Millennials Blame Capitalism for “the Crushing Burden of College Debt”?

(p. A22) “Millennials don’t remember the Cold War,” said Maurice Isserman, a history professor at Hamilton College who has studied democratic socialism. “They don’t react in the same way to the word ‘socialist’ and associate it with totalitarian communism.”

Instead, young voters have experienced a structural shift in the economy, including the 2008 financial crisis and the crushing burden of college debt, that has given them a more critical view of capitalism, he said.

For the full story, see:

Patricia Mazzei and Sydney Ember. “Sanders’s Views on Cuba Split Young and Old Voters.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 29, 2020): A22.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 28, 2020, and has the title “Sanders Is Stirring Cold War Angst. Young Voters Say, So What?.”)

Newark Charter Schools Increase Math and Reading Scores

(p. A15) In a new study for the Manhattan Institute, I find that attending a Newark charter school that participates in the city’s common enrollment system leads to large improvements in math and reading scores. The benefits are especially pronounced for students who attend a charter school run by either the KIPP or Uncommon Public Schools network, which together account for half the city’s charter-school enrollment. These national networks employ models that focus on high expectations for both academic performance and student behavior. Researchers have found similar results in Boston and Denver.

That’s significant because, thanks largely to a $100 million gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, Newark’s charter schools are among the most extensive and inventive in the nation, enrolling about a third of the city’s roughly 55,000 public-school students.

For the full commentary, see:

Marcus A. Winters. “Cory Booker Goes Down Fighting.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, January 15, 2020): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Jan. 14, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

The “new study” mentioned above, is:

Winters, Marcus A. “Charter Schools in Newark: The Effect on Student Test Scores.” Manhattan Institute Report, January 2020.

Free Speech Is Violated on Many Campuses

(p. A15) Most Americans know that higher education has for several decades been in the grip of a deeply intolerant, fanatical and uncompromising strain of progressive activism. Students and sometimes even faculty members regularly chase heterodox speakers off campus, demand complete fealty from terrified campus bureaucracies, and denounce and destroy each other over the slightest and most inconsequential ideological deviations.

. . .

. . . evidence of ideological intransigence can be found in the “bias response teams” that are now regular features at many universities. One Michigan State student had a bias report filed against him for watching a Ben Shapiro video in a dorm. A faculty member at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was reported for having a Trump sticker in his office window. Another professor was hit with a bias report after discussing the infamous Janet Jackson “nipplegate” controversy. The offended student said the professor had not couched the discussion with enough moral qualifiers.

These incidents don’t represent the normal campus hysterics to which we’ve become accustomed. A growing and strident sect of campus activism is coming to oppose not merely differing opinions but even talking about differing opinions.

For the full commentary, see:

Daniel Payne. “There’s No Safe Space for Ideas on Campus ‘Animal Farms’.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, November 26, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses added; bolded word is italicized in original.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 25, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Feds Investigate Theft of Intellectual Property by Chinese Nationals

(p. A10) BOSTON — Zaosong Zheng was preparing to board Hainan Airlines Flight 482, nonstop from Boston to Beijing, when customs officers pulled him aside.

Inside his checked luggage, wrapped in a plastic bag and then inserted into a sock, the officers found what they were looking for: 21 vials of brown liquid — cancer cells — that the authorities say Mr. Zheng, 29, a cancer researcher, took from a laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Under questioning, court documents say, Mr. Zheng acknowledged that he had stolen eight of the samples and had replicated 11 more based on a colleague’s research. When he returned to China, he said, he would take the samples to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hospital and turbocharge his career by publishing the results in China, under his own name.

. . .

Mr. Zheng’s case is the first to unfold in the laboratories clustered around Harvard University, but it is not likely to be the last. Federal officials are investigating hundreds of cases involving the potential theft of intellectual property by visiting scientists, nearly all of them Chinese nationals.

For the full story, see:

Ellen Barry. “Chinese Man Is Accused Of Smuggling Lab Samples.” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 1, 2020): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date December 31, 2019, and has the title “Stolen Research: Chinese Scientist Is Accused of Smuggling Lab Samples.”)

Elizabeth Warren Started Out as a Student of Henry Manne’s Libertarian Law and Economics Ideas

(p. A1) Never one to shy away from a fight, Elizabeth Warren had found a new sparring partner. She had only recently started teaching at the University of Texas School of Law, but her colleague Calvin H. Johnson already knew her well enough to brace for a lively exchange as they commuted to work.

Indeed, on this morning in 1981, Ms. Warren again wanted to debate, this time arguing on the side of giant utilities over their customers.

Her position was “savagely anti-consumer,” Mr. Johnson recalled recently, adding that it wasn’t unusual for her to espouse similar pro-business views on technical legal issues.

Then something changed. He calls it Ms. Warren’s “road to Damascus” moment.

“She started flipping — ‘I’m pro-consumer,’” Mr. Johnson said.

That something, as Ms. Warren often tells the story, was her deepening academic research into consumer bankruptcy, its causes, and lenders’ efforts to restrict it. Through the 1980s, the work took her to courthouses across the country. There, she said in a recent interview, she found not only the dusty bankruptcy files she had gone looking for but heart-wrenching scenes she hadn’t imagined — average working Americans, tearful and humiliated, admitting they were failures:

(p. A10) “People dressed in their Sunday best, hands shaking, women clutching a handful of tissues, trying to stay under control. Big beefy men whose faces were red and kept wiping their eyes, who showed up in court to declare themselves losers in the great American game of life.”

. . .

The revelations from her bankruptcy research, by her account, became the seeds of her worldview, laid out in her campaign plans for everything from a new tax on the wealthiest Americans to a breakup of the big technology companies.

. . .

In 1979, Ms. Warren recruited her parents from her native Oklahoma to her home in the Houston suburbs to help babysit her two young children.

Then a professor at the University of Houston, she would be spending several weeks at a luxury resort near Miami, one of 22 law professors selected to study an increasingly popular discipline known as “law and economics.’’ One of its central ideas is that markets perform more efficiently than courts.

Mr. Johnson, Ms. Warren’s former Texas commuting partner, believes that it was an important influence on her early thinking.

“Before Liz converted, she came to us from the decidedly anti-government side of law and economics,” he said.

The summer retreat was colloquially known as a “Manne camp,” after its organizer, the libertarian legal scholar Henry G. Manne. With financial support from industry and conservative foundations, Mr. Manne had formed a Law and Economics Center at the University of Miami. (He would later move operations to Emory University and then to George Mason University.)

The mission of the retreat was to spread the gospel of free-market microeconomics among law professors. One participant, John Price, a former dean of the law school at the University of Washington, described it as “sort of pure proselytizing on the part of dedicated, very conservative law and economics folks,” with an emphasis on an anti-regulatory agenda. One faculty member, he recalled, suggested eliminating the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

. . .

While some in the group have said Ms. Warren expressed skepticism at the libertarian ideology, Ms. Blumberg remembers someone very much developing the early stages of her career, who was “far more captivated than I” with the theories.

. . .

Ms. Warren . . . wrote to Mr. Manne in 1981, attaching a copy of her latest published article. She was sending him one article a summer, she wrote, and each “increasingly reflects my time at LEC.”

. . .

“This is really hard-core law & econ analysis,” Todd J. Zywicki, a law professor at George Mason who formerly served as executive director of the Manne Center, wrote in an email. “If you had given me this article with the author anonymized and asked me who wrote it, I would have answered that it was one of the leading scholars in the law & economics of commercial and contract law. Never, in a million years, would I have thought this article was written by EW.”

For the full story, see:

Stephanie Saul. “THE LONG RUN; Warren’s Awakening to a World of Desperation.” The New York Times (Monday, Aug. 26, 2019): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the same date as the print version, and has the title “THE LONG RUN; The Education of Elizabeth Warren.”)

STEM Skills Are Quickly Obsolete

(p. B8) In a recent working paper with a Harvard doctoral student, Kadeem Noray, I calculated how much the skills required for different jobs changed over time. Help-wanted ads for jobs like software developer and engineer were more likely to ask for skills that didn’t exist a decade earlier. And the jobs of 10 years ago often required skills that have since become obsolete. Skill turnover was much higher in STEM fields than in other occupations.

We can also see this by looking at changes in college course catalogs. One of the largest and most popular courses in the Stanford computer science department is CS229 — Machine Learning, taught by the artificial intelligence expert and entrepreneur Andrew Ng. This course did not exist in its current form until 2003, when Professor Ng taught it for the first time with 68 students, and very little like it existed anywhere on college campuses 15 years ago. Today, the machine learning courses at Stanford enroll more than a thousand students.

. . .

Liberal arts advocates often argue that education should emphasize the development of the whole person, and that it is much broader than just job training. As an educator myself, I agree wholeheartedly.

But even on narrow vocational grounds, a liberal arts education has enormous value because it builds a set of foundational capacities that will serve students well in a rapidly changing job market.

For the full commentary, see:

David Deming. “Engineers Start Fast, but Poets Can Catch Up.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, September 22, 2019): B8.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary was last updated on Oct. [sic] 1, 2019, and has the title “In the Salary Race, Engineers Sprint but English Majors Endure.”)

The working paper referred to above, is:

Deming, David J., and Kadeem L. Noray. “Stem Careers and Technological Change.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, NBER Working Paper # 25065, June 2019.

Harvard President James Conant Helped Develop Mustard Gas in WWI

(p. C7) With America’s entry into World War I, Conant took a commission in the Chemical Warfare Service. His task was to develop poison gases—first mustard gas, then an even nastier brew called lewisite. Conant had Quaker branches on his family tree, but he had no qualms: What, he asked, was the moral difference between killing soldiers with explosives and killing them with gas?

. . .

The subtitle of Conant’s autobiography was “Memoirs of a Social Inventor.” He had invented poison gas; he had managed the invention of the Bomb; he had helped invent the modern Harvard; and he aimed to reinvent American education as a whole. But his greatest invention was himself: a new type of social being on the American scene—the scientist-administrator-social engineer. His granddaughter’s biography is an outstanding portrait of a technocrat, at work and at home.

For the full review, see:

Steven Shapin. “Citizen Conant.” The New York Times (Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017): C7.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Oct. 27, 2017, and has the title “Review: Citizen Conant.”)

The book under review is:

Conant, Jennet. Man of the Hour: James B. Conant, Warrior Scientist. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2017.