Media

Thursday, March 23, 2017

We Look Smaller in Boston

Posted By on Thu, Mar 23, 2017 at 7:00 PM

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.COM
  • Courtesy of wikimedia.com
Students attending a Boston public school have another world map, the Peters projection map, next to the one most of us are used to looking at.
Boston’s public schools began phasing in the lesser-known Peters projection, which cuts the US, Britain and the rest of Europe down to size. Teachers put contrasting maps of the world side by side and let the students study them.
If you haven't seen it before, take a look at the Peters projection map at the top of the post. The U.S. and Europe are pretty much the same size as they are on the Mercator map we're used to seeing, but some of the other land masses get a whole lot bigger. South America is now twice as large as Europe instead of the same size, and Africa is far larger as well. The map has a more accurate north-south arrangement, with the U.S. and Europe farther to the north instead of occupying the middle area. (Fun fact: in the standard Mercator map, Germany is pretty much dead center, except in the maps where the U.S. is moved to the central spot.)

History is written by the winners, and they get to draw the maps as well, putting themselves in the center of the world and shrinking everyone else down to size. The Peters projection map is a more proportional, less Eurocentric approximation of what the spherical world should look like when it's flattened out on piece of paper. Boston public schools are doing a little something to put the world back into its proper balance.
In an age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, city authorities are confident their new map offers something closer to the geographical truth than that of traditional school maps, and hope it can serve an example to schools across the nation and even the world.
A map with the Mercator proportions and orientation, the one we're used to, is below.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

On the Theory and Practice of Bullshitting

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 2:00 PM

COURTESY OF BIG STOCK
  • Courtesy of big stock
Bullshit has become such a pervasive form of political speech in the Trump world, it deserves attention as a specific rhetorical style. Most of us use the word to mean something is incorrect: "That's bullshit!" The first time I heard the term "bullshit artist" was in the 1971 film, Carnal Knowledge, where two college students, played by Jack Nicholson and Art Garfunkel, used it as a semi-complimentary exclamation after some amazing thing the other one said, the rough equivalent of "No way, dude!" But since American philosopher Harry Frankfurt published a short book, On Bullshit, in 2005, the term has been used to refer to a specific form of speech.

The staid and proper Fareed Zakaria talked about Frankfurt's book and about Trump as "bullshit artist" on CNN in August, 2016, during the heat of the presidential campaign and again a few days ago. They're both reasonably short and worth a listen.

Zakaria quotes Frankfurt's book to distinguish between lying and bullshitting. “Telling a lie," Frankfurt writes, "is an act with a sharp focus. It is designed to insert a particular falsehood at a specific point." Bullshit, on the other hand, "is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false . . . [It] has spacious opportunities for improvisation, color and imaginative play. This is less a matter of craft than of art.” Frankfurt concludes that "bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

Trump is a legendary bullshit artist—he's been indulging in it throughout his adult life — who piles heaping helpings of narcissism and pathology on top. Our own Doug Ducey is a lower level practitioner, but skilled nonetheless. We see him practice his art regularly when he adopts the mantle of "friend of education." He never tires of complimenting himself for pushing Prop 123, without acknowledging that it resulted in schools getting a portion of what the state owed them by law, and mostly from the schools' own money, the state land trust fund, not the state budget. That makes him less antagonistic to public education than many of his Republican colleagues, but a friend of public education? Hardly. And he's in danger of doing himself injury as he pounds himself on the back for "supporting teachers" by adding a few hundred dollars to their yearly salaries. Both assertions are half true, half false and all bullshit.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Arizona ACA Enrollment Down 3.3 Percent. Cost For People With Subsidies Down 13.3 Percent.

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 12:12 PM

COURTESY OF BIGSTOCKPHOTO
  • Courtesy of bigstockphoto
This is one of those "All I know is what I read in the papers" (cowboy hat-tip to Will Rogers) posts. The AP has an article on current ACA/Obamacare enrollment in Arizona which is full of informative facts and figures. Unfortunately, the AP headline, which is factually true, leaves a skewed impression of what's actually happened.

The AP headline reads:


That's true, but it's misleading. My longer headline, I think, summarizes the information in the article more accurately:

Arizona ACA Enrollment Down 3.3 Percent. Cost For People With Subsidies Down 13.3 Percent.

Let's look at the numbers in the article. Here's the overall picture for the state, according to the article.
Overall, Arizona saw a 3.3 percent enrollment decline in marketplace plans that are a key component of former President Obama’s heath care law, to about 196,000 people.
By the way, though it doesn't mention it in the article, that number is only for those buying insurance on the ACA marketplace. It doesn't include adults and children on Medicaid, which totals about 400,000.

A loss of a bit more than three percent of participants in the ACA marketplace? That doesn't sound anything like the Republican "Obamacare on life support" meme we hear so often, which often uses Arizona as a prime reason for pulling the plug. It sounds more like a reasonable yearly ebb and flow. However, the loss is far higher among those who don't qualify for tax credits. It's 23 percent. If you're a family of four, you pay the whole ACA cost when your income hits $97,000. If I'm reading this correctly, that $97,000 figure is the family's Adjusted Gross Income, which is total income minus deductions, meaning a family's actual combined salaries plus other income sources would be considerably higher, certainly over $100,000. According to the article, only the top 20 percent of Arizonans who get their insurance through the ACA marketplace pay full price. While no one wants to pay the full cost of ACA health care, which averages $611 a month, the top 20 percent who make over a hundred grand can manage it.

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Casa Video Top 10

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:03 AM

Some nights all we want to do after a long, exhausting day is change into that worn-out sweatshirt, grab our favorite snacks and curl up next to our furry friends on the couch for a mindless Netflix marathon. When even Netflix runs out of binge-worthy shows for your tastes, have no fear—Casa Video is here! Here are the current top ten rentals you too can snag from Tucson's favorite video store.

Moana


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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Asterisk in Ducey's Plan to Fund All-Day Kindergarten in 'Lowest-Income Schools'

Posted By on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 3:30 PM

COURTESY OF FLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of flickr.com
Need another reason to be wary of Ducey's promises? Here's one: his all-day kindergarten funding pledge. It's not quite what he said it is.

Here's what Ducey said in his 2017 State of the State address:
"My budget gives the lowest-income schools dollars to start or expand full-day kindergarten."
Note the word "schools" in the phrase "lowest-income schools." Apparently that's not what Ducey meant. He meant "lowest-income charter schools," but if the school is inside a district, that's not enough. The whole district has to qualify as "lowest income" or No Money For You.

This was news to me until someone sent me a story by Michael Hernandez, an intern at Arizona Public Media (Let's hear it for the future of journalism!): All-Day Kindergarten Funding Out of Reach for Tucson's Public Schools. For Ducey's funding pledge to kick in, 90 percent of your students qualify have to qualify for free or reduced lunch. If you're a charter school, it's just that simple—90 percent on free/reduced lunch, and you get the money. But a whole district has to meet that number to qualify. So TUSD doesn't qualify, or Flowing Wells. Even Sunnyside with 86 percent of its students on free/reduced lunch doesn't make the cut.

According to the article, no Pima County school district will get a penny from the program, but ten charters in the county qualify.

Even in this rare instance where Ducey puts together a plan that favors low-income schools, he makes sure charter schools get more than their share of the proceeds.

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"Kiss Me, I'm the Descendant of Irish Immigrants!"

Posted By on Fri, Mar 17, 2017 at 9:26 AM

COURTESY OF STATICFLICKR.COM
  • Courtesy of staticflickr.com
Full disclosure: I don't have a drop of Irish blood in me that I know of. I don't wear green on St. Patrick's Day, or drink green beer. I don't kiss people because they're Irish. But that doesn't stop me from recommending a terrific op ed in today's New York Times by Fintan O'Toole, a columnist for The Irish Times: Green Beer and Rank Hypocrisy.

Stop reading this right now and link to his column! Or, if you prefer, stick around and read what I have to say about it.

O'Toole's basic thesis is, don't forget that most of the Irish-Americans we celebrate today are descendants of reviled immigrants.
[The Irish] were nobody’s ideal of the desirable immigrant. The typical Irish Catholic arrival in New York or Boston was a peasant with little formal education and few material resources. Worse, these people were religious aliens — the papist hordes who threatened to swamp Protestant civilization and, in their ignorance and superstition, destroy enlightened democratic American values.
Today in a proclamation, Trump celebrates "the achievements and contributions of Irish-Americans to our nation . . . overcoming poverty and discrimination and inspiring Americans from all walks of life with their indomitable and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Even by the crooked yardstick of the Trump administration, the disconnect is surreal: The president will salute the legacy of one wave of immigrants even as he deploys against other immigrants the same calumnies once heaped upon the Irish.
O'Toole says of those members of the Trump administration with Irish ancestry, like Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway:

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Mark Hamill Uses Twitter Force Against the Trump Death Star

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 5:00 PM

COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA.COM
  • Courtesy of wikimedia.com
This is too good to pass up. Kevin Eck, recently hired staffer for Betsy DeVos' Education Department, was unhappy with Mark Hamill, aka Luke Skywalker, for his criticism of Trump. So in November Eck tweeted:
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Now that Eck is at the Dept. of Ed, Hamill decided it was time to reply.
screen_shot_2017-03-15_at_11.33.17_am.png
Eck is one of three recent Education Department hires who have been condemned for racist tweets, like this one.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

'Give More Money to Schools in High-Rent Areas' Lisa Graham Keegan Says (Or Almost Says)

Posted By on Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 10:56 AM

shutterstock_156072062-1.jpg
Lisa Graham Keegan is the bluebird of "education reform" happiness. Keegan, former state legislator who sponsored Arizona's original charter school bill (and got it passed by threatening Democrats that a voucher bill was coming next if the charter bill failed), then the Superintendent of Public Instruction who got charter schools rolling (and budgeted as little as possible for charter school oversight to make sure the "invisible hand of the marketplace" could work its magic), isn't one of those privatization proponents who spends all her time talking about "failing government schools" and abysmal standardized test scores. She'd rather write, as she did in a recent op ed in the Capitol Times, that you can find excellent schools everywhere.
These models of excellence can be found in charters, traditional district schools, and district magnet schools. They’re in likely and unlikely places: affluent areas and low-income communities, rural, suburban, and urban.
Isn't that nice? Yes it is. And I have to say, I agree with her wholeheartedly — up to this point, anyway. Unfortunately, though, her sunny depiction of educational excellence is a soft-sell setup for her real point: that we should give more money to the schools she defines as "excellent," a definition that just happens to favor district and charter schools with lots of kids from high-income families.

Keegan, who has played a major role as an educational advisor to both former governor Jan Brewer and current governor Doug Ducey, is pushing Ducey's "results-based funding model" which awards "excellent" schools with more money. She and Ducey maintain that successful schools deserve to be rewarded for their success.

The reward system ignores a few education-related points. First, in most European and Asian school systems—the ones that eat our schools for lunch, "education reformers" never tire of reminding us—extra money is funneled into schools where student performance is low to cover the cost of improving the quality of the schools, not into schools where students are already doing well. Second, the Keegan/Brewer/Ducey definition of "excellence" leans heavily on standardized test scores, and, as virtually every reasonable study indicates, in the U.S. and around the world, test scores rise as family income rises.

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