Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Attention to Detail by Andy Jobson

Working at a military academy brings its own set of priorities.  Our literature promotes the JROTC program as a structural support for academic success, and in many ways that is true, despite occasional conflicts between military and academic goals. 

One element that I have grown to appreciate more over the years is the emphasis on attention to detail.  For a JROTC officer, that entails making sure your gig line is straight, your insignia is correct, your shoes are shined, and your room is “squared away.”  As a teacher, I emphasize the same thing in different ways.  Have you followed the directions as written?  Have you produced neat work?  Have you paid attention to margins and the heading I require?  Are you using punctuation appropriately?

Sometimes the boys get frustrated with my demands.  I work with eighth- through twelfth-graders, and like many teenage boys, they tend to overlook ‘minor’ details.  (How many times have my own boys at home simply not ‘seen’ the piles of clothes and toys in their room?)  There was a time in my educational journey where I might have been willing to forgive such niceties; did it really matter if the boys used the heading I suggested or something else?  The older I get, though, the more I find myself insisting that the boys pay attention to my expectations and meet them.

I think I resisted some of this because I didn’t like the ‘factory’ model, where we were training our boys to be laborers under the industrial system.  The ‘new education,’ we were told, was to prepare students to be critical thinkers, not clock-punchers and automatons.  I agree that critical thinking and independence is vital (hence my association with izzit!), but I also see that paying attention to the directions is a vital skill for success.  Can you say “tax returns”?



If all I’ve done is to train my boys to follow directions, I have failed.  At the same time, though, if I haven’t trained them to read and follow directions, including MLA citation format and the works, then I think I have also failed.  Details matter.



An educator of 22 years, Andy Jobson has taught government, economics, and U.S. History. Currently teaching English literature at Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville, GA, he’s also been an administrator, a STAR teacher twice, and taught elementary school with Teach for America.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

econlife - Why Albums Are Longer by Elaine Schwartz


We are streaming more of our music with the newest albums having as many as 45 tracks.

Where are we going? To some marginal thinking.

But first, a bit of history…


Music Industry Revenue


Does anyone remember LP records?

In 1980, the music industry was dominated by LP/EP. With LP standing for long play and EP, extended play vinyl records, both represented almost 60% of the revenue generated by different musical formats. Next, we had cassettes at 19.1%.

By 1992 CDs had ascended to that 60% position and by 2002, were at a whopping 95.5% of all revenue. Fast forward to 2012 though and all began to change. You can see that CDs had moved way down as downloaded singles and albums became more popular:
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But this graph says it all:

U_S__Music_Industry_Revenue_Grew_11__in_2016_Thanks_to_Streaming_Music_Services_-_Mac_Rumors




























New Incentives
With streaming becoming increasingly dominant, the incentives in the industry have changed. Musicians have always coveted a higher ranking from Billboard. But now that they count streaming, Billboard has made downloads ever more crucial.

This how The Washington Post explains their criteria:  music industry revenue






You can see that it’s the length that lets you “climb the charts” because longer albums maximize the chance for more downloads.

Examples? Here I again quote The Washington Post since I know little about the 22 tracks in Drake’s “More Life” and the 20 in Ty Dolla $ign’s “Beach House 3.″ The “record” right now though goes to Chris Brown’s “Heartbreak on a Full Moon” with its 45 tracks.


Our Bottom Line: Thinking at the Margin


Thinking about extras, we should thank British economist Alfred Marshall (1842-1924) for his insight. Marshall was the first scholar to suggest we keep an eye on the margin if we truly want to understand supply and demand. Because the margin is where we decide if we want something extra, the cost of that extra item shapes our behavior. At the margin, sellers decide whether to produce something extra and consumers calculate the quantities they are willing and able to buy at different prices. Their decisions depend on the extra item’s marginal utility–its value at the margin.

So, those extra tracks are no longer an artistic decision. As revenue generators, they have considerable marginal utility.

My sources and more: Making yesterday’s walk a pleasure, Tim Harford’s More or Less podcast alerted me to the longer album phenomenon. From there, I discovered more facts in The Guardian and Forbes. But The Washington Post had the best article.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz's work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

econlife - When Organ Donors Need More Than a Nudge by Elaine Schwartz


Economic research tells us that default options are powerful. Because they ask us to do nothing, we tend to select them. So, if the default retirement plan encourages the most saving, many of us wind up putting more aside. Or, if we are defaulted into a high co-pay health insurance plan, we take it.


But really, it is more complicated.

Where are we going? To a closer look at deceased organ donations.


Organ Donation Defaults


In France, deceased organ donation recently became the default.

People will automatically donate their organs when they die unless they actively “opt-out.” Reading Richard Thaler, most of us would say the nudge should work. And yes, when the law went into effect on January 1, 2017, only 150,000 out of a possible 66 million had signed the “refusal register.”

Similarly, with opt-in as the default, Spain has led the world with a 35.7 out of 1 million donation rate. But here is where it gets tricky. Looking further, you would discover that Portugal and Belgium’s donation rates are similar to the U.S. And yet, the former two countries have the “opt-in” default. Furthermore, when Australia (+41%) and the U.K. (+36%) successfully upped their 2009 deceased organ donation rates by 2014, they did not change their consent systems:


discussion_doc-_international_reform_programmes_docx


Our Bottom Line: Spillover


From a study on how to boost New Zealand’s deceased donor organ rate, I saw some of the behind-the-scenes issues. My takeaway was that increasing deceased organ donations has to involve institutional spillover.

Looking at Spain, Portugal, and Croatia, the New Zealand study said you need the following. (Some I directly quoted while others I summarized):
  • an appropriate legal, ethical, and governance framework
  • a national coordinating body
  • hospital-based donation specialists
  • specialist training
  • financial and media support
  • international best practices sharing

Where does this leave us? Sometimes a nudge is not enough.

My sources and more: For nudges generally, Richard Thaler (2017 economics Nobel laureate) talks about them in a Yale Insights article. More specifically, for organ donation, you might enjoy this NY Magazine article. But for the story behind the nudge, this New Zealand report from its Health Ministry has the best information.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz's work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

econlife - The Messages That Satellite Images Send by Elaine Schwartz


The weather at lēf farms has been described as summery… always. Whether it’s July or January, the temperature is close to 75 degrees, the breeze gently blows, and the air feels moist.

As an indoor state-of-the-art glass greenhouse in New Hampshire, the farm minimally pollutes while year round, the neighbors enjoy local produce. They have just one complaint.

You can see below that the lēf farms greenhouses are rather bright. Area residents say they give off an eerie orange color that obscures the beauty of a dark sky:
High-Tech_Greenhouse_Has_Neighbors_Throwing_Shade_Over_Light_Pollution___The_Salt___NPR
The firm’s CEO explains that 80% of the farm’s light requirements come from the sun. 

However, the other 20% comes from artificial lighting.

Those artificial lights are our focus today.

 

Light Stories


Lights can tell a story. In a project called Lights On/Lights Out, using satellite images, scientists have compared levels of illumination between 2012 and 2016.

Below, they hypothesize why some regions became more or less lit during those four years. Please think blue for more light and pink for less:

LIGHTS_ON___LIGHTS_OUT
























So, when you look at the following images, think blue for lights going on during those four years and pink for less of them:

Northern India’s massive electrification initiative is clearly shown:

LIGHTS_ON___LIGHTS_OUT-3






















We can guess that Venezuela's economic crises have darkened the country:
LIGHTS_ON___LIGHTS_OUT-1





















Europe appears to have darkened at night:
LIGHTS_ON___LIGHTS_OUT-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


















Our Bottom Line: Economic Growth


Nighttime satellite images can be barometers of economic activity. They can reflect a more vibrant GDP that is fueled by the ability to create artificial light.

So yes, we can say these pictures are…illuminating. But returning to lēf farms, night lights don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

My sources and more: Thanks to New Hampshire Public Radio for its Outside/In podcast where I learned about lēf farms. And always, I appreciate marginal revolution where I found the link to “Lights On/Lights Out.” Finally, as did I, you might want to peek at the lēf farms website.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz's work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Friday, November 3, 2017

econlife - Why Tomatoes are Controversial by Elaine Schwartz


Texas and Ohio call the tomato their state fruit. But in New Jersey, it’s the state vegetable.

Where are we going? To why people care about what we call a tomato.

A Supreme Court Decision

Because of the Tariff of 1883, an importer’s tomatoes had been slapped with a 10% tax on vegetables. Objecting, he said those tomatoes are a fruit and not subject to the levy.

The case went all the way to the Supreme Court. In 1893, the Court did agree that scientifically the tomato was a fruit. However, all that mattered was common usage. Because the tomato was commonly perceived as a vegetable, it was a vegetable.

In the words of the Court, “Botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of the vine, just as are cucumbers, squashes, beans and peas. But in the common language of the people…all these vegetables [like tomatoes]…are usually served at dinner…and not, like fruits, generally as dessert.”

  


School Lunches


The tomato debate continued into the 20th century when the USDA proclaimed ketchup a vegetable in 1981. Even Senator John Heinz (yes that Heinz… from the Heinz ketchup company) disagreed. Saying ketchup was a condiment, he continued, “This is one of the most ridiculous regulations I ever heard of, and I suppose I need not add that I know something about ketchup and relish — or did at one time.”

Although the USDA reversed its position, the debate continued. In 2011, a Senate bill said that the tomato paste on pizza could be counted as a school lunch vegetable.


NAFTA


Now tomatoes are making international trade news again. But this time, a group of Florida growers wants tariffs. Because Mexican tomatoes can be cheap and because Mexico has a better climate for growing tomatoes, U.S. farmers are asking for protection. Otherwise they say that their industry cannot survive.


Our Bottom Line: Comparative Advantage


Hearing about growing and eating tomatoes, 19th century economist David Ricardo would ask us to remember comparative advantage. He would say that because Mexico produces tomatoes with the lower opportunity cost, it should export them to the U.S. Through free trade world productivity will increase, every nation will benefit,…

And school lunches will cost less.

My sources and more: Isn’t it surprising that the tomato is rather controversial? This Washington Post Wonkblog and the Atlantic have great stories of past conflicts. Then National Geographic  has the scientific details and another Washington Post article looks at NAFTA. And finally, if you want to read more, here is the summary of the Supreme Court tomato case.

Hazlegrove-6763_6bIdeal for the classroom, econlife.com reflects Elaine Schwartz's work as a teacher and a writer. As a teacher at the Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, she’s been an Endowed Chair in Economics and chaired the history department. She’s developed curricula, was a featured teacher in the Annenberg/CPB video project “The Economics Classroom,” and has written several books including Econ 101 ½ (Avon Books/Harper Collins). You can get econlife on a daily basis! Head to econlife.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

What is Critical Thinking? by Jim Triplett

A frequent question I receive from my students is  "what is critical thinking?"

Critical thinking requires that a person reflect upon his or her experiences and then participate in a systematic examination of other views and facts related to the topic (Brown & Keeley, 2012). A key component within this process is one's willingness to ask questions. This process of asking questions enhances and deepens one's understanding of an issue or a problem. As part of the deeper examination of an issue or problem, one should explore the strengths and weaknesses of his or her views. In addition to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of our views, one should strive to objectively understand the strengths and weaknesses of others' views.   

Students engaged in critical and creative thinking are expected to understand a body and foundation of knowledge, rather than striving to develop specific answers to questions or a fixed set of facts. As technology and culture change, so will the questions being asked and their answers. The key is that one knows how to solve complex problems and create solutions to tough problems and situations using an objective process of evaluation. If people only have answers to specific questions, society is limited in its ability to apply problem solving skills. By developing the tools needed to create relevant and effective solutions, one is armed with the knowledge and skills needed to face the challenges in any industry. 

The video I posted below is very helpful in exploring how the process of critical thinking helps one solve problems. Developing these skills takes time and effort. Brown and Keeley (2012) noted one must also be willing and able to ask and answer questions “at appropriate times” something mentioned in the video as well (p. 3).   With this in mind, consider some of the ways you’ve developed your critical thinking skills since you started school.

This video examines critical thinking and how these traits assist one in developing solutions to problems. 

Browne, M. & Keeley, S. (2012). Asking the right questions: A guide to critical thinking (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Jim Triplett is an author, instructional designer, and instructor in the areas of finance, economics, ethics, and critical thinking. Jim holds Masters Degrees in Finance, Organizational Leadership, and Instructional Design Technology, is ABD / PhD in Organization and Management, and is currently completing a doctoral degree, Ed.D, in Educational Leadership with a focus on Educational Technology.