Tuesday, August 4, 2015

[tt] WaPo: Gregg Herken: Five myths about the atomic bomb

Gregg Herken: Five myths about the atomic bomb

Gregg Herken is an emeritus professor of U.S. diplomatic history at
the University of California and the author of "The Winning Weapon:
The Atomic Bomb in the Cold War" and "Brotherhood of the Bomb: The
Tangled Lives and Loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence,
and Edward Teller." As a Smithsonian curator in 1995, he
participated in early planning for the National Air and Space
Museum's Enola Gay exhibit.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the
Japanese city of Hiroshima. Another bomb fell Aug. 9 on Nagasaki.
Decades later, controversy and misinformation still surround the
decision to use nuclear weapons during World War II. The 70th
anniversary of the event presents an opportunity to set the record
straight on five widely held myths about the bomb.

1. The bomb ended the war.

The notion that the atomic bombs caused the Japanese surrender on
Aug. 15, 1945, has been, for many Americans and virtually all U.S.
history textbooks, the default understanding of how and why the war
ended. But minutes of the meetings of the Japanese government reveal
a more complex story. The latest and best scholarship on the
surrender, based on Japanese records, concludes that the Soviet
Union's unexpected entry into the war against Japan on Aug. 8 was
probably an even greater shock to Tokyo than the atomic bombing of
Hiroshima two days earlier. Until then, the Japanese had been hoping
that the Russians--who had previously signed a nonaggression pact
with Japan--might be intermediaries in negotiating an end to the
war . As historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa writes in his book "Racing the
Enemy," "Indeed, Soviet attack, not the Hiroshima bomb, convinced
political leaders to end the war." The two events together--plus
the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Aug. 9--were decisive in
making the case for surrender.

2. The bomb saved half a million American lives.

In his postwar memoirs, former president Harry Truman recalled how
military leaders had told him that a half-million Americans might be
killed in an invasion of Japan. This figure has become canonical
among those seeking to justify the bombing. But it is not supported
by military estimates of the time. As Stanford historian Barton
Bernstein has noted, the U.S. Joint War Plans Committee predicted in
mid-June 1945 that the invasion of Japan, set to begin Nov. 1, would
result in 193,000 U.S. casualties, including 40,000 deaths.

But, as Truman also observed after the war, if he had not used the
atomic bomb when it was ready and GIs had died on the invasion
beaches, he would have faced the righteous wrath of the American

3. The only alternative to the bomb was an invasion of Japan.

The decision to use nuclear weapons is usually presented as
either/or: either drop the bomb or land on the beaches. But beyond
simply continuing the conventional bombing and naval blockade of
Japan, there were two other options recognized at the time.

The first was a demonstration of the atomic bomb prior to or instead
of its military use: exploding the bomb on an uninhabited island or
in the desert, in front of invited observers from Japan and other
countries; or using it to blow the top off Mount Fuji, outside
Tokyo. The demonstration option was rejected for practical reasons.
There were only two bombs available in August 1945, and the
demonstration bomb might turn out to be a dud.

The second alternative was accepting a conditional surrender by
Japan. The United States knew from intercepted communications that
the Japanese were most concerned that Emperor Hirohito not be
treated as a war criminal. The "emperor clause" was the final
obstacle to Japan's capitulation. (President Franklin Roosevelt had
insisted upon unconditional surrender, and Truman reiterated that
demand after Roosevelt's death in mid-April 1945.)

Although the United States ultimately got Japan's unconditional
surrender, the emperor clause was, in effect, granted after the
fact. "I have no desire whatever to debase [Hirohito] in the eyes of
his own people," Gen. Douglas MacArthur, supreme commander of the
Allied powers in Japan after the war, assured Tokyo's diplomats
following the surrender.

4. The Japanese were warned before the bomb was dropped.

The United States had dropped leaflets over many Japanese cities,
urging civilians to flee, before hitting them with conventional
bombs. After the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, which called
on the Japanese to surrender, leaflets warned of "prompt and utter
destruction" unless Japan heeded that order. In a radio address,
Truman also told of a coming "rain of ruin from the air, the like of
which has never been seen on this Earth." These actions have led
many to believe that civilians were meaningfully warned of the
pending nuclear attack. Indeed, a common refrain in letters to the
editor and debates about the bomb is: "The Japanese were warned."

But there was never any specific warning to the cities that had been
chosen as targets for the atomic bomb prior to the weapon's first
use. The omission was deliberate: The United States feared that the
Japanese, being forewarned, would shoot down the planes carrying the
bombs. And since Japanese cities were already being destroyed by
incendiary and high-explosive bombs on a regular basis--nearly
100,000 people were killed the previous March in the firebombing of
Tokyo--there was no reason to believe that either the Potsdam
Declaration or Truman's speech would receive special notice.

5. The bomb was timed to gain a diplomatic advantage over Russia and
proved a "master card" in early Cold War politics.

This claim has been a staple of revisionist historiography, which
argues that U.S. policymakers hoped the bomb might end the war
against Japan before the Soviet entry into the conflict gave the
Russians a significant role in a postwar peace settlement. Using the
bomb would also impress the Russians with the power of the new
weapon, which the United States had alone.

In reality, military planning, not diplomatic advantage, dictated
the timing of the atomic attacks. The bombs were ordered to be
dropped "as soon as made ready."

Postwar political considerations did affect the choice of targets
for the atomic bombs. Secretary of War Henry Stimson ordered that
the historically and culturally significant city of Kyoto be
stricken from the target list. (Stimson was personally familiar with
Kyoto; he and his wife had spent part of their honeymoon there.)
Truman agreed, according to Stimson, on the grounds that "the
bitterness which would be caused by such a wanton act might make it
impossible during the long postwar period to reconcile the Japanese
to us in that area rather than to the Russians."

Like Stimson, Truman's secretary of state, James Byrnes, hoped that
the bomb might prove to be a "master card" in subsequent diplomatic
dealings with the Soviet Union--but both were disappointed. In
September 1945, Byrnes returned from the first postwar meeting of
foreign ministers, in London, lamenting that the Russians were
"stubborn, obstinate, and they don't scare."
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[tt] NYT: Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later

Training Officers to Shoot First, and He Will Answer Questions Later


WASHINGTON--The shooting looked bad. But that is when the
professor is at his best. A black motorist, pulled to the side of
the road for a turn-signal violation, had stuffed his hand into his
pocket. The white officer yelled for him to take it out. When the
driver started to comply, the officer shot him dead.

The driver was unarmed.

Taking the stand at a public inquest, William J. Lewinski, the
psychology professor, explained that the officer had no choice but
to act.

"In simple terms," the district attorney in Portland, Ore., asked,
"if I see the gun, I'm dead?"

"In simple terms, that's it," Dr. Lewinski replied.

When police officers shoot people under questionable circumstances,
Dr. Lewinski is often there to defend their actions. Among the most
influential voices on the subject, he has testified in or consulted
in nearly 200 cases over the last decade or so and has helped
justify countless shootings around the country.

His conclusions are consistent: The officer acted appropriately,
even when shooting an unarmed person. Even when shooting someone in
the back. Even when witness testimony, forensic evidence or video
footage contradicts the officer's story.

He has appeared as an expert witness in criminal trials, civil cases
and disciplinary hearings, and before grand juries, where such
testimony is given in secret and goes unchallenged. In addition, his
company, the Force Science Institute, has trained tens of thousands
of police officers on how to think differently about police
shootings that might appear excessive.

A string of deadly police encounters in Ferguson, Mo.; North
Charleston, S.C.; and most recently in Cincinnati, have prompted a
national reconsideration of how officers use force and provoked
calls for them to slow down and defuse conflicts. But the debate has
also left many police officers feeling unfairly maligned and
suspicious of new policies that they say could put them at risk. Dr.
Lewinski says his research clearly shows that officers often cannot
wait to act.

"We're telling officers, 'Look for cover and then read the threat,'
" he told a class of Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs recently.
"Sorry, too damn late."

A former Minnesota State professor, he says his testimony and
training are based on hard science, but his research has been
roundly criticized by experts. An editor for The American Journal of
Psychology called his work "pseudoscience." The Justice Department
denounced his findings as "lacking in both foundation and
reliability." Civil rights lawyers say he is selling dangerous

"People die because of this stuff," said John Burton, a California
lawyer who specializes in police misconduct cases. "When they give
these cops a pass, it just ripples through the system."

Many policing experts are for hire, but Dr. Lewinski is unique in
that he conducts his own research, trains officers and internal
investigators, and testifies at trial. In the protests that have
followed police shootings, demonstrators have often asked why
officers are so rarely punished for shootings that seem unwarranted.
Dr. Lewinski is part of the answer.

An Expert on the Stand

While his testimony at times has proved insufficient to persuade a
jury, his record includes many high-profile wins.

"He won't give an inch on cross-examination," said Elden Rosenthal,
a lawyer who represented the family of James Jahar Perez, the man
killed in the 2004 Portland shooting. In that case, Dr. Lewinski
also testified before the grand jury, which brought no charges.
Defense lawyers like Dr. Lewinski, Mr. Rosenthal said. "They know
that he's battle-hardened in the courtroom, so you know exactly what
you're getting."

Dr. Lewinski, 70, is affable and confident in his research, but not
so polished as to sound like a salesman. In testimony on the stand,
for which he charges nearly $1,000 an hour, he offers winding
answers to questions and seldom appears flustered. He sprinkles
scientific explanations with sports analogies.

"A batter can't wait for a ball to cross home plate before deciding
whether that's something to swing at," he told the Los Angeles
deputy sheriffs. "Make sense? Officers have to make a prediction
based on cues."

Of course, it follows that batters will sometimes swing at bad
pitches, and that officers will sometimes shoot unarmed people.

Much of the criticism of his work, Dr. Lewinski said, amounts to
politics. In 2012, for example, just seven months after the Justice
Department excoriated him and his methods, department officials paid
him $55,000 to help defend a federal drug agent who shot and killed
an unarmed 18-year-old in California. Then last year, as part of a
settlement over excessive force in the Seattle Police Department,
the Justice Department endorsed sending officers to Mr. Lewinski for
training. And in January, he was paid $15,000 to train federal

If the science is there, Dr. Lewinski said, he does not shy away
from offering opinions in controversial cases. He said he was
working on behalf of one of two Albuquerque officers who face murder
charges in last year's shooting death of a mentally ill homeless
man. He has testified in many racially charged cases involving white
officers who shot black suspects, such as the 2009 case in which a
Bay Area transit officer shot and killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed
black man, at close range.

Dr. Lewinski said he was not trying to explain away every shooting.
But when he testifies, it is almost always in defense of police
shootings. Officers are his target audience--he publishes a
newsletter on police use of force that he says has nearly one
million subscribers--and his research was devised for them. "The
science is based on trying to keep officers safe," he said.

Dr. Lewinski, who grew up in Canada, got his doctorate in 1988 from
the Union for Experimenting Colleges and Universities, an accredited
but alternative Cincinnati school offering accelerated programs and
flexible schedules. He designed his curriculum and named his program
police psychology, a specialty not available elsewhere.

'Invalid and Unreliable'

In 1990, a police shooting in Minneapolis changed the course of his
career. Dan May, a white police officer, shot and killed Tycel
Nelson, a black 17-year-old. Officer May said he fired after the
teenager turned toward him and raised a handgun. But an autopsy
showed he was shot in the back.

Dr. Lewinski was intrigued by the apparent contradiction. "We really
need to get into the dynamics of how this unfolds," he remembers
thinking. "We need a lot better research."

Raising a Gun and Running Away

A video, taken as part of one of William J. Lewinski's studies,
shows how quickly suspects can raise a gun and turn to run. Dr.
Lewinski uses videos like this to explain why police officers shoot
suspects in the back.
Courtesy of the Force Science Institute

He began by videotaping students as they raised handguns and then
quickly turned their backs. On average, that move took about half a
second. By the time an officer returned fire, Dr. Lewinski
concluded, a suspect could have turned his back.

He summarized his findings in 1999 in The Police Marksman, a popular
magazine for officers. The next year, it published an expanded
study, in which Dr. Lewinski timed students as they fired while
turning, running or sitting with a gun at their side, as if stashed
in a car's console.

Suspects, he concluded, could reach, fire and move remarkably fast.
But faster than an officer could react? In 2002, a third study
concluded that it takes the average officer about a second and a
half to draw from a holster, aim and fire.

Together, the studies appeared to support the idea that officers
were at a serious disadvantage. The studies are the foundation for
much of his work over the past decade.

A Gun in the Car

This video simulates a driver with a gun stashed in the center
console. It is used to help demonstrate how officers cannot always
wait to see a gun before reacting.
Courtesy of the Force Science Institute

Because he published in a police magazine and not a scientific
journal, Dr. Lewinski was not subjected to the peer-review process.
But in separate cases in 2011 and 2012, the Justice Department and a
private lawyer asked Lisa Fournier, a Washington State University
professor and an American Journal of Psychology editor, to review
Dr. Lewinski's studies. She said they lacked basic elements of
legitimate research, such as control groups, and drew conclusions
that were unsupported by the data.

"In summary, this study is invalid and unreliable," she wrote in
court documents in 2012. "In my opinion, this study questions the
ability of Mr. Lewinski to apply relevant and reliable data to
answer a question or support an argument."

Dr. Lewinski said he chose to publish his findings in the magazine
because it reached so many officers who would never read a
scientific journal. If he were doing it over, he said in an
interview, he would have published his early studies in academic
journals and summarized them elsewhere for officers. But he said it
was unfair for Dr. Fournier to criticize his research based on
summaries written for a general audience.While opposing lawyers and
experts found his research controversial, they were particularly
frustrated by Dr. Lewinski's tendency to get inside people's heads.
Time and again, his reports to defense lawyers seem to make
conclusive statements about what officers saw, what they did not,
and what they cannot remember.

Often, these details are hotly disputed. For example, in a 2009 case
that revolved around whether a Texas sheriff's deputy felt
threatened by a car coming at him, Dr. Lewinski said that the
officer was so focused on firing to stop the threat, he did not
immediately recognize that the car had passed him.

Inattentional Blindness

Such gaps in observation and memory, he says, can be explained by a
phenomenon called inattentional blindness, in which the brain is so
focused on one task that it blocks out everything else. When an
officer's version of events is disproved by video or forensic
evidence, Dr. Lewinski says, inattentional blindness may be to
blame. It is human nature, he says, to try to fill in the blanks.

"Whenever the cop says something that's helpful, it's as good as
gold," said Mr. Burton, the California lawyer. "But when a cop says
something that's inconvenient, it's a result of this memory loss."

Experts say Dr. Lewinski is too sure of himself on the subject. "I
hate the fact that it's being used in this way," said Arien Mack,
one of two psychologists who coined the term inattentional
blindness. "When we work in a lab, we ask them if they saw
something. They have no motivation to lie. A police officer involved
in a shooting certainly has a reason to lie."

Dr. Lewinski acknowledged that there was no clear way to distinguish
inattentional blindness from lying. He said he had tried to present
it as a possibility, not a conclusion.

Almost as soon as his research was published, lawyers took notice
and asked him to explain his work to juries.

In Los Angeles, he helped authorities explain the
still-controversial fatal shooting of Anthony Dwain Lee, a Hollywood
actor who was shot through a window by a police officer at a
Halloween party in 2000. The actor carried a fake gun as part of his
costume. Mr. Lee was shot several times in the back. The officer was
not charged.

The city settled a lawsuit over the shooting for $225,000, but Mr.
Lewinski still teaches the case as an example of a justified
shooting that unfairly tarnished a good officer who "was shooting to
save his own life."

In September 2001, a Cincinnati judge acquitted a police officer,
Stephen Roach, in the shooting death of an unarmed black man after a
chase. The officer said he believed the man, Timothy Thomas, 19, was
reaching for a gun. Dr. Lewinski testified, and the judge said he
found his analysis credible. The prosecutor, Stephen McIntosh,
however, told The Columbus Dispatch that Dr. Lewinski's "radical"
views could be used to justify nearly any police shooting.

"If that's the sort of direction we, as a society, are going," the
prosecutor said, "I have a lot of disappointment."Since then, Dr.
Lewinski has testified in many dozens of cases in state and federal
court, becoming a hero to many officers who feel that politics, not
science or safety, drives police policy. For example, departments
often require officers to consider less-lethal options such as
pepper spray, stun guns and beanbag guns before drawing their

"These have come about because of political pressure," said Les
Robbins, the executive director of the Association for Los Angeles
Deputy Sheriffs. In an interview, Mr. Robbins recalled how he used
to keep his gun drawn and hidden behind his leg during most traffic
stops. "We used to be able to use the baton and hit people where we
felt necessary to get them to comply. Those days are gone."

Positions of Authority

Dr. Lewinski and his company have provided training for dozens of
departments, including in Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and
Seattle. His messages often conflict, in both substance and tone,
with the training now recommended by the Justice Department and
police organizations.

The Police Executive Research Forum, a group that counts most major
city police chiefs as members, has called for greater restraint from
officers and slower, better decision making. Chuck Wexler, its
director, said he is troubled by Dr. Lewinski's teachings. He added
that even as chiefs changed their use-of-force policies, many did
not know what their officers were taught in academies and private

"It's not that chiefs don't care," he said. "It's rare that a chief
has time to sit at the academy and see what's being taught."

Regardless of what, if any, policy changes emerge from the current
national debate, civil right lawyers say one thing will not change:
Jurors want to believe police officers, and Dr. Lewinski's research
tells them that they can.

On a cold night in early 2003, for instance, Robert Murtha, an
officer in Hartford, Conn., shot three times at the driver of a car.
He said the vehicle had sped directly at him, knocking him to the
ground as he fired. Video from a nearby police cruiser told another
story. The officer had not been struck. He had fired through the
driver's-side window as the car passed him.

Officer Murtha's story was so obviously incorrect that he was
arrested on charges of assault and fabricating evidence. If officers
can get away with shooting people and lying about it, the prosecutor
declared, "the system is doomed."

"There was no way around it--Murtha was dead wrong," his lawyer,
Hugh F. Keefe, recalled recently. But the officer was "bright,
articulate and truthful," Mr. Keefe said. Jurors needed an
explanation for how the officer could be so wrong and still be

Dr. Lewinski testified at trial. The jury deliberated less than one
full day. The officer was acquitted of all charges.

Kitty Bennett contributed research.
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[tt] NYT: Ian Urbana: Protecting the Untamed Seas

Here's one case where the U.N. will do more good than harm.

Ian Urbana: Protecting the Untamed Seas

He's a reporter for The New York Times who is writing a series about
lawlessness on the high seas, "The Outlaw Ocean."

SUPPOSE a group of scientists wanted to dump 100 tons of iron dust
into the sea based on a controversial climate-change theory that the
ore might spur the growth of plankton that absorb carbon dioxide.
They can--one businessman did that in 2012.

Imagine if entrepreneurial engineers hoping to save clients millions
of dollars were able to launch rockets into space from a platform in
the middle of the ocean, far away from curious onlookers, heavy
taxes and strict on-land regulations. They can--a company has been
doing this for over a decade.

And what if pharmaceutical companies decide to rake the ocean floor
for the next wonder drug, with minimal environmental oversight and
no obligation to make the profits, research or resulting medicines
public? They can--the research is already happening.

All of this is possible because the waters farther than 200 nautical
miles from shore are generally outside of national jurisdiction and
largely beyond government control. More than 40 percent of the
planet's surface is covered by water that belongs to everyone and no
one, and is relatively lawless and unregulated.

Over the next two years, though, the United Nations intends to
change this reality. After nearly a decade of discussion, it
ratified a resolution in June to begin drafting the first treaty to
protect biodiversity on the high seas.

The agreement will create a formal process for setting aside
protected marine areas in international waters. Unlike on land,
there is no legal framework on the high seas for creating areas that
are off-limits to commercial activity. The treaty will also create
procedures for environmental impact assessments and establish a
method for the public to be informed about large-scale projects in
these waters, including fishing, seabed mining, shipping, research
and other activities.

The broader philosophical debate over how to manage the oceans
typically divides into two camps. On one side, advocates of a
laissez-faire approach argue that at the core of modern maritime
culture is a 17th-century notion known as mare liberum, Latin for
freedom of the seas, which was popularized by a Dutch lawyer, Hugo
Grotius. He contended that ships in passage should be unimpeded by
governments, competitors or pirates. The sea, he argued, is
international territory for use by all nations in passage or

Mare liberum has been central in fostering free trade and global
commerce by keeping merchant routes unfettered by national rules or
bureaucracies. Its proponents argue that the concept goes a long way
toward explaining why roughly 90 percent of the goods we consume
travel to market by sea. And mare liberum dictates that access to
the oceans' riches should remain on a first-come, first-served
basis, they say.

The opposing view is that the high seas are one of several "global
commons" (along with the atmosphere, Antarctica and outer space)
that are shared by the public at large. Benefits derived from these
commons should be distributed equitably. If, for example, the high
seas offer up revolutionary new drugs, poorer countries should be
able to access the research and share in the profits from their
sale. The "tragedy of the commons," some maritime experts say, is
that since everyone is responsible, no one is willing or able to
act. Often, this results in a free-for-all.

International waters have long been a magnet for unregulated
activity. In many parts of the world, the waters beyond national
jurisdiction represent an outlaw ocean, where crimes ranging from
murder and slavery to dumping and illegal fishing occur with
impunity. While larger shippers face tighter rules and more
oversight because they typically operate out of bigger ports with
more enforcement resources, this is far less true for the smaller
and more numerous commercial vessels and fishing ships in regions
like Southeast Asia and off the coast of Africa.

Meanwhile, advocates and entrepreneurs have turned to the open seas
to circumvent prohibitions against abortion, gambling, prostitution
and illicit drugs. Libertarians are courting venture capitalists to
underwrite futuristic plans to create legally autonomous floating

More recently, bigger and better-financed players, many of them
industrial, have been stepping up their presence in global waters
with potentially major environmental impacts. New drilling and
mining technology has spurred a race to tap mineral resources that
have been inaccessible because they were too far from shore or too
deep underwater. The commercial fishing industry combs the world's
oceans with an efficiency never before seen. Bio-prospecting--or
hunting for new medical breakthroughs--is a relatively recent
addition to this list.

There are good reasons to be skeptical about the effectiveness of a
global treaty. Enforcement of rules at sea is difficult and costly
because the space is so vast. Even preventing slave labor on fishing
boats or mandating traceability for seafood has proved to be a
challenge. Intentional dumping, illegal fishing and other maritime
crimes often occur with impunity.

But countries that previously opposed such a treaty--including
Norway and the United States--now support the United Nations'
efforts. Creating marine reserves is increasingly popular and in the
past six years the United States, Britain and smaller island
nations, particularly in the Pacific, have set aside millions of
miles of their waters. Secretary of State John Kerry is a vocal
advocate for marine conservation. In March, the American government
announced a plan to increase enforcement at ports by working with
foreign partners to track fish from hook or net to plate.

There are also financial and scientific incentives to better manage
the seas. Bio-prospecting has been held up by the lack of clear
rules. Some investors have been reluctant to put money toward
exploration because they fear they may later lose rights to the

As medicine hunters have run out of virgin frontiers on land,
especially in the rain forests, they are increasingly turning toward
the sea for the next wonder drug. In the past several years, the
number of patents based on marine life has grown more than 10
percent annually. Sales of anticancer agents derived partly from
marine organisms, for instance, have been estimated to be more than
$1 billion per year.

Marcel Jaspars, a chemistry professor at the University of Aberdeen
in Scotland, said one model for profit-sharing might involve
creating a central pot--perhaps administered by the United Nations
--either in the form of a fee paid for a license to carry out the
exploration or as payments once the development of the drug begins.
The money could then be directed back into ocean research,
monitoring and enforcement.

Michele Kuruc, vice president of ocean policy at the World Wildlife
Fund, added that there was reason for optimism about the treaty
because its negotiators are paying more attention to mistakes made
in the past. To ensure fuller participation they are considering a
special fund, subsidized by wealthier countries, to help poorer
countries comply with some of the agreement's requirements. To avoid
having countries with vested interests commandeering the process by
blocking measures, they intend to limit the use of vetoes when an
overwhelming majority supports a measure.

In the end, though, everyone involved agrees that the stakes are
enormous. "We know more about the surface of the moon than we do
about the bottom of the world's oceans," said Lisa Speer, the
International Oceans Program director for the Natural Resources
Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group.
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[tt] NYT: David Byrne: Open the Music Industry's Black Box

David Byrne: Open the Music Industry's Black Box

He's a musician and artist and the author of "How Music Works."

THIS should be the greatest time for music in history--more of it
is being found, made, distributed and listened to than ever before.
That people are willing to pay for digital streaming is good news.
In Sweden, where it was founded, Spotify saved a record industry
that piracy had gutted.

Everyone should be celebrating--but many of us who create, perform
and record music are not. Tales of popular artists (as popular as
Pharrell Williams) who received paltry royalty checks for songs that
streamed thousands or even millions of times (like "Happy") on
Pandora or Spotify are common. Obviously, the situation for
less-well-known artists is much more dire. For them, making a living
in this new musical landscape seems impossible. I myself am doing
O.K., but my concern is for the artists coming up: How will they
make a life in music?

It's easy to blame new technologies like streaming services for the
drastic reduction in musicians' income. But on closer inspection we
see that it is a bit more complicated. Even as the musical audience
has grown, ways have been found to siphon off a greater percentage
than ever of the money that customers and music fans pay for
recorded music. Many streaming services are at the mercy of the
record labels (especially the big three: Sony, Universal and
Warner), and nondisclosure agreements keep all parties from being
more transparent.

Perhaps the biggest problem artists face today is that lack of
transparency. I've asked basic questions of both the digital
services and the music labels and been stonewalled. For example, I
asked YouTube how ad revenue from videos that contain music is
shared (which should be an incredibly basic question). They
responded that they didn't share exact numbers, but said that
YouTube's cut was "less than half." An industry source (who asked
not to be named because of the sensitivity of the information) told
me that the breakdown is roughly 50 percent to YouTube, 35 percent
to the owner of the master recording and 15 percent to the

Before musicians and their advocates can move to enact a fairer
system of pay, we need to know exactly what's going on. We need
information from both labels and streaming services on how they
share the wealth generated by music. Taylor Swift, when she forced
Apple to back off a plan not to pay royalties during the three-month
free trial period for its new streaming service, Apple Music, made
some small progress on this count--but we still don't know how
much Apple agreed to pay, or how they will determine the rate.

Putting together a picture of where listeners' money goes when we
pay for a streaming service subscription is notoriously complicated.
Here is some of what we do know: About 70 percent of the money a
listener pays to Spotify (which, to its credit, has tried to
illuminate the opaque payment system) goes to the rights holders,
usually the labels, which play the largest role in determining how
much artists are paid. (A recently leaked 2011 contract between Sony
and Spotify showed that the service had agreed to pay the label more
than $40 million in advances over three years. But it doesn't say
what Sony was to do with the money.)

The labels then pay artists a percentage (often 15 percent or so) of
their share. This might make sense if streaming music included
manufacturing, breakage and other physical costs for the label to
recoup, but it does not. When compared with vinyl and CD production,
streaming gives the labels incredibly high margins, but the labels
act as though nothing has changed.

Consider the unanswered questions in the Swift-Apple dispute. Why
didn't the major labels take issue with Apple's trial period? Is it
because they were offered a better deal than the smaller,
independent labels? Is it because they own the rights to a vast
music library with no production or distribution costs, without
which no streaming service could operate?

The answer, it seems, is mainly the latter--the major labels have
their hefty catalogs and they can ride out the three-month dry
spell. (The major labels are focused on the long game: some 40
percent to 60 percent of "freemium" customers join the pay version
after a trial period.)

I asked Apple Music to explain the calculation of royalties for the
trial period. They said they disclosed that only to copyright owners
(that is, the labels). I have my own label and own the copyright on
some of my albums, but when I turned to my distributor, the response
was, "You can't see the deal, but you could have your lawyer call
our lawyer and we might answer some questions."

It gets worse. One industry source told me that the major labels
assigned the income they got from streaming services on a seemingly
arbitrary basis to the artists in their catalog. Here's a
hypothetical example: Let's say in January Sam Smith's "Stay With
Me" accounted for 5 percent of the total revenue that Spotify paid
to Universal Music for its catalog. Universal is not obligated to
take the gross revenue it received and assign that same 5 percent to
Sam Smith's account. They might give him 3 percent--or 10 percent.
What's to stop them?

The labels also get money from three other sources, all of which are
hidden from artists: They get advances from the streaming services,
catalog service payments for old songs and equity in the streaming
services themselves.

Musicians are entrepreneurs. We are essentially partners with the
labels, and should be treated that way. Artists and labels have many
common interests--both are appalled, for instance, by the oddly
meager payments from YouTube (more people globally listen to music
free on YouTube than anywhere else). With shared data on how, where,
why and when our audience listens, we can all expand our reach. This
would benefit YouTube, the labels and us as well. With cooperation
and transparency the industry can grow to three times its current
size, Willard Ahdritz, the head of Kobalt, an independent music and
publishing collection service, told me.

There is cause for hope. I recently spent two days on Capitol Hill,
with the help of Sound Exchange, a nonprofit digital royalty
collection and distribution organization, to discuss fairer
compensation for artists via the Fair Play Fair Pay Act, which would
force AM and FM stations to pay musicians when their recordings are
broadcast, as most of the world does.

Rethink Music, an initiative of the Berklee Institute for Creative
Entrepreneurship, released a report last month that recommends
making music deals and transactions more transparent; simplifying
the flow of money and improving the shared use of technology to
connect with fans.

Some of these ideas regarding openness are radical--"disruptive"
is the word Silicon Valley might use--but that's what's needed.
It's not just about the labels either. By opening the Black Box, the
whole music industry, all of it, can flourish. There is a rising
tide of dissatisfaction, but we can work together to make
fundamental changes that will be good for all.
tt mailing list

[tt] TLS 5860: Jeffrey Collins: Love among the spots

TLS 5860: Jeffrey Collins: Love among the spots

Jeffrey Collins is an associate professor of History at Queen's University
in Ontario. He is the author of The Allegiance of Thomas Hobbes, published
in 2005.

Jan Plamper
An introduction
Translated by Keith Tribe
352pp. Oxford University Press. £35 (US $55). 978 0 19 966833 5

Published: 22 July 2015

As a field of research, the history of emotions is prospering (or at least
proliferating). There are recent histories of fear, boredom, lust, horror,
empathy and so forth. Centres dedicated to the history of emotions pepper
the academic landscape. Blogs, websites, and at least five current book
series are dedicated to the subject. "There is a gold rush fever in the
air", writes Jan Plamper, Professor of History at Goldsmiths, University of
London, and a former fellow at the Center for the History of Emotions at the
Max Planck Institute.

Plamper's The History of Emotions: An introduction appeared in German in
2012. It is an admiring synthesis of the field, which nevertheless retains a
capacity for self-criticism. Plamper's ambitious book surveys a large swathe
of the historiography of emotions, and also presents the social and natural
scientific theories of emotion that have exerted influence over historians.
Supplemented by a technical glossary and an expansive, interdisciplinary
bibliography, this introductory volume will be difficult to surpass. But
Plamper has given us more than a mere primer. Opinionated and droll, he has
produced a contextualization of the historiography of emotion, and some
compelling suggestions as to why the subject appeals to the current

Plamper views the history of emotion as a field pincered between two
theoretical influences: cultural anthropology and socio-biology.
Anthropology tends towards a position of radical "social constructivism",
without any "extra-cultural space" in which common, universal emotions might
endure. Emotions are construed as "cultural products", "social masks", or
conduct rules ensuring individual conformity with the linguistic and
cultural codes of a particular society. Constructivism comports poorly with
Christian or Stoic understandings of emotion (which are both universalist
and individualist), but it is compatible with a reasonably robust account of
human agency.

Socio-biology, by contrast, takes the evolving "human animal" as its
subject, rather than particular societies. This does not accord with the
radical cultural contingency presumed by many anthropologists. Experimental
psychologists and socio-biologists tend to view "basic emotions" (at least)
as universal, capable of being "detected beneath the acculturated surface".
Emotions represent some functional response of evolving animals seeking to
survive a hostile environment. As an account of emotion, socio-biology thus
seeks both to combat postmodern relativism and to supplant Christianity (or
Stoicism etc) as a new and differently grounded universalism.

As guide stars for the historian, neither of these disciplines is entirely
auspicious. The reportage of cultural anthropologists in the field -
particularly on a topic such as emotional life - has been notoriously
unreliable. For instance, Margaret Mead's classic, Coming of Age in Samoa
(1928), has been subject to withering critique, and was heavily shaped by
Mead's own cultural politics. Anthro-history has long been bedevilled by
methodological doubts about its evidentiary standards. Nevertheless, for
decades cultural anthropology has exerted a large influence over history,
particularly in early modern studies. That influence largely accorded with
the broader tenor of late twentieth-century postmodernism, and succeeded
mostly in demonstrating micro-historical detail and difference.

However, as Plamper demonstrates, the relentless demonstration of cultural
contingency and incommensurability has lost some of its appeal.
Countervailing efforts to attribute emotion to material causes exploded in
the 1980s, when the rise of magnetic resonance imaging made brain activity
visible. "On the basis of yellow spots in a grey brain scan, bold hypotheses
were put forward about love, free will, the human capacity for empathy", and
so forth. Researchers on the subject of emotions revived Charles Darwin's
neglected (and highly ambiguous) The Expression of the Emotions in Man and
Animals (1872). Psychological gurus such as Paul Ekman began to achieve
celebrity by offering naturalistic explanations of "universal" emotions as
aspects of "hard, physical reality".

Some historians were swept up in the wave. Their own motives were, and
remain, complex. At various points Plamper links the vogue for neurobiology
to the disorientation caused by 9/11, the crisis of liberalism triggered by
the war on terror, or the failures of a boutique postmodernism to advance
favoured political causes reliably. None of this leaves him particularly
impressed, and the clear thesis of his book is that the use of
neuro-scientific research by historians is often half-competent and
credulous. Socio-biological history often appears as a scramble to achieve
profundity or relevance by applying scientific research findings that are
themselves scarcely more than suggestive. Plamper worries that this approach
serves only speciously to "naturalize contingent political positions", and
thus "cannot represent any kind of progress with respect to post-structural

The History of Emotions details the major neurobiological accounts of
emotion, and their rather serious theoretical frailties. Joseph LeDoux's
"two roads to fear", Antonio Damasio's "somatic marker hypothesis", and
"mirror neurons" (among other theories) are presented by Plamper as
implausibly ambitious efforts to reduce reflective emotions to mere physical
affects, based largely on a fixation with brain imaging. Mischievously
embedded within this sceptical account is a mordant narrative of current
publishing practices in popular science. This culminates with a
blood-chilling quotation from the American literary agent John Brockman,
predicting that his superstar pop science authors will "take the place of
the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our
lives, redefining who and what we are".

Plamper clearly regards this sort of oracular pronouncement as ludicrous. He
deals out some firm chastisement for the swelling ranks of "post-post
structural" humanists inclined to replenish their exhausted theoretical
stores with superficial borrowings from the neurosciences. With Marxist,
psychoanalytic and Derridean theory no longer suiting the public taste, some
humanists are offering the neurosciences as the new plat du jour. Plamper
does not spare us their more insipid justifications. The medievalist Daniel
Lord Smail invokes American religious fundamentalists while grandiosely
urging "historians to support their colleagues in the biological sciences".
The queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick seems to think that neuroscience
will provide a "more robust conception of reality" with which to combat the
political nihilism of graduate students reared "entirely in a xenophobic
Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush America". "Unlike culture," Plamper writes, "nature
can be an enormous relief."

Plamper concludes his book with an effort at a compromise position, which
will escape the "dichotomy of universalism and social constructivism". He
wishes to rescue some universal category of "emotion" from a thorough
postmodernist acid bath, but retains serious doubts about any human
universalism resting on mere biology. In setting forth a more modest
research agenda for the field, he finds a few recent historians of emotion
whom he can commend. The American William Reddy, author of The Navigation of
Feeling, is chief among these. Reddy pioneered the distinction between
emotions (as "activated cognitive material" remaining "below the threshold
of attention") and emotives ("speech acts which both describe and change"
feeling). This, in turn, enabled Reddy's account of "emotional regimes",
whereby politics and directed human action might constrain or expand the
basic good of "emotional liberty". Reddy has applied this theoretical
apparatus to an account of the French Revolution, interpreting it as an
effort to overthrow an existing regime of emotional control in favour of a
new (and unstable) "sentimentalist logic".

Plamper offers measured appreciation for Reddy's effort to draw on some
recent findings in cognitive psychology without abandoning all human agency.
He encourages historians to deploy such hybrid categories as emotives more
broadly, and contrasts this flexibility with Smail's On Deep History and the
Human Brain, where the "universal biological substrate" of "brain structures
and body chemicals" is given a greater determinative role in human history.

But the real interest of Plamper's book remains his more critical and
argumentative presentation of the neurobiological turn in history.
Inevitably, an effort to compromise between natural universalism and
cultural constructivism proves more prejudicial to the former. A
deterministic materialism is necessarily reductive, and the slightest
seeping in of cultural or political agency threatens to topple the entire
edifice. Most historians will welcome Plamper's position, in that
historicism itself makes methodological assumptions favouring contingency
and agency, and hostile to universal laws of any kind. "Scientific
historians" in the manner of the Victorian Henry Thomas Buckle or Jared
Diamond occasionally flit through the skies, but they are perhaps rarer
birds than Jan Plamper's extended critique will admit. Historians more
generally retain an attachment to the notion that human affairs represent
more than a mere froth on the surface of a speculative natural history.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

[tt] Economist: The $1-a-week school

The $1-a-week school

Private schools are booming in poor countries. Governments should either
help them or get out of their way

Aug 1st 2015

ACROSS the highway from the lawns of Nairobi's Muthaiga Country Club is
Mathare, a slum that stretches as far as the eye can see. Although Mathare
has virtually no services like paved streets or sanitation, it has a
sizeable and growing number of classrooms. Not because of the state--the
slum's half-million people have just four public schools--but because the
private sector has moved in. Mathare boasts 120 private schools.

This pattern is repeated across Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
The failure of the state to provide children with a decent education is
leading to a burgeoning of private places, which can cost as little as $1
a week (see article).

The parents who send their children to these schools in their millions
welcome this. But governments, teachers' unions and NGOs tend to take the
view that private education should be discouraged or heavily regulated.
That must change.

Chalk and fees

Education in most of the developing world is shocking. Half of children in
South Asia and a third of those in Africa who complete four years of
schooling cannot read properly. In India 60% of six- to 14-year-olds
cannot read at the level of a child who has finished two years of

Most governments have promised to provide universal primary education and
to promote secondary education. But even when public schools exist, they
often fail. In a survey of rural Indian schools, a quarter of teachers
were absent. In Africa the World Bank found teacher-absenteeism rates of
15-25%. Pakistan recently discovered that it had over 8,000 non-existent
state schools, 17% of the total. Sierra Leone spotted 6,000 "ghost"
teachers, nearly a fifth the number on the state payroll.

Powerful teachers' unions are part of the problem. They often see jobs as
hereditary sinecures, the state education budget as a revenue stream to be
milked and any attempt to monitor the quality of education as an
intrusion. The unions can be fearsome enemies, so governments leave them
to run schools in the interests of teachers rather than pupils.

The failure of state education, combined with the shift in emerging
economies from farming to jobs that need at least a modicum of education,
has caused a private-school boom. According to the World Bank, across the
developing world a fifth of primary-school pupils are enrolled in private
schools, twice as many as 20 years ago. So many private schools are
unregistered that the real figure is likely to be much higher. A census in
Lagos found 12,000 private schools, four times as many as on government
records. Across Nigeria 26% of primary-age children were in private
schools in 2010, up from 18% in 2004. In India in 2013, 29% were, up from
19% in 2006. In Liberia and Sierra Leone around 60% and 50% respectively
of secondary-school enrolments are private.

By and large, politicians and educationalists are unenthusiastic.
Governments see education as the state's job. Teachers' unions dislike
private schools because they pay less and are harder to organise in. NGOs
tend to be ideologically opposed to the private sector. The UN special
rapporteur on education, Kishore Singh, has said that "for-profit
education should not be allowed in order to safeguard the noble cause of

This attitude harms those whom educationalists claim to serve: children.
The boom in private education is excellent news for them and their
countries, for three reasons.

First, it is bringing in money--not just from parents, but also from
investors, some in search of a profit. Most private schools in the
developing world are single operators that charge a few dollars a month,
but chains are now emerging. Bridge International Academies, for instance,
has 400 nursery and primary schools in Kenya and Uganda which teach in
standardised classrooms that look rather like stacked shipping containers.
It plans to expand into Nigeria and India. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's
founder, Bill Gates and the International Finance Corporation, the World
Bank's private-sector arm, are among its investors. Chains are a healthy
development, because they have reputations to guard.

Second, private schools are often better value for money than state ones.
Measuring this is hard, since the children who go to private schools tend
to be better off, and therefore likely to perform better. But a rigorous
four-year study of 6,000 pupils in Andhra Pradesh, in southern India,
suggested that private pupils performed better in English and Hindi than
public-school pupils, and at a similar level in maths and Telugu, the
local language. The private schools achieved these results at a third of
the cost of the public schools.

Lastly, private schools are innovative. Since technology has great (though
as yet mostly unrealised) potential in education, this could be important.
Bridge gives teachers tablets linked to a central system that provides
teaching materials and monitors their work. Such robo-teaching may not be
ideal, but it is better than lessons without either materials or

Critics of the private sector are right that it has problems. Quality
ranges from top-notch international standard to not much more than cheap
child care. But the alternative is often a public school that is worse--or
no school at all.

Those who can

Governments should therefore be asking not how to discourage private
education, but how to boost it. Ideally, they would subsidise private
schools, preferably through a voucher which parents could spend at the
school of their choice and top up; they would regulate schools to ensure
quality; they would run public exams to help parents make informed
choices. But governments that cannot run decent public schools may not be
able to do these things well; and doing them badly may be worse than not
doing them at all. Such governments would do better to hand parents cash
and leave schools alone. Where public exams are corrupt, donors and NGOs
should consider offering reliable tests that will help parents make
well-informed choices and thus drive up standards.

The growth of private schools is a manifestation of the healthiest of
instincts: parents' desire to do the best for their children. Governments
that are too disorganised or corrupt to foster this trend should get out
of the way.


Greg SuhrJul 30th, 18:35
In the United States, education spending is roughly $11,000 per student
per year. Those $1 per week rates seem pretty attractive in comparison. I
know this article is about 3rd world education but the following quote
hits pretty close to home.

"Powerful teachers' unions are part of the problem. They often see jobs as
hereditary sinecures, the state education budget as a revenue stream to be
milked and any attempt to monitor the quality of education as an
intrusion. The unions can be fearsome enemies, so governments leave them
to run schools in the interests of teachers rather than pupils."

And, that is not to say individual teachers are bad people, my mother was
a teacher, but she was not a fan of the teachers unions either for the
same reasons.

Rafael.SJul 30th, 12:33
I grew up in Brazil, where private schools existed in a large scale ever
since long before I was born (in 1984.)

Coming from a middle class family, our parents spent around 30% of their
income on private school for their 3 children. Most of what the article
says is spot on, in general, from low end to high end, quality of private
education is consistently better than public.

The real problem of this system is inequality. Children of middle class
and up that went to private schools will most likely become richer than
their parents, while the opposite is more often true for kids that went to
public schools.

OhioJul 30th, 16:41
One of the key poor assumptions in developing world education systems is
that they should be modeled on successful rich world systems. Yet no
amount of money will turn Kenya into Finland overnight. Being open to
frugal solutions is essential if development aid is to actually help poor
nations, rather than simply make the donor country feel good about itself.
The rather expensive rich-world idealism of the UN, various aid agencies,
and the rich-world education establishment makes progress difficult where
limited resources call for inventive solutions.

ray_blockJul 30th, 15:18
As Long as development aid and education is tightly Held by socialist
Hands there won't be much development. In this case it seems to be a good
Thing, that the 3rd world is so unorganized.

If they had tar roads and a sewersystem in that Slum in Nairobi, there
probably wouldn't be a private School sector.

One day in the future, they will look back and realize, it was European
socialists who doomed Africa to be the planets sh*thole for a whole

Here my 2 Cents about how to fix education profitably (sry for the poor
English) http://workupload.com/file/RUZh7Ync

And the whole thing in slightly better German:

sybariteJul 30th, 18:41
The failed schools that are referenced in the article are but a symptom of
a larger issue. They exist mostly in failed states. The root of the
problem with bad public education is a total lack of governmental
accountability to their people. Whether the school is in Dhaka or Detroit
failed schools are result of waste, corruption, fraud and the protection
of entrenched interests. TE seems giddy about the great advances and
efficiencies that small private schools bring vs. state bureaucracies - I
say let's have some perspective. There is nothing wrong with private
education- it should be a choice not the only option.

loonie-economistin reply to Medicine4theDeadJul 30th, 17:53
Actually absentee teachers do exist, but don't show up. Corrupt teacher.

Ghost teachers don't exist. Corrupt official (or intermediary).

Pretty smooth glib cover for faulty logic.

OJFLJul 30th, 18:06
If only governments learned that pushing decisions closer to the people do
not reduce the efficiency of the system or degrades the results.
Politicians need to learn to trust the people. I like this revolution.

JamesK16Jul 30th, 19:40
Private-sector unions have done great things for workers' standards of
living. Public-sector unions on the other hand, by definition serve at the
expense of the entire public save themselves.

homocidalmaniacJul 30th, 16:19
Any attempt to improve the lot of citizens is likely to be impaired by the
intervention and interference of politics. With politics comes corruption
and there be the rub. Money becomes the driving force for doing anything,
without heed for the people who should benefit.
Corruption nurtures incompetence. The developing world is not alone in
this regard.
The best healthcare system in which I worked was a private, not for profit
enterprise in a middle-income country, which thrived on innovation, a will
to achieve, and to do what was right.
I arrived in Canada, hoping for excellence, only to find a health system
corrupted by selfishness, where it is everyman for himself, how much money
one is able to drain from the system for oneself and the patient is a last
thought. Ethics is something of a bygone age and one must protect oneself
from the vagaries and unpredictabilities of humans.
The education system is no different.
Until the power, the decision making, the responsibility, and the
financial resources are provided to the people who require an education or
healthcare, nothing will be achieved.
Good luck to that!

Christopher DJul 30th, 15:11
This makes a handsome case for direct education subsidy to parents in
general. Where local politics prevent effective support of universal
education by the government, the dollar-vote places high relative value on
buying education for the kids. As noted, at times the government's best
play is to allow to do.

The vendor-client relationship with the school may not be ideal but it
engages both parties in the business of deciding how to educate the kids.
I think this article provides a solid case that an invisible hand is
propelling the vendor (school), client (parents), and most happily the
children to a more prosperous future, thanks to good old-fashioned

Imagination WorkerJul 31st, 16:41
It is obvious that private education should replace public education. The
real question is whether that should be private for-profit or private

The article confuses these questions, falsely equating opposition to
for-profit education with opposition to private sector education
generally. The authors seem in places to recognize the distinction
("investors, some in search of a profit"), but focus their criticisms
entirely on public sector education, leaving us in the dark as to whether
private, not-for-profit education might achieve the ends they desire,
while steering clear of the criticisms of for-profit education such as
that quoted from Mr. Singh.

The authors should straighten out their reasoning and then replace the

malawiman34Jul 30th, 20:32
I welcome the likes of Bridge and ITeach coming into this market and
offering something that the poor so often lack - a choice. Now they can
choose something that is fundamentally different, not just the same old
same old taught by teachers who sometimes deliberately under-teach in
order to build up lucrative "tutoring work" on the side. Yes, this is not
the complete or final answer, but as a good stepping stone that can be
rolled out quickly, it has to be celebrated. We can deliberate from the
West all we like, but on the ground this is there now and helping to teach
children something other than rote learning and passing exams that do not
fit them for the challenges they face. Problem solving capabilities,
questioning what is around them and creative thinking are all needed.

mtnhikerJul 30th, 20:20
Government education in America is a joke - because of the labor unions,
administrations (and their labor unions - who donate to their elected
protectors) and the legal industry (which will not allow discipline and
whose members (judges and lawyers) donate to their protectors) all in the
name of control and money - with actual education being far down on the
list of priorities (and not even on the list of priorities for teacher
unions and teacher associations).

Some things are common between America and the "third world" - unions
siphoning off tax money and thwarting students getting a real education.

Privatizing all schools may be the way to go - less expensive and better
education - in American that would mean the unions would sue and the
Democrat party would not get near as many donations, but someone has to
lose - maybe it will not be the students for a change.

BizytrackerJul 31st, 06:35
Thank you for publishing a well researched article with unbiased opinion.
It would have been interesting to name some of the NGOs too. I am a bit
surprised how "ideology" driven NGOs can stop progress in a key sector -
education, which is tilted obviously in favor of the consumer - Children
and their parents.

tryworkingforalivingin reply to guest-osesassJul 30th, 19:22
Let me guess.....Venezuela ??

FrenchDriverJul 30th, 18:03
We need this in America. Schools and colleges have become too expensive
and are a drain on the middle classes.

Albert995Jul 30th, 17:10
Getting out of the way does not automatically mean that the way will lead
to where you want to go. This is the real issue to be addressed, namely,
you should know where you are going.

ceezmad358in reply to truetoolJul 30th, 16:29
I assume they mean cheaper in costs, as in running a for profit may be
cheaper than running a government school.

At least that is how I understood this, but yes, government education
tends to be free, so in terms of tuition, hard to get cheaper than free
unless government schools or private hit you up with tons of fees.

MacrolJul 30th, 11:50
Assisting private schools makes a lot of sense if you have some sort of
minimum standards. Standards would help counter teacher union opposition
and allow a registration and appraisal of these schools.

Minimum standards and the occasionall spot check would go a long way to
reducing fraud and child abuse. It might also give something for parents
to compare schools on- graduation rate, test scores, etc.

Some form of competition is badly needed in certain areas where it is
impossible to fire bad teachers.

guest-oaiilewJul 31st, 11:17
This is quite an elaborate opinion on the state of primary education in
the developing world. However, I am of the opinion that most of the
private schools are in shambles as much as the public schools are. They
have several problems ranging from poor facilities, to unqualified
teachers, to inadequate and sub-standard teaching materials; so much so
that one can take most of the schools for a children refugee camp (no pun
intended). The few good ones are rather too expensive for poor parents to
The government still has a lot at stake in improving primary education. I
opine that a public private partnership will be the way forward.
Government should be involved in making policies and regulations that
enhance standards while encouraging private involvement at the same time.
Private school children should have access to free/subsidised public
materials and NGOs should be encouraged to allocate their resources in a
way that is non-discriminatory. Most private schools are closer to the
homes of this poor children than the public schools are, so parents will
have the option of doing a tradeoff between different parameters such as
proximity, cost and quality. A healthy competition will create a thriving
environment. Investment in primary education should be encouraged and the
government needs to step up her 'game'. A government that cannot improve
primary education is no government at all.

Swiss ReaderJul 31st, 08:21
I am all for private enterprise and parents' choice, but there is a risk
the article seems to overlook. What if private schools are run by
religious, ethnical or ideological hardliners? Would it be good if kids
from Muslim families would be educated by schools paid by Saudi Arabia and
according to Saudi values? Is there any guarantee that private schools in,
say, Kenya won't teach tribalism and ethnical hatred? In a fractured
society there is something to be said for a common, public education for
everybody as a means of promoting national cohesion and peace.

AtlantisKingin reply to Medicine4theDeadJul 30th, 21:46
Actually the evidence of teacher absenteeism and ineptitude in public
schools is so copious that hardly requires individual examples to be
offered. Since you ask, here go a few articles on the subject:






Now, one can accept the evidence or deny it (as the unions always try to
do), but referencing The Donald is a novel approach - I wonder how
effective it is.

BTW, have you noticed that no one comments on the absenteeism of engineers
or accountants. That's because they work in the private sector and are
swiftly fired if they start to lose working days - the union is not there
to run interference, even when there is an union. And THAT is one of the
reasons why private schools are so compelling.

AtlantisKingin reply to OJFLJul 30th, 20:47
Politicians are less concerned about efficiency than losing power or,
Heaven forbid, losing union votes...

loonie-economistin reply to Medicine4theDeadJul 30th, 17:56
Again - a logical flip. Just because competitive, higher education is
getting more expensive doesn't mean it is not seeing better "education

guest-osesassJul 30th, 15:19
Private schools are a racket in my country. They are designed to take
advantage of government tax breaks and to fleece parents. The quality of
education is quite poor.

The article talks about how exam results are better for private school
students. In my country private schools bribe officials to give their
students higher marks in board exams. Good results then become a bragging
point that they can use in their advertising. Students from public schools
have no hope of getting good results.

Medicine4theDeadJul 30th, 13:42
As is typical with the Economist these days, it is long on wind and short
on substance. You made several baseless accusations against teachers
unions. Was actually providing facts and evidence a bit too much work for
you? No quotes. No names of any real teacher's unions or teachers. Is the
Economist the Donald Trump of journalism?

Absenteeism and ghost teachers are indicative of a corrupt government
official. Absentee teachers obviously don't actual exist except on paper.
Nice try Trump.

Mr. MarcusJul 30th, 11:28
An anecdotal comparison of attitudes here in the UK to public (private
schools) and the attitude of the local community to the private school in
their midst in a town in Nepal where I taught is interesting, at least to

The Nepalese I talked to in the community, those whose children I taught
and the teachers were very proud of their school. It charged the
equivalent of the rates discussed in this article.

The UK generally speaking loathes those very same institutions. Various
Governments, mostly of the pink/red variety have acted in morally
questionable ways. Adding VAT to education was a disgusting act wrapped up
in the talk of social fairness.

It isn't just developing countries that stand in the way of progress in

Al The Plumber of the Depths of Lunacyin reply to Sola StellaJul 31st,
Excuse me, that's a lie!

Washington, DC is at best a fourth world country!

Sola Stellain reply to Greg SuhrJul 30th, 23:45
In Washington DC, another third world country, spending per pupil broke
the $30,000 mark a few years back and with nothing but continued failure
to show for it. Democrats and their union allies are poisonous for the
public purse as well as the children that the data shows they falsely
claim to champion.

OJFLin reply to AtlantisKingJul 30th, 21:47
Sadly I think I agree with you completely.

AtlantisKingin reply to guest-osesassJul 30th, 20:51
Looks like your country have other serious problems besides education

Macrolin reply to Medicine4theDeadJul 30th, 19:25
I am referring to teacher's unions which oppose just about any form of
meaningful education reform. These include firing incompetent, non-present
teachers that they refer to in the article.

Probably the number one thing holding back Mexico's development is not the
drug cartel or government corruption but the teachers union (SNTE). This
union is not imaginary though many of its teachers are (phantom teachers
is still a major issue). Teachers in Mexico have astonishing salaries and
the best pensions of any profession. Even with these incredible salaries
Mexican kids in public schools receive miserable educations. Their private
school counterparts pay far lower salaries but give a much better
education. That is competition.

I worked in a DC charter school and as bad as my school was it was far
better than the standard public school equivalents and parents were
desperate to win the lottery to move their kids out of the public schools.

Competition is needed in many places. Some public schools have excellent
teachers but they usually have the right to fire bad ones. That is
competition of a different sort.

Higher education is very different than public education.

truetoolJul 30th, 14:01
Private schools are not cheaper than public(government run) schools in
India. Infact, the government often subsidises education in public schools
to the point where they are almost free.

There are two main factors why private schools have proliferated in India:

Firstly, since public schools are cheap, there is intense competition for
a limited number of seats. Those who can't get in are then left with no
alternative but to seek private education.

Secondly, although there are exceptions(such as the one mentioned in this
article) the quality of education imparted in public schools leaves much
to be desired. With private schools, one may expect better education if
one is willing to spend more. In such a situation, many parents from
humble backgrounds would rather put their kids in private schools and
scrape through, than put their future on the line in a public school.

guest-onlsslsin reply to Realist364Aug 1st, 14:34
Not to worry. If a nearly illiterate 3rd grade dropout and single mother
like Sonya Carson in one of the poorest and most violent areas of the
nation in Detroit's slums, can raise her boy become a pediatric
neurosurgeon, then the children who depend on their parents' decisions for
their education have a much better hope than government indoctrination

More at www.trutherator.wordpress.com

Because "free" government schools are not free at all. They come at a cost
of an education in the real world. The cost is to the generation that they
indoctrinate. The government in those books is always the best one you can
have (wink wink) and the rulers look out for you (wink wink).

USA gov centers spend twice per student over private schools average, with
much better consistent scores. Minneapolis, D.C., and Florida with
vouchers programs showed that the effect has nothing to do with them being
better students, they became better students.

Jaime Escalante showed that too. His calculus students were accused of
cheating in the AP test because the rulers couldn't believe it. The
Teachers Unions went to war against him till he finally returned to
Bolivia disgusted.

My youngest boy's kindergarted teacher taught her students as much as they
could learn her first year, she told me. The next year the principal told
her to slow down, the first grade teacher had nothing to teach them they
didn't already know.

Gov propaganda training? OUT!

Felix Quiin reply to Swiss ReaderJul 31st, 11:38
I would suspect that a healthy variety of competing private schools are
far more likely to foster pluralism than is any monolithic state education
system intent on indoctrination. It is perhaps the lust to indoctrinate
that too often prompts state spending on education. The appalling state of
what passes for education in Thailand being an excellent example of the
evils that can result from trusting the state to educate.

uadi5kPYREJul 31st, 04:31
I am from India and am aware of the pathetic condition of the public
education and even private.
I know that the teachers are the most valuable instruments of learning.
However the child and his learning has to be above all. I feel strongly
that not doing their job is as heinous a crime as a doctor neglecting his
Teacher's absenteeism should be punishable crime. That is the only way to
change this whole system.

Walker RoweJul 31st, 03:20
Don't the Brits at the Economist know their own history as they sing the
praises of for-profit education. Maybe they need to go back and read
Orwell's "A Clergyman's Daughter" to see that public education is a
relatively new idea and that for-profit schools are not the answer to bad
public education.

Here in Chile the dictator privatized education. Now the public schools
are the dumping ground for those who cannot pay for private or subsidized
private schools. The public teachers just ended a 57 day strike because
the do not want to have to take certification tests. Sound familiar?
Sounds like Mexico where teaching jobs are hereditary as you said.

Education should be free. The OECD says that Africa and Latin America have
the worst schools, Not Asia or the Middle East. It's clear what is needed:
higher pay attracts better students to the field. And there needs to be a
willingness to face down the unions.

QcAGPDNAa2in reply to truetoolJul 31st, 02:26
Govt schools are utterly useless in India.
Absentee teachers, dilapidated buildings, apathetic administrators, no
textbooks, no technology to speak of.
All this inspite of huge funds supposedly allocated for it and a dedicated
education cess on service tax.

There is a reason that people scrimp and save and do anything they can to
get their kids into english medium private schools using the central govt
ICSE or CBSE syllabus.
Many good friends of mine are spending 50% or more of their salaries on
private school fees and capitation fees (bribes).

John C.in reply to guest-onlmiooJul 31st, 00:36
The US government should be embarrassed by its educational system.

AtlantisKingin reply to Rafael.SJul 30th, 22:06
I also grew up in Brazil and am acquainted with the educational system.
Actually, inequality is NOT the problem - it is just an undesired

The real problem is that the quality of public schools is way below
dismal. And there is no way to improve them because the entire education
system lacks accountability:
1. Parents cannot force schools to improve, even if they know enough to
try - a rare event since many are not educated enough to assess quality.
2. Politicians either fear the unions or, more often, use them as
electoral mobs.
3. And the unions are very effective selling the notion that they need
more money, even though Brazil spends more in education than China, Korea
and Finland as proportion of GDP

There is a solution and it is spelled in this article: give money to the
parents and let them choose where to educate their children. Heaven knows
we spend enough money already - in the hands of the parents, it offers
them the opportunity to demand quality or vote with their feet.
Unfortunately, this will never happen because the unholy alliance of
unions, left ideologues and political opportunists will squash any
discussion of it...
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