Monday, September 27, 2010

How to Raise Boys That Read (As Much as Girls Do): Not With Gross-Out Books and Video Game Bribes -

How to Raise Boys That Read (As Much as Girls Do): Not With Gross-Out Books and Video Game Bribes -

According to a recent report from the Center on Education Policy, for example, substantially more boys than girls score below the proficiency level on the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. This disparity goes back to 1992, and in some states the percentage of boys proficient in reading is now more than ten points below that of girls. The male-female reading gap is found in every socio-economic and ethnic category, including the children of white, college-educated parents.

The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor?

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books.

Most importantly, a boy raised on great literature is more likely to grow up to think, to speak, and to write like a civilized man. Whom would you prefer to have shaped the boyhood imagination of your daughter's husband—Raymond Bean or Robert Louis Stevenson?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Even More Inconvenient Truth -

William McGurn: An Even More Inconvenient Truth -

The man who produced both the Barack Obama short for the 2008 Democratic Convention and Al Gore's Academy Award-winning documentary about global warming offers an inconvenient truth of his own.

His new film, "Waiting for 'Superman,'" is his own attempt to right that balance with a focus on those he calls "other people's children." At the Washington, D.C., premiere last Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan called it "a Rosa Parks moment." New York Magazine suggests it might be "the Inconvenient Truth of education, an eye-opening, debate-defining, socially catalytic cultural artifact."

For years, of course, conservatives have documented the failures that Mr. Guggenheim highlights, and in some cases have even succeeded in pushing through some good reforms. Yet that's just what gives "Waiting for 'Superman'" its potency—the indictment issues from an unrepentant liberal instead of the Heritage Foundation. I suggest to him that the kind of truths about public education he illustrates will be far more inconvenient for those in his circle than say, the friends of a former Bush speechwriter.

The way Mr. Guggenheim says it, you can tell two things. First, he really means it. Second, that until people do get on the side of reform, they will find him, well . . . inconvenient.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Why It's Time for the Tea Party -

The populist movement is more a critique of the GOP than a wing of it.

So far, the tea party is not a wing of the GOP but a critique of it. This was demonstrated in spectacular fashion when GOP operatives dismissed tea party-backed Christine O'Donnell in Delaware. The Republican establishment is "the reason we even have the Tea Party movement," shot back columnist and tea party enthusiast Andrea Tantaros in the New York Daily News. It was the Bush administration that "ran up deficits" and gave us "open borders" and "Medicare Part D and busted budgets."

Everyone has an explanation for the tea party that is actually not an explanation but a description. They're "angry." They're "antiestablishment," "populist," "anti-elite." All to varying degrees true. But as a network television executive said this week, "They should be fed up. Our institutions have failed."

I see two central reasons for the tea party's rise. The first is the yardstick, and the second is the clock. [follow the link to read more]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Tax Contradictions -

Review & Outlook: Tax Contradictions -


After 20 months and more than $1 trillion down the Keynesian drain, President Obama is discovering the virtue of tax cuts.

Yesterday the President proposed a $180 billion plan that includes a permanent research and development tax credit and a tax write-off for all business capital purchases in 2011. These are both sensible ideas that would counteract at least some of the damage from Mr. Obama's looming tax increase. John McCain could sue for plagiarism because versions of both ideas were part of his 2008 campaign platform.

The White House will deny it, but it's important to understand what a conceptual switcheroo this is. Mr. Obama's economic policies to date have been based on the belief that government can drive growth by handing out checks to consumers, who will then spend the money and increase what economists call aggregate demand. Missing was any attempt to spur incentives for business or individuals to invest and take more risks. Even if this policy reversal is motivated by election desperation, it is still a tacit admission of the failure of its growth model.

The big flaw in this proposal is that it's temporary. If the tax cut is for only one year, businesses will move spending forward that would have happened in future years. The economy will grow faster in 2011, other things being equal, but some of that growth will be stolen from 2012 and 2013. We've seen this temporary effect before with the home-buying tax credit, cash for clunkers and tax rebates.

In the Keynesian world-view, this is no problem because the one-year policy is supposed to kick-start the recovery and the stimulus can be safely withdrawn because the economy will become self-sustaining. But in the real world, investment will be greater and growth will be faster with a permanent reduction in the tax penalty on capital that will permanently increase the value of that capital. The White House still has some tax learning to do.

We'll nonetheless give the President and his economic team points for intellectual progress. Their proposals for corporate tax cuts are a de facto recognition that the 35% U.S. corporate tax rate is too high.  Now that Mr. Obama has conceded that tax cuts are good policy, Republicans should see him—and raise.