Saturday, January 06, 2007

This Week's Recommended Reading #20

From Ash:

This week, the news to read is really political. In the social science world, I think are there are really only two quick pieces that made me sit up and take notice. First, is the CNN/AP report that the new University of Alabama Crimson Tide football coach is making $4.5 million – making him the highest paid in the country – over a million more than the #2 guy. That's seven times the state median income.

But here's the really scandalous part – AP reports that this state school is in a state that ranks 45th out of 50 in educational expenditures for its students. I looked it up: Alabama spends $6,508 per pupil (compared to, for example, Mass's $10,986). (You can get state education profiles from NAEP.) So his annual salary is roughly equivalent to what the state spends on 700 kids a year.

Now, I went to USC, so I love football. I know how much money a good team can bring in, and Pete Carroll's worth every penny the school pays him, but I'm sorry, 'Bama, that's just obscene. The university's statement that the football program's separately financed is no excuse. Get those boosters to pay for kids to go to the university, why don't you?

While I steam over that – check out the San Francisco Chronicle coverage of a new report on children's chances for success, based on parental backgrounds, state educational programs, etc. Basically, they say Virginia is where to be – from parental educational background to school resources. But that some states like California do try to make up for demographic disadvantages through their institutions, and that those efforts to make a difference. (Oh, Alabama again ranks 45th on that chart, too.)

The Chronicle piece is a nice primer, and the underlying report, which I've just started to examine, seems fascinating. Education Week has taken 13 predictors for children's success, and stacked them up against each other. I'm not completely persuaded yet about their bottom line results (I'll blog more about it when I read it in full), but the premise is worth considering.

More an FYI than a recommend: Tomorrow's New York Times Sunday Magazine will have a feature on the science and teaching of happiness. (At least, that's what my preview email told me.) But for my money, both the more recent New York Magazine cover story and the earlier Time cover were better. I don't think that the NYT piece really added anything to my knowledge from what I'd learned in those pieces, and it seems to me to more derisively portray the happiness scholars as leftovers from the "feel good" movement. I'm sure those folks are out there, but it was the conflict between those who were taking happiness seriously and those weren't, that I found the most compelling part of the NY Mag and Time Mag articles. And I admit a connection to both of those pubs, but I wouldn't say that unless I really believed it.

By the way, there's also a last week cover story on happiness in The Economist, but I confess I haven't done more than skim through it, so I can't comment on it other than to recognize that it's out there.


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