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August 2005

Nice summary of A Conflict of Visions

For those who haven't read it--and as I've lectured you before, you really should read it--Gene Healy offers a nice, concise summary of Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions. I quibble with one sentence of the review:

The book was written in 1987, so there's probably more focus on central planning than the modern reader needs, that fight having largely been won, and the unconstrained vision mugged by reality.

Oh yeah? Somebody forgot to tell our Liberal friends.

But Mr. Healy should be forgiven this small lapse because he describes himself using the wonderful words of Elvis Costello: ""I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused."

(Link to the summary via my older daughter.)

This summer I read Wonderland, A Year in the Life of an American High School. The hook is the Pennsbury High prom. At Pennsbury the prom is a storied traditon, it is extravagant, and it--apparently rare these days--is held in the school.

So the book is interesting. The author, middle-aged, views all the goings-on with more than a touch of melancholy:

"No examined life is ordinary."

"Wow, the father thought. That's my little girl? . . . When did she get so grown up? They were the words that have been expressed, one way or another, forever: Where did the time go?"

"He had just turned eighteen. In a few weeks he would be voting for the first time. All he had ahead of him was the prom, graduation, the summer before college, and all the tomorrows that would come after it. The wind was dying with sunset. It was a Saturday night. The school was closed--no debate tournament, no football game, no dance--but the village of Pennsbury was up and running. What Bob would do, he did not know."

For an update on one of the key events in the book, go here (scroll up to the first post at the top of the page). It's interesting that the kid writing this thinks the book was named for a recent pop song; the author explicitly declares otherwise. Some kids should have a touch more history and literature.

Even aside from the facts that my wife teaches at a charter school and my younger daughter attended one, I'm interested in charter schools. For one reason, North Carolina currently has a statutory limit on the number of charter schools of 100, and there is intense debate on whether that limit should be raised.

Recent research by Robert Bifulco of the Univ. of Connecticut and Helen F. Ladd of Duke finds that students attending North Carolina charters make less academic progress than students attending regular public schools. They have summarized their research in a just-published article in Education Next. Thanks to Lindalyn Kakadelis, director of the North Carolina Education Alliance, I've been invited by Education Next to comment.

But I've been allotted just 400 words! 400 words for an academic like me is not even enough space to clear my throat. I've managed, with some loss of supporting detail, to produce a 402-word comment. I don't part easily with my sparkling prose, however, so I am also making the 1150+ word draft available here on my blog.

My Dell PC has been intermittently crashing. Self help through Google was ineffective. Dell support was worthless. Microsoft support was better but did not solve the problem.

This place--so far; fingers crossed--did: Experts Exchange. (It cost me $10 to get a question answered that at the time nobody else had asked. But I consider it money well spent.)

Fark understands economics

Fark.com, in addition to being one of the Web's most popular and entertaining sites now demonstates a good grasp of economics.

Hawaii caps price of gas at $2.86 per gallon. Hilarity to ensue next when gas suppliers inexplicably refuse to sell gas to Hawaii for less than it costs them to buy it from refineries.

(Actually, according to the article linked, $2.86 refers to the retail price of gasoline, which is not capped. But the wholesale price is, and the argument applies there.)