Monday, September 22, 2014

Social Entrepreneurs for Education Needed
We need to do a better job on public education around the politics of education…

A recent article from the New York Times helps.

We see that the data tells a story that is inconsistent with the story told by state legislators…

Public Colleges collect almost exactly the same amount of revenue per student today that we collected 25 years ago.
$11,500 today compared to $11,300 in 1988, adjusted for inflation and in 2013 dollars.

What has changed?

State legislatures have reduced their contributions toward higher education from an average of $8,600 per student in 1988 to $6,100 per student today.


Students are paying a larger portion of the $11,500 than the portion they paid of the $11,300…$5,400 compared to $2,700 in 1988. 

Thus, from a student’s perspective public college tuition has doubled; from the perspective of public colleges revenue has remained flat.

And the state legislators blaming rising tuition on college waste and high faculty salaries are not only telling a misleading story; they are telling a story designed to be misleading, designed to misdirect student anger from the lack of leadership in the state house and redirect it onto the backs of faculty.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Violence & Accountability
There is much to be learned from the ongoing contortious NFL response to the sudden dramatization of a long-term problem, casting them and their players as the villains.  While there has already been some powerful analysis and will certainly be more, I am struck by the shameless hypocrisy surrounding NFL leadership claims about accountability.

I am not the first to point this out, but it strikes me as one of the lessons here that cuts across issue-areas and is rarely, if ever, the thematic thread our mass media focus on to tell and analyze a story.

The leader of the organization, speaking for the leadership group, (mostly men, all extremely wealthy, nearly all white) comes to the podium and--in his own words--tells us that the trail of mistakes starts with him and he is accountable.

What this means in this context is he is 'manning up' and admitting his mistake, so he can get on with his work.  He highlights for the moment that this work will include prioritizing addressing the problem on the table.  In this case it is domestic violence, but in other large organizations it is budgetary crises or downsizing or product recalls or the large-scale corruption and deception we saw in the recent financial crisis or in the ongoing pilfering of workers pension funds.

Anyway, to stay on point, the leader's comments about his own accountability reflect a remarkable about-face (that he hopes we do not see) on how to hold someone accountable.  In the recent past, when the person to be held accountable was not an elite among the leadership club the favored framing was zero tolerance to justify highly punitive responses targeting the individuals responsible.

In general, I do not support highly punitive responses, but I certainly do not support a system where accountability for the wealthy means they must admit they made a mistake so we can let them continue to lead us to a remedy, while accountability for the average Joe means something else entirely.

Just to be clear, in this case the average Joes do appear to deserve severe punishment, as does the leader of the NFL.  And while the average Joes have video footage to turn our stomachs so we have little doubt about the harm they caused, the NFL leader hides behind his apologetic accountability to make it harder for us to see the far greater harms resulting from his enabling, overlooking, and downplaying.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Always liked this...

Mind your thoughts, they become words;
Mind your words, they become actions;
Mind your actions, they become habits;
Mind your habits, they become character;
Mind your character, it becomes your destiny. 

-- Upanishads

Feels like ancient wisdom that cuts across belief systems.

Clear eyes, pure heart.

Thoughts, words, actions, habits, character, destiny.
In the news today...
Beacon Journal education writer provided a thoughtful summary of the new state report cards for the K-12 system, noting that most charter schools in Summit County earned a grade of F, with those managed by for-profit companies doing the worst of all.  All the talk, locally and nationally, about the innovative social entrepreneurs running charter schools does not seem to be even close to true when we look at the data here.
Beacon Journal staff writer interviews the Exective Director of the Battered Women’s Shelter of Summit and Medina Counties about the firestorm in the NFL, a reluctant microcosm of society at large, that has resulted from Ray Rice’s brutal assault of his then fiancĂ©.
Marc J. Dunkelman of the Los Angeles Times argues that America’s famous melting pot tolerance has become fragmented and politically dysfunctional.
Conservative columnist CharlesKrauthammer and Liberal Columnist David Ignatius both of the Washington Post respond to President Obama’s recent foreign policy speech, demonstrating the dysfunctional fragmentation Dunkelman describes?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Proud to be an American
There are many times I feel proud, and deeply fortunate, to live in the USA in 2014.  There are many times when I cringe at the ways some use 'proud to be an American' as a bludgeon to silence others (a very unAmerican objective) or to stand up for positions the framers or most Americans today would find offensive and not part of what being American means to us.  And we know there can be a fine line between loving our homes and destructive nationalism.

Why, for instance, do those who repeat 'freedom ain't free' in place of actual listening and thinking not then see paying our taxes as an essential contribution to our freedom?  And why can't we, the nation of immigrants, do the right thing on immigration?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Selective Accountability is Wasteful and Undermines Community
Virginia Postrel, writing for the Bloomberg View, provided a very interesting description of the gap between what the best available data demonstrates about the importance of patient-centered hospital architectural design and the ways we actually build hospitals. 

The existence of a gap is not what I find most surprising.  What is most interesting is her description of why decision makers fail to build hospitals with these data-driven design features known to increase patient recovery time and reduce patient use of pain medications.  

“The problem is not a lack of knowledge…. There are specialized architects and interior designers who have spent decades studying how to improve health-care environments. There are articles in peer-reviewed journals — even an “Evidence-Based Design Journal Club” to discuss new articles — and annual conferences.

In other words, there’s plenty of information on how to make hospital-design better.

The real problem is a lack of incentives and feedback. New hospitals that hire fancy architects tend to lavish money on public areas — the places donors see — and treat hidden departments, such as the imaging suites, as purely functional. Even when money isn’t an issue, they make choices that please administrators but ignore research.

The old-fashioned insistence on highly polished floors, a hazard to older patients with fading eyesight, is a pet peeve of health-care design experts. Evidence suggests that patients react better to landscapes than abstractions, and that “chaotic abstract art” and “close-up animals” looking directly at the viewer should probably be avoided. Yet the $1-billion Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which opened in 2008, features a cafeteria mural whose violently jagged abstractions are made all the more threatening by other shapes resembling lions staring out.”

Because elite decision makers are excessively focused on impressing other elite decision makers (donors and other administrators in particular), even when these decisions undermine the mission of the institution, are contrary to the best data, and waste money. 

If hospitals are anything like universities—large organizations run by elites insulated from what happens on the ground to actually advance the mission—then these elite decision makers likely joke among themselves about the need to insist upon greater accountability from their front-line workers whom they assume act to undermine the mission, contrary to the best data, and waste money.