Blood Heir Triumphs

November 2, 2019

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Jay suggested in his Al award post we might be in need of some positive vibes. So check out this trailer for Blood Heir, which is about to be published in spite of the best efforts of Higgy winner Kosoko Jackson. (Meanwhile, no sign of Jackson’s own book, cancelled by the same kind of dishonest wokescold mob that Jackson tried to help against Blood Heir; Amazon’s review of Jackson’s book: “We don’t know when or if this item will be back in stock.”)

It’s not as good as Autumn Thomasson’s trailer, but then again, nothing is.

So what did Jackson and his woke vigilantes accomplish in the end? They put “the most talked-about fantasy of 2019” on the front of that trailer. 

I hope the publisher makes One Billion Dollars and buys a Blood Heir billboard across the street from Jackson’s house.

And the Winner of the 2019 “Al” is… Mildred Day

November 1, 2019

We had a thin set of nominees for this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian AwardI nominated Chad Kroeger and JT Parr, who speak during public input periods during local government meetings to reveal the impotence of public input — whether as part of government fora or on social media. Greg nominated Bob Fletcher, who heroically saved farms for Japanese Americans who had been sent to internment camps during World War II.  Sensing that the field was small, Greg added at the last minute Mildred Day, the inventor of the Rice Krispie Treat.

Perhaps our shortage of Al Award nominees is a reflection of a glum mood that has gripped public discourse of late, making it difficult to think of how the human condition is being improved. This is precisely why Mildred Day is the person we need to recognize with this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award.  In the fine tradition of Al Copeland himself, Day made the human condition better by giving us a delicious treat, the Rice Krispie Treat.  Those treats aren’t just wonderful because of their gooey while also crunchy sweetness. Rice Krispie Treats are also so easy to make that they are often among the first cooking projects that parents do with their children. Parents connecting with their children over something yummy is just about the best thing.

Chad and JT are amusing in the fine tradition of Al honorees Ken M, Fasi Zaka, and Lazlo Toth. But their goal is to mock, which while necessary, may contribute further to the sour popular mood.  Bob Fletcher is certainly admirable in the fine tradition of Al recipient, Wim Nottroth.  But right now we could use more of a sweet reward than a harsh reminder of the need to stand up to evil, as important as that reminder is.

So thank you, Mildred Day. As you celebrate her selection as the Al Copeland Humanitarian, I hope you are enjoying some candy from yesterday’s haul and perhaps adding a Rice Krispie Treat or two.

Nominated for the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award: Chad Kroeger and JT Parr

October 24, 2019

For this year’s Al Copeland Humanitarian Award I would like to nominate Chad Kroeger and JT Parr. Chad and JT take advantage of the public comment sessions that virtually all local governments offer to express their views.  And like the 2015 Al winner, Ken M, Chad and JT show us exactly how important those opportunities for public comment really are. In the video above they speak to the LA City Council in defense of house parties.  They note all of the ways that house parties had helped them, with JT observing: “I could play beer pong and compete with real integrity. In short, I fulfilled my potential.” And then sounding like an economist (with about the same level of influence over policy), JT warns that there are “externalities” associated with banning house parties, such as the loss of bonding, emphasizing, “America needs bonding.”

In this second video, Chad and JT ask the City Council of Laguna Beach to “boke” their “shmole.” As Chad explains, a shmole is “someone with a good heart who kinda sucks.” They claim that one of the members of their squad, Kevin, is a shmole and the city needs to help them boke him, or remove him from their crew. But they don’t wan’t Kevin to go “homie-less,” so they want the city to enact a shmole relocation program and adopt Kevin to rehabilitate him. Chad and JT estimate that this program would cost about $75,000 per shmole, which could be paid by increasing taxes on their parents’ houses.

In this third video, Chad and JT propose to the Manhattan Beach City Council that they rename their wastewater plant “The Britney Spears ‘Toxic’ Water Center.” Chad mentions that he almost went to a Britney Spears concert when he was 14 but his Dad said, “No. You have to do math.” JT then sings the song “Toxic” to the council.

In our modern age in which leading academics waste countless hours sending messages of 280 characters to each other in “an effort to democratize access to knowledge,” or boast about being a “subtweet aficionado,” Chad and JT reveal this activity for what it really is — a world in which everyone is on the stage and no one is in the audience and where all forms of expertise and authority are degraded.  People active in Edu-Twitter and Econ-Twitter may imagine that they are shaping the world because they have thousands or even tens of thousands of followers, but remember that Chad and JT’s videos have been viewed well over a million times. Chad and JT have no more influence over local government policy than academic Twitter has over public policy. And by wasting so much energy on social media, academics place themselves on the same level as people like Chad and JT who have no shortage of proposals, opinions, and even evidence such as a a large graph with “metrics” proving that Kevin is a shmole.

But Chad and JT don’t just reveal the silliness that has gripped much of academia, they also reveal the phoniness of democratic input in public policymaking.  Governments create public comment opportunities to give people the illusion that they have control over government policy.  In actuality, public influence over policymaking has always been indirect and mostly channeled through the activities of organized interests.  This is not a bad thing to be lamented.  It is simply a reality to be accepted. The Voice of the People as expressed on social media or in public comment times is more about catharsis than it is about control.

If people are going to waste their time on social media or in public comment periods, it might as well be amusing rather than the self-important and over-earnest stuff typically found in academic Twitter or local government meetings. For taking this useless activity and making it entertaining, Chad and JT have significantly improved the human condition and therefore are worthy of the Al Copeland Humanitarian Award.

Don’t Overregulate Choice

October 24, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my article on the dangers of overregulating choice programs:

Recent proposals have suggested imposing new burdens on these programs in Oklahoma. One of the most common approaches is to demand that schools compile and turn over to the state extensive personal data on every participating student. This raises important student-privacy concerns. But lawmakers should also be asking what this or other proposed regulations has to do with helping parents hold their schools accountable. More power for regulators is less power for parents.

Your freedom to tell me what you think in the comments is regulated, but not overregulated, so fire away!

Interview on Education Philanthropy

October 11, 2019

Check out my two-part interview on education philanthropy with Mike Hartmann: Part 1 Part 2

Readers of JPGB will recognize many themes from earlier posts like:

Advice to the Arnold Foundation

Political Science for Ed Reform Dummies

Gates Foundation Follies

Build New, Don’t Reform Old


The Eternal Teacher Shortage

September 18, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

The Oklahoman carries my article on how a century’s worth of headlines in the Oklahoman (formerly the Daily Oklahoman) have kept on telling us over and over again about a dire teacher shortage:

Nor was this limited to 1919. Examples abound in succeeding decades. “State Feeling Sharp Teacher Pinch Again” ran a headline in 1964, for example. That story said shortages happened only occasionally, but the paper ran similar headlines in 1966, 1969 and 1970.

The “dire teacher shortage” story appeals not only to readers who are teachers and their families (a fairly large constituency) but to any reader who likes a good underdog-versus-huge-uncaring-system story.

But journalists ought to be exercising a little more critical thought. Reviewing more recent coverage in Oklahoma, I point out:

The coverage did not raise obvious questions like: If the huge, indiscriminate across-the-board pay raise that was sold as necessary to recruit teachers in fact had little effect on recruitment, why did we enact it?

Or: Shouldn’t we tear down the artificial barriers to entry that keep people out of the teaching profession, like useless certification requirements that have consistently failed to show any connection to classroom outcomes?

Or: Shouldn’t we reform the pay scales and contract provisions that prevent us from targeting the best teachers for recruitment and retention?

No, the implicit takeaway is always more, more, more indiscriminate spending, without systemic reform.

I’d like to thank the Oklahoman for being such a good sport and running this!

Let me know what you think.

Childhood Trauma and School Choice

September 9, 2019


(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Opinion leaders in Oklahoma are orchestrating a full-court press to use remediation of “childhood trauma” as the next narrative under which they should get big, indiscriminate spending increases without accountability for results. As someone who had a traumatic childhood myself, I’m all in favor of expanding access to effective services in this area. That’s why I’m against big, indiscriminate spending increases without accountability, and in favor of school choice, which actually helps kids with traumatic experiences.

OCPA carries my article:

The usual reply to concerns such as this—other than “you’re cruel and heartless for asking whether the money we spend on helping people actually helps people”—is to lament how hard it is to have a positive impact on such intractable problems. When children are abused or mistreated, or have mental health disorders or other traumatic problems, they lose their proper chance to grow in their human potential. Getting wounded people on the road to recovery and growth is very, very hard.

That is all true. It is not, however, a reason to spend large amounts of money without accountability. It is a reason to look for more promising policy approaches.

There follows a recitation of findings on how school choice decreases rates of childhood trauma and provides a more supportive and effectively nurturing school environment.

I’m also unscrupulous enough to remind everyone of how poorly the Oklahoma government school system handled some notorious cases of childhood trauma just last year:

Last year, a number of cases came to light in Oklahoma in which minority students were being targeted by racist bullies. One family was finally given permission—permission!—to transfer their child out of the school where he was being constantly persecuted. Untold thousands more children continue to suffer in their assigned government schools, whether because of racist bullying or whatever other adversity they experience, because they didn’t happen to catch the attention of the media and make the system look bad.

Why on earth should one family get permission to choose, and not everyone else? Why should even that one family have had to go begging to the powerful and get permission to protect their own child? Did we lose a war?

Yes, by all means let’s throw more money at the unaccountable government monopoly system as the only permissible defense for children experiencing trauma!

I promise not to be traumatized if you let me know what you think.