Monday, February 23, 2015

Tons of Tabs

So much to know and read. I know, I know. Imagine; these were all in my browser until just now.

Florida Deputy: “Planting evidence and lying is part of the game!” An interview with an anonymous cop who details how evidence is planted on people who aren't guilty (but are guilty in the cop's mind), including this charming quote: "I wouldn’t say [we] target based on race but it is, you know, um, it is much easier to do this on a black person because they have no credibility anyways."

Followed by this for a chaser by Mychal Denzel Smith writing for The Nation about James Baldwin, who was unapologetic in his description of police as an occupying force in black communities.

When shirts cost $3,500 from Boing Boing. "An eye-popping parable about the benefits of automation: 200 years ago, it took 479 hours worth of labor to make a shirt (spinning, weaving, sewing), or $3,472.75 at $7.25/hour."

How America's "love affair with the car" was created. Quoting a historian who's written a book on the subject,

"When I actually looked into the history record, documents from the time, I found just the opposite,” Norton says. “What Americans in cities wanted in the ‘20s was to get the cars out.”

Media at the time recount pedestrians ranting against the automobile as an intrusion and an undemocratic bully. Newspapers contained cartoons portraying rich drivers in luxury cars running over working-class kids. Three-quarters of traffic fatalities at the time were pedestrians.
A depressing article: Police reform is impossible in America. "In a country that has identified black people as its criminal element, public safety (and perceived security) is more tied to the suppression of blacks than it is to the suppression of crime. And as long as the public insists on its myth of black criminality—almost as an article of faith—police practices will be impossible to reform."

And this less depressing video...

Why are we blaming technology for our lack of focus? from Pacific Standard. The article says it's not technology per se. It's our
pathologized FOMO (fear of missing out) rather than a change in our neural circuitry. “Digital devices are not eating away at our brains,” he argues near the end of the op-ed. “They are, however, luring us toward near constant outwardly directed thought, a situation that’s probably unique in human experience.”
Yes, that's how I experience life in the age of the interweb.

Students most effectively learn math working on problems that they enjoy, not drills or exercises. "While research shows that knowledge of math facts is important...the best way for students to know math facts is by using them regularly and developing understanding of numerical relations. Memorization, speed and test pressure can be damaging..."
"Math facts are a very small part of mathematics, but unfortunately students who don't memorize math facts well often come to believe that they can never be successful with math and turn away from the subject," [Boaler] said.

Prior research found that students who memorized more easily were not higher achieving – in fact, they did not have what the researchers described as more "math ability" or higher IQ scores. Using an MRI scanner, the only brain differences the researchers found were in a brain region called the hippocampus, which is the area in the brain responsible for memorizing facts – the working memory section.

But according to Boaler, when students are stressed – such as when they are solving math questions under time pressure – the working memory becomes blocked and the students cannot as easily recall the math facts they had previously studied. This particularly occurs among higher achieving students and female students, she said.

Some estimates suggest that at least a third of students experience extreme stress or "math anxiety" when they take a timed test, no matter their level of achievement. "When we put students through this anxiety-provoking experience, we lose students from mathematics," she said.
All of which is backed up in this Boston Globe op-ed by a mathematician, The real reason why the U.S. is falling behind in math:
We are pretty much the only country on the planet that teaches math this way, where students are forced to memorize formulas and procedures. And so kids miss the more organic experience of playing with mathematical puzzles, experimenting and searching for patterns, finding delight in their own discoveries....

When students memorize the Pythagorean theorem or the quadratic formula and apply it with slightly different numbers, they actually get worse at the bigger picture. Our brains are slow to recognize information when it is out of context. This is why real-world math problems are so much harder — and more fascinating — than the contrived textbook exercises.

What I’ve found instead is that a student who has developed the ability to turn a real-world scenario into a mathematical problem, who is alert to false reasoning, and who can manipulate numbers and equations is likely far better prepared for college math than a student who has experienced a year of rote calculus.
From the World Health Organization: Seven million premature deaths annually linked to air pollution. That's one in eight of global deaths. And, of course, "“Excessive air pollution is often a by-product of unsustainable policies in sectors such as transport, energy, waste management and industry. In most cases, healthier strategies will also be more economical in the long term due to health-care cost savings as well as climate gains."

I recommend this Toronto Star story about a family with young kids who went carless. Obviously, there are many families who have to be carless because they can't afford one, but this story gets at middle class assumptions about having a car, the idea that having kids = having a car (or a minivan), what bike infrastructure should look like, and a lot more.

The death of American unions is killing American marriage. "Poverty itself, it seems, is the chief agent of marital decline among the poor. This is especially true of falling wages among working class men, who have borne the brunt of the right-wing war on labor unions." (By Eliabeth Stoker Bruenig, writing for the new New Republic.) Because, as we all should know by now, it's not marriage that causes economic security -- it's economic insecurity that prevents marriage.

Aside from unions, what could encourage marriage? Universal benefits, argues Matt Bruenig.

The enormous racial opportunity gap in America's metro areas (from Vox). "In the nation's 100 largest metro areas, about 40 percent of black children and 32 percent of Hispanic children live in the lowest-opportunity neighborhoods in their areas, compared to just 9 percent of white children.... White children don't experience this debilitating disadvantage even in the cities where they're worst off."

Related: How black middle class kids become poor adults. "Experts" can't explain why. Duh.

Not to mention this: Americans overestimate class mobility. (That study looked upward class mobility... everyone underestimates downward class mobility also.)

More evidence of wage theft (which I've discussed earlier here and here): "Most recently, a careful study of minimum wage violations in New York and California in 2011 commissioned by the Department of Labor determined that the affected employees’ lost weekly wages averaged 37–49 percent of their income. This wage theft drove between 15,000 and 67,000 families below the poverty line. Another 50,000–100,000 already impoverished families were driven deeper into poverty." Note that the study only looked at people earning the minimum wage, so it vastly underrepresents the extent of wage theft from people who make more than the minimum.

How to topple a dictator (peacefully). Something for activists to reread frequently. From the New York Times.

And this from one of my favorite writers, Helaine Olen: Stop trying to make financial literacy happen. "It’s a noble distraction from actual consumer protection. That’s why the financial services industry loves it."

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