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Self in Society Roundup 28

Schools, math, transgender suicides, FDA controls, protectionism, placebos, Little Richard, and more.

Copyright © 2024 by Ari Armstrong
August 14, 2023; ported here on January 24, 2024

Schools I: Matt Welch: "In just four years, according to newly released enrollment figures, the municipally operated portion of the New York City public school system has lost more than 136,000 students. . . . The four-year, 14 percent reduction in enrollment, coupled with the budget hike, means that per-student spending in city-administered schools has grown by 22 percent, to more than $31,000, according to the DOE."

Schools II: Caitlynn Peetz: "More than a third of the national public school enrollment decline since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic" is probably due to parents who "opted to skip kindergarten altogether."

Schools III: Christopher Campos and Caitlin Kearns (via Cowen): "Student outcomes in ZOC markets [Zones of Choice in Los Angeles] increased markedly, narrowing achievement and college enrollment gaps between ZOC neighborhoods and the rest of the district."

Math Education I: "Cambridge Public Schools no longer offers advanced math in middle school." So stupid!

Math Education II: Daniel Buck: California has embraced "an approach to education called inquiry learning, which has virtually zero grounding in research. There is little in the framework that resembles real mathematical learning. . . . Reformists encouraged students to discover and construct knowledge with little guidance from the teacher; traditionalists emphasized the need for step-by-step practice of procedures and memorization of basic math facts." My take: Kids can teach themselves to do math about as well as they can teach themselves to read—hardly at all. But proper instruction involves setting up a student to make self-directed insights. A Socratic method often is helpful. When my kid was younger we used things like blocks and fraction wheels so he could directly see and understand various mathematical relationships. I think the Montessori method, which Batt Bateman describes, has a lot going for it.

Math Resources: Some good news on the math front: Core Knowledge recently released its K–8 math materials as free pdf downloads. I use Dimensions Math from Singapore though. On first glance, I worry that the CK materials try too hard to get children to over-explain their reasoning, which can be tedious. What I love about Dimensions Math is how well the program builds knowledge, anticipating future growth.

Worries: Recently I wrote, "I think the world is in a much more precarious state than many people presume. A number of circumstances could throw us back to President Trump, which would be a disaster. Russia and China are highly nationalistic and militaristic. We easily could have the world's three largest nuclear powers controlled by madmen."

Transgender: Erin Reed debunks claims, supposedly based on a 2011 study, "that transgender individuals face a 19 times higher suicide rate after receiving gender-affirming care" (Reed's summary). "The study does not compare transgender people who received gender affirming care with transgender people who did not receive gender affirming care. Instead, it compares transgender people who received care with the general population of cisgender people."

FDA Controls: Which crazy anti-government conservative said the following (via Tabarrok)? "My rule is very simple. I don't think the FDA is better than the EMA [European Medicines Agency] so if any drug or device is approved in Europe it ought to be available for purchase in the United States with a label saying 'Approved by the EMA. Not approved by the FDA.'" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!

Birth Protectionism: "Hospitals block much-needed birth centers in the South; Established medical providers use regulatory requirements to quash competition."

Gas Pump Protectionism: You can now pump your own gas in Oregon! However, the new rules hardly free things up. Raghuveer Parthasarathy tells Tyler Cowen, "The price must be identical for self-serve and attendant-pumped gas. Also, at least half the pumps must have an attendant."

Dugin: Aleksandr Dugin is one of the most dangerous people in the world. Aris Roussinos has the latest.

Hanania: Jeet Heer has a mostly good write-up for the Nation.

Placebo: NatGeo has an interesting article. A big theme of the article is that the subjective experience of pain can very much depend on expectations. Some scientists even have been able to alter rats' immune responses by pairing a sweet drink with a drug; eventually the sweet drink alone had the same effect.

Cytomegalovirus: CPR: The common virus cytomegalovirus "impacts about one in every 200 babies. Of those, about one in five will have birth defects or long-term health problems."

Little Richard: I highly recommend the documentary, Little Richard: I Am Everything. The film explores how Richard, a Black man, generated a musical style with which many white musicians then built their careers. How Richard, a gay (or queer) man, struggled with religiously induced self-loathing over both his music and his sexuality. How Richard, despite these huge challenges, eventually found some measure of the recognition due to him. For background, I recommend a first and second episode on Little Richard from A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs.

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