Gender, race, schools and technology

When people talk about how to diversify the tech field, a common solution is, “Start earlier.”images

As discussed in a recent essay in The Atlantic, “Rather than focus on getting women and minorities hired at tech startups or encouraging them to major in computer science in college, there should be a push to turn them on to the discipline when they’re still teenagers—or even younger.

“It’s already too late,” Paul Graham, founder of the tech entrepreneur boot camp Y Combinator, said last month in a controversial interview. “What we should be doing is somehow changing the middle school computer science curriculum or something like that.”

“Right now, the “start early” strategy doesn’t seem to be working: The students doing advanced computer science work in high school remain overwhelmingly white and male. According to data from the College Board compiled by Georgia Tech’s Barbara Ericson, only a small percentage of the high-schoolers taking the Advanced Placement Computer Science exam are women. Black and Latino students make up an even lower percentage of the test-takers.

“Ericson’s analysis of the data shows that in 2013, 18 percent of the students who took the exam were women. Eight percent were Hispanic, and four percent were African-American. In contrast, Latinos make up 22 percent of the school-age population in the U.S.; African-Americans make up 14 percent. (I don’t need to tell you that women make up about half.) Continue reading “Gender, race, schools and technology”

Runaway production

UnknownThe number of top-grossing films made in California has dropped 60% in the last 15 years.

A big share of TV production has also left the state, as the Los Angeles Times reports today:

“All that business has gone to other states that offer filmmakers a better deal. About 40 states — North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana and New York prominent among them — now give tax breaks to movie and TV producers. In 2012, those tax breaks, rebates and grants totaled $1.5 billion, according to the Times analysis.

“One producer who has taken advantage of the growing phenomenon is Gregory Bonann, the man who gave the world “Baywatch.” Bonann has not left the beach with his new TV series, “SAF3,” a show that features fictional stories about an elite rescue task force in Malibu. But he has left California. Early in the planning stages for the new series, Bonann decided to save money by taking advantage of the tax incentives in North Carolina and was set to shoot there. Then, he was offered an even sweeter deal in South Africa. California could not compete.

“California leaders may need to be even more proactive if the state is to retain its signature industry. But more than the movie business is in play in the competition between states. There is a wide range of companies the states are trying to steal from one another in a spiral of ever-more-generous tax breaks. Some economists now say many states are giving away so much revenue that the price being paid may outweigh the benefit. Continue reading “Runaway production”

Meryl Streep vs Walt Disney

The National Board of Review dinner is like the big pre-game to the Golden Globes,where wine bottles are uncorked in New York and don’t stop flowing until the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s gala on Sunday. But according to Variety, “This year’s ceremony will forever be remembered for its nine-minute tour-de-force speech from Meryl Streep.


“Streep, for once, wasn’t invited to accept an award. Instead, she was there to honor Emma Thompson for her portrait as “Mary Poppins” creator P.L. Travers in Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”

“There was plenty of effusive Thompson praising in the speech — with phrases like “she’s practically a saint” and “she’s a beautiful artist” — and it ended with a poem that Streep had written for her friend titled “An Ode to Emma, Or What Emma is Owed.” But Streep also made a point of blasting Walt Disney for his sexist and anti-Semitic stances.

“The edgy riff offered a different perspective on Disney from the sugarcoated hero played by Tom Hanks in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Streep was once rumored to be in the running for the role of P.L. Travers, although her remarks suggest why she might not have pursued the project.

“Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women,” Streep said, quoting esteemed animator Ward Kimball on his old boss: “He didn’t trust women or cats.”

“Streep talked about how Disney “supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group” and called him a “gender bigot.” She read a letter that his company wrote in 1938 to an aspiring female animator. It included the line, “Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men.” Continue reading “Meryl Streep vs Walt Disney”

Tenure and incompetence

Want your colleagues to remain effective teachers and researchers after tenure?


Then prioritize quality over quantity in publishing during the tenure process, avoid collegiality as a tenure criterion and make sure your administrators aren’t rubber-stamping faculty tenure recommendations.

As InsideHigherEd puts it, “That’s according to a new study out in this month’s PS: Political Science and Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association.

“When Tenure Protects the Incompetent: Results from a Survey of Department Chairs” (an abstract of which is available here), is based on results of a survey of 361 responding political science chairs at doctoral, master’s and baccalaureate institutions regarding faculty incompetence and tenure. The author, John Rothgeb, a professor of political science at Miami University, in Ohio, said in an interview he was inspired to explore the topic in light of recent state-level debates, including in Ohio, about the value of tenure and whether or not it made faculty members less effective as researchers and educators. And most of those debates happen without empirical data to support arguments on either side, he said – partly because data are hard to come by.

“I was concerned about tenure because of the many claims you read about all the time [that] tenure is destroying higher education, and blah blah blah,” Rothgeb said in an interview. “And if you serve on tenure committees, as I do at Miami University, we’re always talking about what tenure means, but I wondered, do you really know what you’re talking about what you say all these kinds of things?” Continue reading “Tenure and incompetence”

The world of the future

What does the future of the U.S. and world look like?

The present is, well, not all that encouraging, according to an essays today in The Motley Fool:

“Unemployment is stuck painfully high. GDP growth is painfully low. The American political system has been deadlocked in shutdowns, fiscal cliffs,

and partisan bickering. People are genuinely concerned about the future.


“But the present is constantly becoming the past. Every moment the future becomes the now. And every day, it’s the millennial generation that is defining that future. With help from a great infographic from Badgeville (see below for the full graphic), here are nine facts that paint a picture of the future, a future designed, defined, and directed by the next great generation of Americans.

“Millennials: The good, the bad, and the ugly

“1. Millennials have already witnessed three wars (including the longest in U.S. history), a presidential impeachment, a Great Recession, and the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor. Oh, and there’s this Internet thing. Millennials see the world as a dynamic place. Their existence is both local and global. It’s connected. An infinite amount of information, knowledge, and content is available anytime, anywhere, and in the palm of your hand (and soon perhaps on the lens of your glasses). The future of America is not the suburban two-car garages and white picket fences of the baby boomer generation.

“2. Millennials are overeducated, underemployed, and in debt. But they still want to work hard and do a good job. Sixty-three percent of millennials have a bachelors degree, 48% of those with college degrees are in jobs that do not require a college degree, and the average millennial has $45,000 in debt. The promises of their youth have not proven themselves out. The mantra of “go to college, get a job, be successful” has proven to be a false promise. As a result, many millennials are even more distrustful of authority than their parent’s generation was. And yet, millennials still strive to succeed. Ninety-five percent of millennials work harder when they know where their work is going. Eighty percent prefer on the spot recognition instead of formal reviews. Ninety percent want their workplace to be fun and social. The disconnect is a contrast between the business culture of the baby boomer generation that — from a millennial perspective — has failed them, and the expectations a generation raised on the Internet, Facebook, and near constant smartphone notifications. Continue reading “The world of the future”

Los Angeles museum back from the brink

imgresAfter three years of tumultuous leadership, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles said it was nearing the end of a search for a new director and announced on Monday that it had reached a fund-raising milestone that would ensure it does not have to merge with another institution or face dissolution.

The New York Times reports that “the museum, which has one of the most important collections of postwar art in the country but has struggled financially for years, said it had a combination of “firm commitments” and donations in hand that would raise its endowment to $100 million. The amount, a goal its board members set last year, is by far the highest in the museum’s history.

“At its low point in 2008, because of overspending and flagging investments during the recession, the endowment dwindled to only a few million from a high of more than $40 million at the beginning of the decade. The billionaire collector Eli Broad, one of the museum’s founding board members, came to the rescue, donating $15 million and pledging $15 million more to match contributions by others. But the museum struggled to find donors who would allow those matching funds to be used. Continue reading “Los Angeles museum back from the brink”

Those with less more prone to save

Americans’ desire to save money rather than spend it may help those vowing to show more financial restraint in the new year, as reported by Gallup.images-1

“Still, this desire may not translate into more savings in 2014, as those with the least resources in terms of disposable income are actually the most likely to prefer saving money to spending it. This may mean that even as much as the country professes to enjoy saving money, not all are able to do so for financial reasons.

“In fact, Americans with the absolute lowest annual household incomes, $20,000 or less, are the most likely to say they enjoy saving money (66%) rather than spending it (30%), compared with Americans at other income levels. The propensity to save drops off notably among those bringing in $50,000 or more, though the majority still lean that way, including 56% of those with household incomes between $50,000 and $74,999 and 55% of those earning $75,000 or more.

“These results come from aggregated Gallup data spanning 2009 to 2013, including interviews with 6,127 U.S. adults. Particularly since the 2008 financial crisis, the majority of Americans have said they prefer saving money to spending it. This stands in contrast to their preferences between 2001 and 2008, when they were more evenly divided between saving and spending money. Even as the economic recovery nears its fifth year, the preference to spend rather than save has not recovered to pre-crisis norms. Continue reading “Those with less more prone to save”

Oscar’s gender

In an ideal world, there would be no Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.No Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress either. In this hypothetical Hollywood, recognition is bestowed for the most masterful performance of the year—gender regardless.

But as Pacific Standards reports today, “Obviously, we don’t live in that world. Despite all the Jennifer


Lawrences and Melissa McCarthys, Hollywood is still dominated by a conspicuous gender bias. Swedish cinemas made news in November after several adopted the Bechdel test to identify gender bias in the material of various films—going so far as to exclude failing films from cinema lineups. It’s certainly a problem worth addressing, but perhaps the gravest examples of Hollywood gender bias lie behind the scenes.

“The New York Film Academy compiled this helpful infographic to illustrate some of the more shocking statistics. Among them:

  • In the top 500 films produced from 2007 to 2012, only 30.8 percent of speaking roles are filled by women.
  • Only 10.7 percent of those films featured a gender-balanced cast (half of the characters being female).
  • There are 2.25 working actors for every working actress in Hollywood today.
  • Ninety-one percent of working directors are male.
  • Eighty-five percent of working screenwriters are male.
  • Eighty-three percent of executive producers are male.
  • Ninety-eight percent of cinematographers are male.
  • Only 35 women were nominated for Academy Awards in 2013, as opposed to 140 men. There were no women nominated for directing, cinematography, film editing, original screenplays, or original scores.
  • Seventy-seven percent of voters in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are male. (Seventy-seven percent!) Continue reading “Oscar’s gender”

Abortion under siege across America


A three-year surge in anti-abortion measures in more than half the states has altered the landscape for abortion access, with supporters and opponents agreeing that the new restrictions are shutting some clinics, threatening others and making it far more difficult in many regions to obtain the procedure.

  Advocates for both sides are preparing for new political campaigns and court battles that could redefine the constitutional limits for curbing the right to abortion set by the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and later modifications by the Supreme Court.

On Monday, in a clash that is likely to reach the Supreme Court, a federal appeals court in New Orleans will hear arguments on a Texas requirement that abortion doctors have admitting privileges at local hospitals — a measure that caused one-third of the state’s abortion clinics to close, at least temporarily. As the New York Times today reports:

“Advocates for abortion rights, taking heart from recent signs in Virginia and New Mexico that proposals for strong or intrusive controls may alienate voters, hope to help unseat some Republican governors this year as well as shore up the Democratic majority in the United States Senate.

“Anti-abortion groups aim to consolidate their position in dozens of states and to push the Senate to support a proposal adopted by the Republican-controlled House for a nationwide ban on most abortions at 20 weeks after conception.

“I think we are at a potential turning point: Either access to abortion will be dramatically restricted in the coming year or perhaps the pushback will begin,” said Suzanne Goldberg, director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia University.

“The anti-abortion groups, for their part, feel emboldened by new tactics that they say have wide public appeal even as they push the edges of Supreme Court guidelines, including costly clinic regulations and bans on late abortions.”

More at:

The conservative stupidity agenda

Among the many visionary goals of our nation’s right wing—impoverish older people, starve the poor, deny climate change, outlaw abortion and contraception, eliminate healthcare for millions—few are more foundational than defunding education in general and higher education in particular.images

As Susan Douglas writes in In These Times, “Public colleges and universities nationwide have seen significant funding cuts over the past five years, and while the recession is usually blamed, the Right keeps the fiscal screws tight by cutting taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Here in Michigan, in Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s first budget, there was a 15 percent cut in state aid to universities and a $1.8 billion tax cut for businesses.

“This equals a win-win for the Right: Keep the fat cats in your corner, and constrain the opportunity for young people to learn a host of things that might, well, make them interrogate right-wing policies. The Pew Research Center and others have found that lower income and less-educated whites are becoming more likely to vote Republican than Democrat, with 54 percent of those without a college degree identifying as Republican in 2012; only 37 percent identified as Democratic, so the gap is, well, quite wide. Continue reading “The conservative stupidity agenda”

Glenn Beck denounces “hetero-fascism”

Glenn Beck sat down with CNN this week for an hour-long discussion, in which he made some  uncharacteristic claims about the state of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia. As Huffington Post reports:

“The conservative talking head opened his comments by openly criticizing the media’s attention to Fox News’ Megyn Kelly’s statement about Santa Claus’ race, as well as “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments in his GQ profile. His logic? The media should be focusing their attention elsewhere, such as the extreme climate of fear and violence plaguing LGBT Russians.

“Do you know what happened last week in Russia?” asked Beck. “One of their biggest stars on television said that homosexuals should be put into the ovens alive. I didn’t think you could make the Holocaust worse but he’s like ‘Why the gas chamber? That seems a little too humane. Let’s put them alive in the ovens.'”

“While it might benefit Beck to know that media outlets have been rigorously covering the anti-LGBT sentiment plaguing LGBT Russians since last summer (just maybe not Fox News…), the most interesting tidbit from this interview stems from Beck’s use of the term “hetero-fascism” — and his statement of solidarity with LGBT advocacy group GLAAD. Continue reading “Glenn Beck denounces “hetero-fascism””

On the humanities crisis

images-1A detailed and searching discussion by Michael Bérubé of the ongoing crisis in the humanities recently appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education, as excerpted briefly below:

“Let me start with the bad news. It is not even news anymore; it is simply bad. Graduate education in the humanities is in crisis. Every aspect, from the most specific details of the curriculum to the broadest questions about its purpose, is in crisis. It is a seamless garment of crisis: If you pull on any one thread, the entire thing unravels.

“It is therefore exceptionally difficult to discuss any one aspect of graduate education in isolation. Questions about the function of the dissertation inevitably become questions about the future of scholarly communication; they also entail questions about attrition, time to degree, and the flood of A.B.D.’s, who make up so much of the non-tenure-track and adjunct labor force. Questions about attrition and time to degree open onto questions about the graduate curriculum and the ideal size of graduate programs. Those questions obviously have profound implications for the faculty. So one seamless garment, one complexly interwoven web of trouble.

“In the humanities, when we talk about the purpose of graduate programs and the career trajectories of our graduate students, the discussion devolves almost immediately to the state of the academic job market. For what are we training Ph.D.’s in the humanities to do, other than to take academic positions? Graduate programs in the humanities have been designed precisely to replenish the ranks of the professoriate; that is why they have such a strong research component, also known as the dissertation. But leaving aside a few upticks in the academic job market in the late 1980s and late 1990s, the overall job system in the humanities has been in a state of more or less permanent distress for more than 40 years. Continue reading “On the humanities crisis”

US population growth continues to drop

US population growth has slowed to levels not seen since the Great Depression, images-1according to data released this week by the US census bureau.

The US population was expected to grow just 0.7% in 2013, to arrive at 317,297,938 people on New Year’s Day 2014. That rate was down from 0.73% in 2010-2011 and much lower than the 1.2% growth rate of the 1990s, a decade of economic expansion.

The United States has not seen such slow growth since the Depression era of 1933-1937, according to William Frey, a demographics expert and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Up until 2008, really we didn’t see those growth rates change much,” Frey said. “This sharp bump that we’ve seen in the last few years does suggest that the economy has a lot to do with it.” But average annual growth, Frey said, is a “fairly crude measure” that can miss the underlying influence of immigration laws and changing cultural and social mores.

“In the Great Depression era, migration laws were stricter in the late teens and early to mid-20s,” he said. “You had lower fertility rates as well, with the very dire circumstances” of many families. From 1932-1933, population growth settled at 0.59%, creeping to 0.60% in 1937, according to census bureau figures. Declining unemployment and other recent signs of economic life have yet to register on the population scales. Real GDP growth picked up in 2011 after declining sharply in the first decade of the new millennium, from nearly 1% a year in 2000 to just more than 0.3% in 2010. Continue reading “US population growth continues to drop”