No matter how hard you try, you realize there’s a good chance you’re grading some students more harshly than they deserve, and giving others more credit than they deserve. This doesn’t have anything to do with favoritism (a whole other problem), but with human error and weakness. Your temperament and disposition change over the hours or days you spend grading an assignment. In fact, your frame of mind can change in moments for any number of reasons: Five weak essays in a row can put you in a foul mood; fatigue can set in; a too-hot or too-noisy room can set your nerves on edge. Maybe you’re suddenly reminded that you have only 48 hours left to finish clearing out your deceased parent’s apartment. How can any teacher be confident that his or her assessment of student work is always fair and accurate in the face of such vagaries? An essay that earns a B+ at one moment might earn a B- the next day. It shouldn’t be that way, but any honest teacher will admit it’s true.
Read more. [Image: Michael 1952/Reuters]
In Taiyuan, in northern China’s Shanxi province, construction began on a new high-end residential compound last year. When developers needed to excavate a cemetery for the building’s foundation, they offered to pay villagers to relocate the remains of loved ones. One family refused to budge, complaining that the compensation was too low. In China, such disputed plots are typically known as “nail houses,” and developers continue to build around them while the issue is resolved. In this case, workers carved out a “nail grave” belonging to the family of Chang Jinzhu. The small, bizarre column stood 10 meters above the foundation floor for months. This week, it was reported that Jinzhu’s family had reached an agreement with the construction consortium, receiving 800 Yuan ($128 USD) in compensation. A platform and bridge to the gravesite were built, and the family had the four coffins and gravestones removed.
See more. [Images: Getty]
It’s not hard to imagine making one or 20 or even 200 decisions about photographs or status updates in a week, but it’s mindboggling to consider that Facebook has to process 2 million reports per week, and that’s not including simple “mark as spam” messages.
How do you design a system to deal with that workload? I spoke with James Mitchell, who helms what Facebook calls “site integrity” within its user-operations department, and Jud Hoffman, the company’s global policy manager about the reporting process. They are the architects of Facebook’s technocracy.
Read more. [Image: Reuters/Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg]
With partisan gridlock and congressional dysfunction, Americans may have lost faith in their federal government, but an overwhelming majority view state and local government favorably. More than 6 in 10 Americans hold favorable views of state and local government, while just 33 percent view the federal government favorably – down from 64 percent a decade ago.
Read more at The Atlantic Cities. [Image: Pew Research Center]
The Obama administration hopes to wind down the long Afghan war by shifting responsibility for securing the country to Afghanistan’s nascent army and national police. One thing’s for certain: It won’t be cheap.
The overall U.S. mission in Afghanistan is already shifting from direct combat to training and mentoring the Afghan forces, which are slated to grow to 352,000 by the end of 2012. Boosting the numbers of capable Afghan forces would carry both human and financial benefits for the U.S, reducing the likelihood of American battlefield casualties and allowing the withdrawal of U.S. troops costing a whopping $1 million each per year to station there.
Still, a close look at U.S. military statistics shows that Afghan soldiers and police officers are far more expensive than you’d expect. They are paid an average of just $1,872 a year, but the overall cost of training and fielding a police officer is roughly $30,000 per year, while the cost of each soldier is nearly $46,000 per year. the United States bears virtually all of those costs, adding up to more than $3.5 billion a year.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
What do Republican presidents Reagan, Bush I, and Bush II have in common that Obama doesn’t? Total government grew under those presidents after they faced recessions. By contrast, federal, state, and local government has declined by more than half a million workers in the last three years. Big government ain’t what it used to be.
The graph above comes courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute. Since the recession officially ended in January 2009, the economy has bid goodbye to 584,000 government jobs (private sector employment is up by 2.8 million). That’s a roughly a 2 percent drop. Though the federal workforce actually grew between 2009 and 2011, it’s now shrinking at the fastest rate since the 1950s, as my colleague Derek Thompson has written. By comparison, government payrolls increased by at least a full percentage point during the thirty months after each of the last major recessions, while Republican presidents presided over the economy.
Read more. [Image: Economic Policy Institute]
The urge to blame someone, preferably a banker or a politician, though, isn’t exclusively Icelandic. And that raises the question: Should other European states or even the U.S. be holding its politicians more accountable, too? Wouldn’t that make more sense than hauling out the pitchforks for the bankers who, after all, were doing exactly what they were paid to do? At least politicians are being paid to protect us.
On the one hand, there’s a pretty clear outsourcing element to Western government: we elect, either directly or indirectly, people whose job it is to pay attention to certain things we don’t have the time or the expertise to figure out ourselves. In that sense, if you believe that bankers constitute the very sort of threat that government is supposed to be monitoring, the political leaders do bear some responsibility for the financial crisis.
But it’s possible to get too self-righteously outraged about government negligence and miss another practical component of Western government: that though we pay the government to take care of things we can’t take care of personally, we also pay them in large part to take care of the things wewant them to take care of. The more direct the democracy, the more direct the effect: politicians follow polls and pressures — whether it comes from money (the financial industry is a huge source of political donations) or public sentiment. It’s a rare politician who follows his conscience against the tide, and in the United States, at least, we regularly accuse politicians who do just that of ignoring the will of the people.
Prior to the financial crisis, neither the American people nor the Icelandic people were paying enough attention to the financial industry for regulating it to be worth the governments’ while.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
The fact that Virginia lawmakers evidently didn’t understand what their law would mean to women, and what it would require of doctors, didn’t stop the legislators from pushing forward with the measure anyway. Ignorance of the law may be no legal defense to you and me, but ignorance of the law among those who are passing the law surely is the definition of bad governance. For the politicians now scrambling away from Virginia’s measure, however, pleading ignorance perhaps is easier today than confessing the truth, which is that the pols who supported the measure probably didn’t care in the first place if its mandated procedures offended women. That was the whole point, wasn’t it?
At a minimum, the barely-averted disaster in the commonwealth raises questions about whether the same intellectual disconnect is happening in New Hampshire, where the Republican-dominated legislature is pressing ahead with anti-abortion measures over the objections of medical experts. Or in Iowa, where a GOP lawmaker recently introduced a bill that would ban abortions and generate potential life sentences in prison for doctors who perform what the law calls “feticide.” Or in Nebraska, where legislators are considering a bill that would create a legal defense — justifiable homicide, it’s called — for the murder of a doctor who intends to harm a fetus.
America, sadly, has grown accustomed to “symbolic” legislation which is designed not to advance the public good, or even to become sustainable law, but rather to appease particular interest groups. The campaign promise becomes the pending measure; the donor’s crusade becomes the subject of public hearings. And what is squeezed out of the legislative process as a result of such pandering is the more moderate legislation, the more practical measures, which do stand a chance of passing constitutional muster and which do solve real problems in sensible ways. That’s no way to run a country — or even a state.
When public outrage forced them into a choice this week between appearing stupid about the ultrasound law or appearing venal toward it, Virginia’s Republican lawmakers, and the Commonwealth’s governor, chose to act stupid. It’s a choice that zealous lawmakers all over the country would be forced to make if their own senseless, unlawful legislation ever made it to the Supreme Court. But chances are those bills never will. Instead, America’s pet legislation will continue to whistle to all the political dogs out there while wasting everyone else’s time and money.
Read more. [Image: Associated Press]
Demonstrators tears a poster depicting Moamer Kadhafi at the Libya consulate in Athens on August 22, 2011. Libyans ransacked their country’s consulate in Athens on Monday after rebels overran Tripoli, defacing the building and tearing down images of embattled strongman Moamer Kadhafi.
Libyan government tanks and snipers put up scattered, last-ditch resistance in Tripoli after rebels swept into the heart of the capital, cheered on by crowds hailing the end of Gaddafi’s 42 years in power.
The Chronicle has looked at where each of the 7,000-plus state legislators in America went to college – or whether they went at all. In doing so, we got a glimpse of how the citizens who hold these seats reflect the average American experience.
» via Chronicle of Higher Education Subscription may be required for some content