Read Two States. Eight Textbooks. Two American Stories. (nytimes.com)
We analyzed some of the most popular social studies textbooks used in California and Texas. Here’s how political divides shape what students learn about the nation’s history.

📑 Highlights and Annotations

Conservatives have fought for schools to promote patriotism, highlight the influence of Christianity and celebrate the founding fathers. In a September speech, President Trump warned against a “radical left” that wants to “erase American history, crush religious liberty, indoctrinate our students with left-wing ideology.”

I can’t help but think here about a recent “On The Media” episode A Civilization As Great As Ours which highlighted changes in how history is taught in India. This issue obviously isn’t just relegated to populist India.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:22AM

Pearson, the publisher whose Texas textbook raises questions about the quality of Harlem Renaissance literature, said such language “adds more depth and nuance.”

If they wanted to add more “depth and nuance” wouldn’t they actually go into greater depth on the topic by adding pages instead of subtly painting it such a discouraging light?

But Texas students will read that some critics “dismissed the quality of literature produced.”

Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:27AM

Publishers are eager to please state policymakers of both parties, during a challenging time for the business. Schools are transitioning to digital materials. And with the ease of internet research, many teachers say they prefer to curate their own primary-source materials online.

Here’s where OER textbooks might help to make some change. If free materials with less input from politicians and more input from educators were available. But then this pushes the onus down to a different level with different political aspirations. I have to think that taking the politicization of these decisions at a state level would have to help.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:30AM

How Textbooks are Produced

  1. Authors, often academics, write a national version of each text.
  2. Publishers customize the books for states and large districts to meet local standards, often without input from the original authors.
  3. State or district textbook reviewers go over each book and ask publishers for further changes.
  4. Publishers revise their books and sell them to districts and schools.

This is an abominable process for history textbooks to be produced, particularly at mass scale. I get the need for broad standards, but for textbook companies to revise their books without the original authors is atrocious. Here again, individual teachers and schools should be able to pick their own texts if they’re not going to–ideally–allow their students to pick their own books.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:33AM

“The textbook companies are not gearing their textbooks toward teachers; they’re gearing their textbooks toward states,” she said.

And even at this they should be gearing them honestly and truthfully toward the students.
Annotated on January 12, 2020 at 11:39AM

Read The Christmas Eve Confessions of Chuck Todd by Jay RosenJay Rosen (PressThink)

That disinformation was going to overtake Republican politics was discoverable years before he says he discovered it.

Press Think logo card

I keep saying that anyone who has Kellyanne Conway or her ilk on their airwaves is actively suborning perjury in the public commons. Kudos to Jay Rosen on this excellent piece.

It’s honestly hard to believe that even Christianity Today seems to have come around on  some of the truth of what is happening before Chuck Todd has.

I’m glad that at least Chuck Todd knows/understands what is happening now and may change course to help protect it. Perhaps he needs to spend a few days with George Lakoff to attempt an intervention and a solution?

Looking back at our history of reportage of white power/white nationalism will provide some additional immediate ideas. WNYC’s On the Media has had some great material in the last few years on these topics:

One might suggest, “just replace the word ‘racist’ with ‘Republicans'” in these stories, but I think many of them have generally done that for themselves already.

Listened to PURPLE EPISODE 3: Let’s Not Discount Reality from On the Media | WNYC Studios

How a propaganda war by the private sector led to a decline of trust in government.

As part of a month-long campaign called the Purple Project for Democracy, OTM is using its podcast feed for a series of conversations about an alarming loss of trust, faith and devotion by Americans for American democracy — and what to do about it. Bob himself is one of the Purple Project organizers. We recommend that you listen to this four-part mini-series in order. In this third episode he explores some of the causes for disaffection.

One of the reasons so many Americans have lost trust and faith is democratic institutions is simple misunderstanding about how the system is designed to work.  Another, however, is familiarity with how the system does work— which isn’t exactly of, by and for the People. Anand Giridharadas is author of Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. He says the founders also didn’t plan on politicians constantly trash-talking government itself and that a decline in trust in government is the result of a concerted, private sector propaganda war waged over the last four decades.

Liked a tweet by Kevin M. KruseKevin M. Kruse (Twitter)

👓 How America Ends | The Atlantic

Read How America Ends (The Atlantic)
A tectonic demographic shift is under way. Can the country hold together?
This is interesting because I’ve been watching very carefully what the center right has been doing since before the election. I wonder how the geographic distribution of these people looks with respect to Colin Woodard’s thesis? 

🎧 Political demonization is #Solvable | The Rockefeller Foundation

Listened to Political demonization is #Solvable from The Rockefeller Foundation

Anne Applebaum talks to Flavia Kleiner about how patriotic liberalism can beat xenophobic populists.

Flavia Kleiner is a Swiss political activist and co-president of a political movement called Operation Libero. Operation Libero makes a case for fundamental principles of Swiss democracy and the rule of law as vital to an enlightened understanding of what democracy needs to be effective.

Watched A bold idea to replace politicians by César Hidalgo from ted.com
César Hidalgo has a radical suggestion for fixing our broken political system: automate it! In this provocative talk, he outlines a bold idea to bypass politicians by empowering citizens to create personalized AI representatives that participate directly in democratic decisions. Explore a new way to make collective decisions and expand your understanding of democracy.

“It’s not a communication problem, it’s a cognitive bandwidth problem.”—César Hidalgo

He’s definitely right about the second part, but it’s also a communication problem because most of political speech is nuanced toward the side of untruths and covering up facts and potential outcomes to represent the outcome the speaker wants. There’s also far too much of our leaders saying “Do as I say (and attempt to legislate) and not as I do.” Examples include things like legislators working to actively take away things like abortion or condemn those who are LGBTQ when they actively do those things for themselves or their families or live out those lifestyles in secret.

“One of the reasons why we use Democracy so little may be because Democracy has a very bad user interface and if we improve the user interface of democracy we might be able to use it more.”—César Hidalgo

This is an interesting idea, but definitely has many pitfalls with respect to how we know AI systems currently work. We’d definitely need to start small with simpler problems and build our way up to the more complex. However, even then, I’m not so sure that the complexity issues could ultimately be overcome. On it’s face it sounds like he’s relying too much on the old “clockwork” viewpoint of phyiscs, though I know that obviously isn’t (or couldn’t be) his personal viewpoint. There’s a lot more pathways for this to become a weapon of math destruction currently than the utopian tool he’s envisioning.

👓 Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes | The Atlantic

Read Why a Government Lawyer Argued Against Giving Immigrant Kids Toothbrushes (The Atlantic)
The sheer effrontery of the government’s argument may be explained, but not excused, by its long backstory.
We certainly have a lot of things we need to fix in this country, but knowing a bit of the history of how we got here may also help to fix the problem. 

👓 The Woodard projection | Jon Udell

Read The Woodard projection by Jon UdellJon Udell (Jon Udell)

In a memorable episode of The West Wing, visitors from the Cartographers for Social Justice upend CJ’s and Josh’s worldviews.

Cartographer: “The Peters projection.”

CJ: “What the hell is that?”

Cartographer: “It’s where you’ve been living this whole time.”

I’m having the same reaction to Colin Woodard’s 2011 book American Nations. He sees North America as three federations of nations. The federation we call the United States comprises nations he calls Yankeedom, New Netherland, The Midlands, Tidewater, Greater Appalachia, The Deep South, El Norte, The Far West, and The Left Coast.

Here’s his definition of a nation:

nation is a group of people who share — or believe they share — a common culture, ethnic origin, language, historical experience, artifacts, and symbols.”

I love the concept of this thesis! Ordering a copy of the book for myself.

I’ve lived in Greater Appalachia, The Deep South, Yankeedom, The Midlands, and the Left Coast and I’ve always unconsciously known many of these borders within culture. It’s often been difficult to describe the subtle cultural shifts and divides between many of these places to others. I can’t wait to read a book that delves into all of it depth.

Listened to A New Look at "The View" from On the Media | WNYC Studios

The View is a sort of mythical beast, with the head of a chat show, the body of a reality show and the tail of a politics forum. And it also plays like a pro-wrestling spectacle: a lowbrow morality play with protagonists, antagonists and a lot of conflict. Ruth Graham writes in Slate that "The View is the show you watch if you want to see a former Survivor contestant debate a former professional wrestler on the morality of waterboarding. On the other hand, it’s the daytime show that debated waterboarding." Ramin Setoodeh is the author of Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View and the New York bureau chief for Variety. Bob and Setoodah talk about how a show populated with B-list celebrities has become a center of gravity for political discourse.  

Joe Biden appears on The View

🎧 Senator Bill Bradley on How We Can All Do Better | Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Listened to Senator Bill Bradley on How We Can All Do Better by Alan Alda from Clear+Vivid with Alan Alda

Senator Bill Bradley has an amazing life. He was a Gold medal Olympian, a Rhodes Scholar, a legendary star with the Knicks for 10 years, a United Sates Senator for 12 years. He ran for the Democratic party’s Presidential nomination, and to top it off, he’s the host of the long-running SiriusXM Satellite Radio program – “American Voices.” In this episode, Alan Alda speaks with Sen. Bradley about leading a life of curiosity, learning and service. His stories are fun and he has a lot to say about our fellow Americans. This episode is sponsored by Athletic Greens, visit athleticgrrens.com/alda

🎧 Triangulation 397 Brianna Wu | TWiT.TV

Listened to Triangulation 397 Brianna Wu from TWiT.tv

Jason Howell speaks with Brianna Wu, video game developer and Candidate for US House of Representatives in MA District 8 for 2020. They discuss how she got started in tech, surviving the Gamergate harassment, why she's running for Congress, and more.

Interesting statistics about first time congressional candidates. I loved the way she framed her run for congress as something she would do at least twice since an engineer would look at the problem and know that the first time would be a failure, but that a second attempt would be more likely to win.

🎧 The Daily: What Happened to Lindsey Graham? | New York Times

Listened to The Daily: What Happened to Lindsey Graham? from New York Times

The South Carolina Republican was once a vehement Trump critic. Now, he’s one of the president’s most ardent supporters.

🎧 “The Daily”: The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, and How U.S. Law Enforcement Ignored It | New York Times

Listened to "The Daily": The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism, and How U.S. Law Enforcement Ignored It from New York Times

In an atmosphere of seeming indifference on the part of U.S. law enforcement, a dangerous movement has grown and metastasized.

It’s tremendously painful that the optics of right wing extremism in the Obama administration was used as a means of allowing the alt-right, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis to rise unfettered in the United States. This is worse when one thinks of the death and destruction they have caused in relation to the obscene amounts of money that have been thrown at decreasing international terrorism within our borders.