Theater Study is an Audience Favorite

December 16, 2014

TheatreSquared’s performances of Hamlet and A Christmas Carol were a hit with the student audiences that saw them.  And apparently our study of what students learned from those performances was a hit with the readers of Education Next.  It was the second most viewed article in Ed Next during 2014 despite coming out toward the end of the year.  This follows on our study of the effects of field trips to an art museum earning the #1 spot as the most read article in Ed Next during 2013.

Students are very interested in these cultural experiences.  The education policy community is very interested in these studies.  Now if only policymakers, administrators, and foundations showed similar levels of interest.

The Daily Signal on AZ ESA

December 15, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

It warms my heart every time I get to visit a school like the one in the video above.

For Sale: Awesome Mix Volume 1

December 14, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Got that impossible to shop for science fiction fan who already has everything? Well he or she doesn’t have this.

You’re welcome.

Reason Foundation: Will Regulation Ruin School Choice in the Big Easy?

December 11, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Well worth watching…similar tensions exist in all choice programs to some degree.

Party at the Moontower…err…I mean Texas Bowl

December 11, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So the Razorbacks and the Longhorns are renewing their ancient gridiron hatred this year in the Texas Bowl in Houston. Two teams will enter and one team will leave with (insert drumroll) a winning record on the season!

Ah how the mighty have fallen-the records of both teams stand at a lowly 6 wins and 6 losses. Sigh. At least this provides 14 badly needed additional days of practice for the rebuilding from scratch Longhorns.

My prediction: Texas 6, Arkansas 3. University of Texas at Austin cultural ambassador at large Matthew McConaughey promises to close the windows before engaging in the traditional post-victory bongo naked ritual.

What is your prediction?

The Onion on HBO’s New Gritty Series about Wilmette

December 11, 2014

As usual, The Onion totally nails it.  Entertainment executives fall into such predictable and over-done patterns that you would think that they weren’t in a creative business.  If I have to see one more series or movie about the dark underbelly of [blank], I may fall asleep as I write to complain about it.

So, The Onion describes their vision of a new HBO series about perfectly happy and pleasant Wilmette, Illinois, where I happen to have grown up:

Speaking at an HBO press junket Monday, acclaimed writer-producer David Simon, creator of the gritty urban dramas The Wire and Treme, announced that his next project will be an epic, multilayered examination of the contented and comfortable streets of suburban Wilmette, IL….

According to Simon, the sprawling new series, tentatively titled The Township, will offer a searing and unsentimental glimpse into the happy social fabric of modern-day Wilmette, an area known for its deeply untroubled history and well-functioning political structure.

“As a writer, my mission is to tell a story that makes viewers think about how conditions in American cities are created,” Simon told reporters. “We can’t just turn our back on the staggering levels of happiness occurring in a place like Wilmette and say, ‘Well, that’s not my life.’ We have to confront this tranquility head-on and shine a light on the institutions that are responsible for it.”

Added Simon, “I want this show to be an unflinching dissection of how the system has in no way failed the people of this town.”

According to HBO sources, the novelistic series will chronicle the interconnected web of police officers, politicians, tradespeople, teachers, and ordinary families who are “all complicit” in perpetuating the cycle of institutional effectiveness that makes Wilmette the seventh best place in the country to raise children….

Of course, there are creative producers, writers, and actors out there who are trying new things and the market often rewards them for their fresh approaches.  If you are tried of the HBO formula for a series with random acts of shocking violence with a healthy sprinkling of naked breasts, you might try BYUtv’s critically acclaimed series, Granite Flats.  As the New York Times describes it, “In ‘Granite Flats,’ a Soviet spy satellite crashes into a Colorado town, a trio of teenagers become amateur sleuths, and a secret mind-control program called Mkultra is revealed.”  I’ve only read about it, but I’m excited to start watching it.

Yes, BYUtv is a Mormon network (which you can watch streaming if your cable provider does not carry it).  And yes, Granite Flats is set in a small town in the 1960s “to make modest language and conservative social mores feel intrinsic…. “

“Still,” the NYT observes, “’Granite Flats’ is not ‘Ozzie and Harriet.’ The characters include a father struggling with alcoholism and petty crime, a war veteran hospitalized for what would now be called post-traumatic stress disorder, and an adopted Korean girl who comes to realize that her parents have lied about their lives and possibly hers.”

The lead writer for the show is my old friend and college house-mate, John Plummer, who the NYT describes as “an observant Buddhist.”

The Times further notes:

The success of “Granite Flats” became apparent not only as its audience grew — especially with online streaming — but through its ability to attract top talent. Christopher Lloyd (“Back to the Future”) and Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”) signed up for recurring roles. The third season, which begins next March, includes Parker Posey, the doyenne of indie cinema.

For the most part, critical response was both positive and surprised. Glenn Garvin wrote in The Miami Herald, “ ‘Granite Flats’ is solid evidence that family entertainment need not be strait-laced or simple-minded.” David Hinckley in The Daily News called it “a cool little series from a spot where most New Yorkers might not look.”

I’d like to see more cool little series and I’m looking forward to watching this one.  Oh and also the one about Wilmette.

Fun With Peer Review

December 9, 2014

PHD Comics

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

I may have to revise my opinion of Vox; they seem to have taken an interest in the weaknesses of the peer review system. Of course there are a lot of responsible peer-reviewed journals and, well, peers. But there a lot of the other kind as well, and we are long past the point where simply having gone through something called “peer review” ought to count for anything.

One story details how unscrupulous researchers can manipulate journals, including – amazingly – posing as their own reviewers. In highly specialized fields, journal editors may not know who the appropriate reviewers would be, so they rely – apparently uncritically in some cases – on the “recommended reviewers” supplied by the article authors. Who in some cases are simply the authors themselves using another email address. One scientist used 130 email accounts to create a vast, self-validating “peer review and citation ring”; 60 papers were recently retracted after a 14-month investigation uncovered the fraud. A total of at least 110 articles have been pulled in the last two years due to this type of fraud.

Get me off your email list

Figure 1 from the article “Get Me Off Your Fucking Mailing List”

Accepted for publication by the highly reputable International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology

But the other story is a lot better. It details how some journals now survive not by selling subscriptions or getting institutional support, but by charging a fee to publish your paper. They are apparently known as “predatory journals” because they spam the email universe looking for gullible (or, presumably, unscrupulous) people looking to break into publication. “Article mills” (after the analogous “diploma mills”) would seem a more appropriate name.

As you can see above, the “peer review” process becomes somewhat lax in these cases. One pair of scientists slapped the above-referenced article and began submitting it to peer review spammers. They were amused to discover that one journal accepted their article for publication. Another journal not only accepted but published an article (consisting of nonsense text) by Maggie Simpson and Edna Krabappel. It now sends the authors regular demands that they pay their $459 bill.

But it’s not just spam scammers – peer review controls are easy to get past even at some highly reputable publishers.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,673 other followers