Rosenwald Philanthropy Aimed at Self-Help More Than Social Change

(p. A15) At the beginning of the 20th century, three figures dominated the rapidly expanding world of American philanthropy. Two—Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller—are still remembered, mostly because of the foundations they established. But the third—Julius Rosenwald—is largely forgotten. No foundations, and few buildings, bear his name. If his approach to giving was more modest in spirit, it was no less influential and effective in its day.

. . .

. . . , Rosenwald invested in a catalog sales company that needed capital: Sears, Roebuck. He gradually became more involved in the business and, when co-founder Richard Sears resigned in 1908, took over its leadership.

. . .

Because the rise and fall of Sears, Roebuck is already well-chronicled, Ms. Diner, a professor of American Jewish history at New York University, concentrates on what Rosenwald did with the status and fortune he accumulated. By one estimate, he donated, in today’s dollars, close to $2 billion before he died in 1932, as well as considerable time to the causes he cared about.

Many of these centered on his hometown of Chicago. Rosenwald’s gifts helped to create the city’s Museum of Science and Industry, build the University of Chicago, and support the settlement houses run by Jane Addams and others. He also underwrote a wide range of Jewish organizations, including cultural institutes, theological seminaries and, most notably, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a fund that was set up during World War I to aid Jewish refugees and that has continued to do so ever since.

The most striking part of Rosenwald’s philanthropy may well be his funding of African-American education in the South. Influenced by Booker T. Washington, he developed a program to construct elementary and secondary schools in any black community that wanted such support. Over a 20-year period, nearly 5,000 schools opened.

. . .

For both Jewish immigrants in the slums of Chicago and black sharecroppers in the rural South, Rosenwald’s philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.

For the full review, see:

Leslie Lenkowsky. “BOOKSHELF; A Catalog of Generosity; His approach to philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Oct. 30, 2017): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 29, 2017, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; Review: A Catalog of Generosity; His approach to philanthropy sought to promote practical efforts at self-improvement, not ambitious plans for social change.”)

The book under review is:

Diner, Hasia R. Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017.

“He Wrote Simple Declarative Sentences That People Could Read”

(p. B16) Steve Dunleavy, a hell-raising Australian who transfused his adrenaline into tabloid newspapers and television as a party crasher to American journalism, died on Monday [June 24, 2019] at his home in Island Park, N.Y.

. . .

He was said to have been the model for Wayne Gale, the manic Australian reporter played by Robert Downey Jr. in Oliver Stone’s 1994 film “Natural Born Killers.” But he gravitated closer to the Runyonesque characters in Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur’s play “The Front Page” from 1928.

. . .

After the actress Ava Gardner rejected his invitation to be interviewed at a nightclub and threw a glass of champagne in his face, he wrote an article that began: “Last night, I shared a glass of champagne with Ava Gardner. She threw it; I wore it.” Continue reading ““He Wrote Simple Declarative Sentences That People Could Read””

Stephen Moore Was a Threat to Groupthink at Fed

(p. A15) The following declaration may shock many of my academic colleagues: I support the nomination of Stephen Moore to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve.

I say so despite being immersed in the “professor standard” Herman Cain recently decried. I received my doctorate in economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and did postdoctoral work at Harvard, was a professor of business economics at the University of Chicago, and for the past 43 years have taught finance at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The truth is that “professor standards” change. Early models of gross domestic product emphasized John Maynard Keynes’s model of aggregate demand—the amount of goods consumers and businesses’ desire to buy—as the source of national prosperity. Today, the vast majority of economists recognize that it is the supply side—increases in productivity driven by technological innovation—that creates long-term economic growth.

. . .

I’ve been supportive of Fed policy since the financial crisis. But any organization, even a great one, can easily fall victim to groupthink. Continue reading “Stephen Moore Was a Threat to Groupthink at Fed”

Academic Progress in New Orleans Charter Schools Is “Remarkable”

(p. A19) This month, the New Orleans overhaul entered a new stage. On July 1, [2018] the state returned control of all schools to the city. The charter schools remain. But a locally elected school board, accountable to the city’s residents, is now in charge. It’s a time when people in New Orleans are reflecting on what the overhaul has, and has not, accomplished.

So I decided to visit and talk with students, teachers, principals, community leaders and researchers. And I was struck by how clear of a picture emerged. It’s still a nuanced picture, with both positives and negatives. But there are big lessons.

New Orleans is a great case study partly because it avoids many of the ambiguities of other education reform efforts. The charters here educate almost all public-school students, so they can’t cherry pick. And the students are overwhelmingly black and low-income — even lower-income than before Katrina — so gentrification isn’t a factor.

Yet the academic progress has been remarkable.

Performance on every kind of standardized test has surged. Before the storm, New Orleans students scored far below the Louisiana average on reading, math, science and social studies. Today, they hover near the state average, despite living amid much more poverty. Nationally, the average New Orleans student has moved to the 37th percentile of math and reading scores, from the 22nd percentile pre-Katrina.

This week, Douglas Harris — a Tulane economist who leads a rigorous research project on the schools — is releasing a new study, with Matthew Larsen, another economist. It shows that the test-score gains are translating into real changes in students’ lives. High-school graduation, college attendance and college graduation have all risen.

One example: In most of Louisiana, the share of 12th graders going directly to college has fallen in recent years, probably because of budget cuts to higher education. In New Orleans, Harris and Larsen report, the share has jumped to 32.8 percent, from 22.5 percent before Katrina.

People here point to two main forces driving the progress: Autonomy and accountability.

For the full commentary, see:

Leonhardt, David. “A Better Way to Run Schools.” The New York Times (Monday, July 16, 2018): A19.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date July 15, 2018, and has the title “How New Orleans Is Helping Its Students Succeed.” Where the two versions differ, the passages above follow the online version, which includes a few sentences not included in the print version.)

The Harris and Larsen report, mentioned above, is:

Harris, Douglas N., and Matthew F. Larsen. “The Effects of the New Orleans Post-Katrina Market-Based School Reforms on Student Achievement, High School Graduation, and College Outcomes.” In Technical Report: Education Research Alliance for New Orleans, 2018.

Learning to Apply Software Code in Business, Is One Path to the Middle Class

(p. B1) Brittney Ball was living in a homeless shelter with her baby when she learned of a one-year program offering technical training, professional skills and an internship. She took the plunge.

Five years later, Ms. Ball is a software engineer in Charlotte, N.C., earning more than $50,000 a year. A 30-year-old single mother, she has health insurance, retirement savings and plans to vacation in Mexico this year.

“It showed me that I could do something different,” she said about the training program. “It really lit a fire under me.”

Preparing people for tech jobs is hailed as the great employment hope of the future. Cities and states across the country are rushing to teach elementary and high school students to write software. “Learn to code” is a career-advice mantra.

Mastering code and applying it in business, some experts say, holds the promise of becoming the modern path to the middle class for people without four-year college degrees. And nonprofit programs like those used by Ms. Ball are considered central to getting (p. B4) people there.

. . .

There are bright spots, but those programs remain mostly small scale so far, and expanding quickly has many complications. Training, mentoring and counseling people — often from disadvantaged backgrounds — is not a mass-production process.

For the full story, see:

Steve Lohr. ” A Slow Build To Prosperity In Tech Jobs.” The New York Times (Monday, May 20, 2019): B1 & B4.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 19, 2019, and has the title “Tech Jobs Lead to the Middle Class. Just Not for the Masses.”)

Schools Are Safer Today Than 20 Years Ago

(p. A9) Americans believe schools are more unsafe today than they were two decades ago, according to a new poll — even as federal data shows that by most measures, schools have become safer.

. . .

A survey last month of 1,063 adults by The Associated Press and the N.O.R.C. Center at the University of Chicago found that 74 percent of parents of school-age children, and 64 percent of nonparents, believed schools were more unsafe today than they were in 1999. Only 35 percent of parents said they felt “very confident” that their child was safe at school.

. . .

Their fears run counter to the data presented in a federal report released this week. School is still among the safest places an American child can be.

Homicide is a leading cause of death for American youth, but the vast majority of those deaths take place at home or in the neighborhood. Between 1992 and 2016, just 3 percent of youth homicides and 1 percent of youth suicides took place at school, according to the federal report.

School crime levels decreased between 2001 and 2017. The number of students between 12 and 18 years old who reported being the victim of a violent crime at school over the past six months dropped from 2 to 1 percent. Incidents of theft, physical fights, the availability of illegal drugs and bullying also went down.

These changes echo the national drop in crime.

For the full story, see:

Dana Goldstein.  “Schools Are Safer, Even if They Feel Less So.”  The New York Times (Saturday, April 20, 2019):  A9.

(Note:  ellipses added.)

(Note:  the online version of the story also has the date April 20, 2019, but has the title “20 Years After Columbine, Schools Have Gotten Safer. But Fears Have Only Grown.”)

Janet Yellen Values Non-Ph.D.s at Fed

(p. A2)  Sen. Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, nicely captured this sentiment by saying about Mr. Moore, an advocate for lower taxes and other conservative causes: “Steve’s nomination has thrown the card-carrying members of the Beltway establishment into a tizzy, and that says little about Steve and his belief in American ingenuity, but a lot about central planners’ devotion to groupthink.”

Anti-elitism is an odd look for Mr. Sasse, Ph.D. (Yale) and former college president (Midland University), but he’s hardly alone.

. . .

Economics can be insular, and even Janet Yellen, who chaired the Fed before Mr. Powell, agrees the Fed has been top-heavy with Ph.D. economists like her. “It’s not always been clear that this led to an improvement in policymaking,” she said in a 2012 interview for an oral history of the Fed, released Friday [April 12, 2019]. She praised the contribution of non-economist governors who, she says, are always asking themselves if the arguments of economists are “relevant to the world as I’m experiencing it through my contacts, whether they’re bankers or businesspeople or whatever?”

For the full commentary, see:

(Note:  ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note:  the online version of the commentary has the date 9.)