Tuesday, October 31st, 2023


Teaching Devices

My first day teaching at a pretty rough high school in Brooklyn in the early 90s was as a substitute for a physics class. My stress level was high for three key reasons. First, I don't understand physics. Second, when my students learned they had a sub, more than half of them cheered and left the classroom. Third, the teacher I was filling in for was out because, the day before, he had been stabbed in the hand while trying to confiscate a student's Walkman. (In the business, we call this a teachable moment.) So, when it comes to the stress devices at school can cause teachers, I was ahead of my time. Of course, today's teachers are faced with classrooms filled with social-media addicted students thumbing their iPhones all day long. What would happen if schools tried to take them away? (Note: I am no longer available to sub.) NYT (Gift Article): This Florida School District Banned Cellphones. Here's What Happened. One teacher explained how bad things were getting. "'It was getting out of hand,' Ms. Rodriquez-Davis said, describing how students texted each other during class to arrange meetings in the bathroom, where they filmed dance videos. 'I call them ‘Toilet TikToks.'" To show what teachers were up against, Ms. Rodriguez-Davis posted her own TikToks parodying her struggles with students and their phones." (This roughly mirrors my strategy when it comes to my kids' phone use. I parody them by using mine all day long. So far, the irony seems lost on them. Though that's just a guess—we haven't really had a chance to talk in person.)

+ It "has become — by a wide margin — America's fastest-growing form of education, as families from Upper Manhattan to Eastern Kentucky embrace a largely unregulated practice once confined to the ideological fringe." WaPo (Gift Article): Home schooling's rise from fringe to fastest-growing form of education. (So do instructors take away their landlines?)


Everything Everywhere All at Once

The worst Middle East crisis in recent memory has ripped the scab off of one of humanity's longest festering wounds. And the injury isn't confined to one part of the body politic. First, it's spreading geographically in the region. Here's AP on the latest example: Yemen's Houthi rebels claim attacks on Israel, drawing their main sponsor Iran closer to Hamas war. Second, there are serious concerns that Hamas will inspire terror attacks elsewhere, including in America. Hamas could inspire attacks in the U.S., FBI chief Christopher Wray says. And third, the intense emotions associated with the events since October 7 have exposed and ignited antisemitism and anti-Muslim actions across the world:

+ History repeating itself: How the Israel-Hamas war is fueling hate against Muslims and Jews

+ Paris has seen Stars of David stencils painted on buildings again overnight.

+ Open hatred of Jews surges globally, inflamed by Gaza war.

+ Islamophobic incidents spike since eruption of Israel-Hamas conflict.

+ One of the more disturbing acts of protest are the college students and others taking down posters of kidnapped Israelis. Want to put up posters decrying the civilian deaths in Gaza? Then you should. But tearing down posters of kidnapped children and grandparents? Is pro-kidnapping a philosophical opinion we have to consider now? "Displaying the posters has become a form of activism, keeping the more than 200 hostages seized by Hamas in full view of the public. But removing the posters has quickly emerged as its own form of protest — a release valve and also a provocation by those anguished by the Israeli government's treatment of Palestinians in the years before Oct. 7 and since the bombing of Gaza began." NYT (Gift Article): How Posters of Kidnapped Israelis Ignited a Firestorm on American Sidewalks. "The battle has inflamed already tense emotions. And it captures one of the most fervently debated questions of the war: Whose suffering should command public attention and sympathy?" (That's an easy question to answer: The innocent victims on both sides should command our attention and sympathy. That's how we fulfil the most basic aspect of being a decent human being.)

+ As of October 31, CPJ's preliminary investigations showed at least 31 journalists and media workers have been killed since Oct 7.

+ Israel's battle tactics will, and should, be called into question even more as a strike targeting Hamas killed many civilians in a refugee camp (in addition to killing innocent people, this decision will further turn world opinion against Israel), the US trying to get at least 100 aid trucks a day to enter Gaza, protesters interrupt Blinken's Congressional testimony. Here's the latest from BBC and CNN.


I’m Gonna Walk Down to Electric Avenue

"I discovered a Norwegian EV bonanza that has indeed reduced emissions — but at the expense of compromising vital societal goals. Eye-popping EV subsidies have flowed largely to the affluent, contributing to the gap between rich and poor in a country proud of its egalitarian social policies. Worse, the EV boom has hobbled Norwegian cities' efforts to untether themselves from the automobile and enable residents to instead travel by transit or bicycle, decisions that do more to reduce emissions, enhance road safety, and enliven urban life than swapping a gas-powered car for an electric one." Why Norway — the poster child for electric cars — is having second thoughts.


A Staple of Pop Culture

"He has become the rarest of rare 21st-century phenomenons: a monocultural star, at once deeply embedded in country music—niftily slipping through the raindrops of the genre's many factions, divisions, and culture wars (albeit by not saying much about them)—and a collaborator with everybody from Adele and Pink to Justin Timberlake to Joy Oladokun. Country radio listeners, Americana heads, bros, traditionalists, neo-traditionalists, poptimists, critics, crowds—all claim some part of Stapleton as their own." GQ: Is Chris Stapleton the One Thing That America Can Agree On? (As long as he doesn't chime in with an opinion about the Middle East...)


Extra, Extra

Suggestions From the Top: The White House just issued an executive order on AI. Here are three things you should know. "While Biden's executive order goes beyond previous US government attempts to regulate AI, it places far more emphasis on establishing best practices and standards than on how, or even whether, the new directives will be enforced." (Big tech loves them some self regulation...)

+ Maine Objective: The more we learn about the Maine massacre, the more troubling the story gets. WaPo: Maine gunman's family contacted police months before massacre, sheriff says. "In addition to his own relatives, law enforcement officials and government agencies also expressed anxiety about Robert Card and the possible risk he posed to others ... The concerns even extended to fears he would commit mass violence."NYT: Police Were Told Maine Gunman Had Threatened to Carry Out Shooting Spree. ABC: Army said Maine shooter should not have gun, requested welfare check. We can't even keep weapons of war out of the hands of a walking red flag like Robert Card. That's one more reason why they need to be banned altogether.

+ Attacks and A Tax: The Mike Johnson-led House doesn't want to tie Israel funding to Ukraine funding. But they do want to tie it to cutting funding for the IRS. House Republicans aim to pay for Israel aid with cuts to IRS funds. (Nothing says we defend democracy like making sure the wealthy don't have to pay a fair share of taxes.)

+ Bot Feeders: Remember how bots completely ruined your ticket-buying experience? Well, they're coming for you dinner reservations next. In the battle for restaurant reservations, it's diners vs. bots.

+ Run Ragged: "Runners continue to push the boundaries of what's possible in backyard ultrarunning, and the 2023 Big Dog's Backyard Ultra was no different. In the end, American Harvey Lewis claimed the title of last person standing, after a record-breaking 108 hours and 450 miles of running."


Bottom of the News

Forget inflation. Americans are ready to trick or treat, and they plan to spend $700 million on costumes this year. Oh, and that's just on costumes for their pets. (This year my Beagles are once again going as two guys watching TV on the couch while I go on a walk alone.)

+ The fine folks at Pocket have a collection of stories about all your favorite candies.

+ These days I'm a single issue voter. So I made a shirt that represents that. And it's selling like hotcakes.