Tag Archives: moose

Will Today’s ‘Stupid’ Become Tomorrow’s ‘Smart’?

Back in November, both presidential candidates acknowledged that we had to reform our education system. Like most everything else, Obama and McCain naturally disagreed on how to solve this issue. Perhaps we need to pay teachers more and get the best-qualified educators to head our classrooms. Perhaps we need to have more vouchers and charter schools to foster competition. Perhaps we just need parents to get more involved in building shoebox dioramas and helping their kids with algebra problems.

Or, perhaps we’re just getting dumber. (After all, we elected George W. Bush twice. Enough said).

Now that Obama’s education team is in place, here is my billion-dollar proposal: tell smart people to start making babies. Seriously. Set up some mood music in grad school dorms, dim the lighting in the labs, and arrange for some conjugal visits at the space station. Let’s do everything we can to encourage reading and breeding amongst the nation’s intellectual elite.

Why? Consider this: over the past few decades, we have seen significant declines in the birth rates across the country. As more and more young people started going to college, and women became more prevalent in the workplace, births in the U.S. have naturally declined. With that, the composition of mothers has also changed:

“Fertility tends to decline as education level increases. Women may put off marriage and children to further their education, then to get established in the labor force. Women age 40 to 44 with no high school education had about 2.5 children in 2004, compared with 1.6 children among women with a graduate or professional degree.” – Mary Kent, Population Reference Bureau

So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following charts from the National Center for Health Statistics, which show the birth rates by state in 2002.

In this graphic, the blue states are the most fertile, while the green states are the most sterile (somewhat ironic).  We can see that the states with the highest birth rates are typically in the Midwest and South, whereas East Coasters and Californians are apparently too busy to procreate.  The state with the highest birth rate was Utah (20.9 for every 1,000 people), which may not be all that surprising. (Go to full report)

Now here is a graph from a U.S. Census report, on the percentage of college graduates by state:

So it looks like the states with the most college grads are also the states which tend to have the lowest birth rates.

Hmm…

Consider if this trend continues: the least-educated areas of the country are popping out babies like hotcakes, while the sterile Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast are busy trading mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Thus, the composition of the American population is skewed towards those with parents who are less educated. One may argue about the degree to which parents’ educational attainment affects their children’s test scores, but there is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. And while Texans and Idahoans may rightly argue that causality cannot be determined by a few colorful graphs, the data is in line with what we know: women who attain less education have more babies. There is a greater likelihood then that their kids will get less education than children born to snooty PhD candidates in Washington. And their kids will have more kids and more kids, while the slice of snooty intellectuals gets smaller and smaller.

So what can turn this around? In the end, we need to build a universal culture that values learning, instead of a dumb-is-cool culture that values a self-righteous idiocracy. We need to get students excited about education, and close the achievement gap that too often divides along racial and socioeconomic lines. We may need to rehaul our schools, implement student incentive programs, or pay our teachers more…

And we could also start encouraging smart people to make some babies, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Politics, Random

2008: The Race That Was

We’re five days away from November 4th, and it kind of feels like summer camp is ending. I’m a bit sad, but I’m also excited that it’s finally over. After the 4th, there will be no more political ads, no more pandering for votes, and no more McCain-Obama melodrama… something we can all look forward to. To me, election day is almost like an early New Years: I expect that everything will turn out fine, but I still have a little pocket of dread that Y2K will hit, the country will be catapulted back into the dark ages, and Joe the Plumber will become Secretary of State. And so, with the upcoming end to a tumultuous campaign, here is our requisite look back at what we’ve learned in 2008, The Race that Was.

  • If you want to be President, start vetting your acquaintances. If someone you know ever did or said something crazy, you’re on the hook by association. It doesn’t matter how well you know them: if you have an acquaintance who eats babies, you’re a baby eater too.
  • If you want to be Vice President, shoot some moose, drop your g’s, and wink a lot: Vettin’ is not necessary. Neither are press conferences, direct answers, or substance. Simply put on $150,000 worth of designer digs, and tell people that the other presidential candidate eats babies. And if it doesn’t work, well, there’s always 2012. By then you should be able to handle a press conference or two.
  • Tina Fey should send Sarah Palin a Christmas card. With a picture of her in a black power suit, surrounded by the pile of money she’s made.
  • Once again, Ohio and Florida decide. And we shall find out if they are “pro-America” on November 4th. If they are not, we should consider seceding them to Canada and Mexico, respectively.
  • The economy is like an ugly stepsister. When you’re in the family, you don’t want to trot her out at the risk of repulsing other people. So, you dress her up, throw on some lipstick, and try to divert all attention to the pretty, wink-happy stepsister instead. When you’re outside the fam, you take one look at the atrocity, say, “holy crap,” and schedule an emergency extreme makeover.
  • The focus of this election being the economy. Back in 2004, the election focused on terrorism and Iraq. In 2000, social issues like gay marriage and stem cell research were at the forefront. It’s interesting to see how priorities change… Thanks, George.
  • Joe the Plumber has come to symbolize middle America. But, he owes back taxes, he’s not actually a plumber, and his real name is Sam. And if he’s making $250K+ a year, middle Americans should probably look for a better spokesperson… like Phil the Pharmacist or Martha the Schoolteacher.
  • There is still racism in this country. Not just the black-white kind, but also based on religious beliefs. (Colin Powell said it best on Meet the Press: “Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.”) You’d think that by 2008, we would be better than this.
  • Democracy can sometimes be scary. They are predicting that McCain only has a 4.3% chance of winning, but I’m still scared about Y2K.

November 4th… VOTE! And even though this post is biased, you can vote however you like.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Politics

Pretty Soon, Today’s ‘Stupid’ Will Be Tomorrow’s ‘Smart’

Last week, both presidential candidates acknowledged that we had to reform our education system. Like most everything else, Obama and McCain naturally disagreed on how to solve this issue. Perhaps we need to pay teachers more and get the best-qualified educators to head our classrooms. Perhaps we need to have more vouchers/charter schools to foster competition. Maybe we just need parents to get more involved in building shoebox dioramas and helping their kids with algebra problems.

Or, perhaps we’re just getting dumber. (After all, we elected George W. Bush twice. Enough said).

Consider this theory: over the past few decades, we have seen significant declines in the birth rates across the country. As more and more young people started going to college, and women became more prevalent in the workplace, births in the U.S. have naturally declined:

“Fertility tends to decline as education level increases. Women may put off marriage and children to further their education, then to get established in the labor force. Women age 40 to 44 with no high school education had about 2.5 children in 2004, compared with 1.6 children among women with a graduate or professional degree.” – Mary Kent, Population Reference Bureau

So keeping this in mind, let’s look at the following charts from the National Center for Health Statistics, which show the birth rates by state in 1990. The chart on the top shows the birth rate, while the chart on the bottom shows the growth in births from 1990 to 2002. The state with the highest birth rate was Utah (20.9 for every 1,000 people), far surpassing Texas as the place where the most babies are made (or at least birthed). (Go to full report)

The states with the highest birth rates are typically in the Midwest and South, whereas East Coasters and Californians are apparently too busy to procreate. Unsurprisingly, these are the same areas where birth rates have declined the most in the past ten years, whereas states like Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Georgia, and North Carolina have stepped up their baby-making game.

Now here is a graph from a U.S. Census report, on the percentage of college graduates by state:

So, the states with the most college grads are also the states which tend to have the lowest birth rates.

Hmm…

Consider if this trend continues: the least-educated areas of the country are popping out babies like hotcakes, while the sterile Ivy Leaguers in the Northeast are busy trading mortgage-backed securities on Wall Street. Thus, the composition of the American population is skewed towards those with parents who are less educated. One may argue about the degree to which parents’ educational attainment affects their children’s test scores, but there is undoubtedly a correlation between the two. And while Texans and Idahoans may rightly argue that causality cannot be determined by a few colorful graphs, the data is in line with what we know: women who attain less education have more babies. There is a greater likelihood then that their kids will get less education than children born to snooty PhD candidates in Washington. And their kids will have more kids and more kids, while the slice of snooty intellectuals gets smaller and smaller.

So what can turn this around? In the end, we need to build a universal culture that values learning, instead of a culture that values moose huntin’ and a self-righteous idiocracy. We need to get students excited about education, and close the achievement gap that too often divides along racial and socioeconomic lines. We may need to rehaul our schools, implement student incentive programs, or pay our teachers more…

And we could also start encouraging smart people to make some babies, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under News, Politics

I’m Voting for the Candidate Who Agrees that the Yankees Suck

They say that when you grow up in Boston, it’s in your blood. It seeps into your mind, your heart, and your soul. There is no denying it, and there is no cure. In life, you may change jobs, political affiliations, or even genders, but you will always, always be a Boston Red Sox fan.

The Red Sox are an institution in Boston. This is a city that bleeds red in October. It is a city that jams thirty-thousand-plus people into a green concrete box on game days. It is a city that goes crazy when the Red Sox win, and self-immolates when the Red Sox lose. If you were walking the streets of Boston today, and asked a stranger about the three happiest moments of his life, the first two would be some variation of the typical answer: when my children were born, owning my first home, the day of my wedding, the day of my divorce, etc. However, the third happiest moment would likely be repeated by most everyone you meet: the Red Sox winning the 2004 World Series. Seriously: everyone. Or at least 90%.

But even though us Boston fans are undoubtedly consumed by our sports teams, this fanaticism isn’t limited to Massholes. In fact, there are some places that may even be worse. After all, grown men wear dresses and pig snouts to support the Redskins in Washington. Detroit fans help out their basketball team by sucker punching opposing players. And infamous Cubs fan Steve Bartman received death threats before he was forced into hiding… all because he interfered with a foul ball.

Some might think that our country’s infatuation with sports is strange: you have millions of people on the edge of their seats, fixating over an event they can’t control, with participants they don’t really know, in a game they’ve probably never played. Even though we may give ourselves credit for our team’s victory (“during the whole game, I didn’t move my right arm, because the last time I did, Favre threw an interception”)… really, telekinesis has yet to hit NFL playbooks.

So why are we so obsessed? Why do we set aside our Sundays, neglect our work, and force our arms to go numb? Why do we let two-point conversions and last-second threes and outcomes (over which we have no control) impact our mood? Why do we allow the fate of a foul ball decide how homicidal we want to be today?

Much of it has to do with the sense of community that comes with being a sports fan. Our teams serve as a common thread between fans, an easy conversation starter, and a way for us to showcase our townie pride and bash on our rivals. Our allegiances also grow stronger if there is a common enemy: for Bostonians, we collectively cringe when Peyton Manning’s 17th commercial comes on, and we all agree that the Yankees do indeed, suck. The rivalry is what makes is interesting, and it’s what draws us to our teams even more.

Finally, I’d like to go off on a somewhat-related tangent: As November nears, all of us will be forced to choose allegiances in another competition between opposing rivals. In this contest, however, the implications are far worse than a weekly depression because the Dolphins lost again. Instead, we have to wait four years to turn this one around. And while we eagerly anticipate the next Sox game at Fenway, our engagement with the upcoming election is minimal, at best. Not too many people plan on packing the bars to watch the debates. Not too many anticipate dressing up as a gun-toting book Nazi to support their favorite Russia expert. Very few people are on the edge of their seats.

So, a suggestion: As sports are so popular, let’s try it with politics. For this election, let’s get some form-fitting red and blue jerseys, and see how well our candidates do under pressure. How are Obama’s skills on the basketball court? Can Palin can shoot a moose with a bow and arrow? The ultimate decider could be an American Gladiators course, the true test of patriotism and strength. I want to see Biden battling it out with Siren. I want to see Palin jousting with Mayhem. I want to see McCain get lit up by Justice. If this doesn’t get people interested in the election… well, at least they’ll have football on Sundays to get them through the next four years.

1 Comment

Filed under Arts and Entertainment

Perhaps There’s Hope for Paris Hilton After All

Over the past year, we’d heard it all: the economy was in a tailspin, gas prices were soaring, banks were failing, and glaciers were melting.  It wasn’t looking good for Americans, in the wake of lost jobs, more ads for Cymbalta (“where does depression hurt?”), and the resurfacing of Paris Hilton to the national spotlight, with energy plan in tow.  While Debbie Downer was enjoying the party, ordinary Americans were at the bar, our heads in our hands, wondering if Lindsay Lohan might have some advice about our mortgages. 

However, there has been better news over the past few months: the dollar rallied, New Orleans dodged Hurricane Gustav, and the Olympics provided a much-needed jolt to our battered psyches.  Watching Nastia and Shawn, Misty and Kerri, and the redeem team dominate in Beijing, we forgot all about our shrinking pensions.  Instead, we came together as a country, united by our universal obsession with Michael Phelps and our collective distrust of Chinese girls on floor exercise.  

But the most uplifting story of the summer did not come from our athletes’ accomplishments in Beijing.  Instead, it came from a little podunk town in Alaska, from a soon-to-be-GILF, and from the Republican party, no less… Yes, moose-eating, gun-toting, baby-bearing Sarah Palin is the star of the feel-good movie this summer.   

When Palin was first announced as John McCain’s VP candidate, Maureen Dowd said it best: “Why do men only pick women as running mates when they need a Hail Mary pass? It’s a little insulting.” Yes, it is, and McCain’s selection of Palin was easily the most transparent case of pandering to politics in recent history.  But even after she was thoroughly vetted by the media (after all, someone had to do it), Sarah Palin has still come out of it reasonably clean, and with her fascinating story intact.  While Barack Obama has been running his campaign on the theme of “hope”, this does not come close to true, Sarah Palin-brand hope.  True hope is when you believe your team can come back from a ten-run deficit in the ninth.  True hope is when you think that Michael Phelps will see your sign and say yes, he will marry you.  True hope is when you’ve served as governor of Alaska for two years and you think it’d be nice to get invited to your party’s convention (family vacay in Minneapolis!)… oh, and then they ask you to be the vice-presidential candidate. 

This is why Sarah Palin is the feel-good story of the year.  It’s all about hope:  Sarah Barracuda shows that we too can reach the highest offices in our land.  Heck, all you need is a great nickname, an attractive family, the label of “Christian reformer,” and you’re one Viagra-down-the-wrong-pipe away from being the leader of the free world.  Thus, all other unknown governors and small-town mayors should start studying up on Iraqi politics.  Anyone with managerial experience should refine their healthcare plan.  Beauty queens should brush up on their wave… You never know when a presidential candidate may need a saucy new running mate to draw attention away from the real issues. 

Because even while Sarah Palin’s story is uplifting, it’s distracted us from what this presidential election should be about: the issues. 

Palin’s speech last night was full of heartwarming anecdotes but little substance.  She tore apart Obama’s plans while offering no solutions of her own.  Instead of giving us her opinons on important issues concerning Americans, she spent most of her speech attacking Obama for being too well-spoken and well-educated…as if those were bad attributes.  It’s disappointing that right after the Olympics, when our nation was at its peak of togetherness, we were forced once again to hate thy Democratic or Republican neighbor.  The vitriol hurled back and forth during these conventions can make one believe that the opposing candidate is truly as vacuous as Paris Hilton… so it’s no wonder the majority of Americans hate politics.

In the end, we all focus on the sound bites that reaffirm our current beliefs.  For Republicans, Palin’s nomination reinforces McCain’s maverick streak and adds a new spark to the conservative base of the party.  For Democrats, the Palin pick is a sign of desperation and an insulting attempt to attract women.  For everyone else, well, we’re just waiting to see who Nader chooses as his VP.  Since the Dems have a black guy, and the GOP has a woman, does anyone know if Carson Kressley is free for speaking engagements in November?… If not, then I’m sending in my resume and highlighting my executive experience managing a student organization in college…  One can only hope, right?

2 Comments

Filed under News, Politics