URLs du Jour


  • Perhaps the Tweet of the Year. Via Instapundit, the Tweet du Jour.

    We really have a hodgepodge today.

  • Be a do-gooder instead of a talk-gooder. Kay S. Hymowitz has a suggestion about How Really to Be an Antiracist. Specifically, start teaching black kids how to read.

    A significant number of American students are reading fluently and with understanding and are well on their way to becoming literate adults. But they are a minority. As of 2019, according to the National Association of Education Progress (NAEP), sometimes called the Nation’s Report Card, 35 percent of fourth-graders were reading at or above proficiency levels; that means, to spell it out, that a strong majority—65 percent, to be exact—were less than proficient. In fact, 34 percent were reading, if you can call it that, below a basic level, barely able to decipher material suitable for kids their age. Eighth-graders don’t do much better. Only 34 percent of them are proficient; 27 percent were below-basic readers. Worse, those eighth-grade numbers represent a decline from 2017 for 31 states.

    As is always the case in our crazy-quilt, multiracial, multicultural country, the picture varies, depending on which kids you’re looking at. If you categorize by states, the lowest scores can be found in Alabama and New Mexico, with just 21 percent of eighth-graders reading proficiently. The best thing to say about these results is that they make the highest-scoring state—Massachusetts, with 47 percent of students proficient—look like a success story rather than the mediocrity it is.

    The findings that should really push antiracist educators to rethink their pedagogical assumptions are those for the nation’s black schoolchildren. Nationwide, 52 percent of black children read below basic in fourth grade. (Hispanics, at 45 percent, and Native Americans, at 50 percent, do almost as badly, but I’ll concentrate here on black students, since antiracism clearly centers on the plight of African-Americans.) The numbers in the nation’s majority-black cities are so low that they flirt with zero. In Baltimore, where 80 percent of the student body is black, 61 percent of these students are below basic; only 9 percent of fourth-graders and 10 percent of eighth-graders are reading proficiently. (The few white fourth-graders attending Charm City’s public schools score 36 points higher than their black classmates.) Detroit, the American city with the highest percentage of black residents, has the nation’s lowest fourth-grade reading scores; only 5 percent of Detroit fourth-graders scored at or above proficient. (Cleveland’s schools, also majority black, are only a few points ahead.)

    It's not overstating things to say education malpractice is kneecapping these kids for life. Ms. Hymowitz gets to phonics later in the article.

    On a related note, the NYT has an infuriating story: In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat. The "guru" is Ms. Lucy Calkins is identified as "a leading literacy expert". And her "retreat" is that she has "rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics".

    She is 70 years old.

    It's nice to hear that people, even at that age, can come to realize the error of their ways. But it's way too late, and even the NYT thinks (quoting "critics") that it may be too little.

  • I keep reminding myself that he has nukes. Jeff Jacoby notes one feature of our, um, interesting times: For Putin, a self-own for the history books.

    Earlier this year, as Russia’s massive troop buildup on Ukraine’s borders grew steadily more ominous, there were suggestions that the only way for Ukraine to avoid being conquered by Moscow was to submit to “Finlandization.” That was a reference to Finland’s policy of abject neutrality during the Cold War, when Helsinki was barred from joining NATO or otherwise aligning itself with the West, scrupulously avoided any criticism of the Soviet Union, and deferred to Moscow on most major policy questions. In return, Soviet troops stayed on their side of the 830-mile border with Finland, and Finns kept their democratic form of government.

    Before Russia unleashed its war on Ukraine in February, a number of prominent figures, among them French President Emmanuel Macron and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, held out the prospect that a Finlandized Ukraine might satisfy Vladimir Putin and defuse the worsening crisis. “Wise Ukrainian leaders,” wrote former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, “should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland.”

    But a funny thing happened on the way to Ukraine becoming Finlandized. Finland became Ukrainized.

    As Jacoby points out, this turn of events would have been unthinkable just a year ago.

    Also see Kevin D. Williamson: we should let Finland and Sweden into NATO, while simultaneously kicking Turkey out.

  • A prior bad choice: giving these people power. Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. chronicles a sad story: One Bad Choice and a Baby Formula Shortage.

    Baby formula is a target of shoplifting rings. Its supply has been disrupted by Covid lockdowns. Its pattern of demand has been thrown for a loop by pandemic-spawned changes in retailing and baby-making. Add the fact that half the U.S. supply is consumed by welfare recipients, who are limited by regulation to a choice of three manufacturers. Add federal rules that make it hard to relieve a domestic shortage by importing foreign-made supplies.

    And still the shocking baby formula crisis of 2022 is not an occasion for your perfect storm metaphors: The key factor that overwhelms all others is a government decision in February to force a factory shutdown and product recall on an Abbott Labs plant in Michigan.

    The four cases of Cronobacter sakazakii infection in infants that the government cited could not be traced to the factory’s products. No contaminated baby formula was found; Cronobacter was identified on the factory grounds but lacked a genetic match to samples from affected infants. A considered response might have been to keep the factory running and carefully check its output for contaminated formula, but that’s not the response the Food and Drug Administration chose and thereby hangs a tale.

    That's a free link, so click over for the tale.

    But, generally speaking, infant formula is one of the most highly regulated products in the country. The point of that regulation is to make sure that safe products are easily available.

    Why haven't people been fired? (And where does the buck stop, Joe?)

  • Another tale of "successful" regulation. Ronald Bailey chronicles an embarrassment: America's Nuclear Reluctance.

    On February 14, 2022, Oregon's NuScale Power signed an agreement with the Polish mining and processing firm KGHM to deploy NuScale's innovative small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) in Poland by 2029. At the U.N.'s Glasgow Climate Change Conference in November, NuScale contracted with a Romanian energy company to deploy its SMR technology in that country by 2028. NuScale has signed similar memoranda of understanding with electric power companies in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Ukraine.

    This kind of advanced energy technology will likely be powering homes and businesses in Europe before the first reactor is completed in the United States. That's because the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is in no hurry to help.

    NuScale's SMR technology did receive an NRC staff "standard design approval" in September 2020. But that happened largely because NuScale's -technology employs a smaller-scale version of the light-water reactors that the NRC -bureaucracy has been (over-)regulating for decades.

    Well, there's always my favorite panacea: nanotech-enhanced artificial photosynthesis. Maybe some bright kids in a garage will invent it before the Feds think to regulate it.

Last Modified 2022-05-23 2:21 PM EDT