Thursday, March 21, 2013

Friday Fragments

Get a Job or Your Tuition is Free!  The App Academy, in San Francisco, offers a 9 week, 90 hour per week boot camp to train people as programmers.  In return, the students pay 15 percent of the salaries they land for the first year.  

The contrast between the App Academy, which appears to be thriving, and the City College of San Francisco, which is fighting closure, is tempting, if unfair.  The App Academy is narrowly focused and, by virtue of the 90 hour per week requirement, pretty selective.  But the idea of the trainers having a stake in the success of the students has something to be said for it.


If you haven’t seen this graph yet -- it went viral -- check it out.  It tells you quickly why public higher education has been struggling.

Public higher education is built on a bargain.  In return for pricing itself below cost, it will receive steady public funding.  The states are largely shirking their end of the deal, which forces an unhappy combination of price increases and service cuts.  Those of us in the trenches know this intimately, but it’s nice to see it made explicit.


I asked recently why men don’t return to college.  Now a study from MIT suggests that the reason is the rise of single motherhood.


The theory seems to be that girls can do okay with single mothers, but that boys with single mothers really struggle.  If that’s true -- and the mechanism strikes me as pretty opaque -- then the decline in the number of marriageable men could be self-perpetuating.  More single mothers lead to more boys who will struggle, which leads to more single moms, and so on.

I don’t have the research base to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay,’ but my instincts tell me that this is one of those studies that we’ll look back on ten years from now and wonder what the hell we were thinking.  It just doesn’t sound quite right.  

In The Signal and The Noise, Nate Silver gives the example of a real but misleading correlation between ice cream sales and forest fires.  They tend to rise together and fall together, year after year.  But one doesn’t cause the other; they’re both caused by summer weather.  That’s how this study feels to me.  There’s a missing term, but I don’t know what it is.


Last Saturday The Boy’s basketball team won its championship, which was a happy enough occasion in its own right.  

But the real highlight came after the game, during the celebratory pizza party.  TB spontaneously led a line of teammates over to the volunteers’ table, where he and his teammates thanked the volunteers for making their season possible.  

Judging by the reactions of the volunteers, that doesn’t usually happen.  One of them commented to TB “that really shows class.”  Being the sweet eleven-year-old that he is, when he relayed that comment to us later, he added “woo-hoo!  I have class!”  

Yes, he does.