Liam Julian

Over at City Journal, Stephen Malanga turns in a piece critical of Richard Florida's newest book, Who's Your City? Florida is the economist best known for his theory that a place's vitality and economic potential is determined by its "creative class," which Florida rather vaguely defines as that composed of those whose jobs require an aspect of creativity. It's actually easier to define what the creative-class economy isn't???i.e., the old industrial economy that gave rise to cities like Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Detroit.

Joel Kotkin, Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in Orange, California, disagrees with Florida's thesis that "cool" cities with burgeoning creative classes are the most successful ones. Productive workers want convenience and solid basic services, according to Kotkin, not hipsters. Malanga agrees. He writes:

Unfairly or not, the impression one comes away with after reading [Florida's earlier book] Creative Class is that if mayors can just figure out a way to attract some musicians and gays to their town, they don't need to worry much about intractable problems like crime and failing school systems.

Florida tried to address such criticisms in Who's Your City? by commissioning a large-scale survey that...

Liam Julian

Related to Mike's post: Here's a review of Nudge (the book by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein) that appeared in The New Yorker several months ago. The author makes a solid point:

The whole project, though, as Thaler and Sunstein acknowledge, raises some pretty awkward questions. If the "nudgee" can't be depended on to recognize his own best interests, why stop at a nudge? Why not offer a "push," or perhaps even a "shove"? And if people can't be trusted to make the right choices for themselves how can they possibly be trusted to make the right decisions for the rest of us?

Good questions.

Liam Julian

I hope everyone at Fordham will survive our blog's debut.

Liam Julian

This is also precisely why I've been avoiding the gym.

Seriously, though, this part of the article is interesting:

It comes as official figures show that pupils in all-girls' schools play significantly less sport than in mixed or boys' schools. The Department for Children, Schools and Families said that pupils at just 65 per cent of girls' schools did at least two hours of PE or sport a week???the official Government target???compared to 86 per cent nationally.

I would have supposed that young ladies enrolled in all-girls' schools would get more physical activity than their fairer-sex counterparts in gender-integrated environments. One of the reasons commonly provided in support of single-sex education is that because females won't be concerned about the opinions of masculine classmates, they will be more comfortable answering questions in class, for example, and playing field hockey. (Boys in single-sex schools, where are found no females in need of impressing, will, it is supposed, be less likely to act like asses. Highly dubious.) Perhaps our assumptions about single-sex education simply require more scrutiny....

Liam Julian

Mike was right, it seems. I open my Sunday New York Times and, over coffee and smoked salmon, am accused of being not only racist, but sexist, too!

Kristof suggests that "getting past race" or "getting past gender" is nearly impossible (his penultimate paragraph allows a smidgen of hope). Of course, his article applies this thinking to the presidential contest, but if Kristof is right, we should be far more concerned about how our inherent racist, sexist ways will affect our daily interactions with coworkers, spouses, and family than how it will affect our votes.

Thankfully, he's not right. That people tend to subconsciously generalize and form snap impressions is nothing new. But neither is it new that people use reason and analysis to get past intrinsic, knee-jerk reactions. We demand such from mature adults. In k-12 schools, for example, what good is it to suppose that teachers may unknowingly expect less of black students? Teachers???regardless of their snap impressions, which really are their own business???should behave like mature adults and not let their impulses guide their actions.

I cannot understand why Kristof, whose columns are only occasionally perceptive...


In his "Department of Human Behavior" column in today's Washington Post, Shankar Vedantam considers Nudge, a new book by University of Chicago professors Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. In it, they argue for "libertarian paternalism." Says Sunstein:

We agree with people who want to allow the market to flourish, so we are libertarians in that sense. On the other hand, we don't believe you can just have markets and then declare victory. It is legitimate to be paternalistic in terms of steering people in directions that will increase the likelihood they will do well.

The authors are particularly enamored with "default" policies, such as having companies enroll new employees in retirement savings programs unless they opt out. Vedantam explains:

When new employees are told that retirement accounts will be started for them unless they object, for example, most sign up cheerfully. When told that the accounts will not be started unless they opt in, most employees do not sign up because not having the account is then the default choice.

Defaults work in education, too. One of the primary goals of the American Diploma Project, for instance, is getting states to adopt a common,...


Hillary Clinton made news last night by appearing on Jay Leno and joking about coming under sniper fire in Burbank. But she also talked issues (this is Hillary Clinton after all) and mentioned that "I want to end the No Child Left Behind program because I don't think it's working the way it was promised." So how did Leno's audience react? Watch here (the action starts at about 6:11):


It's one thing when liberal activists or teachers union conventions give this kind of treatment to NCLB; when a live studio audience of the most mainstream of mainstream television shows reacts like this, you know the federal law is in trouble.


Well, only if you consider Italian, French lit, Latin lit, and computer science part of the core curriculum. For better or worse, few American students and their teachers treated these as even part of the peripheral curriculum (by last count, only 1,600 students nationwide were taking the AP Italian course, for example). That's why the College Board is trimming those Advanced Placement courses from its offerings, according to this Washington Post story. A minor retrenchment for the A.P. program? Yes. A major attack on Western civilization? No.


In an article from the March 31 issue of the New Yorker (the piece doesn't seem to be available online at the moment), Peter Hessler reports on one family's rise to (relative) affluence in the small Chinese village of Sancha:

Sancha was just beyond the Great Wall, and occasionally a weekend motorist from the city found his way to the makeshift sign. Cao Chunmei, Wei Ziqi's wife, cooked pork and local vegetables. They charged three and a half dollars for a meal; guests could see the Great Wall from the table.

The Weis' income increases sixfold in seven years. Their son, Wei Jia, attends boarding school. Here's how Hessler describes Wei Jia's education:

...his father travelled to Shayu for parent-teacher conferences. These were group affairs: all adults met the teacher at once. If a child was doing poorly, everybody heard, and the shame provided additional motivation.

That was the second rule listed on Wei Jia's semester report cards: "Cherish the honor of the group." (The first rule involved loving the nation.) These reports were more than thirty pages long, and they evaluated the boy from every possible perspective. There were physical measurements: height, weight, eyesight, hearing, chest circumference,


Move over, Mike Huckabee . According to this AP story , it looks like John McCain might prefer Jeb Bush as his education secretary???if he manages to win the fall campaign.