My Platform, were I a candidate for the School Board

Once again, it is that time of year here in New York where residents of the school districts vote for board candidates and approve the budget. Most of the time the school board appears powerless, confined to implementing decisions made in Albany and Washington, D. C. But let’s assume for a minute that it isn’t, which is possible, and that I’m a candidate, which is not.

  • A late start, an early end. The school does not need to be a factory.
  • Stand up and move. 15 minute breaks in each hour of instruction. Provide the option to stand, and to move about the room, in the remaining 45 minutes: replace the desks-with-fixed-seats with adjustable desks, or remove desks entirely.
  • Play.
  • A good lunch. See the examples of France and Japan.
  • Turn off the background music on the buses.
  • Buses, not Busses.

Isolation, anxiety, addiction, and escapism. Oh my!

It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.

Upton Sinclair (1934)

After Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she was quitting Facebook, Cal Newport noticed that the news media seem to think that she did so in protest against Facebook’s advertising-based shenanigans with Cambridge Analytica, Donald Trump, and their ilk—despite her explicitly emphasizing the health risks:

I think we’ll all be better served once the national press recognizes this reality, and turns more of its attention from the spectacle of Mark Zuckerberg testifying about data privacy and AI-driven content review, and toward the more nuanced and more human issues encapsulated by the surprising story of a 29-year-old social media rockstar who finds it necessary to escape the very techno-world that made her.

I agree entirely. But the media are a bit narcissistic, and tend not to care about much other than themselves—besides, they depend on advertising. I expect they’re too busy reinforcing our intentional mass attention deficit disorder to spend any time thinking meaningfully about ethical behavior.

That is, violations of privacy are a safe topic, unlike aggregating eyeballs to drive traffic and create sticky revenue streams.

LinkedIn has a nifty feature that shows the commuting distance to a given workplace. It also asks, “How do you prefer to commute to work?” Well, since I would prefer to walk, I selected that option, so now I can see that a 43 minute drive would be a 7 hour, 46 minute walk.

BBC Radio Essays

I would lie awake late at night listening to the BBC World Service on my shortwave radio, sometimes guided by a printed program guide, but more often than not taking things as they come, which is one does with broadcast media. One of the more interesting tidbits, to my inquisitive teenage ears, was a regular essay. Turns out The Essay, or its kin, still exists, is broadcast on BBC Radio 3, and can be streamed online.

I listened to the series on paying attention —you may have noticed that attention is a particular bugbear of mine—last year around this time, and spent some time yesterday in forests.

Today, I think I’ll visit ancient Wales.

Oops

The details of the scandal the Justice Department uncovered are notable not because rich people try to buy their way into higher education, but because these particular rich people went about it all wrong.

Libby Nelson, Vox

Or, as The New York Times wrote in their editorial on the subject:

But this case is not a defense of meritocracy in college admissions. What the government actually is defending is private property — the right of the colleges to make their own decisions about admissions, and collect the payments.

The key distinction here is not just the amount of money, but the recipient. A donation is made to a college, while a bribe is paid to an employee who, in effect, is stealing an admissions slot, hawking it and pocketing the proceeds. (To comply with tax laws, donors also cannot engage in an explicit quid pro quo with a college. The well-rehearsed pas de deux of donations and admissions must be made to appear as a voluntary exchange of gifts, not a binding deal.)

And Frank Bruni is as shocked as everyone else is to find gambling going on in Casablanca.

But let’s pretend for a moment that nobility, aristocracy, and meritocracy are not synonyms for plutocracy, and study for next month’s SAT.

I suddenly felt as though I’d failed a test I didn’t know I was taking. 

Rainesford Stauffer

Only the Emperor’s Clothes Change

It’s remarkable how little changes over time.

Doesn’t this 1989 complaint of Audre Lorde’s sound familiar?

“We are a territory of the most powerful country on earth, supposed to be. Why are there almost 700 families still homeless? If we do not learn the lessons of Hurricane Hugo, we are doomed to repeat them. Because Hugo will not be the last hurricane in this area.

What lessons were learned, by whom?

via JSTOR Daily

One of my nieces is visiting for a while, and, as the other children are in school, the question asked is, “But what will she do all day?”

I don’t know. What do you do when you’re left to your own devices? What do you do when all of time is yours?

Respect

One of my favorite things about the Internet is discovering kindred minds, often in unexpected places.

Cate Huston writes in Why you can’t manage humans like they’re software:

There’s a comfort for the mathematically inclined in returning to the certainty and understanding of mathematics, to think in systems and optimize for efficiency of communication between them. These things work, up to a point, but they are too static for the messiness of humans and the chaos of growth. If we leave out trust, and we leave out developing each other, we will never scale.

Some days I have great hope that the world of work will move beyond treating people as things.