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Tag: economy (Page 1 of 6)

3-2-1 For 1-8-17

Three readings worth your time this week.

End of year retrospectives can be tedious and, in the case of 2016, rather depressing. However, Planet Lab’s review of their favorite satellite imagery from the past year is beautiful and the pictures tell some interesting stories. (about 5 minutes)

dana boyd, who has made a career of trying to understand teenagers (and who really does spell her name with no caps), asks Did Media Literacy Backfire? in a recent essay. I disagree with about half of her analysis, especially concerning her implication that we must empathize with people who willfully choose to remain ignorant, but she does make some good points. The piece is worth a read. (about 10 minutes)

I often wonder how many of the education reformers who love standardized tests could actually pass one of them. After all, most of the knowledge and skills students are asked to recall are not required in adult life. But you know these exams are really out of touch when a writer is unable to answer the questions based on her poems. Her analysis is amusing, in a weird sorta way: “Texas, please know, this was not the author’s purpose in writing this poem.” (about 10 minutes)

Two audio tracks for your commute.

The BBC World Service has a new podcast about 50 things that made the modern economy. Sounds dull but it’s actually a wonderful series of short stories about technologies we take for granted that have had a big impact on our lives. It’s not necessary to listen in order so try out the series with their episode on the iPhone, which is actually about how government research has found its way into almost every part of every smartphone. (8:58)

Speaking of the economy, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has been bouncing close to the 20,000 mark this week. And, according to the folks at Planet Money, that so-called “milestone” is completely meaningless. In this segment, they explain in simple language why “The Dow” offers little or no information about how the American economy is doing, and why you can and should ignore all the breathless reporting on that number. (17:40)

One video to watch when you have time

Considering their huge audience, you may have already seen this latest video from OK Go. But on the off chance you haven’t, enjoy not only a good song but also the amazing extreme slow motion effects that accompany it. The group has always had a wonderfully geeky (not to mention messy) visual style, so if you like this, explore YouTube to find more of it. And check out the making-off video to understand the complexity of those four minutes. (4:12)

Fantasy Economy

I don’t follow any sport very closely and I’m certainly not into fantasy sports leagues the way some of my friends are, although as a hobby, I can think of worse ways to spend your time.

However, an episode of Planet Money from last week, The Real Economy of Fantasy Sports, is an intriguing look at this $1.7 billion (with a B!) part of the American economy. And Alex is right that the Manning brothers (they’re quarterbacks, right? :-) rapping is pretty bad.

The segment is just one more reason to subscribe to this podcast. In around 20 minutes, twice a week, they do a far better job of explaining finance and economics than any other media organization, especially the cable channels dedicated to the topic.

Education Isn’t the Answer

It must be my week for finding inspiration in the New York Times.

This time it’s in one of Paul Krugman’s columns from last week in which he takes some pretty substantial whacks at the universal truth among politicians and other “experts” that “education is the key to economic success”.

Krugman offers his long term vision that the US will actually need fewer college trained workers, not more, due more to changes in our society than anything to do with our education system.

But there are things education can’t do. In particular, the notion that putting more kids through college can restore the middle-class society we used to have is wishful thinking. It’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job, and it’s becoming less true with each passing decade.

So if we want a society of broadly shared prosperity, education isn’t the answer – we’ll have to go about building that society directly. We need to restore the bargaining power that labor has lost over the last 30 years, so that ordinary workers as well as superstars have the power to bargain for good wages. We need to guarantee the essentials, above all health care, to every citizen.

And all that is going to require huge changes in societal attitudes and vision, not increasing student scores on meaningless tests and pushing more of them into college.

An End of the Year Rant

I know that for most of the world, we just passed the calendar’s halfway point with the days getting shorter and warmer at the same time, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

But no matter how you measure it, this school year is done and no one I know is sorry to see it go. Not that the one just beginning is shaping up to be a winner either.

It’s all about the budget, of course.  Two years worth of a crappy economy has resulted in no raises for everyone, contract cuts for some, larger class sizes and reduced support for teachers.

Despite all that (and more) the big bosses here in the overly-large school district are sending the message that none of this is supposed to affect what we do.  Everyone is supposed to provide the same level of service – more, actually – with less time, people, and resources.

In other words, nothing changes.

And that attitude is probably our biggest problem.

Even without the economic mess, the education system in this country should be changing, drastically, and this crisis should have been an ideal catalyst to force that process.

We should be using this opportunity to seriously reassess our traditional concept of “school” and what students need to know and be able to do when leave the formal educational process.

Instead our “leaders” work overtime (and expect us to do the same) to maintain the status quo, expecting that when the financial storm ends everything will go back to “normal”.

Failing to understand (or acknowledge) that “normal” was not working for an increasing number of students even before our money problems started, and will serve the needs of an even smaller percentage after the crisis has passed.

I still believe we need public schools in this country.  Places, whether physical or virtual, where educators organize communities to help students learn essential skills, those that can’t be assessed using multiple choices.

However, if a strong, relevant system for public education is a serious national goal*, it’s going to take a conscious, determined effort.

It won’t happen by paddling in place waiting for the rescue boat to come by.

Ok, now that I have that rant down in electrons, I can focus my attention on the rest of the month.

I will be working during July but it’s a relatively quiet period around here as most of the people I work with are away, allowing me some time for bigger picture thinking, working on longer term projects, and reading stuff by people I’ve never met.

And, at the end of the month, I get to spend most of a week advancing my own learning with some folks from Google, immersed in their Earth and Sketchup programs.

Whatever your summer break looks like, make it a good one.

*And I’m not entirely sure support for the concept in the general public is particularly high, and is likely declining.

A Musical Economics Lesson

This song, produced by NPR’s outstanding podcast Planet Money, explains in under two minutes one huge part of the crap financial firms were pulling in 2006, 07, and 08 that crashed the economy.

And there’s a very good reason it sounds like something Mel Brooks might have written for the shysters in The Producers to sing.

If you want a more detailed explanation of how one big company plotted to screw things up, listen to the first segment from a recent edition of This American Life.

I don’t claim to completely understand all the economic concepts involved, but the report makes it very clear that someone (probably many someones) should be in jail.

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