History and video games

Since their birth as a science-fair curiosity at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the late 1950s, video games have moved inexorably towards higher and more central cultural ground, much like film did in the first half of the 20th century.

Games were confined at first to the lowbrow carnival of the arcade, but they soon spread to the middlebrow sphere of the living room, overran this private space, and burst out and upwards into the public spheres of art and academia. With prestigious universities like NYU and USC now offering graduate-level programs in game design, and major museums like MoMA, MAD, and SF MoMA beginning to acquire games and curate game exhibitions, preserving the early history of the medium appears more important than ever. But what exactly does it mean to preserve a digital game?

The answer is surprisingly simple: It means, first and foremost, preserving a record of how it was played and what it meant to its player community. Ensuring continued access to a playable version of the game through maintenance of the original hardware or emulation is less important—if it matters at all.

That, at least, was the provocative argument Henry Lowood made at Pressing Restart, which recently brought preservationists, teachers, academics, and curators together at the NYU Poly MAGNET center for a day of “community discussions on video game preservation.” Lowood is no contrarian whippersnapper; as a curator at the Stanford Libraries, he has been professionally involved in game preservation efforts for well over a decade. Continue reading “History and video games”

Video game activism

Movies and books have long been used to advocate for causes, such as climate change or breast cancer. As video games become more mainstream, advocates are beginning to see how this art form can be a new way to reach out and get people engaged in a cause.

Take Half the Sky, a book about the struggles of women and girls in the developing world. Teacher and mom


Suzy Kosh read it in her book group. When she heard there was a Facebook game based on it, she checked it out, and her 6-year-old son noticed.

“He got on my lap, and I started explaining it to him, and then he was so intrigued that we kept playing,” she says. “You were going and helping people and saving people, and he was really interested in doing that.”

The game puts the player in the shoes of Radhika, a poor woman in India who lives on a farm. As Kosh plays with Dylan on her lap, Radhika’s goat gives birth.

“Remember what happens when they have a baby?” Kosh asks Dylan. “How does that help everybody in the community?”

“We can, um… so then we can get goat milk!” he says. Continue reading “Video game activism”

California hate crimes decrease

California declined about 12 percent last year and has dropped by more than one-third over the past decade, the state attorney general’s office said Wednesday.

There were 930 reported hate crimes in 2012, down from 1,060 in 2011 and 1,491 in 2003, reports SF Gate

“Hate crimes based on the victim’s race, ethnicity or national origin dropped 10 percent, from 587 in 2011 to 528 last year. But they still accounted for nearly 57 percent of complaints. Black people have been the most common target, accounting for about one-third of victims in the past decade.

“Hate crimes targeting a victim’s sexual orientation was the next largest category. Reports fell nearly 4 percent, from 244 in 2011 to 235 in 2012.

“Within that category, hate crimes against gay men dropped from 111 in 2011 to 88 last year. But there were 77 crimes targeting gay men in 2003, making that category the only one to show an increase in the 10-year comparison. Those involving a victim’s religion dropped nearly 28 percent last year, from 201 in 2011 to 145 in 2012. Jews were once again the most common target. The reports are submitted to the attorney general’s office by California law enforcement agencies and district attorney’s offices.

“While overall numbers are down this year, any hate crime hurts the people and values of California,” state Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. Continue reading “California hate crimes decrease”

American eating habits worsen

Americans’ eating habits have deteriorated in 2013, as fewer adults report eating healthy all day “yesterday” in every month so far this year compared with the same months in 2012, reports Gallup.images

“In particular, healthy eating in June, July, August, and September declined by at least three percentage points from the same months in 2012. Moreover, in most months this year, healthy eating has been at its lowest in Gallup trends since 2008.Gallup and Healthways ask at least 500 Americans each day about their eating habits as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

“Healthy eating generally follows a seasonal pattern, gradually declining in the spring, ticking up in the late summer months, and then falling steeply in November and December. The increase between December 2012 and January 2013 was 1.9 percentage points, which is lower than the typical New Year’s uptick. Additionally, May and June 2013 brought steeper-than-usual declines.

“In terms of a more specific dietary practice, fewer Americans have reported eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables at least four days per week in most months so far in 2013 compared with the same months in 2012. The only exceptions were March and October. This decline in produce consumption could be related to the worsening of Americans’ self-reported eating habits.

Healthy eating, which is linked to lower risk of obesity, is down for all months in 2013 when compared with 2012. Additionally, the percentage of Americans who report eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables at least four times a week has dropped in eight out of 10 months so far in 2013. Both healthy eating and produce consumption tend to decrease in November and December, likely attributable to Americans’ indulging during the holiday season. As the U.S. obesity rate continues to increase across almost all demographic groups, it is critical that Americans begin to eat healthier and exercise more.


More at: http://www.gallup.com/poll/166070/americans-eating-habits-worsening-2013.aspx?utm_source=feedly

“Physicians also have an important role to play in improving Americans’ eating habits, given their ability to advise patients about best dietary practices. Last summer, 66% of Americans told Gallup their physician speaks with them about the benefits of a healthy diet. That may go up, now that the American Medical Association has classified obesity as a disease, possibly encouraging more doctors to try to positively influence their patients’ dietary choices. Additionally, according to Gallup data, doctors themselves are more likely to have a healthy diet and to frequently consume produce than other employed adults, potentially making their message more credible.”

Younger people with HIV more stressed

Younger people with HIV may experience more isolation and stress than older people with the disease, according to a recent study.

Researchers from Case Western Reserve University found that people younger than age 50 with HIV feel more disconnected from their support group of family and friends, largely because of stigma they felt because of their disease, researchers found, reports Huffington Post

“Meanwhile, people age 50 and older with HIV had a stronger support group they could rely on.

“The younger, newly diagnosed individual may not know anyone in their peer group with a chronic illness, much less HIV,” study researcher Allison Webel, Ph.D., RN, an assistant professor at the university’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, said in a statement.

“The researchers also found that people with HIV generally experienced higher levels of stress than those without. Specifically, HIV-positive people were 30 to 40 percent more stressed than people without the disease. Women were especially likely to experience stress from HIV.

“The findings, published in the journal AIDS Care, are based on data from 102 people with HIV between ages 18 and 64 who were surveyed on their feelings of stress and isolation. They also had their heart rate variability measured. The average participant in the study was African-American, had been managing HIV for almost 14 years, was of low-income, and was age 48.”


More at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/younger-hiv-stress-isolation_n_4339721.html

UCLA protest over racial hostility

The University of California at Los Angeles has come under fire multiple times this fall for the state of race relations there, reports InsideHigherEd.images “First, concern over the treatment of minority professors prompted a sobering report detailing instances of race-based discrimination against faculty members. Next, Sy Stokes and other black male undergrads made their now-viral video about their slim ranks on campus.

“Now some graduate students are weighing in on what they see as a climate of hostility toward minority students, both in the Graduate School of Education’s Information’s Social Science and Comparative Education division and at UCLA as a whole. But the grad students’ interruption of a class session with a sit-in has other graduate students questioning their tactics — and some say their accusations are unfair.

“What we’re speaking to is part of a larger, institutionalized culture on campus,” said Kenjus Waston, a black Ph.D. candidate in the division and an organizing member of UCLA Call 2 Action: Graduate Students of Color. The group staged a sit-in, or what it called a “teach-in,” during a second-level dissertation preparation course in the division this month. Watson said members hoped to address racially motivated “microagressions” – seemingly innocuous but ultimately hurtful comments or actions – that have marked their time at UCLA.

“About 25 students participated in the sit-in, in the classroom of Val Rust, professor emeritus of education. Watson – a student in that class – said Rust’s course was one of many in which students of “color and consciousness” have experienced discrimination. Of about 10 students in the class, 5 participated in the sit-in. Participants read a letter listing their complaints and a series of demands for reform. Regular coursework was suspended for about an hour because of the sit-in. Continue reading “UCLA protest over racial hostility”

Corporations expand transgender health care

Nearly one fourth of Fortune 500 companies, such as Apple and General Mills, cover medical expenses associated with transgender care, according to gay and transgender rights group Human Rights Campaign.

That’s up from 19 percent last year. When the group began tracking transgender benefits in 2002, no Fortune 500 companies offered them, reports Newsday.

“The trend shows how much companies want their workplaces to be perceived as welcoming and progressive. Since the Human Rights Campaign began grading companies on the inclusiveness of their benefits for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees, many companies have beefed up their benefits for those groups.

“Beginning in 2011, companies could only receive a 100 percent rating on the group’s Corporate Equality Index by offering at least one insurance plan covering up to $75,000 worth of counseling, hormone therapy and sexual reassignment surgery — the medical term for a sex-change operation. The number of Fortune 500 companies meeting the requirement jumped to 121 this year from 39 in 2011.

“Companies are recognizing that . . . in order to remain competitive in corporate America, you can’t offer discriminatory plans,” says Jennifer Levi, a professor at the Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass.

“While more companies offer transgender benefits, most government programs like Medicare and Medicaid classify sexual reassignment surgery as cosmetic or experimental and do not cover it. Continue reading “Corporations expand transgender health care”

How income inequality kills

Only a few miles separate the Baltimore neighborhoods of Roland Park and Upton Druid Heights. But residents of the two areas can measure the distance between them in years—twenty years, to be exact. Today’s edition of The Nation explains:

“That’s the difference in life expectancy between Roland Park, where people live to be 83 on average, and Upton Druid Heights, where they can expect to die at 63.


“Underlying these gaps in life expectancy are vast economic disparities. Roland Park is an affluent neighborhood with an unemployment rate of 3.4 percent, and a median household income above $90,000. More than 17 percent of people in Upton Druid Heights are unemployed, and the median household income is just $13,388.

“It’s no secret that this sort of economic inequality is increasing nationwide; the disparity between America’s richest and poorest is the widest it’s been since the Roaring Twenties. Less discussed are the gaps in life expectancy that have widened over the past twenty-five years between America’s counties, cities and neighborhoods. While the country as a whole has gotten richer and healthier, the poor have gotten poorer, the middle class has shrunk and Americans without high school diplomas have seen their life expectancy slide back to what it was in the 1950s. Economic inequalities manifest not in numbers, but in sick and dying bodies.

“On Wednesday, Senator Bernie Sanders convened a hearing before the Primary Health and Aging subcommittee to examine the connections between material and physiological well-being, and the policy implications. With Congress fixed on historic reforms to the healthcare delivery system, the doctors and public health professionals who testified this morning made it clear that policies outside of the healthcare domain are equally vital for keeping people healthy—namely, those that target poverty and inequality. Continue reading “How income inequality kills”

Why gender inequality persists

After two steps forward, we were unprepared for the abrupt slowdown on the road to gender equality. We can make sense of the current predicament, however — and gain a better sense of how to resume our forward motion — if we can grasp the forces that drove the change in the first place, state a piece in today’s New York Times

“It’s difficult to imagine (or remember) American women’s world in the early 1960s, described to chilling effect by Stephanie Coontz in “A Strange Stirring: ‘The Feminine Mystique’ and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960s.” Women responding to sex-segregated help-wanted ads (including in The New York Times until 1968) faced rampant — and completely legal — employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, motherhood, pregnancy and appearance. They faced obstacles obtaining loans or buying property without their husbands’ approval. Rape within marriage was not a crime, and domestic violence was just barely one. Divorce was relatively rare. Birth control was illegal in many places, and elective abortion was banned.

“Women organized against these injustices with increasing success in the 1970s, but one precondition for their gains was the postwar expansion of the market into new areas, especially education, health care, child care and other services. For women, that meant the monetization of fields of work that were traditionally their unpaid responsibility, spurring growth in jobs for which women were preferred and creating powerful incentives to enter the labor force. This in turn generated greater demand for services, from fast food to child care to couples therapy. In response to an upward spiral of employment opportunities, women pursued education in greater numbers, married later (if at all) and had fewer children.

“Rising demand in formerly male-dominated industries also drew women into the labor force. Consider the story of one woman whose working-class family did not expect her to pursue a career. With mediocre high school grades, she went to a community college. She decided to leave after a year to get a legal secretary certificate, which led to a law firm job, and finally a job as administrative assistant to a corporate executive, where she eventually earned about as much as her husband, an electrician. Continue reading “Why gender inequality persists”

England’s politics: The Art Party

Big names from British art have been at the inaugural Art Party Conference, an alternative political party conference that saw delegates chew


 over the state of culture in the UK and throw missiles at a likeness of Education Secretary Michael Gove, as reported by the BBC:

“Where are we going?” called the artist Bob and Roberta Smith. “Scarborough!” came the enthusiastic reply from a couple of hundred artists, students and art teachers. They were in Scarborough already, in fact, marching along on the beach with colourful placards. “What are we going to do when we get there?” called Smith, who is one man but uses both names Bob and Roberta.

“Breakfast!” shouted a voice. “Party!” replied another. The mob had not got the hang of the response Smith has been training them to shout: “To better advocate the arts to government!” They were on their way to the first Art Party Conference, an artists’ alternative to the annual political party conferences that always used to be held in such seaside resorts. An adapted coconut shy has busts of Michael Gove instead of coconuts Organised by artists, the event had an appropriate air of anarchy and oddness, but with serious intent and indignation at its heart. It was, the venerable sculptor Richard Wentworth remarked, like “a cross between a Navajo gathering and an Irish horse fair”. In the main hall, a Salvador Dali impersonator acted as the compere as figures from the arts world mounted a kind of pulpit to deliver short sermons on the state of the arts.

Continue reading “England’s politics: The Art Party”

Treatment lags for teens with mental health conditions

Less than half of American teens with mental health disorders receive treatment, and those who do get help rarely see a mental health specialist, a new study indicates, reports Reuters today.

“The findings underscore the need for better mental health services for teens, said study author E. Jane Costello, associate director of the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy in Durham, N.C.

“It’s still the case in this country that people don’t take psychiatric conditions as seriously as they should,” Costello said in a Duke news release. This remains so, despite a wave of mass shootings in which mental illness may have played a role, she and her colleagues noted.

“The analysis of data from more than 10,000 teens aged 13 to 17 across the United States also showed that treatment rates varied greatly for different types of mental health problems. For example, teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder oppositional defiant disorder received mental health care more than 70 percent of the time, while those with phobias or anxiety disorders were least likely to be treated. The researchers also found that blacks were much less likely than whites to be treated for mental disorders, according to the study, published online Nov. 15 in the journal Psychiatric Services. In many cases, teens received treatment from pediatricians, school counselors or probation officers, rather than mental health specialists. This is because there are not enough qualified child mental health professionals to handle the demand, said Costello, who is also a professor of psychology and epidemiology at Duke University. Continue reading “Treatment lags for teens with mental health conditions”

Acts of kindness: explained

The eminent sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that life is a series of performances, in which we are all continually managing the impression we give other people.

As discussed in today’s The Atlantic, “If this is so, then public spaces function like a stage in the same way


that our own homes and living rooms do. Architecture, landscaping, the dimensions of the stage, and the other actors around us all offer cues about how we should perform and how we should treat one another.

“A man might urinate in a graffiti-covered alleyway, but he would not dream of doing so in the manicured mews outside an old folks’ home. He would be more likely to offer a kindness in an environment where he felt he was among family or friends, or being watched, than in some greasy back alley. In Goffman’s world, these are conscious, calculated responses to the stage setting. But recently we have learned that some of our social responses occur even without conscious consideration. Like other animals, we have evolved to assess risks and rewards in the landscapes around us unconsciously.

“The evolutionary biologists D. S. Wilson and Daniel O’Brien showed a group of nonresidents pictures of various streetscapes from Binghamton, New York. Some of those streets featured broken pavement, unkempt lawns, and dilapidated homes. Others featured crisp sidewalks and well-kept yards and homes. Then the volunteers were invited to play a game developed by experimental economists in which they were told that they would be trading money with someone from the neighborhood they had viewed. You probably already know how they behaved: the volunteers were much more trusting and generous when they believed they were facing off with someone from the tidier, well-kept neighborhood. Continue reading “Acts of kindness: explained”

Breaking up with Barbie

imagesFor centuries, dolls have helped children develop their socio-emotional skills by teaching them how to empathize with others. Last year, dolls raked in nearly $2.7 billion in sales, making them one of the toy industry’s biggest items, reports Ms today

“Not all of today’s dolls offer emotionally healthy experiences for children. Increasingly, parents are speaking out against how mainstream toys send children negative messages about such issues as gender, body image and race.

“The last few years have seen several sexy head-to-toe makeovers of popular children’s characters. Dora the Explorer, once hailed by parents everywhere for her stereotype-bashing, was transformed from a cute toddler to a Barbie-in-training. Strawberry Shortcake used to be most recognizable for her frumpy hat and green stockings, but now she sports pink locks and long lashes. Even gender-neutral trolls have been reincarnated as hip and sexy Trollz, rivaling Bratz, the Winx Club and Monster High for the title of “sexiest dolls on the block.” The list of sexualized, feminized toys goes on: Holly Hobby, Legos, My Little Pony, Polly Pocket, Rainbow Bright. Even the Care Bears are now more pretty and feminine than they are fun and fluffy.

“When it comes to their effects on children, particularly young girls, these sexualized makeovers aren’t all fun and games. “When we give a child a doll, what we’re saying to that child is ‘This is what people look like, this is what women look like, this is what you might aspire to,’” says Susan Linn, executive director ofCampaign for a Commercial Free Childhood (CCFC). With dolls getting prettier and skinnier than ever, it comes as no surprise that, by age 3, girls begin to equate thinness with beauty and popularity. By age 5, they express dissatisfaction with their weight, and by age 9 many experience the onset of eating disorders. Continue reading “Breaking up with Barbie”

Worries about fed college rating system

As Education Department officials fan out across the country to hear feedback on the administration’s proposed college rating system, the associations that represent colleges are starting to stake out firmer stances against some parts of the plan, reports InsideHigherEd

“After offering a relatively restrained response early on, higher education associations are beginning to more clearly articulate their concerns about the administration’s ratings plan, even


though it’s still not clear what such a ratings system will look like. President Obama in August proposed that colleges be rated based on metrics measuring their affordability, accessibility to low-income students, and student outcomes. The administration plans to publish those college ratings by the 2015 academic year and eventually persuade Congress to allocate federal student aid based on how institutions perform.

“The department holds the last of its four public hearings Thursday at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. But officials have been meeting privately with student advocates, college presidents and other stakeholders.

“The leaders of private nonprofit colleges gathered in here last week, in part, to map out their response to the proposed ratings system and meet with department officials.

“David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said the college presidents on his board were in agreement in principle with the administration’s goals but took exception to a federal ratings system.    Continue reading “Worries about fed college rating system”

Welcome to LA by Catherine Opie

Catherine Opie confessed she was never a fan of the posters atLAX showing the mayor welcoming air travelers to Los Angeles, reports today’s LA Timesla-et-cm-eric-garcetti-catherine-opie-lax-2013-001

“I always thought they could have been done better,” the photographer said. Starting Thursday, there will be a new series of airport posters that Opie created featuring Mayor Eric Garcetti shot against famous L.A. backdrops.

“The new photographs will show Garcetti kayaking on the L.A. River and posing alongside such cultural landmarks as the Watts Towers and Chris Burden’s “Urban Light” sculpture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Another will show the mayor at the Hollywood Farmers Market. Speaking in a car on her way to teach a class at UCLA, Opie said Wednesday she conceived the series after helping to organize a fundraiser for Garcetti’s mayoral campaign. “I wanted to do something that had a community component. I pitched it to the mayor and his team and they liked it,” she said.

“The posters at LAX are created by the L.A. Tourism & Convention Board, though Garcetti’s office had led the effort, according to a spokeswoman for the mayor. Ideas for backdrops were solicited online and the most popular request was the L.A. River. Opie recalled she stood in the middle of the river, wearing an old pair of tennis shoes, and instructed the mayor to paddle back and forth as he sat in a kayak. In choosing Watts Towers, she said she “wanted to to celebrate what a great city this is for art. I don’t think enough people go out to Watts Towers.” The photographer is already working with Garcetti on more images in the LAX series. She recently photographed the mayor at the California Science Center, with the space shuttle Endeavor in the background. Continue reading “Welcome to LA by Catherine Opie”

Tracking elder abuse

As the baby-boomer generation reaches retirement age, a difficult topic is gaining more attention: elder abuse.

An article in today’s New York Times discusses several notable cases, and efforts being taken by states to address this looming problem:

“A pretty nightie, a new lipstick, a fresh toothbrush: Doris Racher noticed that small things she had bought for her 96-year-old mother, Eryetha Mayberry, a dementia patient at a nursing home in Oklahoma City, had been disappearing. Ms. Racher assumed the culprit was another resident who sometimes wandered into her mother’s room and fell asleep in her bed. So in 2012, Ms. Racher placed a motion-activated camera in her mother’s room. It looked like an alarm clock, and Ms. Racher nearly forgot about it.

“About two months later, the family decided to pore through the recordings. The camera had not caught the petty thief. But it captured something else: An aide stuffed latex gloves into Mrs. Mayberry’s mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing. Hoisting her from her wheelchair, they flung her on a bed. One performed a few heavy-handed chest compressions.

“Hidden cameras are finding their way into long-term care facilities, often placed by families to watch the staff; lizards, turtles and snakes are proving more intelligent than once thought; why it might be evolutionarily beneficial for women to be rude to one another.

“My niece started bawling and couldn’t watch anymore,” said Ms. Racher, 78. “I was furious.” Mrs. Mayberry died soon after.

“On Nov. 1, propelled by the outcry over the Mayberry case, Oklahoma became the third state — along with New Mexico and Texas — to explicitly permit residents in long-term care facilities to maintain surveillance cameras in their rooms. In the last two years, at least five states have considered similar legislation. Although some states have administrative guidelines for electronic monitoring, most legislative efforts have stalled because of questions about liability and, in particular, privacy rights, raised by facility owners, unions, elder care lawyers and families.  Continue reading “Tracking elder abuse”

Sleep helps with depression

imagesCuring insomnia in people with depression could double their chance of a full recovery, scientists are reporting. The findings, based on an insomnia treatment that uses talk therapy rather than drugs, are the first to emerge from a series of closely watched studies of sleep and depression to be released in the coming year, reports the New York Times

“The new report affirms the results of a smaller pilot study, giving scientists confidence that the effects of the insomnia treatment are real. If the figures continue to hold up, the advance will be the most significant in the treatment of depression since the introduction of Prozac in 1987.

“Depression is the most common mental disorder, affecting some 18 million Americans in any given year, according to government figures, and more than half of them also have insomnia.

“Experts familiar with the new report said that the results were plausible and that if supported by other studies, they should lead to major changes in treatment.

“It would be an absolute boon to the field,” said Dr. Nada L. Stotland, professor of psychiatry at Rush Medical College in Chicago, who was not connected with the latest research.

“It makes good common sense clinically,” she continued. “If you have a depression, you’re often awake all night, it’s extremely lonely, it’s dark, you’re aware every moment that the world around you is sleeping, every concern you have is magnified.”The study is the first of four on sleep and depression nearing completion, all financed by the National Institute of Mental Health. Continue reading “Sleep helps with depression”

Not blaming schools

Google the phrase “education crisis” and you’ll be hit with a glut of articles, blog posts and think tank reports claiming the entire American school system is facing an emergency.Much of this agitprop additionally asserts that teachers unions are the primary cause of the alleged problem. Not surprisingly, the fabulists pushing these narratives are often backed by


anti-public school conservatives and anti-union plutocrats. But a little-noticed study released last week provides yet more confirmation that neither the “education crisis” meme or the “evil teachers’ union” narrative is accurate.

Before looking at that study, consider some of the ways we already know that the dominant storyline about education is, indeed, baseless propaganda.

As I’ve reported before, we know that American public school students from wealthy districts generate some of the best test scores in the world. This proves that the education system’s problems are not universal–the crisis is isolated primarily in the parts of the system that operate in high poverty areas. It also proves that while the structure of the traditional public school system is hardly perfect, it is not the big problem in America’s K-12 education system. If it was the problem, then traditional public schools in rich neighborhoods would not perform as well as they do.

Similarly, we know that many of the high-performing public schools in America’s wealthy locales are unionized.

We also know that one of the best school systems in the world—Finland’s—is fully unionized. These facts prove that teachers’ unions are not the root cause of the education problem, either. After all, if unions were the problem, then unionized public schools in wealthy areas and Finland would be failing, reports In These Times.

“So what is the problem? That brings us to the new study from the Southern Education Foundation. Cross-referencing and education data, researchers found that that a majority of all public school students in one third of America’s states now come from low-income families.   Continue reading “Not blaming schools”

Not buying the “Buyers Club” revisionism

Critics have showered Dallas Buyers Club with praise, which is good news for Focus Features and Matthew McConaughey, whose outsized performance swings for the fences.

But it’s bad news for LGBT history and the history of AIDS activism, writes Partrick Mulcahey in Huff Post. You see, Mulcahey ws really thre in those days:

“McConaughey plays Ron Woodroof, a Texan homophobe who loves rodeo, drugs, booze, and loose women and scams for cash. The chance discovery in 1985 that he has HIV and a T-cell count of 9 marks him for imminent death, but he won’t go down easy. He buys AZT stolen from a study. He smuggles unproven treatments home from Mexico to sell at a profit, cutting a deal with a drug-addicted transgender woman (a transcendent Jared Leto) who disgusts him for access to gay men who might be desperate enough to pay.

“What is largely missing is the sense that Ron’s efforts are part of a larger movement,” theNew York Times review diplomatically suggests. Variety puts it more artlessly, gushing over McConaughey as “a redneck bigot who becomes the unlikely savior to a generation of gay men frightened by a disease they don’t yet understand.”

“Really? Is that how you remember it, if you remember it? ACT UP doesn’t exist in Dallas Buyers Club, nor do NAPWA, the PWA Health Group, GMHC, John James’ AIDS Treatment News, the Healing Alternatives Foundation.  The film’s only gay characters are weak, docile, dithering, relegated to the background, standing in line for what Woodroof is selling — and overselling.

“In 1986, after years of blind rage — at the sickness and sanctimony, the calls for quarantine, the hawking of crystals; at affirmation-spewing quacks like Louise Hay; at the sheer, harrowing loss of friends and neighbors and co-workers — I stumbled into Project Inform’s shabby little office in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood. Two men, Tom Jefferson and Ron Koslow (“a Texas sissy, honey”), were on the phones, answering questions about experimental treatments for AIDS. (There was no other kind, of course.) I learned to take calls. I stuffed mailing packets with information about ribavirin, AL721, isoprinosine, interferon, rifabutin, pentamidine, fluconazole, and dextran sulfate and how to get them. I scanned the AmfAR Treatment Directory and study lists from all over to identify clinical trials that our callers might qualify for. Continue reading “Not buying the “Buyers Club” revisionism”

Community college students and later attrition

Community college students face long odds of eventually earning a bachelor’s degree. And those odds get worse if they leave college more than once along the way, reports Inside Higher Ed

“That is the central finding of a new study that tracked the progress of 38,000 community college students in Texas. Toby J. Park, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy at Florida State University, conducted the research. His working paper was presented Thursday at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education in St. Louis.

“The group of students he studied first enrolled in 2000. Among them, fully 94 percent “stopped out” of college at least once, by experiencing a “period of non-enrollment.”

“Most of the students returned to their studies, according to the paper, which is titled “Stop-Out and Time for Work: An Analysis of Degree Trajectories for Community College Students.” More than 20,000, or 72 percent, of the cohort came back to some Texas college in the sample, which used data from the Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the state’s comptroller.

“Even students who eventually earned a bachelor’s degree were likely to spend time away from college. Only 13 percent of the 6,200 four-year degree-holders in the sample did not stop out.

“However, the study found that 76 percent of those degree completers took only one break from college. After stopping out after a second time, the percentage of returning students completing a bachelor’s degree decreases substantially.

“If you leave twice,” Park said, “you’re not going to come back.” Continue reading “Community college students and later attrition”