Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Florida Shooting and the Public Schools

With 17 victims killed and a similar number wounded, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was horrific, and all empathize with the victims.
Horrific events like these are salient; that is, they loom large in our minds. As with airline crashes, which have resulted in more death than mass shootings, we, along with the electronic and print media, dramatize the risks of and importance of salient events. Nevertheless, the empathy and sorrow we feel for the victims is neither a logical nor an empirically valid reason for policy changes.
In 1897, 121 years ago, Emile Durkheim wrote Suicide, a sociological study of the correlates of suicide. Durkheim's study suggested that sociological analysis might increasingly contribute to reasoned policy discussion. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have been the case. Much of the policy discussion about the recent uptick in mass shootings is impassioned and lacking in perspective.
Durkheim found that social norms and regulation contribute to suicide rates; similar factors are at play in mass shootings, which are often suicidal. Durkheim found that suicide can result from a sense of not belonging; he also found that it can result from being overwhelmed by social demands; he found also found that anomie, an absence of moral coherence or a breakdown of social norms, can play a role. 
Durkheim found that education makes suicide more likely, but social cohesion and religion play a bigger role. Protestants were more likely to commit suicide than were Catholics or Jews, even though Jews were highly educated. As well, suicide rates were higher for unmarried people than for married people and for childless people than for people with children.

Where do school shootings occur? They occur almost universally in public schools. I went through a list provided by Ballotpedia https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_school_shootings,_199…, and I noticed that of the first 20 or 30, 100% occured in public school settings, mostly in mid-sized-to-large-sized cities, and in low-income school districts. They also have often been associated with sports events.
The number killed in all of the mass shooting incidents is much smaller than the number killed in airline crashes, which in turn is much smaller than the number killed in automobile crashes.  Salience does not determine importance. 
This CNN piece (https://www.cnn.com/…/20-deadliest-mass-shooting…/index.html )
identifies the worst mass shootings in modern history (related and unrelated to schools), and the total of all fatalities arising from them is under 500. In contrast, a single one of any number of airline crashes had roughly 50% of the total number of deaths from mass shootings since 1990. As well, about 40,000 Americans died in automobile crashes in 2016. More than one million have died in car accidents since 1990, compared to under 500 from mass shootings, a ratio of 2,000 to one.
That is not to say that it is not useful to think about ways to reduce or eliminate mass shootings. One point that jumps out is that all of the mass killings at schools have been at public schools. A large majority is not surprising since about 91% of students attend public schools. Nevertheless, given that there have been several hundred school shootings, we would expect about 10% to have been in Catholic and other private schools, but that has not been the case. 
That gets us back to the question of anomie, normlessness, and its opposite, excessive social control. Since 1990 there has been a increase in political correctness and a decline in religious belief (see http://www.pewresearch.org/…/qa-why-millennials-are-less-r…/ ). In other words, there has been increasing academic control, increasing peer pressure, and decreasing religious participation. As well, there has been declining participation in society, as Robert Putnam points out in Bowling Alone.
Perhaps the public education system needs to be taken to task; and perhaps the American media with its idolization of celebrity, narcissism, and new age morality should be as well.  As well, given that there are sociological reasons for mass shootings, we might conclude that different locales require different solutions.  

A generic, federal solution to a variegated problem is as useless as looking for a single solution to airline crashes. Different locales need to develop optimal policies based on their unique characteristics. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Political Correctness and the Obsolete Man


This is a Twilight Zone episode from the early 1960s anticipating the Democratic Party's obsession with political correctness. Let me out of here.


 

Thiel May Resign from Facebook

The Democrats' authoritarian obsession with political correctness isn't limited to their tax-subsidized, partisan clubhouses like universities, colleges, government agencies, and labor unions. Peter Thiel, a member of the Facebook board, is moving to LA, in part to get away from the Democratic Party atmosphere in Silicon Valley. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Mr. Thiel has also discussed with people close to him the possibility of resigning from the board of Facebook Inc., the people familiar with his thinking said. His relationship with the social-networking company—where he has been a director since 2005, the year after its founding—came under strain after a dispute with a fellow director over Mr. Thiel’s support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign...

Democrats encourage disagreement until people disagree.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Peter Wood's New Campus Anti-Americanism


Peter Wood, president of the National Association of Scholars, has a great piece in Minding the Campus on the decline and fall of higher education, which he attributes to the "new camps anti-Americanism." Wood notes that a Pew poll "showed 58 percent of Republicans saying that they now view American higher education as having negative effects on the country." (The other 42 percent are uninformed.) He adds, "Then a Gallup poll in August offered the even more troubling picture that 67 percent of Republicans and Republican “leaders” had only some or very little “confidence on colleges and universities.” The figure for 'all adults' regardless of political affiliation was 56 percent." Wood says that administrators have been complacent, and their anti-Americanism will result in further declining public support for higher education. Wood is optimistic that the public will insist on reform.

I'm not so sure. The Republicans need to wake up to the partisanship of elite academia. The left ideology prevalent on campus is a market signal, i.e., a selection device that provides a screen, for Democratic Party affiliation. I know that sounds strange, but which party funds universities? May we not expect the party that funds universities to expect the institutions that they fund to support them? Which party are leftists most likely to support?

This claim is supported by the following: There is a strong tendency for academics to be left wing in ideology, but there is an even stronger tendency for academics to be Democratic in party affiliation. In many elite colleges the proportion of Republicans is not significantly different from zero. In contrast, Pew finds that about 38% of the highly educated are now Republican--and that number is endogenous because it follows a generation of campus indoctrination of the highly educated.

Since the New Deal, the Democrats have relied on universities to propagandize on behalf of their programs. The Republicans have been slow to recognize that universities have been playing a partisan role, and if the faculty is predominantly left and entirely Democratic while elite young are turned into US-hating, Gramscian transgender activists, how nice for the Democratic Party.  The Democrats have funded the universities; the Democrats will benefit from a youth indoctrinated into left ideology at those universities.

The solution is ending government subsidization and cartelization of higher education.

That can be done by ending tax exemptions for the social sciences and humanities and using the tax revenues to provide tax credits to students who pursue STEM-related subjects either in universities or in proprietary colleges. As well, business and professional education should be treated as proprietary and put on an even playing field with proprietary training.