Thomas B. Edsall | ‘It’s Become Increasingly Hard for boys and men to Feel Good About Themselves’ – The New York Times

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C., on politics, demographics and inequality.

“Is there a whole class of men who no longer fit into the social order?

A decade ago, Marianne Bertrand and Jessica Pan, economists at the University of Chicago and the National University of Singapore, concluded in their paper “The Trouble With Boys: Social Influences and the Gender Gap in Disruptive Behavior”:

Family structure is an important correlate of boys’ behavioral deficit. Boys that are raised outside of a traditional family (with two biological parents present) fare especially poorly. For example, the gender gap in externalizing problems when the children are in fifth grade is nearly twice as large for children raised by single mothers compared to children raised in traditional families. By eighth grade, the gender gap in school suspension is close to 25 percentage points among children raised by single mothers, while only 10 percentage points among children in intact families. Boys raised by teenage mothers also appear to be much more likely to act out.”

Binyamin Appelbaum | It’s Too Early to Celebrate the Child Tax Credit – The New York Times

Mr. Appelbaum is a member of the editorial board.+

“The United States provides big tax incentives to encourage people to work, to buy a home, to save for retirement. But the government provides less money than almost every other developed nation to help people raise children. Last year, the tax credit for buying an electric car was almost four times as large as the tax credit for having a child.

On Thursday, the government began to provide more help, initiating monthly payments of up to $300 per child to most families with children. This is needed assistance for children and parents, and investment in the nation’s future. It’s an overdue adjustment of tax policy to support something obviously important but too often taken for granted.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Is it really that hard to communicate with these poor people? Let’s contact them in ten different ways.
Off the top of my head, let’s ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses to sell this good news, since they like to go door to door, or do they only do middle class neighborhoods?
I also like the comment about paying people not to have children, for the sake of the environment.
So many new goals in life. Let’s eradicate poverty, and also move towards negative population growth.
As a child, I played, Remember the Alamo. As an elder now, I’ve learned that Mexico had abolished slavery, and the fight for Texas was in part to keep slavery there. My new war game, is, Remember the Sixth Extinction is going on today!
David Lindsay Jr is the author of the Tay Son Rebellion about 18th century Vietnam, and blogs at InconvenientNews.Net.

Opinion | 2020 Taught Us How to Fix This – By David Brooks – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Illustration by Michael Houtz; photographs by Getty Images

“This is the year that broke the truth. This is the year when millions of Americans — and not just your political opponents — seemed impervious to evidence, willing to believe the most outlandish things if it suited their biases, and eager to develop fervid animosities based on crude stereotypes.

Worse, this was the year that called into question the very processes by which our society supposedly makes progress.

So many of our hopes are based on the idea that the key to change is education. We can teach each other to be more informed and make better decisions. We can study social injustices and change our behavior to fight them.

But this was the year that showed that our models for how we change minds or change behavior are deeply flawed.”

Opinion | The Problem With Coronavirus School Closures – By Nicholas Kristof – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…Sarah Blesener for The New York Times

“Some things are true even though President Trump says them.

Trump has been demanding for months that schools reopen, and on that he seems to have been largely right. Schools, especially elementary schools, do not appear to have been major sources of coronavirus transmission, and remote learning is proving to be a catastrophe for many low-income children.

Yet America is shutting schools — New York City announced Wednesday that it was closing schools in the nation’s largest school district — even as it allows businesses like restaurants and bars to operate. What are our priorities?

“I have taught at the same low-income school for the last 25 years, and, truly, I can attest that remote schooling is failing our children,” said LaShondra Taylor, an English teacher in Broward County, Fla.

Some students don’t have a computer or don’t have Wi-Fi, Taylor said. Kids regularly miss classes because they have to babysit, or run errands, or earn money for their struggling families.

Opinion | Joe Biden and the Leaders of 2020: Educated by Public Universities – By Sarah Vowell – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

Credit…Gregobagel/iStock, via Getty Images

“Since the Harvard-Yale game that was the 1988 general election, all U.S. presidents, including the Wharton School graduate currently occupying the White House, have been Ivy League alumni. President Gerald Ford (University of Michigan, ’35) often ditched “Hail to the Chief” as his walk-on music and replaced it with his college fight song, but he never won the Electoral College, having assumed the Oval Office after Richard Nixon resigned.

So if Joe Biden (University of Delaware, ’65) prevails in November, he will be the first graduate of an American public university to be elected president since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Technically, the University of Delaware bills itself as “private-public” because of an arcane corporate charter. Yet it is a state-funded land-grant college charging out-of-state students about $11,000 more in tuition than residents, and it was defined as public by the court that ordered it to desegregate in the 1950s. So we state school alumni will be claiming Mr. Biden’s potential victory as our own. And just as L.B.J. had a fellow state schooler on the ticket in Vice President Hubert Humphrey (University of Minnesota, ’39), Mr. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, is a Howard alum who also graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

A flashback in Richard Ben Cramer’s book “What It Takes” found Mr. Biden, as a young father and Senator, holding court in a Delaware backyard pontificating on college to other parents: “‘There’s a river of power that flows through this country … And that river,’ Joe said, ‘flows from the Ivy League.’” “

Opinion | The Age of Coddling Is Over – By David Brooks – The New York Times

By 

Opinion Columnist

Credit…John Locher/Associated Press

“Over the past decades, a tide of “safetyism” has crept over American society. As Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt put it in their book “The Coddling of the American Mind,” this is the mentality that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you weaker. The goal is to eliminate any stress or hardship a child might encounter, so he or she won’t be wounded by it.

So we’ve seen a wave of overprotective parenting. Parents have cut back on their children’s unsupervised outdoor play because their kids might do something unsafe. As Kate Julian reports in “The Anxious Child and the Crisis of Modern Parenting” in The Atlantic, parents are now more likely to accommodate their child’s fears: accompanying a 9-year-old to the toilet because he’s afraid to be alone, preparing different food for a child because she won’t eat what everyone else eats.

Meanwhile schools ban dodge ball and inflate grades. Since 2005 the average G.P.A. in affluent high schools has risen from about 2.75 to 3.0 so everybody can feel affirmed.”

“. . .There’s absolutely no self-glorification here, just endurance. I’m reminded of Dr. Albert Schweitzer’s 1931 memoir. When hiring doctors for his hospital in the African jungle, he wrote, he never hired anyone who thought he was doing something grand and heroic. The only doctors who would last are those who thought what they were doing was as ordinary and necessary as doing the dishes: “There are no heroes of action — only heroes of renunciation and suffering.”

I’m also reminded of the maxim that excellence is not an action, it’s a habit. Tenacity is not a spontaneous flowering of good character. It’s doing what you were trained to do. It manifests not in those whose training spared them hardship but in those whose training embraced hardship and taught students to deal with it.

I’m hoping this moment launches a change in the way we raise and train all our young, at all ages. I’m hoping it exorcises the tide of “safetyism,” which has gone overboard.

The virus is another reminder that hardship is woven into the warp and woof of existence. Training a young person is training her or him to master hardship, to endure suffering and, by building something new from the wreckage, redeem it.”

Opinion | Are School Debate Competitions Bad for Our Political Discourse? – The New York Times

By Jonathan Ellis and 

Dr. Ellis is a philosophy professor. Ms. Hovagimian is a law student.

CreditCreditRichie Pope

“What do conservative political figures like Ted Cruz, Steve Bannon, Karl Rove and Richard Nixon have in common with liberal politicians like Elizabeth Warren, Andrew Yang, Kamala Harris and Bill Clinton? They all honed their skills of rhetoric, reasoning and persuasion on school debate teams.

That’s no surprise. Excelling in school debate opens many academic and professional doors, conferring prestige and signaling exceptional verbal and logical aptitude. Some of those skills will no doubt be on display at the Democratic presidential primary debate on Tuesday.

But while school debate can be good for aspiring politicians, it may not be good for our politics. In particular, it may contribute to the closed-minded, partisan and self-interested nature of so much of today’s public and political dialogue.

Why? Because school debate ultimately strengthens and rewards biased reasoning.

In traditional debate competitions, teams are assigned at random to argue one or the other side of an issue. Each round, one team is assigned the affirmative view — say, “Recreational drug use should be legalized” — and the other team, the negative. That means teams start with a conclusion, whether they endorse it or not, and work backward from there, marshaling the best arguments they can devise to make that conclusion come out on top.

The goal is not to determine the most reasonable or fair-minded approach to an issue, but to defend a given claim at all costs. This is an exercise not in deliberation but in reasoning with an agenda.”

David Lindsay: This essay turned out to be the most challenging piece I read over the weekend.  It also highlights the value of the comments section of the Times, which I have become a fan of  The piece moved me to question the validity of my own daughter’s extraodinary experince on the Hamden High School debate team, where she became the Captain for two years.  I was a judge on two different 8 hour Saturdays, and was deeply moved and humbled by the experience.

The comments take apart the articulate essay above, with a hundred cuts, starting with this most recomended comment:

JT FLORIDA
Venice, FL

As a thirty year speech and debate coach at a public high school and now fifteen years beyond that with university students debating overseas, I disagree with with the conclusions of these authors. Debate is more than a training ground for lawyers and politicians. It is about building critical thinking skills not often taught in a regular school setting. Creating an environment to build confidence as a public person, acquiring research skills, teamwork, appreciation for multiple sides of an argument, putting oneself in the shoes of another by arguing a different perspective than their own are just a few benefits of debate. Debate is an academic sport. I was fortunate to witness one of my all female teams win a state championship in the late 70’s at a time when athletics were slow getting started in schools and debate typically was dominated by males. The authors should also get updated on the several debate styles being practiced in classrooms across the country. They refer to a policy-style team debate but now we have Lincoln Douglas Values debates, Public Forum Debates, parliamentary debates and others. True enough, lots of students become lawyers and politicians but I have seen many students engage in the activity because it has intrinsic value. I would invite them to locate a local high school or look up a high school tournament at a nearby university and volunteer to judge debates. I think it will change their views about school debates.

4 Replies109 Recommended

Opinion | High School Doesn’t Have to Be Boring – By Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine – The New York Times

By Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine
The writers spent six years traveling the country studying high schools.

March 30, 2019

274
Credit
Ping Zhu

Image
CreditCreditPing Zhu

“When you ask American teenagers to pick a single word to describe how they feel in school, the most common choice is “bored.” The institutions where they spend many of their waking hours, they’ll tell you, are lacking in rigor, relevance, or both.

They aren’t wrong. Studies of American public schools from 1890 to the present suggest that most classrooms lack intellectual challenge. A 2015 Gallup Poll of nearly a million United States students revealed that while 75 percent of fifth-grade students feel engaged by school, only 32 percent of 11th graders feel similarly.

What would it take to transform high schools into more humanizing and intellectually vital places? The answer is right in front of us, if only we knew where to look.

When the two of us — a sociologist and a former English teacher — began our own investigation of this question several years ago, we made two assumptions. Both turned out to be wrong.”

Opinion | Do Not Double-Major – by David Leonhardt – NYT

“When I visit a college campus and ask the students what they’re studying, the response often starts with: “I’m double-majoring in … ” And then my heart sinks just a little bit.

I understand why many students are tempted to double-major. They have more than one academic interest. When I was in college, I briefly thought about double-majoring in my two favorite subjects, math and history. (Instead, I spent much of my time at the college newspaper and barely completed one major — applied math.)

But the reality is that many students who double-major aren’t doing it out of intellectual curiosity. The number of double majors has soared in recent years mostly because students see it as a way to add one more credential to their résumé. What’s even better than one major? Two majors!

 

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

Except that it’s not. Most students would learn more by creatively mastering a single major — and leaving themselves time to take classes in multiple other fields. “Double majoring,” as Jacqueline Sanchez, a Wellesley College student, wrote in a recent op-ed for her campus paper, “ultimately prevents students from exploring many different disciplines.” “

David Lindsay: I strongly agree. I love the motto of a consulting company whose name is not so memorable:  Work hard, play hard.

To that I will add, find what gives you joy, and do some of that. Since the world is often sad and crazy, learn to laugh with humility, when you are not punishing yourself for your imperfections.

Opinion | The Most Contrarian College in America – by Frank Bruni – NYT

 

“SANTA FE, N.M. — Have I got a college for you. For your first two years, your regimen includes ancient Greek. And I do mean Greek, the language, not Greece, the civilization, though you’ll also hang with Aristotle, Aeschylus, Thucydides and the rest of the gang. There’s no choice in the matter. There’s little choice, period.

Let your collegiate peers elsewhere design their own majors and frolic with Kerouac. For you it’s Kant. You have no major, only “the program,” an exploration of the Western canon that was implemented in 1937 and has barely changed.

It’s intense. Learning astronomy and math, you don’t merely encounter Copernicus’s conclusions. You pore over his actual words. You’re not simply introduced to the theory of relativity. You read “Relativity,” the book that Albert Einstein wrote.”

David Lindsay: Bravo Bruni.

Great piece and comments too. Here is one of many good comments:

M
MGJ
New York, NY
Times Pick

When we were visiting prospective colleges, I bribed my son to visit St. John’s. (I promised lunch in nearby Washington, DC).

Having gone on tours of multiple colleges, we had developed stock questions to ask admissions officers, including “What’s the ideal [Name of College] student?” Most of the responses were stock answers performed in front of a crowd of parents and students.

At St. John’s it was just my son and me sitting across from two Admissions officers for over an hour. (We didn’t even have an appointment.) When I pulled out this stock question, “What would you say is the ideal St. John’s student?” the Admissions officers took her time turning the question over in her mind and thoughtfully replied, “I’d say St. John’s is for the intellectually courageous.”

I watched as my son sat up taller.

We spent two more hours touring the campus with an enthusiastic “Johnny” as our guide. Lunch time came and went. My son was smitten. He fell in love with St. John’s and graduated four years later. His passion for “the program” has never wavered.

Every time I’d visit, he’d take me for his own version of a tour of this magical place, unpacking and relating all he’d learned.

My favorite was standing in front of a series of framed mathematical proofs. His explanations became more expansive and incisive with each visit—from Euclid to Ptolemy to Copernicus to Apollonius to Galileo to Newton to Lobachevski.

The four years passed quickly, but this education is timeless.