kerfluffle last week over the funding situation at the University of Florida, when it was claimed that Computer Science was being shut down while funds were being shifted to the athletic department. That was wrong on both counts, as the University is still struggling with how Computer Science will be organized, but it is not going away. Rather than taking money from academics, PolitiFact explains that the Athletic Association, which is a separate nonprofit, has given back over $60 million to the University since 1991 for academic use.
Unfortunately, that story obscured the real news on higher education in Florida, when Governor Rick Scott vetoed a bill that had passed the Florida legislature with a huge bipartisan majority, giving the University of Florida and Florida State University the ability to bypass the 15% per year limit on tuition increases in order to make up a larger portion of the huge cuts in state funding for higher education in this year’s budget:
The veto comes at a tense time, with universities bracing for a painful state budget cut for the fifth year in a row. This year, the total cut to the system is $300 million. Continue reading
As you likely know by now, we stand on the cusp of historic oral arguments this week in the Supreme Court on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise popularly known as “Obamacare”. The arguments will occur over three days, for a total of six hours, Monday through Wednesday. Yes, they really are that historic, as Lyle Denniston explains in SCOTUSBlog. The schedule is as follows: Monday: 90 minutes on whether the Anti Injunction Act (AIJA) prevents consideration of a challenge to the individual mandate until it takes effect in 2014; Tuesday: Two hours on the Constitutionality of the individual mandate; and Wednesday: 90 minutes on severability of the main law from the mandate and 60 minutes on state sovereignty concerns of Medicaid reform.
There are two areas of particular interest for me and which really are the meat on the bone of the overall consideration. The first is Monday’s technical argument on the AIJA, which I actually think may be much more in play than most commentators believe, because the Supremes may want to punt the politically sticky part of the case down the road until after the 2012 elections, and the AIJA argument is a ready made vehicle to do just that. Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent in Seven Sky v. Holder explains how that would go should the Supreme beings decide to punt. This is by no means likely, but do not be shocked if it occurs; can kicking down the road is certainly not unknown at SCOTUS on politically sensitive cases.
By far, however, the biggest, and most contentious, kahuna of the healthcare debate is the individual mandate, and that is where I want to focus. The two sides, pro (predominantly liberal left) and con (predominantly conservative right), have been selling their respective wares since before the law was passed and signed by the President. As we truly head into the arguments, however, the pro left have crystallized around a matched pair of articles by Dahlia Lithwick and Linda Greenhouse, and the con right around response pieces by James Taranto and Ed Whelan.
Now this hardly seems like a fair fight, as Taranto has no degree, nor legal training, whatsoever; that said he and Whelan actually lay out the contra to Dahlia and Linda pretty well. Each side effectively accuses the other of being vapid and hollow in argument construct. I will leave aside any vapidity discussion because I think both sides genuinely believe in their positions; as to the hollowness, though, I think both sides are pretty much guilty. Which is understandable, there is simply not a lot of law directly on point with such a sweeping political question as presented by the mandate. “Unprecedented” may be overused in this discussion, but it is not necessarily wrong (no, sorry, Raich v. Gonzales is not that close; it just isn’t).
In short, I think both sides are guilty of puffery as to the quality of legal support for their respective arguments, and I believe both are guilty of trying to pass off effective political posturing as solid legal argument. Certainty is just not there for either side. This is a real controversy, and the Supreme Court has proved it by allotting the, well, almost “unprecedented” amount of time it Continue reading
There’s a bit of a debate on why Harvard sends so many of its grads to become assholes on Wall Street (as opposed to exciting point guards in the NBA?). Ezra Klein argues it’s because Wall Street (and Teach for America) model their hiring processes on the application processes Harvard kids excelled at to get there in the first place, making it more likely grads with little direction will default into one of those positions. His solution is to make sure Harvard teaches more “skills” in college to make students more comfortable applying for the kinds of jobs (Ezra suggests) you find listed on Monster or Craigslist.
The issue isn’t that so many of their well-educated students want to go to Wall Street rather than make another sort of contribution. It’s that so many of their students end up feeling so poorly prepared that they go to Wall Street because they’re not sure what other contribution they can make.
My hunch is that we have underemphasized the need to learn skills, rather than simply learn, while in college.
Matthew Yglesias disputes that liberal arts schools don’t teach skills.
This seems mistaken to me. In order to do well in courses on 19th Century British Literature or Social Anthropology or Philosophy or American History in a properly running American college, what you need to do is get pretty good at reading and writing documents in the English language. These are very much real skills with wide-ranging practical applications. Clearly relatively few people are professional writers, but a huge amount of what goes on at the higher levels of a typical business is a steady stream of production and consumption of reports and memos. If you can compose an email that’s 10 percent clearer in 90 percent of the time as the other guy, you’re going to get ahead in a wide range of fields.
Now, as to the question of how to get Harvard kids to embrace something useful rather than Wall Street, I think the debate thus far (see also this piece) has ignored a few key details. One thing that distinguishes kids at elite liberal arts schools is that either because of more generous financial aid or their parent’s affluence fewer of them have to work their way through school (and those that do often work in work-study jobs at school). Those kids at state schools working 30 hours to pay for classes? You can bet they graduate knowing how to apply for a job.
Those that don’t often acquire real world skills via extracurriculars (not to mention internships, but that’s a whole different issue). When a Communications student of mine asked me once whether she should take my class or manage a band, I told her to do the latter, because it would teach her a bunch of skills she’d use in any Communications-related career, that she could put on a resume. That said, it’s worthwhile to distinguish between extracurricular activities that serve a networking purpose and those that offer an opportunity to learn real world skills. A lot of what you’re paying for at elite liberal arts schools is a network, but that network is a lot more likely to land you on Wall Street than saving the world.
All that said, I want to go back to the question of the skills you learn. I think it’s too easy to say that knowing how to write a good 19th Century English Lit paper prepares you to write an effective email. Knowing how to write a good 19th Century English Lit paper teaches you how to write a good English paper; it may in fact teach you piss poor habits for writing emails. (Frankly, I used to find science and econ majors were better writers than English majors.)
Back when I managed a department that did corporate writing projects–the kind of things corporations would pay obscene daily rates to have fairly recent college graduates do for them–I hired a mix of tech writing and liberal arts grads. The former knew how to write emails. They knew how to use the latest software–and competing brands. They knew industry conventions on … how to write an email. They knew bullets and fonts and desktop publishing, all critical to what we did.
The liberal arts grads turned out to be poorer writers for our purposes, at least at first. They were wordy and used too complex vocabulary and often had problems structuring documents (says the liberal arts grad notorious for writing wordy complex posts!). But they were far better at solving problems. Continue reading
Last Friday afternoon, author Jeff Biggers published an article at Salon entitled Who’s Afraid of “The Tempest”? The cognitive lede, and framing for the article as a whole, is contained in the first sentence:
As part of the state-mandated termination of its ethnic studies program, the Tucson Unified School District released an initial list of books to be banned from its schools today.
Biggers goes on to report and discuss on a litany of books and textbooks – even Shakespeare’s The Tempest – that were removed from Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) classrooms:
Other banned books include “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by famed Brazilian educator Paolo Freire and “Occupied America: A History of Chicanos” by Rodolfo Acuña, two books often singled out by Arizona state superintendent of public instruction John Huppenthal, who campaigned in 2010 on the promise to “stop la raza(sic).
It is a rather stunning, and alarming, report fashioned by Mr. Biggers and, little wonder, it swept like fire across the progressive internet, and social media like Twitter and Facebook over the King Holiday weekend. Biggers’ Salon article served as the basis for reportage of the banning of books, including Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in a plethora of media sources from such internet venues as AlterNet, to mainstream media like The Tucson Citizen, New York Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal.
There is only one problem with this story. It is categorically and materially false. No books have been banned in Tucson by the TUSD, much less Shakespeare’s classic, The Tempest.
Sensing that Biggers’ story did not sound correct, nor comport with my understanding of the law in this subject area here in Arizona, I was able to make contact with officials at TUSD over the Martin Luther King extended holiday weekend and spoke with an official on Monday, even though the school system was officially closed. It is an understatement to say they were dismayed and concerned; it is “disingenuous to say ‘banned’” said Cara Rene, Communications Director for the TUSD.
Indeed, upon returning to their offices Tuesday, the TUSD put out, through Ms. Rene, an official News Release stating:
Tucson Unified School District has not banned any books as has been widely and incorrectly reported.
Seven books that were used as supporting materials for curriculum in Mexcian American Studies classes have been moved to the district storage facility because the classes have been suspended as per the ruling by Arizona Superintendent for Public Instruction John Huppenthal. Superintendent Huppenthal upheld an Office of Adminstriation Hearings’ ruling that the classes were in violation of state law ARS 15-112.
The books are:
Critical Race Theory by Richard Delgado
500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures edited by Elizabeth Martinez
Message to AZTLAN by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales
Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement by Arturo Rosales
Occupied America: A History of Chicanos by Rodolfo Acuna
Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years by Bill Bigelow
NONE of the above books have been banned by TUSD. Each book has been boxed and stored as part of the process of suspending the classes. The books listed above were cited in the ruling that found the classes out of compliance with state law.
Every one of the books listed above is still available to students through several school libraries. Many of the schools where Mexican American Studies classes were taught have the books available in their libraries. Also, all students throughout the district may reserve the books through the library system.
Other books have also been falsely reported as being banned by TUSD. It has been incorrectly reported that William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is not allowed for instruction. Teachers may continue to use materials in their classrooms as appropriate for the course curriculum. “The Tempest” and other books approved for curriculum are still viable options for instructors.
Oh, my, that is fundamentally and materially different than what Mr. Biggers both stated, and inferred, isn’t it? It was excessive and inflammatory hyperbole, and that is not a good thing as it paints the TUSD, and the Arizona school and educational system in a false, and prejudicially negative, light. I know many teachers and administrators in the Phoenix area, and they were outraged. “Banning of books” is an extremely negative concept both emotionally and legally; it is an extremely serious allegation, and not one to be made lightly or inaccurately.
There are a LOT of very good people in the State of Arizona, and the bad that is going on here (and there IS plenty of bad too) should be painted large and loud for what it is, but not in brush strokes so big and hyperbolic as to give a false picture of the story and state. I dislike the existence and effect of HB 2281, the law that has created this controversy over ethnic studies, every bit as much as Mr. Biggers honestly seems to; but do not want that to be used as a whipping post to make Arizona an ogre in ways it truly does not deserve. And that was the effect of his January 13, 2012 article in Salon.
You would probably think this particular story, and my report on it, ends here for now. It does not and, for once, that is a very positive thing. Over the King Holiday weekend, in addition to contacting the TUSD, I also contacted Salon regarding my concerns. They were, under the circumstances, both cordial and professional. Early this afternoon a notice of correction was placed at the bottom of the original story, and a new report by Jeff Biggers, far more accurately portraying the facts on the ground in Tucson, was published by Salon. Salon, and its editors, are to be commended and applauded for their willingness to listen and act responsibly.
Which brings us to the bigger picture. Demagoguery and hyperbole are something that all of us do who write on emotional hot button issues; which are about the only kind of issues we do here at Emptywheel. I have noticed the same phenomenon in the progressive blogosphere and media acutely prevalent on torture, Bradley Manning, Occupy Wall Street and, just recently, the NDAA. Emotion and illustration are good; facts and truth are better.