Showing posts with label News. Show all posts
Showing posts with label News. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Robin Williams Gathering Rosebuds

Robin Williams died this week.  He had a unique wit that allowed him to perform amazing feats of improv.  But as we now know he had his demons.  Still, his work will live on forever.  As an actor he showed incredible range.  One of his best was Dead Poet's Society.  In the clip that follows, Robin Williams plays a new teacher with his class.  His lesson is to see the people of the past as just like us - with ambitions, dreams, and hormones.  We should appreciate those that came before us and learn from their successes and failures.  Use this short time on Earth to do as much good as possible.  Mork, the Genie, Popeye, and on an on made people happy.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, 
Old time is still a-flying: And this same flower that smiles to-day To-morrow will be dying.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Hobby Lobby and the Supreme Court Misjudge Emergency Contraceptives

This past week, the US Supreme Court decided that "closely held" companies can opt out of covering particular forms of birth control for their employee insurance based on a "sincere" religious objection.  The sincerely-religious owners of Hobby Lobby objected to the Obamacare requirement of insurance plans to cover birth control for their employees.  To be fair, they did not object to all forms of birth control, just the ones that they felt were the same as causing abortions.  Unfortunately, many people continue to believe that the morning after pill, emergency contraceptive, Plan B, or levonorgestrel is an abortion-causing pill.  The ruling also applied to Inter-Uterine Devices (IUDs) for the same reason.

One problem - these pills do not cause abortions.  An abortion refers to the medical termination of a pregnancy.  Levonorgestrel and IUDs prevent a pregnancy from occurring in the first place.  Thus preventing the potential for an employee to seek an abortion due to an unwanted pregnancy.  Hobby Lobby, and the other conservative companies that will soon be refusing to pay of emergency contraceptives, do provide health insurance plans that cover most of the other forms of oral contraception.  Normal contraceptives must be taken daily and generally at the same time everyday.  Missing a dose can prevent the hormonal control "the pill" is attempting to maintain.  This is were Plan B comes in.  If a woman forgets to take her normal birth control pill, levonorgestrel can help.  And a lot of people forget to take their pills.

So how does Plan B work?  Levonorgestrel is a synthetic version of progestin.  Progestin prevents ovulation.  Pregnancy actually only occurs during a very small window of about 4 or 5 days, sort of.  The sperm can survive for a while waiting for an egg to be released, but the egg lasts for less than a day.  Oral contraceptives prevent the release on an egg over the course of the month.  An emergency contraceptive like levonorgestrel serves as a surge of progestin than prevents ovulation about 72 hours.  To work best, Plan B should be taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, but it doesn't always work.  Levonorgestrel does not work after ovulation.  So if the egg is out, pregnancy is possible whether you take the pill or not.  If fertilization has already occurred, levonorgestrel will not help either.  Some thought that it could prevent implantation of a fertilized egg, but no evidence supports that mechanism of action.  And one thing that it definitely does not do is terminate a pregnancy.

So here's where I am concerned about the Hobby Lobby ruling.  Forcing employers to cover abortions is controversial, so I am okay with taking that out as a compromise.  But allowing them to object to certain forms of birth control because they believe that they cause an abortion is wrong.  Plan B does not cause abortions (period).  We study the mechanism of action.  We know how it works.  It prevents pregnancy.  This is not about a belief system.  This is an education problem.  They can believe that it causes an abortion, but they are flat out wrong.

Friday, July 4, 2014

John Oliver Takes Down Dr. Oz

Corespondent John Oliver left the Daily Show for his own show on HBO called Last Week Tonight.  On the episode from June 22nd, Oliver went after Dr. Oz who had appeared before Congress the previous week.  Dr. Oz has made a ton of money teaching people to be healthy.  He wrote You - The Owners Manuel and has a daily television show.  On that show he often promotes products to help you lose weight.  More recently, Oz hawked Green Coffee Extract to shed pounds describing the product a a magic cure.  Under oath, Oz admitted that there is no such thing as a magic cure, despite his use of the phrase over and over again.

The real problem is nutritional supplements that suggest they offer cures for numerous maladies.  Dr. Oz got caught filling time with hype and taking money from a $32-billion business.  FDA has very little control over nutritional supplements despite their label as "food".  Some products are no better than placebos and some cause health problems rather than cure them.  When the FDA sought to establish control over the market, the supplement lobby responded to squashed such laws by scaring the public and buying congressmen.

John Oliver details the long story of fake cures and FDA oversight in this excellent commentary.  It goes a little off the rails at the end, but he is a comedian.  Enjoy.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Measles On the Rise

Our greatest medical achievement is not open-heart surgery, not penicillin, but vaccination.  Everything else is a bandaid compared to the ability to actually prevent disease.  Smallpox ravaged communities until Edward Jenner developed a vaccine which has eradicated the disease and saved countless lives.  It became possible to immunize people from the deadliest pathogens on the planet.  Since that time, we can now prevent Small Pox, Chicken Pox, Tetnus, Diptheria, Whooping Cough, Pneumococcus, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, and even a vaccine against the cervical cancers caused by HPV.  Every year the number of deaths to preventable infectious diseases goes down.

Well, it did go down.  The CDC now reports that the number of cases of Measles has hit a 20 year high.  Ten years ago, measles was officially eradicated from the US (no transmission for 12 months).  Almost every case this year involves a person that was not vaccinated or without a vaccination history.  The same story happens for many of the diseases.  The high school I taught at was hit by Whooping Cough which is prevented by the P in the Tdap vaccination you should get every 10 years.  Thank fully the number of deaths stays low, because we do have the bandaids of modern medicine.  But eradicated diseases should not be making come backs.

I lay all of the blame on the Anti-Vax crowd.  Concerned that vaccinations, or the components within the vaccination, cause the cause of autism, Jenny McCarthy and others have led a crusade to scare people from vaccinating their children.  Somehow, it worked.  To some extent, their children are still protected from the worst diseases as smallpox and polio have been eradicated.  This is called herd immunity.  But some diseases still linger in the US from anti-vaxers and immigrants coming from places without vaccinations.  There is no evidence that vaccines cause autism.  None.  Well, there was one published paper, that the author had to retract as he admitted to cheating with the numbers.  So, we're back to none.

It is far better to prevent disease than to treat it.  From hand washing and sanitation, medical science finds ways to prevent diseases.  Vaccinations have been a successful part of that history.  More vaccines are introduced each year to prevent new diseases, to improve old vaccines, and to make administration easier without needles.  I know the anti-vaxers mean well, but they have been fed false information.  Which is the hardest kind to refute.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Buying Drugs on Amazon

Apparently, it is pretty easy to buy medications on Amazon.  Ford Vox wrote on Slate about his wife's purchase of prescription medications on the world's largest online retailer.  Everyone know that drugs are expensive.  Unfortunately, many patients fail to treat their disease states because they can't afford the therapy.  Some places off discounts on generics and manufacturers offer some assistance, but you have to qualify for these programs.  Buying from Canada could be an option for desperate patients, but the action is illegal.  Apparently, some people have turned to Amazon for help.  Keep in mind that the process is also illegal.

When looking for an acne treatment, Vox's wife recieved a product from Thailand that contained a major antibiotic called clindamycin.  Highly regulated, use of clindamycin brings about worries of C. diff infections, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, and general antibiotic resistance.  I did a quick search and found prednisolone, a potent steroid.  He also found the antibiotic norfloxacin and muscle relaxant methocarbamol.  This is a very dangerous situation for peddling pharmaceuticals without a license.  The FDA is now getting involved and seizing such packages at the international ports.  Hopefully, they can get Amazon and other retailers to stop selling these things.  But it will probably be a long fight through the legal system.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Tamiflu and Drug Trial Transparency

Ben Goldacre, British writer and blogger, looked into a growing scandal and the actual governmental cost of making pharmaceutical decisions based on very little information.  He wrote the book Bad Pharma and became a leader in the European push to open up the transparency of clinical trials.  

In 2009 facing a potential flu pandemic, the British government stockpiled (LB) 500 million worth of Tamiflu to cover 80% of their population.  Roche, the makers of Tamiflu, claimed that their drug reduces the serious complications, including pneumonia, from the flu and the number of hospitalizations.  A 2008 Cochrane review gave the green light to Tamiflu after reviewing the available evidence.  Their evidence?  All positive implications of Tamiflu stemmed from one article funded by the industry that summarized ten other summaries, eight of which had not been published.  With big money and high hopes riding on the national , Cochrane initiated a new review and the evidence began to swing in the opposite direction.

Cochrane reviewers contacted the writers of the summary to look at their data, but unfortunately their files were missing.  Turning to Roche, the company offered to help, but put in roadblocks along the way.  Initially, they required a secret confidentiality agreement about the data they hand over.  Then Roche claimed another group was conducting a review elsewhere.  Finally, the company sent some excerpts of research documents, but far less than necessary to complete a thorough review of Tamiflu.  Roche began attacking the credibility of the reviewers and complaining that journalists had been included in their correspondence.  Five years later, after growing scrutiny, Roche relented and provided their data.

Even before receiving Roche’s data, Cochrane had noticed several problems with the clinical studies conducted on Tamiflu.  “Double-blind studies” used a different color placebo or large Phase Three trials were never even published.  With the full data, the Cochrane Review issued its opinion on Tamiflu.  It failed.  Tamiflu does not significantly reduce the number of hospitalizations or the cases of pneumonia.  While it may reduce the duration of your flu by a few hours, Tamiflu can produce serious side-effects.  Remember that the UK bought enough to cover their population in the case of a pandemic.  Cochrane applied the incidences of side effects to a million patients – 11,000 psychiatric cases, 31,000 headaches, and 45,000 people vomiting. 

Clinical transparency is important.  Many medical decisions are based on only a fraction of the appropriate data.  Doctors and pharmacists believe they make recommendations about medications on evidence.  That evidence only applies to what is publicly available.  The Cochrane group ran around and jumped through hoops to get the information needed to make a decision.  Companies will not provide more information than required.  And there are billions of reasons why.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Miss America Question

This video mocks the infamous question from the Miss America Pageant a few weeks ago.  The judges asked the contestants, "Should evolution be taught in schools?"  This seems like a no-brainer to anyone with a clue.  YES we should teach the unifying theory of biology in a biology classroom.  Apparently only two of the contestants agreed.  But really, who cares what they think?  They are in a beauty pageant not defending a dissertation.

Even if all the contestants agreed with the simple idea of teaching science in a science classroom, the most distressing part is the question itself.  They asked if EVOLUTION should be taught in schools!  They did not ask if CREATIONISM should be taught in schools.  The judges framed the question to put more doubt into the science side of the debate.  YES evolution should be taught in schools.  Period.  Should creationism be taught in schools?  That question illuminates a ideological or pedagogical point that is actually debatable.

Anyways, enough ranting.  Here is the mockery: Should MATH be taught in schools?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Finding the True Cost of Gas

The cost of a gallon of gasoline fluctuates wildly throughout the year.  Just 12 years ago when I began driving, gas hovered around $1 a gallon.  Now we pay between 3 and 4 dollars for each gallon we buy.  But as we all know, fossil fuel consumption has many consequences on the environment.  Because of this, the Center for Investigative Reporting attempted to calculate the true cost of a gallon of gasoline.

Americans have lower gas pump prices than most other countries.  However, we actually pay a lot more for the gasoline in various other ways than just at the station.  As the following video details, the pollution affects climate systems, human health, crop yields, and many other aspects of life.  More people suffer from asthma and related illnesses.  Our climate seems to be going off the rails.  And all of this appears to be caused by the liquid we put into our cars.

Other countries pay more at the pump because gas taxes help to treat some of the problems caused by our consumption.  The money goes to helping fund alternative energies and public health concerns.  But in the United States, we can't even introduce a realistic and reasonable carbon tax to ease the pain of pollution.  Please watch the video and discover how much we really pay per gallon of gasoline.

I support several ideas to help the problem of gasoline:
  1. Carbon Tax/Cap-and-Trade Proposals - Charge the polluters for their environmental damage.
  2. Increasing CAFE standards - require new cars have better miles per gallon
  3. Green Tax Credits - Investment in Green Energy and Efficiency
  4. Solar Paneling - Install solar panels on the roofs of schools and government buildings
I am sure that there are more ways we can help our planet and make a switch from fossil fuels.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Story of America and Other Stuff

Here's a few stories for Independence Day:

Several political leaders have made prominent mistakes about US History lately.  Jimmy Kimmel offered Michele Bachmann's Story of America on his show mocking the historical inaccuracies people have given us.

On a sad note, 25% of Americans are not sure who we declared independence from.  Half aren't even sure what year.  Maybe we shouldn't make so much fun of the politicians.  Just kidding.  If you base your platform on the Revolutionary War Era, then you should know the history of the period.

For the historically inclined, the website provided some of the questions that our kids failed recently.  This was the study that used Santorum claim that American Ignorance was a liberal plot to destroy the US.

No matter what side you are on, enjoy this holiday for ALL Americans!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

HS Students Show Up Congresswoman

Minnesota's Republican Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, hopes to become the next President of the United States.  While she has said some fairly ridiculous things, at least two people have decided to stand up to her and they are both high school students!  That's right!  High school students have taken it upon themselves to challenge the presidential hopeful and congresswoman.

A high school student from New Jersey, Amy Myers, has challenged Michelle Bachmann to a debate about the US Constitution and American History.  In a letter to the Congresswoman, Amy wrote, 
As a typical high school student, I have found quite a few of your statements regarding the Constitution of the United States, the quality of public school education and general U.S. civics matters to be factually incorrect, inaccurately applied or grossly distorted.
Burn! We all know that the Congresswoman would not participate in the debate, because she could not possibly win. The image of her debating a 16-year-old would ruin her career. I think the awesome thing is that this student has decided to take a stand. The sad news is that Bachmann supporters have started attacking Amy Myers throughout the internet. You know, keeping it classy.

In a more recent story, Zack Kopplin has also challenged the congresswoman on her understanding of evolution.  Zack is the high school lstudent from Louisianna leading a campaign to repeal their Intelligent Design education law.  He showed up on Hard Ball to discuss his efforts.  Bachmann became involved because of this statement:  "There is a controversy among scientists about whether evolution is a fact ... hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel prizes, believe in intelligent design."  Among others, Kopplin has called Bachmann on this falsehood and asked for her to present a list of Nobel Lauretes that support creationism.  Kopplin actually got 43 to sign a petition with him, still no word from Bachmann.  To top off the the challenge, Kopplin makes the best statement that presidential candidates don't get to just make stuff up.  

These students keep me hopeful for the future and I say Bravo!  Check out the video!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What The Frack?!?

I haven't paid too much attention to a strange, new environmental issue called Fracking.  Basically, companies pump water deep underground to cause the rocks to break apart so they can collect the natural gas that is released.  While they can collect huge amounts of natural gas, this largely unregulated practice causes a host of environmental issues.  For instance, benzene and other chemicals escape into the water supply which eventually comes out of our taps.  Like this case below.  In areas that practice fracking many have found that you can light the water on fire as it comes out of the faucet.

To help people understand whats going on, some scientists have put together a song and video about fracking.  Check it out and maybe you can educate some people today.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Common Controversy

I wanted to post about this on Friday, but Blogger experienced some difficulties that prevented me from accessing my account.  So I will just talk about this today.

Last week, the Obama's invited the Chicago rapper and lyrical poet, Common, to perform at a poetry reading event in the White House.  Fresh off of the President's birth certificate revelation and Bin Laden extermination, the right wing needed something new to attack him for.  In this case, they chose to question why he invited Common to the White House.  Fox News and their hosts provided the most idiotic statements about this non-event while attempting to resurrect the "dangerous black man" routine.  They claimed that Common raps about drugs and cop-killing.  He doesn't.  In fact, Common may be one of the most positive rappers in today's music.

This was nothing more than another attempt to play to the racist elements of those who oppose President Obama.  People do exist who hate our President for nothing more than being black.  The birth certificate issue, his name, his school records, and now the Common Controversy, all have the same basic intent.  To emphasize that Barack Obama is not white.

Hannity, Beck, Palin and others can say that they are not racist, which might be true.  But they are playing to the racists in their followers by promoting this kind of racially and culturally motivated animosity.  I bet they do it unintentionally.  They reflexively attack anything our President does and will use anything to smear him.  If it comes off as racist, then that is just liberals playing the race card.

I will leave you with Jon Stewart's segment on Fox News' latest hissy fit.  Below the fold, you will also find Common's performance at the White House.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Comparing Teacher Pay and Teacher Work

We have had many debates in this country about education budgets and teacher pay.  Let's be honest.  It is not a pretty picture.  Actually, it is uglier than I really thought it was.  The following infographic compares the amount of time teachers put into their job and the salary they get out of it.  In the US, our teachers work more than teachers in other countries while receiving very little.  Take a look for yourself. For the record, Finland ranks first in the world in education.

Every budget comes out demanding more money be cut from education.  In some districts, teachers are taking pay cuts from salaries, supplements, and benefits while being asked to teach more classes with ever more students in the room.  Some teachers have not seen a pay raise in 3 years, even in the form of cost of living increases.  Something bad is happening.  If our leaders don't recognize the importance of education and paying teachers as an investment for the future, then they will be paying for jails and welfare for a long time to come.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Constitutional Fundamentalism

As the first order of business, the 112th Congress began the new term with a reading of the US Constitution. In what reminded me of a litany of passage readings, some 140 members of Congress took the podium to read their section.  The ritualization of the reading seemed very much like the reading of Biblical passages in churches across the America.

The exercise reminded me of a religious ceremony in another sense as well.  Just as fundamentalist Christians read the Bible literally and demand that others do as well, Constitutional fundamentalists demand a literal interpretation and a strict adherence to the original intent of the writers whom they revere as Saints.  But the Constitution poses a problem for Fundamentalists. The "sacred original" texts speaks of human servitude and only counting some people as three-fifths of a person. In an effort to whitewash history, the Constitutional originalists read an edited version of the Constitution.  Similarly Fundamentalist Christians ignore sections of the "literal Word of God" describing them as anachronisms such as many Mosaic Laws.  

Often the literalists express a fear that if some part of the Bible isn't (literally) true, then the whole book must not be true. This theology ignores the poetic beauty of Biblical language with many allegorical interpretations and lessons available. Likewise, strict originalism forgets the Constitution as a living document to be read and applied for our own times. 

This is the problem with Fundamentalism. Too many contradictions pop up in the philosophy- theologically and politically. It ignores some ugliness of our past even when explicitly written in the "sacred" documents. Discussing our tortured past can help us correct our social, religious, and political problems in the future. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ann Coulter Says that Radiation is Good For You

Not much to say about this other than this:  When Bill O'Reilly is the voice of reason, you know something is wrong.  On his show, The O'Reilly Factor, Ann Coulter declares than we don't need to fear the radioactive plume emitted from the Fukushima Reactor in Japan.  I would agree that the US has very little to worry about with the radiation.  There is no need for people to rush out for iodine pills.

However, to say that radiation is a good thing is dangerously stupid.  We know that high doses of radiation on a regular basis can cause cancer in some people.  Radiation is only part of the problem.  Genetics plays another role.  For some people, the radiation will alter the DNA and lead to cancers.  For others, nothing will happen.  Think about how not all smokers get lung cancer but some will get it just from second hand smoke.  You likelihood of cancer depends on your exposure to carcinogens (cancer-causing chemicals) and your DNA.  With all of it, don't sit there and smugly say that radiation is good for you.

She seems sincere in her statements, but I would guarantee that Coulter will not be traveling to Japan anytime soon.  At least O'Reilly can step back and warn people of the potential dangers of radiation.

See the video for yourself:

Videos like these remind me of the importance of quality science education which becomes more and more important in an ever-modernizing world.

Friday, March 4, 2011

TDS on Teachers and Wall Street

Jon Stewart, as always, applies a funny, yet poignant, point to the news.  In his case, he compares the response to the Wisconsin Teachers fight (and elsewhere) to other events in the news like the Wall Street bailout.  We can pay off Wall Street, but we can't pay for education.

I would normally say, "Enjoy!", but that doesn't seem appropriate here:
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Crisis in the Dairyland - For Richer and Poorer - Teachers and Wall Street
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On the Arizona Shooting

This past Saturday, America experienced an attempted assassination of a politician.  While one man pulled the trigger, many aspects of our country require retrospection and correction including how we discuss politics.

Political discourse has spiraled out of control through hyperbole and vitriol.  Many resort to over-the-top metaphors merely to score a few political points.  Some dehumanize their opponents depriving them of the humanity and compassion they deserve.  Opponents are not mortal enemies, just mortal beings.  A differing opinion will not cause the downfall of our country and the results of a free and fair election do not require a rebellion to "take our country back."

We don't have to take our country back, because it still belongs to us.  Power may have changed peacefully in 2008 but rhetorical allusions to violence exploded.  People who are angry at the government, or the other side of government, must realize that We are The People.  For what you like and dislike about Washington, The People run our government.  "They" are flesh-and-blood human beings with loved ones.  We can attack ideas without attacking the people.  No human being deserves to be targeted.  No human being should be afraid to come out of their house.  No human being should let these types of situations go by without speaking up.

In the wake of this event, please keep Representative Giffords and the other victims in your thoughts and prayers.  Please take a moment to reflect on how we discuss politics and where we move on from here.

Below is Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on the shooting:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Daily Show and the War on Christmas

No one mocks the news better than the Daily Show.  For the most absurd debate ever, Jon Stewart takes on the War on Christmas.  Let's be honest.  Christians make up the majority of our country and have control of every branch at every level of Government.  Yet, somehow people seem to think that Christmas is under attack.  It's not.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Gretch Who Saved the War on Christmas
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

 Please go and enjoy your holiday with your friends and family!  Remember, Christmas is about Hope, Peace, and Love, not hate and division.

(And any other holiday you may choose to celebrate)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recommendation: Proofiness by Charles Seife

I recently finished Charles Seife's book, Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception.  In it, he discusses how politicians, pundits, and pollsters use numbers and statistics to construct an alternate reality and convince us that they are right.  I had never read a math book before, but this kept me interested the entire time.  He describes the various methods of proofiness and provides ample examples of statistics gone wrong.  We automatically accept facts accompanied with a number.  We all know that math provides the basis for understanding nature, but blind acceptance of numbers lets us fall pray to those that would lie using statistics.

For example, Glenn Beck said that a million people came to his Rally to Restore Honor (just as Louis Farakaun said about his less-than-Million Man March).  Beck created the number out of thin air, but the power of the number leads some people to believe it.  A few decades ago, Senator McCarthy picked a random number of Communists in the government that he knew to be false, but the preciseness of his number made it more believable.  We find fake correlations all the time which can sometimes cause real problems- like the anti-vax campaign.

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of his book comes from the impact on democracy.  We just had a mid-term election- but election results are deeply flawed.  The two most prominent examples are Bush and Gore in 2000 and Franken and Coleman in 2008.  Electoral blowouts are good.  When a candidate wins by a large margin, we can accept the results.  Unfortunately, like 11 races still this year, some elections are too close to call.  The final vote tabulation never truly depicts the will of the people.  Some votes get thrown out, some people fill out ballot wrong, and some write in weird names like Lizard People.  In all cases, elections are full of statistical errors.  Anything less that a 1 percent margin is suspect.  Yet we routinely let candidates and lawyers twist themselves into knots of paradoxes to eke out a 110-vote victory as flawed as it is.  

Similarly, we accept error-proned census data and poll numbers without thinking about them.  We are lazy.  We expect those doing the research to do the thinking for us and allow people to import their subconscious biases and even their hidden motives into their data.  All of these example affect American democracy.  We have a population attuned to accept numbers no matter how bad they are- on both sides of the aisle.  Just last week, Fox News reports that the President's trip to India cost $200 million a day which pundits and politicians accepted blindly and repeated to everyone who would listen.  Numbers have a hold on our brains and sometimes make us act silly. 

I strongly recommend Seife's book, Proofiness, to anyone and everyone.  Nine out of ten people rated the book with five stars.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Importance of Education

We all know the US continues to struggle through a Great Recession with high-unemployment rates at 9.6%.  David Leonhardt notes that "almost 45 percent of today’s unemployed workers have been without a job for at least 27 weeks."  He also shows that  this downturn has not affected the population equally.  Some states have survived much better, like Nebraska with unemployment at 4.5%, while others with mostly manufacturing jobs or large housing bubbles have suffered the most.  

Perhaps the biggest disparity in unemployment can be seen in levels of education.  We, as teachers and others, say that education is important for getting a job and living a life.  We have cute quotes like "If you think education is expensive, try ignorance".  We know that education can be the silver bullet to poverty and remains the greatest opportunity to change your economic status (unlike music, sports and the lottery).  But most of the time, students hear these messages and dismiss them as just another slogan, another phrase to get them interested in something that doesn't interest them.  Some students think, these old teachers don't know what they are talking about, this is a waste of time.  But know I have factual evidence to back up our statements.

Using BLS data (Found Here), Andrew Sullivan created a chart to truly show the importance of education.  His accompanying post can be found here.
As shown, unemployment remains highest for those without a high school education.  Those with a Bachelor's Degree or higher have the lowest unemployment throughout the country at about 4.5%.  For the highly educated among us, we really don't see a recession going on.  Not only have the college-graduates retained their jobs, but their salaries have risen as well adding to the disparity of educated vs. uneducated.

Hopefully, something like this can help show students the value of an education.  Maybe this can show parents, the community, and the politicians the importance of fully funding and supporting education.  Graphs can really make me smile sometime.