Some links

May 26, 2021

This is a good skeptical assessment of what we can learn from Arizona State University—according to some, a model of the “fifth wave” of higher education—and what we cannot. Suffice to say that Brint’s work is always worth reading, as this should show:

The “fifth wave” is an intensification of trends that have been evident in public universities ever since states began disinvesting in earnest four decades ago. Since then, universities have sought larger undergraduate enrollments, less-expensive teaching staffs, and leaner operations to compensate for disinvestment. The “fifth wave” isn’t a visionary ideal — it’s an attempt to stylize as intentional trends that may work in Arizona but have been hurting higher education more broadly.

There are much better ways for higher ed to evolve. The United States needs to create at least two or three more “mega-university complexes” like those that now exist in Boston-Cambridge and the San Francisco Bay Area. Those geographical centers of knowledge production and venture capital are vital to the future competitive position of the country relative to the European Union and, especially, China. The country also needs to build capacity in the middle range of universities — those in the U.S. News top 100 but below, say, the top three dozen. We should double the Pell Grant (Biden has proposed a smaller Pell increase), and create a comprehensive system of income-contingent loan repayment. Adjunct instructors should have access to permanent teaching posts based on the criterion of excellence in the classroom. Remote education should continue to play an auxiliary rather than a leading role, and fully online degrees should be priced to reflect their lesser value relative to the on-campus experience. Finally, instead of continuously shifting resources toward technical fields while starving the rest, university administrators should think again of the arts, humanities, and social sciences as more than instruments to advance current political agendas.


Interesting article about an even more interesting paper:

Underlying most of the explanations for anemic wages that Dr. Mishel and Dr. Bivens cite is the idea that wage growth depends on policy choices, not on the march of technology or other irreversible developments. Government officials could have worried less about inflation and erred on the side of lower unemployment when setting interest rates and passing economic stimulus. They could have cracked down on employers that aggressively fought unions or foisted noncompete agreements onto fast-food workers.

And if policymakers are to blame for wage stagnation, they can also do a lot to reverse it — and more quickly than many economists once assumed.


Some very good stuff here about reforming American policing, and why you shouldn’t freak out about “defundding the police”.  Will it be at all effective politically, especially in a moment when apparently violent crime is going up?  I don’t know.  But it’s good public policy, anyway—maybe policy-makers can use it.  C’mon, people. We’re better than our fears.


Good piece about how we think about the origins of the Coronavirus, and how partisanship messes with our minds.

The lab-leak hypothesis may well turn out to be wrong. But that won’t make any of these reports right. The origins of COVID-19 were always hazy, and China’s lack of transparency created significant doubt. Reporters looked at the uncertainty and fell back on an impulse to straightforwardly call out racist lies, even though the evidence to call it lies was quite threadbare.

It is true that most of these outlets were more faithful to the truth than Trump, whose gusher of lies vastly exceeded whatever false claims trickled out of the liberal media. But Trump is not the right standard for journalists. And those who chose to follow the ethos of moral clarity, at the expense of objectivity, misled their audiences.