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July 2012

"Where the Jobs Are"

Ms. Gail Collins, noted New York Times op-ed writer, visits Williston ND. Lots of businesses are displaying help wanted signs. Income is way up. A waitress earned $400 in tips in one night.

But have no fear, Ms. Collins is here to report the terrible downside of this.

Well, the oil is extracted through the environmentally suspect method of hydrofracking. The area appears to be geologically well suited to the process, but it still uses up a ton of water. Also, an endless progression of large trucks create spills, tie up traffic and tear up the roads. . . . 

You would expect that, as population and incomes rose, new stores, theaters and restaurants would follow. But, in Williston, they haven’t. Lanny Gabbert, a science teacher at the high school, says his students yearn for a mall where they could shop, “but the closest thing is Walmart.” The most ambitious restaurants would be classified under the heading of “casual dining,” and the fast food is not fast, given the lunchtime lines that can stretch out for 20 minutes or more. Neither retailers nor restaurateurs are interested in investing in a place where they have to compete with the oil fields to attract workers.

Well, let me be among the first to say, THANK GOD FOR AMERICA'S INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION, places that offer shelter to the young people from all that awfulness. 

And I'll bet Ms. Collins is glad, too.

(Over on Hot Air, Libby Sternberg wrote a piece anticipating my view entitled, "The dumbest column EV-AH?")

"The Trouble With Online Education"

Professor of English at UVa argues that online courses aren't--and never will be--good substitutes for in-person courses. 

A truly memorable college class, even a large one, is a collaboration between teacher and students. It’s a one-time-only event. Learning at its best is a collective enterprise, something we’ve known since Socrates. You can get knowledge from an Internet course if you’re highly motivated to learn. But in real courses the students and teachers come together and create an immediate and vital community of learning. A real course creates intellectual joy, at least in some. I don’t think an Internet course ever will. Internet learning promises to make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is — and also, for teachers and for students alike, far more lonely.

I disagree in part. I think online courses can be a very good substitute for classes enrolling 300 or 400 students in a big auditorium with a professor flipping through PowerPoints. More cost- and time-efficient with little or no loss of quality. But if the professor is asking the students to think and not just memorize, online courses will probably not be as good. But I suspect fewer and fewer such courses are being offered. 

There is hope for effective education, though. This sounds like one promising start: "Schools That Work, Literally". 

Two fine sentences

James Taranto:

When people find it necessary to demand a "debate" or complain about the absence of same, it usually means they're frustrated because there is a debate and their side is losing. 

Adam Davidson (of NPR!)

One often-overlooked lesson of the financial crisis is that shenanigans don’t happen in the absence of regulation; they happen when regulations are exceedingly complex and involve confusing, overlapping regulatory authorities.

Three articles on guns . . .

. . . with information not everyone knows.

John R. Lott, Jr.:

Yes, the M&P 15 and the AK-47 are “military-style weapons.” But the key word is “style” — they are similar to military guns in their aesthetics, not in the way they actually operate. The guns covered by the federal assault-weapons ban (which was enacted in 1994 and expired ten year later) were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military but semi-automatic versions of those guns.

The civilian version of the AK-47 uses essentially the same sorts of bullets as deer-hunting rifles, fires at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. The M&P 15 is similar, though it fires a much smaller bullet — .223 inches in diameter, as opposed to the .30-inch rounds used by the AK-47.

Dan Baum:

Our abundant guns surely make assaults more deadly. But by obsessing over inanimate pieces of metal, we avoid looking at what brings us more often than others to commit violent acts. Many liberal critics understand this when it comes to drug policy. The modern, sophisticated position is that demonizing chemicals is a reductive and ineffective way to address complicated social pathologies. When it comes to gun violence, though, the conversation often stops at the tool, because it is more comfortable to blame it than to examine ourselves. . . .

In 2003, the Centers for Disease Control—no friend of the gun lobby—evaluated fifty-one studies on everything from the effectiveness of gun bans to laws requiring gun locks, and found no discernible effect on public safety by any of the measures we commonly think of as “gun control.” Two years later, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine did a similar survey and came to much the same conclusion.

Howard Nemerov:

The latest United Nations homicide data show that America tied Argentina for the 50th most violent country, again using murder as an indicator.