I woke up with a headache, I have to read a really boring document before an upcoming conference call, and I woke myself up with an anxiety attack. It’s a perfect time, in other words, to react to a typical batch of morning New York Times headlines. Like…
“Mary Peltola, a Democrat, Defeats Sarah Palin in Alaska’s Special House Election”
Comment: Good! Palin has a lot of gall running for office anywhere, but especially Alaska, after she quit as governor for no good reason, unless one considers cashing-in a good reason. I am still looking for a clear explanation of how the ranked voting scheme worked in this election. It seems that the system provides an edge to the hateful, and also allows the gaming of democracy.
“Lea Michele Is Well Aware That the Pressure Is On”
Comment: She should be. The former “Glee” star exploited her agent’s betrayal of another client, Beanie Feldstein, to snatch away the lead role in Broadway’s bombing “Funny Girl” revival. It was show-biz treachery worthy of “All About Eve.” (I hope she falls on her metaphorical face.)
“An Apple Watch for Your 5-Year-Old? More Parents Say Yes.”
Comment: More parents have money to burn, apparently, and an appalling lack of common sense. But the watch has proven largely useless for adults, so maybe 5-year-old is the right market.
“‘Defund the Police’ Is Dead. Now What?”
Comment: Now what? Oh, I don’t know, maybe progressives are slowly returning to sanity? We know Charles M. Blow isn’t (that’s the headline of his latest column, one that doesn’t mention Donald Trump at all, amazingly.). He ends his lament, “I fear that the signal we are sending to all the people who truly believed that there would finally be real change in policing and the possibility of more equity in our criminal justice system is that racial equity is a tertiary issue, that it is lower than people want to admit on the social hierarchy of policy priorities. We will regret that.”
“The Man Behind Our Public Schools Would Be So Disappointed Today”
Comment: Yeah, I’d say that’s a safe bet.
“Children Need the Whole Truth About America”
Comment: Because the “whole truth’ about America is so clear and settled. Translation: “Children need to be indoctrinated before they have the critical thinking to analyze the complexities of their nation themselves.”
“The Pandemic Erased Two Decades of Progress in Math and Reading”
Comment: Not the pandemic. The disastrous, incompetent, ill-considered, destructive and quite possibly politically motivated lock-down in response to the pandemic. Lest we forget…
6 thoughts on “Quick Ethics Reactions To A Morning’s Headlines…”
Re: US Education Posts.
I dunno. The US education system was doing a fine job destroying itself long before the pandemic response overreach showed what was going on in classes. Maybe parents are taking notice that their school aged children can’t read, write, or do math at grade level. Remote learning, especially for grade school and high school students is/was a disaster. They don’t have the maturity for that type of schooling, and that’s not criticism. They are kids, for Pete’s sake.
A colleague of mine was musing that high school teachers are competent to teach at a 6th or 7th grade level. I had to think about it but he’s probably correct. That should give all of us pause.
Heck, in a proper, functioning school system, high school students should be competent to teach 6th or 7th grade.
I’ve met high school teachers who aren’t even able to think at a 7th grade level, never mind teach it.
I have my grandfather’s math book that was, at the time, intended for kids probably 11-12 years old (I don’t recall if it specifically says what grade level it’s for, but the inside front cover has his name and the year, when he would have been 11). That book has algebra, geometry, accounting, finance, and even some things I didn’t learn until “pre-calculus” class in high school. The standards of what constitutes a basic education have dropped so far that it scarcely deserves to be called an “education”.
That’s always what they say whenever people regret having listened to them in the first place.
Coincidentally, I’ve seen a couple criticisms of how voting is done in most republics. It’s a simple, highest votes wins, or first past the post. The largest criticisms against is are that if there’s more than two people running, it’s possible that the winner is someone the majority disagrees with, say the winner gets 40% of the vote, the other two candidates get 30% of the vote each. That’s 60% who disagree with the person in the office. Alaska’s system is a way to address that.
Instead of just voting for one person, the voters rank their choices from the top four primary winners, open to anyone who fulfills the office qualifications. The first choice numbers are counted, and the person who gets the least first choice votes is removed from the race. Everyone who voted first choice for the loser also voted for a second choice candidate. The remaining three candidates get those votes. If one candidate has more than 50% of the electorate, that person wins. If there is still no majority, the remaining candidate with the least first and second choice votes loses, and the ballots with both the third place and forth place candidates as first choice are looked at again. The highest ranking remaining candidate on those ballots then gets that vote. The candidate who finally gets greater than 50% of the vote wins.
Say candidates A, B, C, and D are running. A gets 35%, B gets 30%, C gets 20%, D gets 15% of the first choice votes. D loses the race, but since none of the other three candidates reached greater than 50%, the second choice candidates who voted for D as their first choice get those votes. In this example, C gets 15% more, A now has 35%, B now has 30%, and C now has 35% as well. Since no candidate has the majority, and Candidate B is currently the lowest, Candidate B loses. Now the ballots that had Candidate B or D as the first choice get counted again, with the highest ranked remaining candidate getting that vote. More of those voters had Candidate C as their second or third choice than Candidate A, so C gets 55% of the vote, and A only gets 45%, meaning C wins the election.
This system doesn’t really address the criticism of first past the post voting levied earlier. Only 20% of voters wanted Candidate C originally, yet C still won. Another criticism of first past the post that isn’t addressed with ranked choice is that FPTP tends to form two major parties with no room for a third candidate. Because of this, voters will vote for the person they least hate rather than a candidate that aligns with their views. Ranked choice just formalizes that thinking. Voters that like an extremely unpopular candidate would vote for the person they dislike the least, whether that’s marking a 2 next to that candidate in ranked choice or voting for that other candidate in FPTP.
Here in Auckland, New Zealand we have 22 candidates wanting to be mayor. It was 23 but one thoroughly dislikeable candidate who had the backing of a lot of businesses has pulled out. Most of them are Independents while a few call their party affiliation such names as “STOP Trashing Our Planet” or “Christians Against Abortion”. The centre right National Party never puts up candidates in local elections while the centre left Labour Party occasionally does. I went to a “Meet the candidates”‘ meeting last Friday where the left’s favourite Efeso Collins didn’t show up due to family reasons although it probably was really because he would get very few votes and a lot of heckling if he showed up in our suburb. So it was six right and centre right candidates including three of the favourites who gave short speeches and answered questions.
The thing is do we vote for the best candidate who would become the best mayor or do we vote for the candidate most likely to defeat Collins . The city needs a new voting system because ‘First Past the Post’ is not a good system when there are more than two candidates.
First past the post in the U.S. has two major flavors — the most common, I believe, is that the person with the most votes wins, regardless of the percentage that person got. I believe there is a variation of this system with a minimum percentage (like 40%) for the leader to win outright, if he gets less there is a runoff.
Second, if a person does not get more than 50% of the total votes (Georgia has been the most infamous example), there is a runoff between the top two vote getters.
The ranked choice system is supposed to eliminate the idea and expense of a separate runoff (which is why you’ll sometimes hear references to an ‘instant runoff’ system).
In Alaska, the Democratic candidate initially got 40% of the total votes, and the two major Republicans got 60% between them. The third place finisher was eliminated and the looked at who voters with him as their first choice picked as their second choice.
In the event, about half of those voters selected Palin as #2 and about 30% selected Peltola. The other 20% did not have a second choice, or their second choice had already been eliminated (remember there were about 40 candidates on the ballot).
So Peltola ended up with 51.5% of the modified vote versus 48.5% for Palin, and won the election. If roughly 75% of the ‘exhausted’ ballots had chosen Palin, she would have won.
30% of the people voting for a Republican chose the Democrat as their second choice. Of course they don’t say how many of Palin’s voters chose the Democrat as their #2. It’s entirely possible that if Palin had started as the #3, the other Republican might have won the election.
Alaska will be using the same system to elect their House Representative and Senator in November. Hopefully there will be more understanding of how the system works. If I recall correctly, the primaries reduced the ballot list to four candidates for each office in November.