November 26, 2015

Inflation hits high school football, where there are now more than 400 “state champions”

Filed under: Football, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In this week’s football wrap-up, Gregg Easterbrook looks at the most tangible evidence of the popularity of football in America: that there are more than eight times as many high school state championships as there are states in the union:

High school football playoff season has begun across the country, and continues nearly till Christmas. The result will be not 50 titlists but at least 425 state high school football champions. In the N.F.L., every team save one is ground into dust. In high school football, it’s trophies galore!

Expanding postseason brackets at the high school level are another indicator of the runaway rise of football popularity.

Back in the day, there weren’t hundreds of high school state champions; many states had no postseason. I graduated from Kenmore West High School near Buffalo; in 1969 the football team finished ranked first in New York state. That storied squad appeared in eight games, then put away its gear because there were no playoffs to attend. This year’s Kenmore West team suited up for 10 regular-season dates followed by two postseason contests. The Blue Devils’ 10-2 finish got them only to the subregionals of a now-sprawling postseason tournament producing 16 New York state football champions.

New York state pales before Texas and California. In the crazed Texas system, 704 public high schools playing 11-man football made this year’s postseason; plus playoffs for private institutions and schools in the six-man rural version of the sport. Texas offers 10 brackets of 64 schools, each football bracket about the size of the March Madness basketball tourney. Hundreds of Texas playoff games build up to the Lone Star State naming 26 state high school football champions. The last trophy will not be determined till the double-whistle of a night game Dec. 19 at the stadium where the Houston Texans perform. To win a Texas state title, a high school needs to appear in 16 games — exactly the same wear-and-tear on the body as in an N.F.L. regular season.

All this expansion of the high school football year is great … for the fans and the coaches. It’s definitely not so beneficial to the players on the field: not only significant increases in the chance for injury, but also increased distraction from actual school work. Too many football players are hoping to get into college on a football scholarship (and many of them also nurture unrealistic dreams of a professional career in the NFL after college). Perhaps it’s because high schools don’t cover the statistics on that:

The old shorter seasons allowed high school football team members to participate in the extracurricular activities that are essential for college acceptance. Admissions officers know that teenagers with weak grades and only “football team” on their application are not prepared for college.

But won’t the guys get recruited? This is the Grand Illusion of contemporary high school football — devote your high school days to playing in a huge number of games, as well as to year-round conditioning, film study and 7-on-7, because recruiters will come calling. Hundreds of thousands of tween and teen males happily dwell in this Grand Illusion. Then recruiters don’t call.

Each spring, roughly one high school senior football player in 60 is offered an N.C.A.A. scholarship. Roughly one in 125 receives an “ath admit,” acceptance to a college he would not otherwise have qualified for. Athletic admits to the Ivy League or the New England Small College Athletic Conference are solid gold, better in many ways than N.C.A.A. offers. Rolled together, about one high school letterman in 40 gets a college boost from football. While one in 40 gets great news, many more on the football team end up with reduced chances of regular college admission plus regular financial aid.

Expansion of high school football seasons and playoffs has not happened to serve students. More high school games serve the interests of coaching-staff adults who want to pretend to be Don Shula, of state sports organizations that want to be more important, of hustlers who run the growing universe of “showcases” and “combines” that bilk parents of fees in return for the false promise of a recruiting edge for their children.

It’s been nearly a generation since most companies stopped accepting job applications for “entry level jobs” on a career path without at least a university degree. Encouraging teenage boys to ignore academic work through high school to get a microscopic shot at getting into college through football is a form of fraud. Worse, the way high school football players are treated (both in the form of adulation from fellow students and pampering by staff) further encourages them to keep dreaming rather than to keep football in its proper place and getting an education. At least to the extent that high schools are still equipped to teach, anyway.

October 14, 2015

QotD: The temptations of power

Filed under: Americas, Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The late Jean-Claude Duvalier, better known as Baby Doc, played only a small part in my life. I arrived in Haiti for the first time two years after his downfall, during the presidency of the eminently respectable academic, Leslie Manigat, who was soon to be removed by army coup. The pudgy bovine face of Baby Doc still adorned the worn and grubby banknotes in circulation, and I could not help but feel a certain personal sympathy for so eminently unintelligent and naturally undistinguished a person, thrust into a prominence and power he never sought, and actually wanted to avoid.

It cannot have been easy to be president for life from the age of 19, especially since he had a bossy mother, sister, and wife, all of whom plotted and intrigued for power. And if I had been in his shoes at that age, I think — being more intelligent than Baby Doc and therefore having my head more stuffed with adolescent nonsense — I should have been far worse even than he.

Theodore Dalrymple, “The Despot Within”, Taki’s Magazine, 2014-10-12.

August 7, 2015

QotD: Kids these days

Filed under: Quotations, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sometimes I despair for the kids these days, I really do.

I didn’t expect to feel this way at the tender age of 42. I was supposed to find them puzzling, with their Snapchatting and their Venmo and never looking up from their phones. I was supposed to think they were having too much sex or doing too many drugs and not listening to their wiser elders, gosh darn it. I was supposed to grouse that young people are always getting themselves into trouble.

Instead I’m worried that they aren’t getting themselves into enough trouble. They seem so fragile. They can’t read Ovid without a trigger warning and a pair of latex gloves, or go off to college without calling their parents to check in. Did no one ever take them aside and explain that college is for abandoning your parents, leaving them to worry about what you are doing with their money while you forget to call them for a month at a time ? There is something truly terrifying about a generation of younger people that craves more adult intervention into their lives. Yet, that’s what everyone from teachers to employers reports: a rising number of kids who seek to be tethered to their parents, and don’t seem to know what to do unless Mom or Dad is hovering nearby.

I know, I know. People have been worrying about The Kids These Days since time immemorial. And yet, older people I talk to — ones old enough to remember seeing the low-speed, low-stakes train wreck that was my own generation hurtling through college and into the workforce — confirm my impression that This Time Really Is Different. The upper stratum of the Trophy Kids really are going into college expecting to live in a sort of Nerf universe where nothing ever really hurts, and there’s always an adult to pick them up and put them back on track. And they’re coming out into the workforce expecting the same sort of personal concierge service from a world that, as I was myself dismayed to find 20 years ago, really doesn’t have time to care how they feel.

Not that I blame the kids for this. Their parents are the ones who did it to them, hovering over them every spare minute — and in those rare moments when they have some time off from the endless commute between soccer practice and enrichment activities, calling the cops on anyone who leaves an 11-year-old outside to play basketball for an hour, so that their parents will have to hover too.

Megan McArdle, “Helicopter Parents and the Kids Who Just Can’t”, Bloomberg View, 2015-07-07.

July 19, 2015

It’s the right answer to so many intrusive questions!

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Sippican Cottage relates the tale of how the answer to life, the universe, and everything came to be discovered:

Excuse me, did you say “42”? Because 42 is so last week. I have discovered the answer to life, the universe, and everything, and it’s a lot more useful and comprehensible than 42.

My wife was accosted in the supermarket parking lot by some ill-mannered brigands, otherwise known as female high school students. Don’t get me wrong; people are more mannerly and friendly in Maine than in other places I have known. But there are many interactions between persons that have been bent by circumstance.


My wife is very quiet and reserved. She smiles a lot, but she doesn’t talk very much. I have always depended on her steadiness, because I am mercurial. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who has anything bad to say about her, other than she chooses husbands in lighting not suitable for buying off-brand bales of hay. Anyway, she was caught somewhat unawares, and didn’t have a moment to parse what she said carefully for its effect. She just asked, more or less politely, “Why would I want to do that?”

They backed up like people who had opened a mummy’s tomb and heard Egyptian being spoken. It was as unanswerable as a tax bill.

Don’t you see? Can’t you see it? It’s the answer to everything. It’s the Swiss army knife of life, with the little can-opener dongle on it, except instead of opening cans it opens universes. If everyone would answer 99 percent of the questions put to them every day with, “Why would I want to do that?”, the world would be a better place. Not just for the questioner. All manner of mischief would fold up and die and I wouldn’t get messages from Nigerian princelings anymore because every offer to send a million dollars tax-free would be met with, “Why would I want to do that?”

I recognized it like a lost friend. It’s the phrase I’ve been thinking but not saying, morning, noon and night, for years on end, whenever anyone asks me anything about anything. It is my default position for everything, I’ve just never uttered it.

Why would I want to do that?

But (and there’s always a “but”) … it fails the test of one critical question.

July 11, 2015

“They sought to be ‘hypersexual’ or ‘pansexual’ because they never quite understood what it meant to be ‘sexual'”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

George Fields wonders why “progressives” have such an adversarial relationship with ordinary life:

Many months ago, as I was wandering about the state of Indiana, a certain woman from Wisconsin advised me that “if one had nothing nice to say, he ought say nothing at all.” Being an introspective type, I took this to heart and determined to never write another article again.

However, I have decided to write at least one more time, provoked by a conversation with my kid sister. Having recently entered a public high school, she has come to enjoy informing me about some of her more eccentric peers. Near the end of the school year, she told me fewer and fewer of her friends were merely normal boys who liked normal girls, or normal girls who liked normal boys. Rather, they identify as a slew of peculiarly novel “sexual orientations.”

Some were, of course, the usual “gay” or “lesbian,” but in addition to these were “demisexuals,” “androsexuals,” and “therians” (which, she explained, are people who are only attracted to individuals who commune with the same spirit animal). One identified as a “panromantic polyamorous asexual non-binary space god.” Upon hearing this, I knew I had something to say, although it is unlikely to be nice. Having heard, however, several episodes of “The Prairie Home Companion,” I am convinced women from Wisconsin are famously kind, so I am sure my friend will forgive me.

I suspect the “space god” is nothing of the sort, but likely the kind of child who did not want to go to the caverns because she was much too busy trying to beat her high score on “Candy Crush Legend.” Meaning, she is likely longing to be “the extraordinary” because she has entirely failed to appreciate the ordinary. This, to any ordinary person of sensible wit, is extraordinary.

To the sane individual, the world is a wonderful thing. At no point in my life have I ever felt compelled to invent novel sexualities, mainly because I am so enthralled with the traditional two. Their complexity and magic never ceases to engage my imagination and bring me pleasure. Indeed, I can not imagine why anyone would critique the symmetrical beauty of “the two sexes.” Yet wherever I look, adversaries are about, seeking to destroy my source of wonderment.

June 16, 2015

QotD: The Young Adult fiction of Ronald Welch

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’d already been tinkering with the idea of writing a YA story, something for Ranger’s Apprentice fans to move on to.

Commercially, the idea was, “They’re going to read Bernard Cornwell when they are older; let’s take some money off them now.” However, my main motivation was wanting to write something my son could read — the magnum opus my agent was shopping owed too much to the War of the Powers (Am I the only person who remembers that series?). I also wanted to follow in the footsteps of Ronald Welch, the YA writer I read when I was a kid.

Welch was a WWII veteran turned grammar school teacher. He wrote what we would now call YA books about young officers finding their place, and he did it in just about every major conflict involving English combatants from the Horns of Hattin, through Marlborough’s campaigns, to his chronologically last book, Tank Commander, which is an utterly awesome tale of World War One, culminating in the Battle of Cambrai, the first modern tank assault.

We’re not talking trash here. Each book was well researched, the writing is good — he even won a Carnegie Medal for Knight Crusader, which puts him in the same ballpark as Rosemary Sutcliff. As far as I can see, his star faded after his death, not because of his quality as a writer, but because he became unfashionable:

  • His books simply have boy cooties. They are about young men learning leadership and responsibility while being shot at and shooting back without qualms … doing their job in adverse circumstances.
  • He’s not an anti-imperialist. I don’t think he’s pro-imperialist either. He just tells things as they were with people accepting the ethos of the time. His characters generally show matter-of-fact respect for other cultures, but don’t question their own right to be in Palestine or India or wherever, or question very much at all.
  • He’s not anti-war. His fight scenes also go all the way up to 11 on the Conan Scale. I don’t think he likes war, but — having fought in WWII — he sees it as necessary, and the experience itself as worthy of writing about.

This last, bears further examination.

Modern war books aimed at younger people tend towards:

    OMG my best friend just got killed. Look at that dying horse. War is Hell. At least I and my friends will (drum roll) Preserve Our Humanity.

Ronald Welch, who pulls absolutely no punches, by the way, is more:

    OMG my best friend just got killed. You there, put that dying horse out if its misery. War is Hell. Watch the left flanks chaps and some of us will get to live through it. I said WATCH THE DAMNED LEFT FLANK!!

It’s all about taking responsibility, keeping presence of mind, in just about the most hostile human environment.

Very few young readers will grow up to be soldiers. Many of them, however, will face crappy situations. At work when a project implodes. Socially when people turn on them. In a family when a child is very sick, or when a marriage breaks down or turns abusive…

In all those circumstances, there are points neither for maintaining a personal moral hygiene nor for being sensitive. If everybody is going to get through this thing, somebody has to watch the left flank. That person may well be you.

And that’s the kind of book I wanted to write.

M Harold Page, Shieldwall: Barbarians! Writing and self-publishing an old school boy’s young officer story set in Attila’s invasion”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-06-03.

March 16, 2015

QotD: Idealistic youth and bitter reality

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If there’s one thing young people, particularly college people, like, its the feeling of being at the edge of revolution, being part of something big and important. Most children to some degree grow up with this belief, and the more wealthy and safe the families, the greater the expectation. But this confidence gotten more pronounced in later generations.

Raised to believe they are special and unique and destined for greatness by educators and parents more concerned about self esteem in children than being ready to face a cruel, uncaring world, children expect that they will be terribly important and pivotal in the future, and many never grow out of this stage.

This is played off of by the left, which presents the world as a horrible place that they can change. The entire Obama campaign in 2008 was all about this; “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” Vote for Obama and together we’ll fix all the problems!

So far they’ve been very successful with this approach, because young people, particularly those of college age, are just beginning to realize the way they were raised and the way they understand the world ought to be is very different from how it really is.

The left shows up and tells them it can be that way, if only everyone would do what they say. That we can have that wonderful utopia, that we can fix it all with a few more taxes, a bigger government, a few more laws. Some will have to give up things, but that’s okay they’re all richer than you are anyway. Lacking discernment and experience enough in life to see through this, young people eat it up with a spoon. It’s been tremendously effective for 40 years or more.

Christopher Taylor, “TRANSGRESSIVE”, Word Around the Net, 2014-05-30.

December 31, 2014

The psychological value of online gaming

Filed under: Gaming, Health, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:17

At Massively, Andrew Ross talks to the lead author on a recent paper that — unlike the pop-psych headlines in the newspapers — shows a much more positive side to gamers and online gaming:

Every time we talk about scientific research on Massively, readers argue that results from game studies should be “obvious” and are a waste of time/money or that everyone knows MMOs are filled with anti-social trolls. Kowert told me that game studies are “not unique in these criticisms,” though “they may seem stronger within this field due to the perceived frivolity of games and gaming as a field of study”:

    Even though gaming continues to grow in importance and popularity within society, there is still so much that remains unknown about how and why people are using this medium and what are its potential uses and effects (both positive and negative). For example, it has long been assumed that online game players are all reclusive, overweight, lonely, teenage males. This is reflected in the cultural stereotype of the group as seen in the news media and popular culture (Make Love, Not Warcraft, anyone?).

In her paper Reconsidering the Stereotype of Online Gamers, Kowert and her colleagues examined the validity of these stereotypes. As we discussed yesterday, the results proved that the opinions people hold about gamers don’t quite match the media’s stereotypes, even among non-gamers. Without research, we wouldn’t have this information, and for me as a gamer, it’s encouraging to know that times are changing. Plus, it gives you ammo when Uncle Frank tries to put down your hobby this holiday season.

During my examination of the research into online games and real world friendships among emotionally sensitive users, I realized I could see myself in the findings. As a child, I was very shy; part of the problem was that I didn’t know how to react to people’s emotions. One article about social gaming and lonely lives argued that people who game a lot can sometimes have trouble connecting with non-gamers. Many “enthusiastic hobbyists” also have this issue, whether their hobby is sports or soap operas or games.

Kowert says this is correct to an extent; we’ve all met the hardcore sports fans who spouts sports jargon. “There is some uniqueness in the social profile of individuals who choose to exclusively engage in hobbyist activities that are mediated by technology, such as online games,” Kowert told me. “For instance, you state that you were shy as a child and preferred standing in the background rather than diving right into new social situations. Knowing this about yourself, you may have been more apprehensive to join, let’s say, a sports club or a board game group, than popping in on an online forum discussing sports or joining online gaming club.”

In other words, it’s not that all people who play online games are shy or are using the internet to overcome some of their social problems, but for those who suffer from those problems, online gaming could be a good way for them to meet others. Being online allows people to share a social space without the fears and consequences associated with face-to-face socialization. For example, I rarely went to parties in high school, but I did run events in the online games I played, especially in older MMOs. In more raid-oriented MMOs, people constantly told me I was doing something “different,” something unique or strange, and that made me stand out as also being different. In short, I was using the game world in a different way than other more mainstream gamers did, which echoes Kowert’s research about emotionally sensitive players using game spaces in unique ways. She explains:

    Previous research has largely focused on the relationship between MMORPG play and social outcomes, as MMORPGs are believed to have a unique ability to promote sociability between users (see Mark Chen’s 2009 book Leet Noobs for a more in-depth discussion of the social environment of MMOs). As cooperation between users is often crucial to game play, the social environment of MMORPGs differs from other genres, such as multi-player first-person shooter games where gameplay is more about competition than cooperation and the social environment is more often characterized by competitiveness, trash-talking, and gloating (for more on this research see Zubek & Khoo, 2002 [PDF]). These differences in social environments are likely to differentially impact the social utility of the space as well as the social relationships that may come from it.

December 22, 2014

A new paper on the exaggerated claims that MMOs are harmful

Filed under: Gaming, Health — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

By way of Massively, the abstract of a new paper by Dr. Rachel Kowert and her co-authors, investigating claims that massive multi-player online games are a public health threat:

• The psychosocial causes and consequences of online video game play were evaluated.
• Over a 1- and 2-year period, evidence for social compensation processes were found.
• Among young adults, online games appear to be socially compensating spaces.
• No significant displacement or compensation patterns were found for adolescents.
• No significant displacement or compensation patterns were found for older adults.


Due to its worldwide popularity, researchers have grown concerned as to whether or not engagement within online video gaming environments poses a threat to public health. Previous research has uncovered inverse relationships between frequency of play and a range of psychosocial outcomes, however, a reliance on cross-sectional research designs and opportunity sampling of only the most involved players has limited the broader understanding of these relationships. Enlisting a large representative sample and a longitudinal design, the current study examined these relationships and the mechanisms that underlie them to determine if poorer psychosocial outcomes are a cause (i.e., pre-existing psychosocial difficulties motivate play) or a consequence (i.e., poorer outcomes are driven by use) of online video game engagement. The results dispute previous claims that online game play has negative effects on the psychosocial well-being of its users and instead indicate that individuals play online games to compensate for pre-existing social difficulties.

December 3, 2014

Tennessee Salvation Army covers themselves with shame

Filed under: Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:04

Lenore Skenazy posted an item about a family in Tennessee who were turned away from a Salvation Army shelter because of their 15-year-old son:

When it comes to helping families in need, the Salvation Army turns a cold shoulder to one class of people: Teenage boys. A family in Johnson City, TN, found this out recently when, on a freezing cold night, they asked the organization for shelter. But because their family of five contained a 15-year-old boy, they were turned down.

But wait … for all the worries about police officers going rogue and acting like an occupying army instead of peace officers, there are still some good ones serving and protecting:

So instead the family headed to their car. The temperature: 18 degrees.

Somehow, local police officers came upon them and brought them to the Johnson Inn. The officers then pooled their money to pay for a room. When the night clerk figured out what was going on, he comped the room, so the officers’ money went to groceries for the family.

Meantime, 911 dispatchers who had been in on the action pooled their money to provide the Lejeunes some more food.

And the Salvation Army relented and took the family in … minus the 15-year-old, who felt that he was the reason his family was turned out into the below-freezing weather. He’s apparently now in a mental hospital, having had a breakdown over the guilt the Salvation Army helped him feel to the fullest. Nice work, guys. So Christian.

October 26, 2014

QotD: Rowing

Filed under: Humour, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

George never went near the water until he was sixteen. Then he and eight other gentlemen of about the same age went down in a body to Kew one Saturday, with the idea of hiring a boat there, and pulling to Richmond and back; one of their number, a shock-headed youth, named Joskins, who had once or twice taken out a boat on the Serpentine, told them it was jolly fun, boating!

The tide was running out pretty rapidly when they reached the landing-stage, and there was a stiff breeze blowing across the river, but this did not trouble them at all, and they proceeded to select their boat.

There was an eight-oared racing outrigger drawn up on the stage; that was the one that took their fancy. They said they’d have that one, please. The boatman was away, and only his boy was in charge. The boy tried to damp their ardour for the outrigger, and showed them two or three very comfortable-looking boats of the family-party build, but those would not do at all; the outrigger was the boat they thought they would look best in.

So the boy launched it, and they took off their coats and prepared to take their seats. The boy suggested that George, who, even in those days, was always the heavy man of any party, should be number four. George said he should be happy to be number four, and promptly stepped into bow’s place, and sat down with his back to the stern. They got him into his proper position at last, and then the others followed.

A particularly nervous boy was appointed cox, and the steering principle explained to him by Joskins. Joskins himself took stroke. He told the others that it was simple enough; all they had to do was to follow him.

They said they were ready, and the boy on the landing stage took a boat-hook and shoved him off.

What then followed George is unable to describe in detail. He has a confused recollection of having, immediately on starting, received a violent blow in the small of the back from the butt-end of number five’s scull, at the same time that his own seat seemed to disappear from under him by magic, and leave him sitting on the boards. He also noticed, as a curious circumstance, that number two was at the same instant lying on his back at the bottom of the boat, with his legs in the air, apparently in a fit.

They passed under Kew Bridge, broadside, at the rate of eight miles an hour. Joskins being the only one who was rowing. George, on recovering his seat, tried to help him, but, on dipping his oar into the water, it immediately, to his intense surprise, disappeared under the boat, and nearly took him with it.

And then “cox” threw both rudder lines over-board, and burst into tears.

How they got back George never knew, but it took them just forty minutes. A dense crowd watched the entertainment from Kew Bridge with much interest, and everybody shouted out to them different directions. Three times they managed to get the boat back through the arch, and three times they were carried under it again, and every time “cox” looked up and saw the bridge above him he broke out into renewed sobs.

George said he little thought that afternoon that he should ever come to really like boating.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.

October 2, 2014

QotD: How not to educate the young

Filed under: Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

I’m on the road this week, giving talks on my new book about learning to fail better: that is, first, to give ourselves the permission to take on challenges where we might very well fail; second, to pick ourselves up as quickly as possible and move on when things don’t work out. This is, I argue, vital on a personal level, as well as vital for the economy, because that’s where innovation and growth come from.

The other day, after one of my talks, a 10th-grade girl came up and shyly asked if I had a minute. I always have a minute to talk to shy high school sophomores, having been one myself.

And this is what she asked me:

“I understand what you’re saying about trying new things, and hard things, but I’m in an International Baccalaureate program and only about five percent of us will get 4.0, so how can I try a subject where I might not get an A?”

I was floored. All I could think as I talked to this poor girl is “America, you’re doing it wrong.”

I was 15 in 10th grade. If you can’t try something new in 10th grade, when can you? If you can’t afford to risk anything less than perfection at the age of 15, then for heaven’s sake, when is going to be the right time? When you’re ready to splash out on an edgy assisted-living facility?

Now is when this kid should be learning to dream big dreams and dare greatly. Now is when she should be making mistakes and figuring out how to recover from them. Instead, we’re telling one of our best and brightest to focus all her talent on coloring within the lines. This is not the first time I’ve heard this from kids and teachers and parents. But I’ve never heard it phrased quite so starkly.

Megan McArdle, “Go Ahead, Let Your Kids Fail”, Bloomberg View, 2014-02-20.

September 11, 2014

QotD: The real lesson taught by mandatory “volunteer” work

Filed under: Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

What about the rationalization that charitable extracurricular activities teach kids important lessons of moral engagement? There are reasons to be skeptical. A skilled professional I know had to turn down an important freelance assignment because of a recurring commitment to chauffeur her son to a resumé-building “social action” assignment required by his high school. This involved driving the boy for 45 minutes to a community center, cooling her heels while he sorted used clothing for charity, and driving him back — forgoing income which, judiciously donated, could have fed, clothed, and inoculated an African village. The dubious “lessons” of this forced labor as an overqualified ragpicker are that children are entitled to treat their mothers’ time as worth nothing, that you can make the world a better place by destroying economic value, and that the moral worth of an action should be measured by the conspicuousness of the sacrifice rather than the gain to the beneficiary.

Steven Pinker, ” The Trouble With Harvard: The Ivy League is broken and only standardized tests can fix it”, The New Republic, 2014-09-04.

June 15, 2014

Pennsylvania middle school kids are apparently huge druggies

Filed under: Bureaucracy, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

The average middle school kid in Pennsylvania must be a druggie, if the local school boards mandate drug testing for grade five and up students:

At Susquenita Middle School in Duncannon, Pa., a community 20 minutes north of Harrisburg, an eighth-grader chose to skip the National Junior Honor Society this year, reports Eric Veronikis at PennLive:

    Leila May was drug-tested once during her fifth grade year, once in sixth grade and three times as a seventh grader because Susquenita School District randomly tests students in grades five through 12 who participate in extracurricular activities and apply for parking permits.

She always tested negative but her parents have tired of the intrusion and embarrassment and her mother Melinda says they’re weren’t willing to sign another consent form. “It’s sad that this is what we had to resort to. It’s ridiculous.”

Twelve years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Board of Education v. Earls (2002) that schools generally have discretion to impose drug testing on participants in extracurricular activities even without particularized suspicion, on the grounds that such activities are voluntary.

Well, I guess the local school board must have good reasons to implement the kind of drug testing regime that professional sports leagues or military organizations might use … although I’m scratching my head to figure out what they could possibly be.

June 4, 2014

A real-life experiment – does a higher minimum wage cause job losses?

Filed under: Business, Economics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Seattle just changed their minimum wage to $15 per hour (that’s the city, but not the surrounding suburbs). Tim Worstall outlines what we may see in this handy real world economic experiment:

The first and most obvious effect of a $15 an hour minimum is that there are going to be job losses. Don’t forget that the message from the academic literature is that “modest” increases in the minimum don’t seem to have “much” effect on employment levels. And we’d all agree that a $100 minimum would have rather large effects. So our puzzle here is to try to decide what is the definition of “modest”. Clearly $100 an hour isn’t. But also we can dismiss something like $1 an hour as being problematic. Since no one at all gets paid a sum that small making the minimum $1, or $1.50, has no effect on anything whatsoever.

The best result we have from the academic literature is that a minimum wage in the 40-45% region of the median wage has little to no effect on unemployment. The reason being similar to that of a $1 one. So few people get paid so little that it just doesn’t affect the wages of anyone very much. The same research tells us that once we get to 45-50% of the median wage then we do start to see significant unemployment effects.

This $15 an hour in Seattle will be around 60% of the local median wage. We would therefore expect to see reasonably large unemployment effects.

We would also expect to see unemployment among high school graduates rise very much more than the rate in general. For this minimum applies only inside the City of Seattle: it doesn’t apply to the surrounding counties or suburbs that aren’t part of that political jurisdiction. Imagine that you were a college graduate having to do some basic work to make ends meet while you were waiting for that career opening. If you’re going to get $7.25 outside Seattle and $15 inside it you’d probably be willing to make the trip each day to earn that extra. Of course, as a high school graduate you would too. But now think of yourself as the employer. You’ve got the choice of a college graduate or a high school graduate, both willing to do the same job at the same price. Who are you going to hire? Logically, the higher grade worker, that college grad.

So we would expect minimum wage jobs within Seattle to be colonised by those college grads at the expense of those high school ones. We would therefore expect to see a much larger rise in the unemployment rate of those high school grads as against the general unemployment rate. In fact, we’d expect to see this happening so strongly that we’d take the empirical evidence of that widening unemployment gap to be evidence that it was this minimum wage rise causing it.

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