The Nation’s Pulse

The Nation's Pulse

Why Proficiency Testing Matters in Education

By , and 7.31.15

Recent controversies over Common Core standards have intensified the debate over high-stakes K-12 academic testing that became a national issue with President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

Holding schools accountable for children’s academic performance is simple common sense. A child who struggles to read in fourth grade is four times more likely to drop out of school; if he cannot comprehend his textbooks he cannot learn science, civics, and history. The student falls further and further behind.

Likewise, a student without an understanding of numbers in the early grades will not be prepared for algebra in later grades. Success in algebra is a key indicator of success in post-secondary education.

The Nation's Pulse

For Your Travel Inconvenience

By 7.27.15

Having created the problem of too many passengers lugging their suitcases aboard airplanes by charging for checked bags, the major airlines are now planning to make checked bags even more unpopular. The are testing various methods for making bag-checkers do their own checking instead of giving their bags to attendants with the attendant putting tags on the bags and sending them on a conveyer belt.

Charging for bags became standard procedure in 2008 for most airlines (Southwest is an exception) when they figured it could contribute to the profits that had long eluded them.

Human nature being what it is, more people then decided to tote their bags aboard. Alas, many aircraft don’t have enough bin space. For example, the 737-900 has 180 seats but only bin space for 125 roll-on bags. Result: a last-minute rush before takeoff for flight attendants to tag the surplus bags for stowage in the cargo bay.

The Nation's Pulse

Liberals, Conservatives, and Abortion

By 7.24.15

There is no issue that divides liberals and conservatives more deeply than does abortion. It is, after all, a matter of life and death.

It would be hard to say what issue is closest to the hearts of liberals — inequality, diversity, labor unions, or maximizing the size and reach of government. What seems to get them most exercised, however, is the issue of abortion. That attitude leaves conservatives in a state of bewildered disbelief. How can liberals, Democrats, the left, be such enthusiastic supporters of something that is, at best, a necessary evil? Why are they so protective of unlimited abortion and paranoid about placing any restrictions whatsoever on it? How do they manage to feel so positive about something that is so profoundly negative?

The Nation's Pulse

The Yankee Taliban

By 7.17.15

A few hours before ESPN honored Caitlyn Jenner with a “courage” award on Wednesday, the University of Texas vice president for diversity and community engagement hosted a public forum on removing Confederate-themed statuary from campus, which includes a likeness of Robert E. Lee.

There’s courage in cosmetic surgery and shame in battle. May I secede now?

Cassi Pollock of Breitbart Texas reports that a UT graduate student claimed at the meeting that the presence of the statues on campus “inhibited students from their full participation.” Several undergraduates, perhaps frustrated at the havoc the inanimate objects played on their GPAs, recently defaced the effigies with spray paint. And unlike the vandals of a monument to fallen Southerners in Charleston, the Austin defacers spelled “Black Lives Matter” correctly. It’s a college town.

The Nation's Pulse

Is the Civil War Over?

By 7.14.15

In the wake of the recent murders in a South Carolina church, the killer’s hope of igniting a race war produced the opposite effect. Blacks and whites in South Carolina came together to condemn his act and the race hate behind it.

Some saw in the decision to remove the Confederate flag from in front of the state house a symbolic repudiation of the old South’s racial past — and the end of the Civil War. But, unfortunately, wars do not end until both sides decide that it is over.

The black parishioners who expressed forgiveness toward the killer did more than most of us could do, and the whites who responded with solidarity did their part. Note how quickly this was done, by ordinary people of good will — black and white — without the “help” of racial activists like Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson.

Professional race hustlers have no incentive to see our current civil war end. They see in this shooting only an opportunity to escalate their demands.

The Nation's Pulse

Looking Back

By 7.8.15

After my 85th birthday last week, I looked back over my life and was surprised to discover in how many different ways I had been lucky, in addition to some other ways in which I was unlucky.

Among the things I did not know at the time was that I was adopted as an infant into a family with four adults, in which I was the only child.

All sorts of research since then has shown how the amount of attention and interactions with adults a child gets has a lot to do with the way the child develops. But of course I knew nothing about such things back then.

It was decades later, when I now had a son of my own, that I asked one of the surviving members of the family how old I was when I first started to walk. She said, “Oh, Tommy, nobody knows when you could walk. Somebody was always carrying you.”

Many times over the years, she liked to recall an incident when I was maybe three or four years old. She had taken me somewhere out of the neighborhood, maybe to a movie, and all was fine until we got back in sight of our home. That was when I picked up some rocks and started throwing them at her.

The Nation's Pulse

America Was

By 7.3.15

“Where the sole employer is the state, opposition means death by slow starvation,” Leon Trotsky, whose death came slowly by way of a quick icepick, famously observed. Nonconformity appears as the capital offense when the market serves as the main employer.

If you’ve ever carried the Confederate flag at the local battle reenactment, vocalized doubts of whether those Spanish-speaking men milling outside the 7/Eleven represent the best Mexico offers, or, like a sucker, donated a small amount of money to a ballot affirmation of traditional marriage predictably destined for a squashing under the gavel of a man in a black dress, hide the evidence. If you’ve expressed a preference for Kim Kardashian over step-fathermother Caitlyn, even in your dreams, keep this bigoted prejudice in favor of ciswomen to yourself. If you’ve ever written for The American Spectator, delete it from your résumé.

Free speech increasingly comes at a price.

The Nation's Pulse

Sugar and Salt Under Assault

By 6.29.15

In this spring’s series finale for the Emmy Award-winning cable drama on 1960s ad agency culture, Mad Men, creative executive Don Draper comes up with the concept for the “Real Thing” TV campaign for Coca-Cola after reluctantly spending some time with hippies at an ocean-side commune in California.

This scene evokes the actual spot from the tie-dye era in which hip young Americans and others, of all races, creeds, and colors, sing about the virtues of the soft drink from atop a mountain foothill. “I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,” the youngsters harmonize, in the famous footage, created by a real life adman at McCann-Erickson.

Flash forward to today’s California, circa summer of 2015. The one-time hippies — now graying city councilmen and women of San Francisco — are not so sweet on the sugary drink. In fact, they would like to teach the world a thing or two about regulation.

The Nation's Pulse

The ‘Public Health’ Cabal’s War on E-Cigarettes

By 6.26.15

Ever since the abominable Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving oversight over tobacco to the FDA, was passed in 2009, I and many of my colleagues in public health have watched in disbelief and horror as the crusade against e-cigarettes swung into high gear. It seemed for a moment as though the Golden Age had come to pass regarding smoking: the twin goals of FDA regulation and a truly low-risk method of delivering nicotine to addicted smokers without the lethal tar was at hand, at last.

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Revolutions in Political Correctness: Ex Uno, Pluralis

By 6.25.15

There have been so many changes in what the Left deems politically correct, it’s difficult to keep up. So here are a couple that you need to know lest you betray your lack of coolness.

The University of California wants to ban the phrase “melting pot,” as in “America is a melting pot.” This is a huge turn-around. Until recently the Left has decried anything that smacked of racial or gender differentiation. It bristled at the notion that certain medical treatments might work differently on folks of different races, even to the point of objecting to a treatment (BiDil) that was shown to work particularly well on black men suffering from heart disease.

But that was then. Now we celebrate differences, not similarities. After all, how else can you have identity politics? And where would the Democrat party be without identity politics?