Friday Reading List: Science Should Live Outside of Politics and Where Are the "Good Cops?"

Livia Albeck-Ripka of The New York Times looks at the battle over science standards in Idaho:

When Idaho lawmakers scrubbed all mentions of human-caused climate change from the state’s education standards last year, they faced a swift backlash from teachers, parents and students who said that censoring science would leave students disadvantaged, jobs unfilled and the state unprepared for the future. On Wednesday, the Idaho House Education Committee approved a revised set of standards that included some discussion of climate change. But the committee cut a section on the environmental impact of nonrenewable sources of energy and removed supporting content for standards that contained multiple references to human-driven warming.

This is a great example of how ignorant ideology does active harm to children. The controversy about climate change only exists because A) there are powerful interests whose financial well-being depends on ignoring science, and B) those interests have embedded themselves in the toxic polarization of American politics. The American Republican party is the world's only major political party committed to denying the science of climate change. In this case, that denial does active harm to children, who will come of age ill-prepared to understand the reality of the world around them. Congratulation, Idaho Republicans.

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In other "when dangerously stupid people have power" news, here's Breanna Edwards from The Root, with the story of a trigger-happy Tennessee sheriff:

A Tennessee sheriff is being sued for excessive force after he was recorded laughing and boasting about how he told his officers to shoot a man during a slow-speed chase rather than risk damaging police cars attempting to drive him off the road ... “I love this shit,” he continues. “God, I tell you what, I thrive on it. If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherfucker, they’re full of shit. Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county.” Laughter can be heard as the sheriff makes his comments.

The next time someone tells you that most cops are good, ask them if that includes the sheriff in this case, or whether they're thinking of all the men in the background, who are laughing as their boss says he will enjoy killing an unarmed man.

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To end the week with some good news, here's Jill Barshay in The Hechinger Report, discussing the results of the City University of New York's (CUNY) SEEK program, which seems to hasten social mobility:

The economists compared the future earnings of students who were born in the 1980s and were admitted to the SEEK program in the late 1990s and early 2000s with two different groups of students who had also applied to CUNY’s four-year colleges ... Years later, the low-income SEEK students earned $4,000 more a year, on average, than these students from more affluent families. The economists believe that this earnings differential will probably persist their entire working lives, adding up to $120,000 over 30 years.

Economists have not been able to isolate a single factor of the SEEK program that makes such a splash, so it seems like the magic comes from a cocktail of financial aid, mentorship, and instructional support. What's notable about the SEEK program is that it seems to work at a reasonable scale, and it has produced these results for decades.

Is is expensive? Yes. But the economic stagnation of low-income families is a far bigger problem. We need to think of higher education in this country as an investment, not a liability.

Have a great weekend!