I feel honored to note that two of Malcolm Gladwell’s big anecdotes in his new book were covered first in my newspaper column!
— Gladwell: “For American students from wealthy homes, summer vacation isn’t a problem; but, citing the research of a Johns Hopkins sociologist, Gladwell shows that it’s a profound handicap for students from poor homes, who actually outlearn their rich counterparts during the school year but then fall behind them when school lets out. ‘For its poorest students, America doesn’t have a school problem,’ Gladwell concludes. ‘It has a summer-vacation problem.’”
— Benton, July 2003: “Two years ago, researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a fascinating study…They found that schools were actually doing a pretty good job of helping poor kids keep up. From September to May, poor first-graders in the study learned enough to boost their scores 106 points. The scores of middle-class and wealthy kids went up 106 points, too — dead even. But when they tested the same kids again at the end of summer vacation, the better-off kids had gained another 24 points while away from school. Poor kids had dropped 9 points. The researchers kept following the kids and found the same gap yawning open every summer. Over five summers, the well-off kids gained a total of 72 points while on break. The poor kids lost a total of 7 points - which means they entered sixth grade almost a year behind, purely because of what happened during the summer. ‘Summer’s a big reason for the existence of that gap,’ Mr. Fairchild said.”
— Gladwell: “Because Canada’s eligibility cutoff for junior hockey is January 1, Gladwell writes, ‘a boy who turns 10 on January 2, then, could be playing alongside someone who doesn’t turn 10 until the end of the year.’ You can guess at that age, when the differences in physical maturity are so great, which one of those kids is going to make the league all-star team. Once on that all-star team, the January 2 kid starts practicing more, getting better coaching, and playing against tougher competition—so much so that by the time he’s, say, 14, he’s not just older than the kid with the December 30 birthday, he’s better.”
— Benton, August 2007 (my last column!): “For instance, 10 years ago, the international body that governs soccer decided to change the way it breaks children into age groups for select team competitions. Instead of letting kids move from age group to age group as their birthdays passed, it decided to set a uniform date that would be the cutoff point for everyone. That date was Jan. 1. From that point on, kids with birthdays early in the year would always be the oldest, and kids born in November and December would always be the youngest. As a result, the U.S. national soccer team for boys 15 and younger skews the way you’d imagine. The team has 24 members, and 17 of them have birthdays in January, February or March. Again, does just a few months of age difference mean that much in the physical abilities of a teenager? Maybe. But the bigger differences are when these kids are younger — when they’re playing their first soccer as 5- and 6-year-olds. Older kids, whose physical skills have developed a bit more, get singled out for the most praise. They get access to the best coaching. Their parents become convinced they have the most innate talent.”
And then we both draw analogies from our sport-of-choice to the public schools.
I should go on parallel-universe book tour.
12 November 2008 |
So how’d I do? Eh, so-so.
— “Obama wins by a surprising eight points, 53-45, with a hair under two points for the Barr/Nader crowd.” Real numbers: 52.4 for Obama, 46.3 for McCain, 1.3 for everyone else. (Although there are still votes missing, and Nate Silver seems to think Obama’s lead will grow another few fractions of a point as the remaining votes are counted.)
— “Battlegrounds: Obama wins: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Iowa, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota (!), Montana (!). McCain wins: Missouri, Indiana.” I was right on OH, PA, FL, MI, NH, IA, VA, NC, NV, CO, NM, and MO. Erroneously gave Obama GA, ND, and MT; erroneously gave McCain IN. Underestimated the value of Obama’s Chicago supporters doing GOTV across the border; overestimated the black vote in Georgia, the Ron Paul vote in Montana, and my own sense in North Dakota.
— “Total EVs: Obama 374, McCain 164.” Reality: 349-162 so far; assuming results stay the same in NC and MO (and Obama gets the 1 EV in Omaha), the final result will be 365-175.
— “Senate: Dems take Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota. Georgia goes to a December runoff for the 60th seat.” I was right on VA, NM, CO, NH, OR, NC, and GA. The other two (AK, MN) are all technically still uncalled, but it’s looks like I’ll be wrong on AK, and who knows on MN. (I didn’t mention the other close Senate races I expected to remain status quo, MS, LA, and KY. I got those right.)
— “House: Dems add 29 seats.” Reality: It’s currently +19, but there are eight races still undecided, so it’ll probably be something like 4-6 off.
So a decent showing, but I expected a bit better.
One last note. The second pane of this NYT graphic is one of the most shameful images I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a map of the counties where McCain in ‘08 outperformed Bush in ‘04. There aren’t many — after all, the entire country moved about around eight points in the Democrats’ direction, and it was remarkably consistent across states. (See graph #5.)
The counties that went toward McCain — despite the last four years — are overwhelmingly in the south. More particularly, they’re in the parts of the south with a history of white racism and not enough blacks to overcome their racism through vastly increased turnout. Lots of Arkansas, Tennessee, and — sadly — my home state of Louisiana. And don’t blame the shift all on Katrina — my home parish, Acadia Parish, went McCain 72-26 after going Bush 63-35 in ‘04 and 59-38 in ‘00, and Katrina and Rita didn’t do anything to us. I talked to enough friends back home and got enough forwarded nonsense anti-Obama emails to know how much of that vote was motivated by pure hatred of black people. I love my home state, but it’s a goddamn shame.
05 November 2008 |
Just to get on the record:
Obama wins by a surprising eight points, 53-45, with a hair under two points for the Barr/Nader crowd.
Battlegrounds: Obama wins: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, Iowa, Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota (!), Montana (!). McCain wins: Missouri, Indiana.
Total EVs: Obama 374, McCain 164.
Senate: Dems take Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, Alaska, New Hampshire, Oregon, North Carolina, Minnesota. Georgia goes to a December runoff for the 60th seat.
House: Dems add 29 seats.
03 November 2008 |