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November 10, 2022

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I wish I didn't have to care!

Supreme Court OKs handover of Trump tax returns to Congress

https://apnews.com/article/us-supreme-court-donald-trump-business-john-roberts-congress-8ea516dace48875ad7c5dd472dd16dcf

The current Congress has three working weeks left on its schedule before the Republican majority takes control. I assume the House committee that requested them, asserting the returns are relevant to possible legislation, won't get to them before adjournment. And the new committee chair will tuck them away for the next two years.

On one hand, when you lose the Supreme Court (and apparently the justices he appointed are not showing the kind of blind loyalty Trump expects from people he appoints), you've lost everything. Finding that will have to make Trump twitchy about the possible fate of future appeals.

On the other hand, what are the chances that the House, in the month or so still remaining before the new majority takes over, actually writes and passes legislation addressing what is in there? Of course, the Democrats could introduce legislation next term. No chance it would ever go anywhere, but it might be a nice bit of performance art, if you're into that.

But perhaps, as is hardly unprecedented, those tax returns get leaked. Considering how frantically Trump has fought to avoid his returns going public, it would be fascinating to see what's in there that he's so keen to keep hidden.

But perhaps, as is hardly unprecedented, those tax returns get leaked.

I would guess not. Given the change of control, nothing the Republicans would like more than to start the new Congress with a massive investigation into the source of the leak of confidential materials. Not the sort of problem the new minority leader is going to want to deal with, either.

If you want to be Machiavellian, of course, you can imagine the Republicans doing the leaking so they can put on a show investigation.

"If you want to be Machiavellian, of course, you can imagine the Republicans doing the leaking so they can put on a show investigation."

So, Alito's fingerprints are on the leaked tax returns?

Sounds plausible.

So, Alito's fingerprints are on the leaked tax returns?

Actual serious question... would the SCOTUS have seen the tax returns as part of making their decision? My guess is not.

Aren't they already revealed? Not officially, of course, but didn't the NYT run a long story?

As I recall, the NYT did a story which indicated that they had seen the returns. (Or at least the summary pages.) But I haven't seen that the returns themselves have been published. It seems like, if they had, a court would have ruled the subpoena moot.

A few years back the NYT received and published parts of his New York state return for one year, in which he declared a $900M or so capital loss. As I recall, they didn't have enough of the return to know how much of it he actually applied that year, and how much he carried over to offset income in future years.

I believe the House committee is after both his personal returns and a bunch from the Trump Organization. Without the TO filings, his personal returns are largely meaningless: assorted payments from and to, and capital gains and losses transferred from and to, some subset of the >500 interlocked LLCs involved. Plus his presidential salary, of course.

If they really want to understand what's been happening, well, it'll take a team of forensic accountants years.

I was referring to this story from 2020.

The New York Times has obtained tax-return data extending over more than two decades for Mr. Trump and the hundreds of companies that make up his business organization, including detailed information from his first two years in office.

So, Alito's fingerprints are on the leaked tax returns?

Prince Matchabelli strikes again!

From a related article regarding the NYT reporting on Rump's tax returns:

Accountant testifies Trump claimed decade of huge tax losses

https://apnews.com/article/business-new-york-manhattan-donald-trump-896e245936aaf71d26b1c29c0070c8eb

Bender’s tax loss testimony echoed what The New York Times reported in 2020, when it obtained a trove of Trump’s tax returns. Many of the records reflected massive losses and little or no taxes paid, the newspaper reported at the time.

The Times reported Trump paid no income tax in 11 of the 18 years whose records it reviewed, and that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, the year he became president. Citing other Trump tax records, The Times previously reported that in 1995 he claimed $915.7 million in losses, which he could have used to avoid future taxes under the law at the time.

The Times reported Trump paid no income tax in 11 of the 18 years whose records it reviewed, and that he paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2017, the year he became president.

And yet he and his family live with an opulence that only the most microscopic fraction of human beings ever get to indulge themselves in.

I really don't know why the rest of us put up with it. "We" let people get away with a level of greed and rapacity that first and foremost involves taking so much more of their share of the world's goods (in the broadest material sense) that a lot of other people end up with nothing, or worse. More than get away with it: it seems to be fostered, encouraged, and above all celebrated in this culture/era.

There is no imaginable sense in which Clickbait or his family, or Elon, or any other bazillionaires "earned" their wealth and the resulting power that they have over the lives of the rest of us.

Yes, I know some of the answers to my own implied questions....

Bah.

I have been wanting to write a post on housing for a while. Sadly, I don't have the time to do justice to even the headlines but here's a sample.

I live in the state that reputedly has the most second homes (and vacant homes) of any of the 50. Partly that's because lots of Mainers, even of ordinary or very modest means, have "camps" -- the Maine word for cottages with nothing more than the basics, where people go to get away from it all. (Yes, there's an "away from it all" even when you're already away from it all.)

The pandemic has seen a staggering acceleration of prices and timing in the housing market...

But here I am writing the post in an un-orderly fashion. Buttons have been pushed...

What if "we" made a collective decision that no one could have two homes until everyone had one?

Uncompleted thought: lots of Mainers have "camps," yes, so that skews the second/vacant home numbers. But lots of people, notably and all the more notable since Covid came, lots of people from outside Maine also have second homes here, and/or have been buying up real estate over the past three years in a way that has put house prices increasingly out of reach of even reasonably well off younger people. I know people who have done some house-hunting over the past three years, and it's not uncommon for a house to be sold before they can even go and see it. Buyers are waiving inspections, just to grab the houses, even now that interest rates have gone way up.

What if "we" made a collective decision that no one could have two homes until everyone had one?

OK by me!

Sadly, the only politically allowable collective decisions involve public policies to redistribute income and wealth upward or participate in wars in some fashion.

Anything else is simply dismissed as pure communism.

ps: Krugman had an interesting column on rents and inflation recently. Check it out.

Sadly, the only politically allowable collective decisions involve public policies to redistribute income and wealth upward or participate in wars in some fashion.

Anything else is simply dismissed as pure communism.

Bit of an overstatement, don't you think. Sure, there are definitely people who think that way. Some of them extremely influential. But there are a fair number of people who think otherwise. Including some in Congress. So while it may not be politically possible right now, that doesn't mean that nothing can ever be done. There have, after all, been a variety of occasions when the top tax rates have been increased. (Including under some quite conservative Presidents.) So there's no obvious reason to assume that it can never happen again.

The housing comparison that got stuck in my head years ago is Denver and Detroit. Metro Denver has been booming, with very occasional pauses, for 40+ years -- quite literally can barely build new housing (and commercial space, and warehouse space, and infrastructure) as fast as people are moving in. That includes the urban core. While that was happening, from time to time Detroit bought out the last owners in areas so they could shut off the utilities across whole blocks and raze the houses, as well as demolish hundreds of commercial sites.

I have no reasonable ideas for dealing with the problem of significant amounts of housing in the wrong places.

Detroit has had so much practice of shooting itself in the foot it almost never misses.

Krugman: A Different Kind of Kitchen-Table Economics

Thanks, ral.

It will be interesting to see the impact on rents/housing prices as those who can work remotely start taking advantage of the fact that they can work from literally anywhere that has an Internet connection. No more need to live in a super high rent area -- high rent because all those high paid people are clustering near the office that they now don't go to.

Rents may go up some in places where people like to live. Even if there are not much in the way of businesses there. Want to live in Montana (whether for the culture, or just because you like the wide open spaces)? But your company is located in Silicon Valley. No problem. And rents may come down in places which were previously overcrowded.

Might be some interesting impacts on the cultural divide, too. IT folks moving to San Antonio haven't turned Texas blue. But it would take a lot fewer people moving to Cheyenne to seriously impact Wyoming.

It will be interesting to see the impact on rents/housing prices as those who can work remotely start taking advantage of the fact that they can work from literally anywhere that has an Internet connection.

Not an economist, never took an economics class, but I'm pretty sure there's also some kind of relationship between wages and housing costs. So if a lot of the people who work in high-rent Silicon Valley or SF decide to disperse to Wyoming or Maine (this is already happening) where the rents are low, not only rents, but it seems to me salaries will start shifting.

Oh, you don't need $3000 a month to pay your rent on a small studio apartment? Then we don't have to pay you as much in salary....

Won't happen immediately, will be messy. I would predict.

Now that I've posted that comment, I realize that we've had this bit of conversation before, where wj was speculating on how employees could hide their location from employers....

If that's possible, then in that negotiation I see employers saying okay, we'll just pay you as though you live in Aroostook County. Take it or leave it. Depending, of course, on the state of (un)employment and a lot of other factors at the time.

I see employers saying okay, we'll just pay you as though you live in Aroostook County. Take it or leave it. Depending, of course, on the state of (un)employment and a lot of other factors at the time.

That last is the critical factor. I can see some employers trying that. And discovering that their most competent employees are opting to leave it. Because part of what makes "take it or leave it" work is the limited alternate opportunities in a particular location, combined with the cost and hassle of relocating from that location.

But those two (arguably critical) legs are gone. And while companies have gone with low end employees to hold down costs, that's rarely the route to rapid growth and big long term success. Otherwise Indian companies, with access to lots of very well educated and dirt cheap (by American or European standards) labor, would already totally dominate the IT world. But although they have some successes, nothing like domination is in prospect.

So overall, I'm not seeing wages crashing due to remote work. Perhaps, over the long term, they grow slower, just because employee demand for higher wages becomes less intense. But not more than that.

Suburbs and exurbs are spaces formed in response to fear and animus. They are zoned and patrolled with that implicit notion of threat at the very core of their collective identity.

nous, you sound like someone who has never lived in either. Most suburbs, in my experience, formed due to a desire for more elbow room, while maintaining access to stuff (arts, specialized businesses, etc.) which requires a large population base for support.

Why more elbow room? Sometimes it's a psychological thing -- some us find crowds draining. Sometimes it's a matter of thinking that kids need open space where they can run around freely. (Not due to fear of crime so much as a rational fear of heedless kids in proximity to automobiles.) And sometimes it's just a desire for space to have a garden one can putter around in.

But fear and animus? Sure, a factor for some. But not the primary driver.

And yet...I lived in various Denver suburbs for a decade, and worked for a home developer during a chunk of that time. I live in Orange County right now.

"More elbow room" is the hook on which people hang their notions of better schools and lower crime and higher resale values. These are the positive descriptions of people's aspirations.

They are also the flip side of white flight, redlining, and hypersegregation.

When a suburb becomes more mixed and has more low income residents of color moving in you can bet that people will start looking for a different "more elbow room."

When a suburb becomes more mixed and has more low income residents of color moving in you can bet that people will start looking for a different "more elbow room."

And yet I live in a suburb which, when I was growing up, was essentially "lily white." (Naturally there were Hispanics, but nobody paid much attention. Or even had a term for them -- a Spanish surname was about as relevant as a Swedish or French, or German one.) These days, it is far more mixed. And still struggling with more people wanting to move here, regardless.

People move for cheaper housing, especially once their kids are grown -- a house here makes a pretty good retirement fund. People die, of course. But anything resembling an exodus for "more elbow room"? No sign of it.

I've been away for a few days, and am still catching up, but since this was originally a thread to talk about the aftermath of the midterms I thought anyone who hadn't already read it might be interested in this, by Frances Fox Piven, in today's Grauniad:

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/nov/24/frances-fox-piven-interview-midterms-trump-fascism

All the main elements are now in place, she said, for America to take a turn to the dark side. “There is the crazy mob, Maga; an elite that is oblivious to what is required for political stability; and a grab-it-and-run mentality that is very strong, very dangerous. I was very frightened about what would happen in the election, and it could still happen.”

That Piven is cautioning against a false sense of security in the wake of the midterms would not surprise her many students and admirers. The co-author, with her late husband Richard Cloward, of the progressive bible, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, has for decades sounded the alarm.

She has raised red flags over the vulnerabilities of the country’s democracy, the inequalities baked into its electoral and judicial systems, and how poor Americans, especially those of colour, are forced to resort to defiance and disruption to get their voices heard. Now, with the Republicans having taken the House of Representatives, she foresees ugly times ahead.

“There’s going to be a lot of vengeance politics, a lot of efforts to get back at Joe Biden, idiot stuff. And that will rile up a lot of people. The Maga mob is not a majority of the American population by any stretch of the imagination, but the fascist mob don’t have to be the majority to set in motion the kinds of policies that crush democracy.”

"more elbow room" = move to exurbs

"...the fascist mob don’t have to be the majority to set in motion the kinds of policies that crush democracy.”

I would think, however, that they would have to actually have some policies. As far as I can see, the vast majority of Republican politicians, at least at the national level, are totally focused on performance art. I suppose that they might rubber stamp some policies written by the Federalist Society or similar groups. But even then I would expect them to be careful not to enact anything that might make a substantive difference. If only because removing the causes of fear in their constituents would be a path to getting voted out of office.**

** OK, they could focus on eliminating the ability of people other than their base to vote. But their base is small enough that it would take years of whittling away at the edges to reduce the voting rolls to MAGAts only. And until they do that, they can still lose; all it takes is being so blatant that the rest of the electorate notices. See, for example, what happened over abortion, even in supposedly very conservative states.

Note that this isn't an argument for complacency, or anything like it. Just a suggestion that disaster isn't inevitable.

One thing which surprised me about the House election was the close correspondence between votes cast (Rs got 3.1% more of the votes counted so far than Ds) and seats (Rs got 1.8% more than Ds).

This is nothing like the 2012 election, when Ds won the popular vote and Rs got 33 more seats. Since then, the party getting most votes has won a majority of the seats, with the R bias steadily decreasing, and now apparently negative.

What's the story?

Combination of marginal opportunities for more gerrymandering plus more states using independent districting bodies. Would be my guess.

I have not looked at how many districts were uncontested, if there was a preponderance of uncontested D seats in previous elections that would create additional skew national vote totals vs. seats.

I lent my copy of the Mythical Man-Month to a manager. A central argument and prescription for success in that book is the vital need for clear, well ordered communication in a large technical project.

Re the Mythical Man-Month, RIP Fred Brooks (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/23/technology/frederick-p-brooks-jr-dead.html). As one of his students for a few years in the 90s, I have to say that it helped me learn one of the themes of my teaching/parenting/professional career: no matter how clear his communication was, the student/recipient of the communication has to be motivated to listen. I should have listened more to some of what he was saying. Secondarily, culture can mean a lot: as a west-coast Silicon Valley atheist kid I missed so much implicit expectation in this east-coast southern deeply religious context.


All y'all Brits are wacky. And I'll venture a guess that it has something to do with the deep and abiding effects of classism?

Still an immigrant, so I can't speak to deeper issues like classism, but among my kids: eldest took a broad range of exams at 16, then only had three subjects 16-18, and has no general education requirements at university: it's three years focused on their specialty. The three subjects they had 16-18 are effectively the same thing they're studying at uni, and although they nominally studied more advanced topics in the sciences than a 15-year-old American would, it was briefer and more superficial.

This young person had a higher score on the SATs at age 12 or 13 than the average 17-year-old in North Carolina, but now mocks their own math (in)ability. I'm not sure which of those two takes is the truth.

As someone involved for hiring for high-end STEM jobs, the results of those three year UK university degrees are supposed to be comparable _in their specialty_ to a USA four-year degree + some of a USA master's, but it's really hit-and-miss with individual candidates.

All y'all are wacky. And I'll venture a guess that it has something to do with the deep and abiding effects of classism?

I don't see what classism has got to do with it.

Personally I'm very glad to have been allowed to abandon school study of the humanities at 16. Two more years might have killed my interest forever.

This young person had a higher score on the SATs at age 12 or 13 than the average 17-year-old in North Carolina, but now mocks their own math (in)ability. I'm not sure which of those two takes is the truth.

They're both true. The range of abilities in maths is huge.

re classism and education

Kinda curious where you went to school Pro Bono.

My take is that it seems like a general European thing to do streaming a lot earlier and a lot more strictly than any American would have the stomach for (unless it is for sports, I suppose). For example, we have a student who is doing undergraduate from the Netherlands and is a lot older than the other students. While he is easily college material, an illness while he was at around 10 or so kept him out of school and so he could not get into the college track.

Note that this is just places. He is here because he qualified and got in, and he gets scholarship support from back home, so it's not a question of money, it is a question of the number of available places for higher ed students.

This means that if you go into humanities, at least in Holland, you can safely ignore math when you are 12(!) and concentrate on what you intend to study in university, or chuck out humanities cause you want to go into. (according to Wikipedia, there is math, but it is stats and stochastic reasoning, which seems like a pretty interesting idea)

This may be more of a quirk of the Dutch system (the wikipedia article is a fun read)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education_in_the_Netherlands

But my (now quite ancient) understanding of French, German and UK schooling was that it really had kids make up their mind earlier which means dropping things that are peripheral, though I don't think 12 is when they have to decide.

I don't think one system is better than the other, I do think there are some (maybe 25%) who really benefit from making an early decision and another 25% who could really use more time. However, the former system encourages a certain amount of statism, while the latter encourages a huge emphasis on individualism.

The biggest problem with the latter system, istm is it is so easy to try and monetize those choices, which then gets the kind of financial driven decision making that you see so much at US universities. This makes them a lot more susceptible to the current black clouds, the enrollment and fiscal cliffs.

There are a ton of articles about it, here's one pulled at random

https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/online-trending-now/second-demographic-cliff-adds-urgency-change

I do think there are some (maybe 25%) who really benefit from making an early decision and another 25% who could really use more time.

My, also ancient, recollection from university is that all majors had "breadth requirements." Even Engineering had them. (Although for Engineering majors, in contrast to everybody else, Freshman English was not included. Which perhaps gives a glimmer of why technical documents are so frequently poorly written.)

Those weren't particularly extensive. However they did tend to give everybody at least a couple of glimpses outside whatever specialty they were aiming for.

The other feature was that in was not at all unusual for someone to spend their first two years doing breadth requirements, and not even select a major until their third year (say age 20).

I think personally that this was a good thing. Actually, for me, a great thing. I'm obviously part of lj's 25%, but I even contrived to keep taking courses outside my major(s) thru a couple of years of grad school. Not only do I think a broad curriculum gives a better rounded human being, it also means that, in a world where major changes can hit almost any career, it gives you more options to adapt.

The biggest problem with the latter system, istm is it is so easy to try and monetize those choices, which then gets the kind of financial driven decision making that you see so much at US universities. This makes them a lot more susceptible to the current black clouds, the enrollment and fiscal cliffs.

There are a ton of articles about it, here's one pulled at random
https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/online-trending-now/second-demographic-cliff-adds-urgency-change

One line from lj's link jumped out at me: "Motivated by the need to generate more tuition and housing money, universities have looked to increasing the on-campus undergraduate student base."

The idea that universities need, for financial reasons, to keep growing their student bodies makes me twitchy. Grow them to keep pace with a growing population? Sure. But for financial reasons???

But then, I grew up in an era where states routinely subsidized higher education for their residents. Total tuition-and-fees for a 4 year degree, for residents**, might amount 20% of the median income in the state. Not the median salary for college graduates, mind, but the median for the whole population. And scholarships were available as well.

** "Out of state" tuition ran higher, since it wasn't subsidized. But while far from everyone went to college, financial constrains weren't the issue unless you felt compelled to go to school out of state or at a private college.

Higher Ed in the US has been MBAed into something other than an educational institution. A lot of this was occasioned by the free market love-in of the 80s combined with the hippie punching backlash of the Reagan Era. The state portion of public university budgets were slashed and the professional management class in university administrations found themselves tasked with alternative means of funding. Most of the admin now is made up of former business majors who have never actually had any experience teaching and have no real love for education. They know bond financing and marketing. That's what sits in the decision making chair at most public universities.

The current strike at the UCs is largely about this mismatch of administrative priorities and educational mission.

It's coming for pretty much every campus in the US in some form. The model we have is unsustainable and dysfunctional.

The model we have is unsustainable and dysfunctional.

We probably need to revive the California Master Plan for Higher Education. There might be some updating required, of course, after some 60 years.** But even without that, it would be an improvement.

** That's nous and me, reactionaries looking to bring back the early 1960s. ;-)

I can join the "reactionary" club on this one -- I have mentioned the tuition levels of my young adulthood more than once here, back when the great state universities were within reach of almost anyone who lived in state.

But that's communism. Or socialism? I get so confused. Anyhow, it goes against the notion that everything should be monetized and providing profit to someone (not us). Heaven forbid public goods should be funded by the public, and provide no $ profit to anyone. (Only societal profit, which, so unfortunately, accrues to all of us. That's not the way it's supposed to be!)

Also, I chuckled a bit at nous mentioning "the free market love-in of the 80s" and "the Reagan Era" as though those were two different time periods. LOL.

I chuckled a bit at nous mentioning "the free market love-in of the 80s" and "the Reagan Era" as though those were two different time periods.

For those of us in California, the "Reagan Era" starts when he becomes Governor of California in 1967 (a post he held until 1975).

I was also thinking of those things as related spheres of culture more than as periods of time.

I don't see what classism has got to do with it.

When I agreed with the comment (I think I did, but it seems a long time ago now!) I was thinking of e.g. classics, which I guess were more pushed, or possible, at public (i.e. private) schools. I did Latin and Ancient Greek at "O" level (i.e. age 16), and Latin at "A" level (i.e. age 18), and I'm not sure how easy or advisable that would have been at a state school. (Mind you, I'm not sure they were such great choices anyway.) But as for the ability to drop Maths and Sciences after "O" level, I don't suppose there was any class aspect to that at all. And on the whole, I agree with wj and Janie, I think it is far better for kids (or young adults) to have at least some education in the sciences, maths, and humanities past the age of 16, whatever their major area of study.

on the whole, I agree with wj and Janie, I think it is far better for kids (or young adults) to have at least some education in the sciences, maths, and humanities past the age of 16, whatever their major area of study.

If you do that, you have education. Without it, you merely have training, specifically training for some particular narrow specialty -- one which happens to already exist. (AND which you happen, as a child, to have heard of. Some people successfully find their passion in life quite early. But many of us do not.)

My, also ancient, recollection from university is that all majors had "breadth requirements."

That's a US centric thing. European universities don't really have that so much. It is largely historical, and before the synchronization of degrees (the Bologna process, which seems like a great metaphor for education) some european countries didn't even have a university undergraduate degree.

The Core curriculum for universites was an early 20th century US idea and a lot of this (including the ideas of class credit and contact hours) were driven by economic considerations rather than educaitonal ones

So, if you don't expose students to the entire breadth of subjects, how do those who would be interested to things that don't get touched on in the first 10 years of education even find out that those exist? I ask as someone who ended up with a couple of degrees in Anthropology -- a subject I had never even heard of before my second year at university (say age 19).

That's a good question, but if the university has a smaller number of majors and Anthro might be within something like Social Sciences, you assume that a person with a latent interest in that would find it.

Don't forget, universities are historically built on a guild system, so it is the same kind of dynamics you might see in a pipefitters or an electrician's union. This is why nous' comment about classism is interesting, a system organized like this will not have as much movement as a system organized in the way the US system is, but I'm not sure it is 'classism' per se.

A lot of other things flow from this. In Europe, you often have a final assessment and whether you attend class or not isn't really an issue. In the US, continuous assessment is more the norm, with attendance and quizzes coming along with that.

The whole idea of breadth requirements creates a situation where you have core courses which then need to be taught to everyone, which then feeds into having grad schools so that grad students can teach these sections and are then encouraged to try and get to the top of the greased pole that is academia. While I don't think it was inevitable that things would turn out this way, the idea that a university first mold students after their first few years and then set them off on higher level courses can be viewed as a business proposition, a way to get a large enough population of students to generate the revenue. Like the old joke about a chicken being an egg's way of making another egg.

Breadth requirements did keep smaller subjects on the table (if you have sections of 100+ for English, you can have a classics teacher teach a section of Greek for the hopelessly romantic like me). So I appreciate it, but when I thought that I'd like to go into Classics, my Greek teacher said naw, you started learning Greek at 21, it's difficult to imagine getting the ability you need in order to make it a job. It's similar to playing an instrument. While you hear about people who picked up something when they were 20 and then found success, they are outliers and most people. if they didn't start doing music seriously when they were in their early teens, had a serious aptitude for it.

This isn't a defense of the European style, but it's important to realize that things don't have to be organized the way they are in the US. And if there is a social consensus around the way that is organized, while some square pegs not find a place in an early streamed education system, just as many are not going to find a place because they didn't get that dose when they were in their early teens.

Orthogonally, but possibly of interest, is Pullum's essay in
The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax, and other irreverent essays on the study of language

entitled
If it's Tuesday, this must be glossematics

which is an interesting take on breadth v. depth.

Here's a review
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00437956.1992.12098324

The flip side of what lj is describing would be aiming not for breadth, but for connections as a way of seeing how regimes of knowledge fit together. The Finnish model of project learning would keep kids in contact with many fields of inquiry through collaboration while letting them do some deep diving into subjects for which they have interest and aptitude. I think we would do well to try to stretch each student into being as much of a polymath as they could manage, while nurturing a sense of intellectual curiosity that would set them to finding places to challenge themselves and find a path.

Majors are too narrow and departments too insular. What we really need are networks of interdisciplinary inquiry that reward collaboration and encourage respect for different methodologies and epistemologies.

Breadth of interest is important. I doubt that it's encouraged by making people take courses they'd rather not.

It's probably a good idea for STEM students to take a writing class. It's very probably a good idea for humanities students to take a stats class. But it's best if they do it because they want to, not because they're made to.

It's widely said, and true for me, that the stuff one studies at university is likely to be not much used in one's working life. So university shoud be about learning how to acquire new skills at a high level. I suggest that this is best done by teaching people things they want to learn.

lj: In Europe, you often have a final assessment and whether you attend class or not isn't really an issue.

I'm very grateful that I attended college in an era when (at least at my college) class attendance wasn't required.

For literature or history classes where discussion was part of the point, okay, I went to class. Usually.

For science or math classes (where, oftentimes, the professor taught straight from the book he (and yes, it was pretty much always a "he" there and then) had written), I much preferred to stay in bed and do my learning from the book at a more convenient time of day.

To this day I learn better from written text than from audio; people are constantly recommending podcasts to me and I just can't get into them. A very entertaining lecturer can be fun, but in general I prefer reading.

So on that basis a system based on mastering the material rather than on required class attendance would have suited me very well. Early specialization, on the other hand, would not. I expect to remain a confirmed dilettante to the end. And beyond, if there's a beyond.

*****

I like Pro Bono's point about learning how to acquire new skills at a high level. I'm not sure where I'd draw the line about requiring people to learn things they're not that enthusiastic about as children or young people. I'll let the rest of you explore that one.

I like Pro Bono's point about learning how to acquire new skills at a high level. I'm not sure where I'd draw the line about requiring people to learn things they're not that enthusiastic about as children or young people.

In my way of thinking about education and teaching there's a difference between (as y'all wrote) learning how to acquire new skills at a high level and developing skills to a high level. I'd also note that much of the discussion here assumes that the teaching and learning being done is focused on discreet topics and skills that are demonstrated and practiced to mastery by specialists.

Education does not have to be organized in this way. In fact, I'd argue that a lot of the two cultures bullshit would go away if the paradigm for education was focused on interdisciplinary work and taught by teams of teachers in collaboration, rather than by subjects.

In my experience students' distastes for particular subjects (for lack of a better word) ease a great deal once they begin to see how those subjects connect to other subjects of interest about which they are curious. Good teachers know this and exploit it. Bad teachers bunker in their cold and drafty towers of expertise and police their borders.

Just as a way of thinking about this, I'd love to teach as part of a project that took myself, and my friend with a Ph.D. in applied math, and my friend with an earth science systems Ph.D., and a historian or anthropologist or political scientist, and an informatics person, and had a group of students collaborate on creating a computer role-playing game from the world modeling and societal politics to the plots and conflicts. For the class you would need to have a group of students with wide ranging skills who were working together to achieve goals across several knowledge domains, and they could self-sort for achieving goals. They could also seek (and be encouraged to seek) outside learning when they found themselves up against a task or goal that fell outside of the group expertise, and other students could be recruited for limited portions of the project when no one else had the time or skill to achieve a particular goal.

No subjects, no hard edges between the faculty domains of knowledge. Just a project that was beyond everyone's collective abilities and knowledge at the start that would require growth to achieve, pursued with no commercial constraints to foreclose on the intellectual curiosity.

Breadth of interest is important. I doubt that it's encouraged by making people take courses they'd rather not.

At least for me, "breadth requirements" meant taking a handful of courses outside those in the departments required for my major. Exactly which courses (outside of Freshman English) was left to the student. Could be Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, could be Economics 1, could be The Landscape Architecture of Japanese Gardens. (I took all of those at one point or another.) Just so it was outside the focus of the major.

It doesn't seem unduely coercive to expect a student to find, out of the entire spread of a university's offerings, a few which he thinks sound interesting.

It's widely said, and true for me, that the stuff one studies at university is likely to be not much used in one's working life. So university shoud be about learning how to acquire new skills at a high level.

I completely agree that "learning how to learn" is critical. My only reservation is that I think that should happen well before university. After all, for better or worse our reality requires people to keep learning for most of their careers -- whether they attend college or not. So it's a critical life skill for everyone.

As for the utility of what one learns, it's also true for me that the details of my majors have been of little direct use. On the other than, both the mindset of how to analyze problems, and the awareness of how people from other cultures** might see the world, have been enormously useful throughout my career.

** Including other sub-cultures within our culture!

In my way of thinking about education and teaching there's a difference between (as y'all wrote) learning how to acquire new skills at a high level and developing skills to a high level.

Well, yes. For me, at least (I can't speak for Pro Bono), I meant a sort of meta level of learning -- meaning the skill of knowing how to acquire skills. Or maybe it's really about something as fundamental as being open to acquiring new skills, and therefore willing or even eager to put in the work and take the risks involved.

(As an aside, I remember a vivid story in one of Gregory Bateson's books about a dolphin who was being taught one trick after another, and then swam into the pool one day and did a whole series of new things, demonstrating (in Bateson's interpretation) that it had understood the meta level. Not this trick or that trick, but "learning new stuff.")

It's interesting, for me at least, to note that nous and lj come at this from the perspective of teaching, and creating a context in which other people can learn. I come at it from the perspective of a lifelong learner -- who loves learning new shit almost more than anything else life offers, and is happy doing it on her own.

Right now it's photography and French. A context has been created for me for photography by my friend Steve, and it's a bit like learner and teacher, but we're both in our 70s and both learning new things as we go. Not quite self-taught, but not institutional at all.

Our local middle school implemented a system like the one you (nous) are describing when my kids were of an age to be part of it. Except that my kids were homeschooled, and my son was already taking the odd high school class ad hoc, and my daughter didn't like her taste of school at all. And the teachers were zealots about "integrated learning," and not easy to deal with about it, and very scornful of homeschooling...

Those of us who love learning new things and who can teach themselves new things are a rare breed. People who can do this and challenge themselves enough to transcend their own biases are even more rare.

I became a much better teacher once I realized that most people need to be led into curiosity and given more support than I ever wanted for myself.

I became a much better teacher once I realized that most people need to be led into curiosity and given more support than I ever wanted for myself.

I get that, and even experienced it a bit when I taught a couple of linguistics classes as a sabbatical replacement. First, the teaching made me slow down and learn to explain things that I had understood kind of instinctively as a learner. Secondly, what you said. I think it helped me a lot as a temp replacement that my enthusiasm showed.

Anyhow, thanks for all your insights...this is a good discussion.

It doesn't seem unduely coercive to expect a student to find, out of the entire spread of a university's offerings, a few which he thinks sound interesting.

Hard agree, as I believe the kids say.

In my experience students' distastes for particular subjects (for lack of a better word) ease a great deal once they begin to see how those subjects connect to other subjects of interest about which they are curious. Good teachers know this and exploit it.

I bet this is right. Also, I love nous's idea in his penultimate paragraph @01.12 for the multi-disciplinary collaborative project. And by the way, if the cash had to be raised to do it, if no institute of learning would stump up I bet a TV company would fund it if they could film all the sessions, conversations etc for a documentary, or documentary series. I for one would love to see it, and it could have longterm repercussions for the world of education.

the teaching made me slow down and learn to explain things that I had understood kind of instinctively as a learner.

I suspect this is part of why having to teach a subject (including just writing a document about it) gives me a far better grasp on it than I had originally. The students come up with questions about the subject that had never occurred to me. And if I'm writing, I have to exert myself to imagine what those questions might be, so I can address them preemptively.

I love nous's idea in his penultimate paragraph @01.12 for the multi-disciplinary collaborative project. And by the way, if the cash had to be raised to do it, if no institute of learning would stump up I bet a TV company would fund it if they could film all the sessions, conversations etc for a documentary, or documentary series.

It does sound like fun. And if a TV company won't fund it either, I could see a YouTube channel approach. Perhaps something along the lines of Acorn to Arabella.

I wanted to comment about several disparate things, none of them to do with the midterms, but this seems to have morphed into an open thread, so here goes.

1. I didn't even know that China now has a space station. I wonder how I manage to read (or, in the case of the last 2, scan - perhaps that's the problem) 4 newspapers a day (Guardian, Times, NYT and WaPo) and be unaware of stuff like this.

2. Talking of space, I know someone (Janie I think) posted a link to a wonderful picture of the early universe recently, but I'm not sure anyone has posted this, if anything more beautiful, one of the James Webb's pic of The Pillars of Creation. If I'm wrong, and I just missed it (see item 1) please forgive:

https://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/webb-reveals-new-details-in-pillars-of-creation

3. nous, if you manage to pitch your idea to a TV company, and get it funded, an acknowledgement in the credits to Girl from the North Country would be very funny. (It's not a ridiculous idea, in a former life I was involved in TV. In fact, I tried to think if anybody I know would be interested, in making it, but I don't know the right people for this kind of thing any more.)

4. Last in this grab-bag, a journalist on the Times has been (very snarkily and rather cruelly, but nonetheless funnily) reviewing Meghan Markle's podcast. Today I read the review of the last episode:

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/meghan-archetypes-podcast-review-xx-ml3k6nx80

Part of the shtick of the reviewer has been to ridicule Meghan's (extremely imprecise) use of (loosely speaking Californian, self-affirming) language, and in this last review she really goes to town on it. It is funny, but the rightwing press's hatred of Meghan and everything she represents (including, one suspects, her racial makeup) has continued to make me uncomfortable reading it. But the reason I bring it up here (hardly otherwise a venue suitable for this kind of thing) is to do with the language. It does seem largely unintelligible. Is it possible that a subgroup of Americans is evolving a language that, to normal English speakers, is now almost impossible to understand? I guess some African American subcultures also use language difficult for outsiders, but I was under the impression that it is not really vague, or imprecise. Anybody have any ideas on any of this?


GftNC -- I keep very quiet about it, for obvious reasons, but I can't stand Meghan Markle. She seems to me to be one of the biggest frauds on the planet, and one of the worst narcissists (and that's saying something these days).

Out of some perverse urge toward vindication (which I don't indulge in very often because this is one of those situations where the identity of the people I seem to agree with makes the whole thing worrisome), I clicked your Times link.

I can't read the whole thing no matter which browser I put it into, but that's okay because it's going to take me about a week to stop laughing at this line, which came before the "please sign up" cutoff:

and these books made her think about herself, as you’d expect.

Priceless.

Still laughing.

I have listened to very little of Meghan Markle; life is too short. As train wrecks go (in terms of how I assess topics that are really not very important in the scheme of things), she is incredibly boring compared to, say, Elon Musk's adventures with Twitter.

That means that my guess is largely uninformed, but I'll guess anyhow. I suspect that the language she's speaking isn't Californian and really isn't African-American, but is rather a mishmash of terms and concepts from the world of self-help, self-actualization, or whatever they're calling it these days.

*****

Okay, I say I'm okay with not being able to read the rest, but true confessions, I'm a bit curious about the rest of the sentence that starts with "Her husband told her that if we want to shift how we think about gender then we have"

That's where my page ends. If you feel like quoting the rest of that bit, I'll be glad. And probably entertained.

Can't get access to it on phone, but will send tomorrow and hope the urge has not died!

Although from memory it was "we have to involve men."

Thanks. :-)

Guilty entertainment.

AI is coming for all of us.

"Write an insulting poem about Meghan Markle.

Meghan Markle, you’re quite the bore,
Your life’s a snore, you’re nothing more.
Your fake charm and lack of wit,
Make us want to gag a bit.

You’re a fame seeker, so it seems,
Your life’s a dream, or so it seems.
Your beauty masks the shallow soul,
You’re worth less than a broken bowl.

Your life’s a circus, so it’s said,
You’re not worth much, don’t be misled.
Your vanity’s a bore to see,
It’s clear you’re nothing more than a flea."

OpenAI: Playground

Hummmm...

"Write an article about the website Obsidian Wings.

Obsidian Wings is a website that provides readers with a wide range of thoughtful and thought-provoking content. Founded in 2004, the website is home to a tight-knit community of bloggers who share their opinions, experiences, research, and analysis on a variety of topics related to politics, current events, and culture.

At Obsidian Wings, readers can find a mix of both long-form and short-form posts, ranging from short pieces that offer quick takes on current events to longer, in-depth pieces on more complex topics. The website’s editorial team ensures that all content is well-researched and presented in a clear and concise manner.

In addition to providing readers with a variety of posts to read, Obsidian Wings also features a lively comment section. Readers can engage in thoughtful discussions and debates, offering their own take on the topics presented and engaging in thoughtful dialogue with other readers.

One of the unique features of Obsidian Wings is its ability to bring together a wide range of perspectives. Its community of writers and commenters comes from a variety of backgrounds and brings a diverse range of opinions to the table. This makes it an ideal place for readers who are looking to hear and consider a variety of different perspectives on a wide range of subjects."
OpenAI: Playground

Write a poem about the website Obsidian Wings.

Obsidian Wings soars high in the sky,
A place of discussion and debate to fly.
A broad spectrum of topics we can explore,
The wealth of knowledge and insight we can store.

From politics to culture, and science to art,
The community on Obsidian Wings is quite smart.
Discussions can range from debates to stories,
The thoughtful responses from members are what make it so gory.

From articles to polls and threads to polls,
The variety of topics to explore is quite a toll.
The vibrant atmosphere and great conversations,
Keeps the community alive and vibrant with new sensations.

Obsidian Wings is a place to enjoy and explore,
Where we can learn and grow more and more.
A place to find friends and have conversations,
A place to fly free and have amazing sensations."

OpenAI: Playground

I'll quite now...

It's probably a good idea for STEM students to take a writing class.

Ok, one more.

"Write an article on why it's a good idea for STEM students to take a writing class.

In today’s world, the demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) professionals is higher than ever. STEM students are expected to have strong technical knowledge, but it’s also becoming increasingly important for them to have strong writing skills. Taking a writing class is a great way for STEM students to improve their writing and communication abilities, which can be a great asset in their professional lives.

Firstly, writing is a key component of communication, and a higher level of writing proficiency will allow STEM students to convey their ideas more effectively. Writing allows students to articulate their thoughts in a clear and concise manner, and this can be critical in STEM fields, especially when it comes to presenting research or results. Being able to communicate effectively in writing can also be beneficial when it comes to writing reports or preparing documents.

Second, writing classes can help STEM students to become better readers. Writing classes often require students to read more extensively, which can help them to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills. Being able to read and comprehend complex texts will be a great asset for STEM students, especially when it comes to understanding research papers and other technical texts.

Finally, taking a writing class can help STEM students to become more organized and disciplined."
OpenAI: Playground

I couldn't resist...

Write a funny poem about Donald Trump.

Oh, Donald Trump, you’re quite a sight
Your hair looks like a toupee so bright
Your Twitter rants are never tame
Your policies are downright insane

Your wall will be so high and wide
It’ll be the biggest one outside
You’ll keep the Mexicans out for sure
And keep your head in the air, demure

But when you try to make a deal
Your opponents ain’t always real
Your style is kinda off the wall
But you’ll keep trying, come what may, y’all

You’re a showman, that’s for sure
But you’re not the guy we adore
We laugh at your absurd tweets
And your opinions we can’t meet

So keep on with your funny ways
And bring a smile to everyone’s face
We’ll laugh at your crazy schemes
And watch as your poll numbers decrease"

OpenAI: Playground

The website’s editorial team ensures that all content is well-researched and presented in a clear and concise manner.

Ha! If only....

Great demonstration of the fact that AI is still, at best, a work in progress.

P.S. Do we actually have an "editorial team"? I'd say we have a couple of folks who occasionally (probably not often enough) check to see if someone's comments have gotten stuck in the Spam folder. But actually edit anyone's posts? Not that I've ever seen. Or comments? For bad manners or bad language, sure; but for accuracy not noticably.

It can write code too.

Write the quicksort algorithm in Python.

def quicksort(array):
  if len(array) <= 1:
    # base case, arrays with 0 or 1 element are already "sorted"
    return array
  else:
    # recursive case
    pivot = array[0]
    # sub-array of all the elements less than the pivot
    less = [i for i in array[1:] if i <= pivot]
    # sub-array of all the elements greater than the pivot
    greater = [i for i in array[1:] if i > pivot]
    return quicksort(less) + [pivot] + quicksort(greater)

Was a bit occupied and wasn't able to get back to the education discussion, which I found interesting. I just wanted to pass on a book that I like

https://www.educationfutures.com/storage/app/media/documents/EmergingEducationFutures-web.pdf

I especially like a chapter by Pekka Ihanainen, a Finnish teacher educator, but the chapter by John W. Moravec and Kelly E. Killorn might be the most applicable.

Can it help with the small software project I've undertaken for the editors? Write a program to download the content of the Obsidian Wings web site and save posts and comments in Typepad import/export format. In Perl, please.

Take a look at this. It has a lot of examples. And the code generator is free to use.

"The Codex model series is a descendant of our GPT-3 series that's been trained on both natural language and billions of lines of code. It's most capable in Python and proficient in over a dozen languages including JavaScript, Go, Perl, PHP, Ruby, Swift, TypeScript, SQL, and even Shell. During this initial limited beta period, Codex usage is free. Learn more."
Code completion: Learn how to generate or manipulate code

/* Create the quicksort algorithm using English */
/*
1. Create a function that accepts an array of numbers
2. Find the middle number in the array, but if there are two middle
   numbers (even amount of numbers) average them
3. Create three empty arrays called left, middle and right
4. Loop through the array that was passed through the function and
   push the numbers lower than the middle number to the left array,
   the numbers that are the same as the middle number to the middle
   array, and the numbers that are higher than the middle number to
   the right array
5. Take the left array and perform the same function (recursion)
6. Take the right array and perform the same function (recursion)
7. Return the array of sorted numbers
*/
/* Write the Sieve of Eratosthenes in Perl */
#!/usr/bin/perl
use strict;
use warnings;
my $n = 100;
my @primes = (2..$n);
for (my $i = 0; $i < @primes; $i++) {
    my $p = $primes[$i];
    for (my $j = $i + 1; $j < @primes; $j++) {
        if ($primes[$j] % $p == 0) {
            splice(@primes, $j, 1);
            $j--;
        }
    }
}
print "@primes\n";

CharlesWT offers an interesting example, the sieve of Eratosthenes. Recently I saw an interview of Andrej Karpathy, extolling the virtue of AI programming assistance tools. The conversation touched on their value as a pedagogical tool.

This example is, to my mind, a cautionary tale of its limitations. The code shown, although producing a correct result, is extremely inefficient. Not only does it consume much more memory than the algorithm requires, it uses a modulo operation (a divide!) for the test. Is this a good example to give to a student, especially for a self-guided learning experience? I think it does more harm than good.

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