Bloomberg Will Donate $750 Million to Support Charter Schools

(p. A19) American public education is broken. Since the pandemic began, students have experienced severe learning loss because schools remained closed in 2020—and even in 2021 when vaccinations were available to teachers and it was clear schools could reopen safely. Many schools also failed to administer remote learning adequately.

Before the pandemic, about two-thirds of U.S. students weren’t reading at grade level, and the trend has been getting worse. Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, commonly known as the nation’s report card, show that in 2019, eighth-grade math scores had already fallen significantly.

Teachers understand the severity of the problem, and many are doing heroic work, yet some of their union representatives are denying reality. “There is no such thing as learning loss,” said Cecily Myart-Cruz, head of the Los Angeles teachers union, in an interview with Los Angeles Magazine this past summer. “Our kids didn’t lose anything. It’s OK that our babies may not have learned all their times tables. They learned resilience.”

What nonsense. How about reading, writing and arithmetic, the critical skills we are funding schools to teach?

Instead of giving students the skills they need to succeed in college or in a trade, the public education system is handing them diplomas that say more about their attendance record than their academic achievement. This harms students, especially those from low-income families. When and if they graduate, they will try to find work in an economy that values knowledge and skills above all else, and their old schools will say to them: “Good luck!”

. . .

We know what works, because we can see it in real time. Success Academy’s network of 47 public charter schools is serving New York children whose families predominantly live below the poverty line. Their students are outperforming public-school students in Scarsdale, N.Y.—the wealthiest town on the East Coast and the second-wealthiest town in America—by significant margins. Yet a statewide cap on charter schools is blocking Success Academy from expanding.

. . .

Today there are long waiting lists for charter schools across the country, but mayors and governors aren’t getting the support they need from Congress and the White House to open new charter schools. To begin meeting the demand for charters, Bloomberg Philanthropies is launching a five-year, $750 million effort to create seats for 150,000 more children in 20 metro areas across the country.

For the full commentary, see:

Bloomberg, Michael R. “Why I’m Backing Charter Schools.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date December 1, 2021, and has the same title as the print version.)

University of Chicago’s Milton Friedman Center Now Run by “Former Obama Staffers Who Cheer” . . . “Moves Toward Socialism”

(p. A15) Colleges’ ideological turn leftward has become sharper. At my own institution, a center dedicated to Milton Friedman is now run by former Obama staffers who cheer on the Biden administration’s moves toward socialism.

These policies reward professors and administrators who can then raise the price of their services. It’s basic economics that subsidizing demand increases the price of the product. Tuition rising as loan subsidies expand is no different. It isn’t a coincidence that education and health care, the industries in which government subsidies are most pervasive, took the highest price increases over the past 15 years—3.7% and 3.1% a year, compared with the 1.8% average across industries.

For the full commentary, see:

Tomas J. Philipson. “College Subsidies Are a Feedback Loop for Bigger Government.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, June 11, 2021): A15.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 10, 2021, and has the title “College Subsidies Are a Feedback Loop for Bigger Government.”)

Choppin at Hughes Medical Institute Hired Good Scientists and Let Them Pursue Hunches and Serendipitous Insights

(p. A27) Purnell Choppin, whose research on how viruses multiply helped lay the foundation for today’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, died on July 3 [2021] at his home in Washington, one day shy of his 92nd birthday.

. . .

Dr. Choppin (pronounced show-PAN) focused on measles and influenza, but his research, and the methods he developed to conduct it, proved critical for later work on other viruses, including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, the virus behind the Covid-19 pandemic, said David Baltimore, an emeritus professor of biology at the California Institute of Technology and a winner of the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“The issue of how viruses infect cells was very much on his mind, and the mechanisms he worked out studying influenza were central to thinking about coronaviruses,” Dr. Baltimore said. “Thanks to his work and that of so many others, when the pandemic hit, we were able to formulate questions about the virus in quite precise terms.”

Dr. Choppin was equally well known as an administrator, first at Rockefeller and then at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which hired him in 1985 as its chief medical officer. He later ran the institute for 12 years, turning it from a modest-size research organization into a global research powerhouse.

. . .

With a calm, easygoing demeanor that disguised a fierce, visionary ambition, Dr. Choppin took an innovative approach to funding. Unlike other institutions, which provide grants for specific projects, he focused on identifying top researchers and then showering them with money and resources. Even better, he did not ask them to move to the institute, in Chevy Chase, Md. — they could stay where they were and let the Hughes largesse come to them.

. . .

While Dr. Choppin was sometimes criticized for making safe bets on established scientists who probably didn’t need his help, he made no apologies, and had the track record to prove the soundness of his approach: Dozens of Hughes researchers had gone on to become members of the National Academy of Sciences, and six won the Nobel Prize.

“We bet on people who look like they are going to be winners,” he told The Washington Post in 1988. “You look for originality. How they pick a problem and stick to it. Their instinct for the scientific jugular.”

For the full obituary, see:

Clay Risen. “Purnell Choppin, 91, Researcher Who Focused on Viruses.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, July 25, 2021): 27.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date July 23, 2021, and has the title “Purnell Choppin, 91, Dies; Researcher Laid Groundwork for Pandemic Fight.”)

Dolly Parton Sings and Donates with “Effective Sympathy”

The above is an “embed” from a YouTube video posted by singer (and English Professor) Ryan Cordell. The lyrics were written by Gretchen McCulloch and the tune is from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” The YouTube URL is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cCwNQtnI64I

In my book Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism, I write about “effective sympathy” which I describe as “actions taken by sympathetic observers that actually save or improve the lives of those who are suffering” (p. 110). I admire Dolly Parton for donating copies of The Little Engine That Could to poor children. I also admire Dolly Parton for donating a million dollars to help start research on the Moderna vaccine for Covid-19. Dolly Parton knows how to practice effective sympathy.

(p. 12) She wrote “I Will Always Love You” and “Jolene” on the same day and built a theme park around herself. She has given memorable onscreen performances as a wisecracking hairstylist and harassed secretary. She even helped bring about the creation of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Now, Dolly Parton’s fans are crediting her with saving the world from the coronavirus. It’s an exaggerated, tongue-in-cheek claim, to be sure. But for legions of admirers, Ms. Parton’s donation this spring to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which worked with the drugmaker Moderna to develop a coronavirus vaccine, was another example of how her generosity and philanthropy have made her one of the world’s most beloved artists.

. . .

“Her money helped us develop the test that we used to first show that the Moderna vaccine was giving people a good immune response that might protect them,” Dr. Denison said on Tuesday.

Ms. Parton told the BBC on Tuesday [November 17, 2020] that she was excited to hear her contribution provided a “little seed money that will hopefully grow into something great and help to heal this world.”

. . .

On Monday [November 16, 2020], after Moderna announced that early trials of the vaccine showed a 94.5 percent effectiveness rate, fans reacted rapturously.

. . .

Ryan Cordell, an associate professor of English at Northeastern University in Boston, filmed himself singing a song about the vaccine to the tune of “Jolene.”

For the full story, see:

Maria Cramer. “Dolly: A Star of Country, a Songwriter, a Virus Hero.” The New York Times, First Section (Sunday, November 22, 2020): 12.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 17, 2020, and has the title “Dolly Parton: Singer, Songwriter, Pandemic Savior?” The online version says that the title of the New York print version was “Dolly: Country Music Legend, Songwriter, Pandemic Hero” and its page number was 8. The title of my National print version was “Dolly: A Star of Country, a Songwriter, a Virus Hero” and its page number was 12.)

My book mentioned above is:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019.

The use of The Little Engine That Could to encourage entrepreneurial perseverance is analyzed in:

Yandle, Bruce. “I Think I Can! Does the Little Engine That Could Matter?” Journal of Private Enterprise 26, no. 2 (Spring 2011): 127-42.

Neighborhood Center Delivered the Air-Conditioning that NYC Had Promised

(p. A7) It seemed like a noble idea to offer quick help during the pandemic: New York City would give away free air-conditioners this summer to low-income older people who are stuck indoors.

It turned out to be a far more complicated mission for the city.

. . .

The difficulty in getting a free air-conditioner left many seniors frustrated and confused by what they described as a bureaucratic, inefficient process.

Concepcion Reyes, who is 67 and has asthma, said she made numerous phone calls to a handful of city agencies from her stuffy apartment last week, after seeing her neighbor snag a free air-conditioner from the city.

“I’ve been in the shower two times already today,” Ms. Reyes, who lives at Holmes Towers, a public housing building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said last week. “I’m sweating bullets.”

. . .

Frustrated by delays, officials at the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center in Manhattan spent nearly $30,000 on 56 air-conditioners for older people.

Rosalina Acevedo, who is 73 and diabetic, had one of the units installed in her bedroom at Holmes Towers in July [2020]. When she turned it on for the first time, she instantly felt relief.

“It was delicious,” she said.

Gregory J. Morris, the center’s executive director, said the city should have worked with community groups that could easily have provided a list of older residents with serious health conditions who urgently needed the units. The city had its own lists, and names were missing.

“They were desperate,” he said of the older people his center works with. “There was no timeline from the city. If you’re in the middle of a heat wave, do I wait longer for the city? Or do I step in and solve the problem?”

For the full story, see:

Emma G. Fitzsimmons. “The Wait for Promised Air-Conditioners Leaves Some Older Residents Sweating.” The New York Times (Saturday, August 22, 2020): A7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 21, 2020, and has the title “Older New Yorkers Sweat It Out, Waiting for Promised Air-Conditioners.”)

If Jeff Bezos Really Wanted to Reverse Global Warming

(p. A15) Jeff Bezos’ $10 billion commitment to fight climate change, which he announced last week, brings to mind an episode of “South Park” that aired during the financial crisis. A succession of characters put their money into the market only to see it go instantly to zero before their eyes.

. . .

There’s one way Mr. Bezos might make a real splash and possibly even a difference. With his Blue Origin venture he adopted a “just do it” attitude toward spaceflight. Mr. Bezos could adopt the same “just do it” approach to testing the hypothesis that warming could be halted by using aircraft to distribute inert aerosols in the upper atmosphere to block a small amount of sunlight reaching the earth. A highly reputable climate warrior, New York University’s Gernot Wagner, estimates that around $2 billion a year would be enough to offset the warming seen so far. Other researchers have produced similar estimates.

For the full commentary, see:

Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. “BUSINESS WORLD; How Bezos Can Influence Climate.” The Wall Street Journal (Wednesday, February 26, 2020): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Feb. 25, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)

Gernot Wagner’s aerosol injection research has been published in:

Smith, Wake, and Gernot Wagner. “Stratospheric Aerosol Injection Tactics and Costs in the First 15 Years of Deployment.” Environmental Research Letters 13, no. 12 (Nov. 23, 2018): 1-23.

American Food Aid May Have Prevented “the Collapse of the Soviet State”

(p. A15) Between 1921 and 1923, the United States, acting through Herbert Hoover’s American Relief Administration, supplied food and other aid to more than 10 million people caught up in the famine—created by war, revolution and the Bolshevik assault on the peasantry—then raging in the former Russian empire. The ARA operated, Mr. Smith tells us, “across a million square miles of territory in what was the largest humanitarian operation in history.”

Suspicious of, and embarrassed by, assistance from such a politically inconvenient source, the Kremlin accepted the ARA’s help only grudgingly and, once the crisis was over, “began to erase the memory of American charity,” Mr. Smith writes.

. . .

Mr. Smith argues that the ARA may “quite possibly” have prevented “the collapse of the Soviet state.” Did the decades of communist atrocity that followed cast a shadow over what was a very grand American gesture?

. . .

The ARA departed after the worst was past, but famine returned to the U.S.S.R. less than a decade later, a consequence of collectivization transformed, in Ukraine, to genocide. Millions died, but there were no calls for assistance from the Kremlin—only denials.

For the full story, see:

Andrew Stuttaford. “Feeding The Enemy.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, December 17, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 16, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Russian Job’ Review: Feeding the Enemy.”)

The book under review, is:

Smith, Douglas. The Russian Job: The Forgotten Story of How America Saved the Soviet Union from Ruin. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

“Tech Entrepreneurs Are Just as Mission Driven as People in Nonprofits”

(p. 2) The first rule of Silicon Valley venture capital is never insult a start-up. Founders are always killing it, disrupting the world.

If a start-up is fizzling, shuttering or caught scamming? The socially acceptable response is total silence.

Everyone knows that. Except Jason Palmer.

The start-up in question was AltSchool, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed project to turn school into a start-up experience. It had just announced it was pivoting out of existence after raising $174 million.

Mr. Palmer is in this field: He is a venture capitalist in Washington, D.C., focused on education technology. On June 29, he tweeted that AltSchool was always a bad idea, and he was glad that his firm hadn’t invested in it.

That single jab at a failed company sent the investor elite into conniptions.

. . .

So, two months after the tweet, how is Mr. Palmer feeling? The outrage that came both in public and private did not, in the end, oust him from the industry. He continues to invest.

For him, it was “a reminder,” he said, that tech entrepreneurs truly believe they are saving the world. He wanted to be clear now that he truly believes this, too. They were right. His tweet was very bad. He has been chastened.

“Tech entrepreneurs are just as mission driven as people in nonprofits,” Mr. Palmer said. “They believe they are helping the world just as much as nonprofit founders.”

But of course most start-ups fail, he added, a little quieter, and the tech world ought to learn how to talk about failure.

“In fact, most high-risk start-ups are nonprofits,” he said. “Effectively nonprofits.”

For the full story, see:

Nellie Bowles. “In Silicon Valley, Skin Is Thin.” The New York Times, SundayStyles Section (Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019): 2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 20, 2019, and has the title “Want to Do Business in Silicon Valley? Better Act Nice.” (Where there is a slight difference in wording between the online and print versions, the passages quoted above follow the print version.)

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.

Many Charities and Nonprofits Do Not Change the World

(p. A15) Opinion polls showing that present-day Democrats look more favorably on socialism than capitalism have prompted Tyler Cowen, an economics professor at George Mason University, to write what he calls a “love letter” to big business. His thesis: Corporations may lack heroic attributes, but they deserve more respect than they get.

. . .

Alongside the vilification of corporate capitalism has been a rise in the social status of nonprofits, as if the nonprofit label, by itself, signals both value and virtue. Mr. Cowen isn’t having it: He asserts that fraud is more prevalent in nonprofit organizations than in profit-making ones. What is more, “plenty of charities and nonprofits don’t actually change or improve the world or deliver any useful product at all, but rather simply continue as lost causes with no impact.”

Americans have a big stake in profits, as Mr. Cowen reminds us. “As of 2015, 55 percent of Americans had money invested in stocks . . . ,” he writes. “Even if you do not personally own many or any equities, there is a good chance your retirement fund or pension fund does.”

For the full review, see:

 

(Note: ellipsis between paragraphs, added; ellipsis internal to last paragraph, in original.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date , and has the title “BOOKSHELF;‘Big Business’ Review: What Socialism Gets Wrong.”)

The book under review, is:

Cowen, Tyler. Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2019.

Kansas City Government Pours Bleach on Food for the Homeless

(p. A17) KANSAS CITY, Mo. — They unfurled colorful blankets on a grassy slope, and unloaded steaming trays of corn dogs, baked beans and vegetable beef soup. Every week for the past three years, the volunteers have gone to a park just outside downtown Kansas City with home-cooked meals for the homeless. They call it a picnic with friends.
But on a cloudy afternoon earlier this month, an inspector from the Kansas City Health Department showed up and called it something else: an illegal food establishment.
She ordered most of the food put into black garbage bags, bundled them on the grass and, in a move that stunned the gathered group, doused the pile with bleach.
Allen Andrews, who has been living on the streets for the past year, said he watched silently as the bleach was poured, thinking back to when he had a home. He remembered how he had sometimes poured bleach on trash he put out for collection, to deter rodents from getting into it.
“They treat us like animals,” Mr. Andrews, 46, said.

For the full story, see:
John Eligon. “‘Where Feeding the Needy Requires Both a Heart and a Permit.” The New York Times (Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018): A17.
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 21, 2018, and has the title “You Want to Feed the Hungry? Lovely. Let’s See Your Permit.” The online version says that the article appeared on p. A13 of the New York edition. It appeared on p. A17 of the National edition that I subscribe to.)