Cowardly Cowards and their Colossal Cowardice

December 18, 2014

I noted this morning that the Alamo Draft House movie theater in Dallas was showing Team America: World Police because Sony Pictures had withdrawn The Interview from distribution.  I praised the Alamo for having the courage that Sony and virtually every national cinema chains lacked in being willing to mock the barbaric stone-age despot, Kim Jong Un.

Well, Paramount Pictures has joined the ranks of the cowardly cowards in their colossal cowardice by apparently refusing to grant Alamo Draft House and another independent movie house, Cleveland’s Capitol Theater, permission to show Team America. Who will stand for liberty when capitulation is so common?

Remember that these same movie companies and cinema chains are all too happy to show movies praising Julian Assange or Edward Snowden.  Perhaps they know how generally benign the US government is in that it will do little or nothing to punish them for (rightly) criticizing it  for illiberal actions.  But the really menacing forces trying to block airing The Interview or publication of images of Muhammad are appeased.

Please save us, Team America!

Alamo Draft House Stands for Liberty

December 18, 2014

While national movie chains have cowered in the face of unsubstantiated threats from North Korean stooges and Sony Pictures withdrew The Interview from all forms of distribution (presumably including DVD and Netflix), the Alamo Draft House movie theater in Dallas decided to fight back by showing Team America: World Police.  OK, it features Kim Jong Il instead of Kim Jong Un, but that’s basically the same thing.  Take that, barbaric stone-age despot!

While Hollywood proves that these colors don’t run — they flee screaming in terror — Alamo Draft House proves, in the spirit of Fasi Zaka, that the defense of liberty requires a good mocking of tyrants.  And apparently only the Alamo has the nerve to do it.  America!  What I wouldn’t do to get an Alamao Draft House in Fayetteville?

Don’t worry, even if Kom Jong Un threatens Hollywood into submission, he’ll still feel very lonely all by himself in his giant palace surrounded  by millions of starving North Koreans.

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.

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.

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.

Growing Up Without Your Dad

December 9, 2014

It is the 50th anniversary of the Moynihan Report, which warned of the challenges single-parenthood posed to the success of children, especially in the Black community.  In recognition of the 50th anniversary, Education Next is running a series of articles on what we now know about the frequency and consequences for children of growing up without their married, biological parents.

The first in this series is an article by Sara McLanahan and Christopher Jencks asking “Was Moynihan Right?”  The answer is a pretty clear yes.  You should read the entire article but here is the heart of the argument:

Was Moynihan right in suggesting that children whose parents divorce or never marry have more than their share of problems? This question has been hotly debated ever since the publication of Moynihan’s report. On the one hand, growing up without both biological parents is clearly associated with worse average outcomes for children than growing up with them. Specifically, children growing up with a single mother are exposed to more family instability and complexity, they have more behavior problems, and they are less likely to finish high school or attend college than children raised by both of their parents. On the other hand, these differences in children’s behavior and success might well be traceable to differences that would exist even if the biological father were present.

In recent years, researchers have begun to use what they call “quasi-experimental” approaches to estimate the causal impact of growing up apart from one’s biological father. Some studies compare the outcomes of children living in states with liberal versus restrictive divorce laws. Others compare siblings who were different ages in the year when their father moved out. Still others compare the same child before and after the father left the child’s household. One important limitation of these studies is that while they all focus on children who are not living with both of their biological parents, they differ with respect to their comparison group, whether it is children raised by their mother alone, by their mother and a new spouse, or by their mother and a new partner to whom she is not married. Nonetheless, when taken together these studies are beginning to tell a consistent story. A recent review of 45 studies using quasi-experimental methods concluded that growing up apart from one’s father does reduce a child’s life chances in many domains.

The review’s authors examined the effects of a father’s absence on outcomes in four domains: educational attainment, mental health, labor market performance, and family formation. Growing up with only one biological parent reduces a child’s chances of graduating from high school by about 40 percent, which is similar to the effect of having a mother who did not finish high school rather than one who did. The absence of one’s biological father has not been shown to affect a child’s verbal and math test scores, however. The evidence for other indicators of educational performance, such as high school grades, skipping school, and college aspirations, is mixed, with some studies finding that father absence lowers school attendance and aspirations and others finding no effect. Most studies find larger effects on boys than on girls.

How might we reconcile the fact that a father’s absence affects high school graduation with the lack of evidence that it affects test scores? The answer appears to be that a father’s absence increases antisocial behavior, such as aggression, rule breaking, delinquency, and illegal drug use. These antisocial behaviors affect high school completion independent of a child’s verbal and math scores. Thus it appears that a father’s absence lowers children’s educational attainment not by altering their scores on cognitive tests but by disrupting their social and emotional adjustment and reducing their ability or willingness to exercise self-control. The effects of growing up without both parents on aggression, rule breaking, and delinquency are also larger for boys than for girls. Since these traits predict both college attendance and graduation, the spread of single-parent families over the past few decades may have contributed to the growing gender gap in college attendance and graduation. The gender gap in college completion is much more pronounced among children raised by single mothers than among children raised in two-parent families.


December 6, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Really cool short film-more information here. All of this may come to pass, and if it does, I predict that it will be merchant-adventurers having all the fun. I’m jealous of the future.


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