Monthly Archives: September 2014

Anna North thinks it’s time to ban middle school:

But separating middle schoolers out may actually be counterproductive. Mr. West said his research couldn’t pinpoint the exact reasons for the cliff, but the most likely explanation was that “there’s something about concentrating early adolescents in the same environment without the presence of students of different ages that creates challenges for education.” Essentially, throwing a bunch of 12- to 14-year-olds together with nobody else to mitigate their 12-to-14-ness might be a bad idea.

“It seems that there are benefits to students in early adolescence of the presence of much younger students,” he explained. “Perhaps that provides opportunities to be a leader, to be involved in mentoring relationships that are beneficial to students as they make the transition into adolescence.”

Middle schools may have some benefits for districts, Mr. West noted, like creating a diverse environment by drawing from multiple elementary schools. And until we know why middle school is bad for kids’ achievement, we can’t necessarily be sure getting rid of it will fix the problem. But, said Mr. West, “our research and that of others makes a strong case that districts should seriously consider alternatives to stand-alone middle schools.”

The logic makes sense to me. To me, one of the nuts I have yet to crack is a need for school, combined with the dangers of social norms being developed by youngers in large part due to their interactions with other youngsters. Having those awkward 12-14 year olds all together could exacerbate it.

Middle school is as close to hell as some people will ever see. This is known.

One of the big surprises, when I was doing the substitute teaching thing, was how much I liked middle school. It was probably my favorite assignment. If you’d have told me that before I started, I would have laughed.

The grade school kids are fun, no doubt, and it’s always an adventure. The high schoolers are more developed, and you can communicate with them in more of an adult fashion. But it’s a bit hard to connect with grade schoolers, and by the time they get to high school, the light in their eyes has dimmed. Grade schoolers have an enthusiasm for school and often for learning. By the time they get to high school, they’re in the holding tank. Middle school is that happy middle ground between the two. Happy for me, though probably as unhappy for them as it was for me when I was their age.

I don’t have strong opinions on whether or not middle school is something that should be done away with. My experience is that middle school was a very different environment from grade school because of the whole “switching classes” thing and the measure of independence that came with it. Independence which I consider to be a good thing.

My own middle school was grades 6-8. In arapaho, it was 7 and 8. I know in some places it is 7-9. Sixth graders were, in my view, too old to be in grade school, and too old to have the structure that goes with it. I actually think the same is true of fifth graders. If you were to collapse K-8, I’d prefer to see it done in a way that mitigates that. The problem is that having a bunch of students wandering the halls in between classes requires a degree of segregation that I am not sure doesn’t negate the alleged benefits presented for doing away with middle schools.

On the other hand, the data says what it says, and maybe delaying the autonomy is outweighed by other benefits?

Category: School

Today was spent mostly in transit, as we take our annual family trip to the beach.

Lain has officially kissed a boy, for the first time. I didn’t see it because Clancy and I had split up duties and I had parked the car and was walking to the gate. But evidently she made a friend. Lain has learned to kiss I guess by watching Clancy and I, and had taken to trying to kiss us. Well, she kissed the boy, who was a little under a year old.

The other thing, which is slightly less interesting but was more fun for her, was that she got to sit in the deck of a fighter plane (of sorts). They had one at the airport of our final destination. She seemed to enjoy pulling on the nobs and levers. My primary observation – independent of her enjoyment – is that it’s a good thing I never had designs on being a naval or air force pilot, because I would never fit in one of those things.



I was operating on less than five hours of sleep, and felt it every bit of the day.

I find that I have completely lost the ability to sleep on planes, no matter how tired I am. If I couldn’t do it today, where I was so sleepy I was almost in pain, I simply can’t do it.

Lain didn’t sleep on either leg of the flight plan. She did nap a bit on the drive from the airport, but that was about it. She’s really excited to see her grandma and grandpa.

Taking a vacation in the middle of a move is both great and terrible. It’s great because you need the break. It’s terrible because trips involve packing, and packing is best done when you know where everything is.

Because we got here so late, we didn’t get a chance to go out on the beach. Which is just as well, because last week a couple of friends shared the following two images:


Those would be stingrays. Stingrays are a thing where we are. I’ve never seen them in that number, but at least in that number you know to stay the heck away. But now I’ve got stingrays on my mind.

Category: Road

A little while ago a friend shared this video, which is of a construction worker in Houston stuck on a balcony of an apartment building on fire. It’s pretty gripping.

Moreso than the people who were incinerated on impact, and even those in the planes who knew what was going to happen, are those that were stuck in the inferno. Who started the day going to work, and ended the day choosing between being burned alive or jumping. Of all of the 9/11 images, it’s the jumpers that hits me the hardest.

This video has a happy ending. I wouldn’t be sharing it if it didn’t. But when I saw it, I thought of today.

Category: Theater


Hypocrites! People who say that they’re concerned about climate change use more electricity than those who aren’t! Ha! Actually, that’s mostly a function of confounding factors, but even controlling for them there doesn’t seem to be all that much difference.

It’s pretty convenient for both sides to ignore rural poverty. Republicans don’t like to admit that some of their home turf is disproportionately poor. Democrats like to consider the poor “theirs.”

The AEI is on board with my Kansas City Plan!

The government may be moving forward to modernize sunscreen.

To “de-tilt” the political inclinations of the art and entertainment landscape, conservatives need to work harder at making better art and entertainment.

An author wrote a book on (consumerist) signalling, and perhaps made his point too well.

The case for a land value tax.

Eek. A vasectomy-cancer link?

Is Britain undergoing a baby boom?

driveinsWhat’s interesting to me about this map of remaining drive-in theaters is how many of them are in places that I’d think would be kind of cold for it.

A 260-foot crater has appeared in Siberia.

Mexican bazillionaire Carlos Slim has some interesting ideas on labor, suggesting that we should work longer hours (11 a day), shorter weeks (3 days per), over more years (9 more years). The main question I have about it is whether the 11 hour days would cause a decrease in productivity.

A reporter wanted to take some pictures of ugly buildings (at least he thinks they’re ugly, I think brutalism is pretty cool) but is harassed by law enforcements. As I’ve said, rights informally ignored are worse than rights formally denied.

University of Liverpool is threatening staff pay when online students drop out.

Category: Newsroom

Congratulations to the Penn State Nittany Lions, on having their burdensome sanctions lifted. They have clearly earned it, having gone the last two years without covering up any more sexual abuse of children (to our knowledge). We shouldn’t punish the current student athletes for actions that they were uninvolv…


This is merely the last chapter in an complete and utter farce demonstrating the complete inability and unwillingness of the NCAA to come down too hard substantively on one of its premier programs.

Are we seriously supposed to celebrate how they “turned their program around” over this last two years? What, precisely, did we expect to happen? Did we expect them to cover up further sexual misdeeds the likes of which they covered up before? This is like letting Baylor off the hook because they went a couple of years without covering up players murdering one another.

“But we don’t want to punish the current student athletes for something they were uninvolved with…”


If you didn’t want to do that, you shouldn’t have taken away the wins of a bunch of student athletes who were not remotely involved with the coverup. Student athletes who, unlike the ones now we suddenly don’t want to punish, had no idea what was going on. The two youngest classes at Penn State decided to go to Penn State knowing full well the sanctions they were under – and what the school did. The two oldest classes have already left. Further, students who had just signed up to go to Penn State were given an opportunity to transfer penalty free, so if they’re still there they chose to be. I think there may be a class in there that fell between those cracks, and that shouldn’t be (because a part of the penalty should have been that any Penn State student athlete, regardless of sport, should have been able to transfer penalty-free), but one mistake need not necessitate another.

But even forgetting that, how precisely is it that they think that sanctions work? It’s not as though they didn’t know this when the sanctions were issued.

Personally, I thought then as I think now: The sanctions included stupid and meaningless stuff at the expense of real penalties. Vacating wins is stupid because the games happened and Penn State didn’t (as far as we know) cheat to win them. The lack of due process given to Penn State was troubling, and perhaps they should have reconsidered at the time. But having gone through all of that, there is no real reason to reconsider now. Considering how well Penn State has done despite the sanctions, they need to be thinking forward about how they can be harder on renegade programs, rather than worried that they haven’t been hard enough.

Category: Theater


Bell Labs may have invented something that will blow Google Fiber out of the water. Google, meanwhile, looks to use satellites to blow satellite Internet away.

Employers are using Big Data to find employees who are less likely to leave, and have discovered (among other things) that members of two social networks are likely to stay but four or more aren’t. Xerox took the data and cancelled recruitment drives at gaming conventions.

How much should bankrupt Detroit pay to keep its wonderful art? Does $185,000,000 seem right?

Northeastern Illinois is facing enrollment problems, so naturally they respond by spending money to gussy itself up with on-campus housing.

Barbara Ellen argues that instead of sneering at the overweight, the government should be fitting them with gastric bands.

The increase of the college premium is largely the result of incomes plunging for those who didn’t go to college.

I didn’t know this, but the IRS charges a penalty if you pay your taxes with cash. This has created a problem for marijuana shops since the same government has created the circumstances that keep them unbanked.

I’ve long thought that we need to do away with summer vacation. I should have, but didn’t, consider that this argument is made stronger by a class component.

Noah Smith argues that liberals are rescuing marriage with their views on premarital sex, cohabitation, and so on. This is an argument that has an empirical basis. So what does the data say? (Note: I’m not referring to overly broad state-to-state data.)

How to talk to babies about Marxist theory.

Anti-STEM people often point to the comparatively low rate of STEM people who don’t actually work STEM jobs. That’s interesting, but more important – to me, anyway – is that whether they work in STEM or not they still have low unemployment rates.

Beware hookah! It’s like smoking 40 cigarettes! Actually, there is some cause for alarm here, though I find it funny that one area they are better than cigarettes is that they deliver less nicotine, and we’ve recently learned that nicotine is the only bad thing in cigarettes (because ecigarettes are “just as bad” as cigarettes, because both contain nicotine).

I hope Alpha House takes this story and makes a subplot with it: The former congressman who won’t go away.

Teens are having a harder time getting summer jobs. Raising the minimum wage will help, no doubt. More seriously, I suspect that the “future job prospects” aspect cited in the article is comparative, so if none of the teens can get jobs, it’s not necessarily a social loss.

Category: Newsroom

DuckTales was never my favorite of the Disney Afternoon series, but this is all kinds of awesome:

My favorite was, without a doubt, Darkwing Duck. This will surprise few of you who know I am into comic books, but I actually wasn’t much into comic books or superheroes at the time. Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers was my next favorite, because chipmunks are cute or something like that. Talespin was after that, owing in part to the fact that I was a big Jungle Book fan when I was younger. I don’t consider Gummi Bears to be a Disney Afternoon show, for some reason, though I always did like the villain Igthorn.

I stopped watching around the time of Goof Troop. So I haven’t much opinion of Goof Troop, Bonkers, or Aladdin.

Gargoyles technically was Disney Afternoon for a while, but I don’t consider it such. If I did, it would be #1, blowing Darkwing Duck out of the water.

Category: Theater

Hillary Kelly takes issue with suburbanites claiming the city as their own:

These hometown fabulists—let’s call them Faux Urbanites—defend themselves by claiming it’s easier to name the nearest big city as your hometown than to explain where exactly Strasburg, Colorado, is. Recently, an article in The Atlantic’s CityLab backed up that very argument, saying, “At simplest, it’s a matter of convenience; it can indeed be easier, and faster, to tell someone whom you assume does not know the intricacies of New England that you’re from Boston, when in fact you’re from Cumberland, Maine.” But it really isn’t that taxing to add a few short words that properly explain a town’s location. It’s just four short syllabic steps from “I’m from Los Angeles” to “I’m from a suburb of Los Angeles.” And from there, it’s just a few more words of explanation to start coloring in the details of your upbringing.

Freddie deBoer and Alan Jacobs take issue with this. Both accuse her mostly of posturing. But if one is proud of where they come from, I can see why they might be frustrated by people on the outside of it claiming the same.

Philadelphia_Night_SkylineThe problem is that “inside” and “outside” really are not rigidly defined. Multiple people in Freddie’s commenters pointed out that Philadelphia in particular is a bad example, because many people who live in Philly proper actually live in what would be the suburbs in some other city. Colosse has little townlets right near downtown Colosse, and you can be fifteen miles away from downtown and still be in Colosse proper.

Mostly, though, the cities are organisms much larger than their flagship. Philadelphia wouldn’t be what it is without its suburbs. Those cool things that exist downtown? A lot of them exists due to a customer base that extends into New Jersey and elsewhere. Without the suburbs, Philadelphia has roughly the population of Raleigh-Durham or Virginia Beach. And Philadelphia has wide city limits and is the fifth largest municipality in the country, so it’s not even a suburb-heavy place like Seattle. People in the city talk about how the suburbanites need the urban core for jobs, but urban employers rely on an employee pool that leans heavily on the suburbs. And suburban employers rely on commuters from the city and other suburbs, and on and on.

PhillySuburbsI used to actually say “I am from Mayne” or “I am from Southfield” or “I am from half way between Colosse and Surfenberg.” But then I attended Southern Tech. I got jobs inside and outside the city limits, I lived inside and outside city limits, and the longer you are in a place, the more it genuinely blends together. Which is why New Jersey’s football teams are called New York and Santa Clara is about to get a football team that’s going to keep the San Francisco name. And why I really don’t consider it remotely dishonest to say “I was raised in Colosse.”

Category: Coffeehouse

The crimeless, jobful, and not-quite-but-a-little Randian utopia of Svalbard (above).

Rail boosters point to this, which says that over half of train riders did not have a car to make the trip. Important to know. Also important to know – as we figure out where we should put our transit dollars – the same is true of three-quarters of bus riders.

It’s often assumed that one of the reasons that health care costs are as high as they are is because we incentivize more – rather than better – care in how we compensate doctors. An experiment with pharmaceuticals demonstrates that it’s more complicated than that.

Dubai is building a temperature-controlled city.

Australia is often torn between the costs and benefits between a good relationship with the US and a good one with China. China is, apparently, making their choice easier.

We’re going to start giving planets cooler names.

Population growth is stressing Seattle’s sushi.

The vigor and frailty of the California economy.

Whether he intends to or not, Mike Rowe seems on his way to becoming a Republican icon.

After spending so much effort and money trying to get people to drive low-mileage cars, it is rather humorous to change tax laws to make sure that they – who did what everyone was implored to do – pay more taxes and fees.

Once upon a time, there was a brave soul who stood up to popular opinion in order to do the right thing. His name was George W. Bush, and he was outvoted 29-to-1.

HSR booster James Fallows gives space for the arguments against high speed rail. Uncle Steve actually has one of the better counterarguments, which is that HSR isn’t supposed to help Central Valley as much as allow urbanites to more easily avoid it.

Dmiti Mehlhorn argues that progressives shouldn’t support public workers unions anymore. More from David Schuler.

Maybe we kind of want our surgeons to be… the way that stereotypical surgeons are.

China thinks they could take us in a war. David Axe argues that they’re overlooking something significant: our undersea fleet.

Category: Newsroom

It’s kind of weird to see this song in a Disney channel context with dancing clowns. For those of you unfamiliar with the song, or who have never really listened to it, it’s actually kind of on the dark side.

The basic story of the song is that a girl was entranced by the circus that came to town. She “took up” with some clown and thought she had found a different sort of love that was fake. When the circus left town, she her broken dreams were left among the litter. The title of the song is “Don’t Cry Out Loud”… not as in don’t cry, but keep it to yourself and try to be strong in a world of heartbreak.

Somebody had the idea of putting some dancing clowns and putting it on the Disney Channel.

In a way, I approve.

-{Editor’s note: I have decided to discontinue the “Hit Coffee Weekend” feature in favor of posts like this, where I find something to talk about in the video.}-

Category: Theater