Pixel Scroll 2/19/17 Put A Pinch Of Pixel Into Five Cups Of Scrolls And Knead Until It Becomes Lembas

(1) MOUNT TBR. Telluride, Colorado has a new cultural resource – the Clute Science Fiction Library. [Via Ansible Links.]

The library, a program of the Telluride Institute, contains over 11,000 volumes, many of them first editions. It is located on Colorado Avenue next to Ghost Town Grocer.

The Clute Science Fiction Library is intended to be a place of excellence for scholars, writers and researchers, according to Pamela Lifton-Zoline, vice president and founding trustee of the Telluride Institute, a nonprofit that works to enrich “the health of environments, cultures, and economies,” according to the organization’s website.

The volumes were a private collection belonging to John Clute, an award-winning author, essayist and editor of “The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.” Clute contributed over 2 million words and thousands of entries to the encyclopedia.

Clute, who resides in England, has been a trustee of the Telluride Institute since its inception in 1985 — but he has been friends with Lifton-Zoline since high school, where she remembers meeting him in their French class.

“He came into this French class and he was just so exotic, (being) from Canada. We became really good friends,” Lifton-Zoline said. “(The library) is a work of friendship as much as it is a work of ownership.”

She added, “He has promised to bless the library with his visits, his presence, his connections and his whole community of wonderful writers.”

Clute has visited Telluride more times than he can count. He will return again in June 2017, this time to give an inaugural lecture at the Sheridan Opera House entitled: “Those Who Do Not Know Science Fiction are Condemned to Repeat it.”

(2) THE MUSIC INSIDE YOU. Articles that reference Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Inklings research in Bandersnatch don’t usually begin with a great big photo of Beyonce and a hook about the Grammys. The exception is Jeff Goins’ “Why You’ll Never Do Your Best Work Alone”.

When it was released on April 23, 2016, Lemonade credited 72 writers—and earned a swift public backlash as a result. One person on Twitter wrote, “Is this the time of year where we call Beyoncé a musical genius even though she has 50 [to] 100 writers and producers for each album[?]” Another said, “Beyoncé has FIFTEEN writers on one of her songs. But she’s a genius, they say.”

…Beyoncé’s detractors believe geniuses work alone, but history and modern research both suggest not….

…Diana Glyer has spent decades studying the Inklings, that famous literary group that birthed the careers of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others. And as she sees it, the myth of the starving artist who works alone is not only wrong, it “robs writers and other creatives of the possibility of writing the way that writing or creating normally takes place, which is in a community.”

Embracing that reality, rather than resisting it, can actually encourage creativity itself by helping us find like-minded creatives to collaborate with. If anything, our success is contingent on our ability to work well with others—which may be just one reason why employers seem so desperate lately to hire people with high emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills. Of course, we need to spend significant amounts of time alone with our craft. But we also need significant amounts of time with people who can guide us in doing better work.

Otherwise, creative output becomes a much slower, more grueling slog than it needs to be. As Glyer puts it, “the life of an artist, [or of] any kind of creator, is fraught with discouragement. You need people to correct your path.”

(3) SHARING THE SHIELD. In her article “My grandfather helped create Captain America for times like these”, Megan Margulies tells Washington Post readers about her grandfather, Captain America co-creator Joe Simon, and how Captain America “came to symbolize the immense love I had for my grandfather” but also Captain America’s shield is “again serving as a tool to fight all that threatens our Constitution and our national decency.”

Amid the masses of strangers gathered to protest at the Boston Women’s March, I spotted something familiar: that shield — red, white and blue — a simple design that holds the weight of so much conviction. Captain America’s iconic getup caught my eye, not only because of the principles it stands for but because he reminds me of another hero of mine. On Dec. 20, 1940, a year into World War II, my grandfather Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, both sons of Jewish immigrants, released the first issue of “Captain America.” The cover featured Cap slugging Adolf Hitler . Because the United States didn’t enter the war until late 1941, a full year later, Captain America seemed to embody the American spirit more than the actions of the American government.

As Cap socked the Führer, many rejoiced, but members of the German American Bund, an American pro-Nazi organization, were disgusted. Jack and my grandfather were soon inundated with hate mail and threatening phone calls, all with the same theme: “Death to the Jews.” As the threats continued, Timely Comics employees became nervous about leaving their building in New York. Then my grandfather took a call from Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who promised to send police officers to protect them. “I was incredulous as I picked up the phone, but there was no mistaking the shrill voice,” my grandfather recalled in his book “The Comic Book Makers.” “’You boys over there are doing a good job,’ the voice squeaked, ‘The City of New York will see that no harm will come to you.’”

(4) BACK TO THE BEAR FLAG. David Klaus sent the following link with a comment: “I have been saying for twenty years that Heinlein accurately predicted an eventual balkanization of the U. S., particularly a ‘California Confederation’ made up of today’s California, Oregon, and Washington ad depicted in Friday — although Northern California is probably more likely to band with the two other states while Southern California will set apart on its own.” — “’California is a nation, not a state’: A fringe movement wants a break from the U.S.”, in the Washington Post.

About 15 people huddled in a luxury apartment building, munching on danishes as they plotted out their plan to have California secede from the United States.

“I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of an independent California,” Geoff Lewis said as he stood in a glass-walled conference room adorned with California’s grizzly-bear flag and a sign reading “California is a nation, not a state.”

Sweaty onlookers from the gym across the hall peered in curiously.

Bolstered by the election of President Trump, the group, Yes California, is collecting the 585,407 signatures necessary to place a secessionist question on the 2018 ballot. Its goal is to have California become its own country, separate and apart from the United States.

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. The Everyone: Worlds Without Walls Kickstarter reached its minimum goal in the first five days. Since then editor Tony C. Smith has announced the addition of a story by Lavie Tidhar, and now a previously unpublished story by Ken Liu.

(6) WHEN THE EMPIRE STRUCK BACK. Washington Post columnist John Kelly continues his investigation of the Internet myth that the paper fired its film critic for giving Star Wars a bad review (“Would you believe that a Post critic was fired for hating ‘Star Wars’? Well, don’t”). He finds that, like most Internet myths, it’s a garbled version of the truth. Washington Star film critic Tom Dowling stopped writing film reviews (he continued to work for the newspaper) shortly after a May 1980 review where he called The Empire Strikes Back a “two-hour corporate logo explaining the future of the Star Wars industry.”

Several readers…wrote to say it was the Washington Star’s Tom Dowling who was canned for a pan — not of the first film, but its sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back.” True?

“It’s a little more complicated than that,” Dowling said when Answer Man rang the retired newspaperman up at his home in Northwest Washington. “The story is true as far as it goes. I don’t know how far it factually goes.”

…Never, he wrote, “had such unlimited resources, unparalleled good will and guaranteed formula of success been frittered away in such irreparable fashion.”

For most of its history, the Evening Star was the dominant newspaper in Washington, but by 1980 it had fallen behind The Post. It had been bought in 1978 by Time magazine, which that very week had put Darth Vader on the cover. The story inside noted: “In many ways the new film is a better film than ‘Star Wars,’ visually more exciting, more artful and meticulous in detail.”

Was it corporate embarrassment that got Dowling the ax? Hard to prove. Dowling said that years later, at a reunion of Star employees, a former editor sidled up and told him that Time magazine had a “secret interest” in the movie and executives were worried his pan would discourage people from going to see it.

“I have no idea if that was true,” Dowling said.

But the review had apparently irritated someone. Dowling filed a few more reviews — “The Gong Show Movie,” “Fame” — before Star editor Murray Gart moved him to a column called “Federal Cases” that poked fun at government bureaucracy. (“Actually, it was the most fun I’ve ever had in newspapers,” Dowling said.)

(7) ALDRIDGE OBIT. British artist, graphic designer and illustrator Alan Aldridge died February 17 at the age of 73. Best known as the creator of album covers for The Who (A Quick One) and Elton John (Captain Fantastic), he also worked as Penguin Books’ art director for a number of years. His SF cover artwork and design for Penguin Books is discussed at length here. Andrew Porter observes, “To say he was not popular with Penguin’s owners and the authors published would not be amiss.”

By 1967 Allen Lane was harbouring deep misgivings about the direction Tony Godwin was taking Penguin with regard to the marketing and distribution of fiction. Lane felt that the covers being designed by Alan Aldridge et al. were becoming too commercial and increasingly tasteless. To Lane such covers were undignified and not in keeping with Penguin’s reputation. Worse still, the use of images he regarded as titillating or even offensive was an insult to the books’ authors, some of whom were now making their own feelings known, with more than one threatening to move to another publisher.

Matters were made worse by Godwin’s desire to sell Penguin books in non-traditional outlets such as supermarkets. Lane disliked the idea and as booksellers joined authors to protest at the way Penguin was heading so the rift between the two men deepened. To Lane, Aldridge’s ‘vulgar covers’ and Godwin’s ‘gimmicky selling’ were a threat to over thirty years of Penguin tradition and brand identity. If left unchecked it would only be a matter of time before the books were being packaged and sold just like any other consumer product. The crisis came to a head in late April and early May, with a boardroom bust-up that resulted in Godwin’s departure and Lane’s barbed comment that ‘a book is not a tin of beans’.


Thought to be introduced at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair by brothers F.W. and Louis Rueckheim, legend has it the caramel-coated treat got its name three years later when a salesman — impressed by the process that kept the concoction from sticking together — exclaimed in delight: “That’s cracker jack!”

(9) A ROOM OF KIRK’S OWN. A Boca Raton mansion with Star Trek and other pop culture themed rooms is on the market for $30M.

The nine-bedroom home belongs to Marc Bell, whose portfolio has included Penthouse and Adult Friend Founder over the years. The entrepreneur equipped his one-of-a-kind estate with rooms modeled after the popular TV series/movie franchise, including the bridge from the Starship Enterprise, which serves as the home theater.

Designed by architect Randall Stofft, the Mediterranean villa also features a full-scale Borg model, a fictional alien race first appearing in the Star Trek television series. Other details include a Call-of-Duty-modeled video game room, retro arcade, 16 bathrooms, resort-style pool with waterfalls, wine room, gourmet kitchen, and a full basketball court.

The Star Trek-themed room shows up at the 1-minute mark of this sales video.

(10) HELP ME OBI-WAN. Your wallet may need rescuing after you’ve bought all these — “Hasbro 40th anniversary ‘Star War’ toys recreate classic movie scenes”.

Hasbro has unveiled a new line of retro-style Black Series toys for the 40th anniversary of Star Wars this spring. And they’re unveiling them with this series of photos featuring the playthings recreating memorable scenes from the film.

Although these new 6-inch toys are much larger than the Kenner originals that hit shelves in late 1977, they are displayed in similar bubble and card packaging — for an extra helping of nostalgia. (Hasbro acquired Kenner in 1991.) Each of the toys retails for $19.99 and will be available later this spring.

Above, you see the new Black Series Han, Leia, and Luke fleeing Darth Vader and his Stormtroopers in a scene aboard the Death Star.

(11) CAST A GIANT SHADOW. New posts at the Shadow Clarke site. Two more jurors introduce themselves, plus a “guess the shortlist and win the books” competition.

The Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy at Anglia Ruskin University is delighted to host a competition for readers to guess the short list.

The winner, thanks to the generosity of the Arthur C Clarke Award, will receive copies of all six of this year’s shortlisted novels.

To enter, post a comment in reply to this post with a list of six books (no more, no fewer), selected from the list of 86 eligible submissions, along with a rationale as to why you think that shortlist will be the ones which the judges have chosen. Pingbacks won’t be accepted as entries.

That is what makes the Clarke Award great. The fact that it doesn’t conform to genre stereotypes, the fact that it bucks the trend, the fact that it regards science fiction as the broadest of broad churches, and will look anywhere within that spectrum for the best. And that restless, wide-ranging aspect of the award is what gets people arguing about it. And that argument is good, not just for the award itself (though it does keep the award alive in people’s minds), but for science fiction as a whole. Because the more the Clarke Award challenges our expectations, the more it opens us up to an ever wider, ever changing sense of what science fiction is and can be.

Let’s face it, the biggest debate within science fiction at the moment is the debate surrounding the Sad and Rabid Puppies, and that debate is all about narrowing science fiction. The Puppies want to enclose and limit the genre, restrict it to a narrow spectrum that resembles the science fiction they remember from the 1950s: overwhelmingly masculine, almost entirely American, distinctly technophiliac, and ignoring the literary changes that have occurred within the genre over the last half century. This is science fiction that repeats what has gone before, that depends upon its familiarity; this is science fiction that is not going anywhere new. Okay, some work that fits within this spectrum can be interesting and important, but it cannot be, it should not be, the whole of science fiction. The best way to counter the Puppies’ argument is with the sort of expansionist, innovative, challenging argument about science fiction that has traditionally been associated with the Clarke Award.

I don’t particularly like SF, which is also to say that I am very particular about SF. My relationship to SF has been long, unbidden, unlabeled, and mostly uninformed, and I suspect this is the case for the majority of human beings who are not in fandom, but who have, at some point, been drawn to a kind of storytelling that presents the world in a way that’s different from our reality. Those same folks who are non-fans might not want to read books because they think books are boring (they often are), they don’t read SF because they think it’s dorky (it often is), and they’re not involved in fandom because there’s life to live (though perhaps not for very much longer). I completely get this. Even the term “SF” is relatively new to me: I doubt I’ve ever said “SF” in public, much less “SFnal”; in fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve never said “SFnal” out loud. SFnal. I said it. It echoed off the kitchen walls and it sounded unfamiliar and now I feel weird.

So you don’t have to tell me there’s a problem in SF. There are a number of problems, not the least of which are its fannish exclusiveness and its inability to properly recognize itself, its shortcomings, and its potential.

SPIELS ON WHEELS. Messy Chic has a cool gallery of old bookmobile photographs.

Long before Amazon was bringing books to your doorstep, there was the Bookmobile! A travelling library often used to provide books to villages and city suburbs that had no library buildings, the bookmobile went from a simple horse-drawn cart in the 19th century to large customised vehicles that became part of American culture and reached their height of popularity in the mid-twentieth century. Let’s take a little trip down memory lane with this forgotten four-wheeler…

[Thanks to Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, David K.M. Klaus, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer Sylvester.]

108 thoughts on “Pixel Scroll 2/19/17 Put A Pinch Of Pixel Into Five Cups Of Scrolls And Knead Until It Becomes Lembas

  1. @Cat Rambo: semi-seriously, I view our political issues as owing more to ignorance, lack of sufficiently focused education and the inability of a large portion of the population to understand “issues” that do not have black-and-white answers.

    The New State of Science Fiction, located where NH used to be (we even have a shore!) will invest heavily in new technologies that will address this problem, specifically brain-scanning voting booths.

    1. ALL vote tallying will start with paper records
    2.. Voting will extend over the course of a state-sponsored week-long holiday
    3. voters will enter the booth (everyone – you MUST vote – no exceptions) and a screen will display appropriate phrases and imagery while a device scans their brain.
    4. we’re looking for activity, and a certain level of activity, in key areas of the cortex.
    5. Following the test, you’ll get to vote. Everyone will.
    6. Results of the scan will determine whether the ballot is a valid one or shit-canned for lacking the intellectual capacity to vote intelligently.
    7. ballots are anonymized, so no one will ever know who was “too stupid to vote” and it will be a high crime and misdemeanor (both) to reveal any such information

    Note, this does not in anyway influence the vote: you can either parse complex issues or you can’t. We don’t care what your political ideology is, only that you demonstrate the capacity to take in information, process it and arrive at (mostly) valid conclusions. This should eliminate most votes based on being conned, or emotionally driven (and by god, we’ll perfect those scanners until they CAN do that!).

    Next up, how we’ll handle separation of “church” and state.

    I, of course, as supreme leader, will be surrounded by a phalanx of Praetorian Guards at all times, knowing that it will take at least a generation to get these policies widely accepted. (Praetorians who can easily be subborned as a final check and balance on the incredible powers I will wield….) (Note: I will NOT be getting much sleep!)


  2. “Oh thank Ghu. You’re safe! I had worried about you wandering the bleak wasteland Stockholm has become since the conspiracy to sap and impurify all of Sweden’s precious bodily fluids was exposed yesterday!”

    I am actually in Panama and wondering if I have a country to return to. There are desperate outcalls from my fellow swedes on Twitter.

  3. @Steve Davidson

    For a “New State of Science Fiction”, your proposed voting method is awfully mid-20th century.

    Here in the 21st century start of Oregon, no one has to go to a polling place to vote. All our elections have been vote-by-mail (meaning, for us, dropping the ballots off at the library when we pick up a book sometime in the month before the polls close) for nearly 20 years. A truly futuristic change would be vote-by-Internet (with a foolproof voter eligibility check).

    Requiring everyone to go to a polling place puts a burden on people who have difficulty leaving the home, and people with children to care for. (Or is everyone physically-capable and without small children in your state of science fiction?)

    (And–as a contractor–if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. There’s no such thing as a paid day off for me.)

  4. @Cat Rambo: semi-seriously, I view our political issues as owing more to ignorance, lack of sufficiently focused education and the inability of a large portion of the population to understand “issues” that do not have black-and-white answers.

    I think American education has been dumbed down considerably in recent decades, with critical thinking de-emphasized, and that the shift helps provide service workers for a kleptocratic machine. Was it deliberate? I dunno, but certainly some creationists worked hard to get on school boards and push a specific anti-science agenda. or to affect the state where the majority of school textbooks are produced, Texas.

    And yeah – binary thinking, that “you must be with me on this specific issue or you are part of every other problem as well” emphasis, hampers us enormously. Being SFWA President has been very useful to me in that I must get along with a wide range of people. That means with some of them I have to put up with a little trolling before they learn to trust that I’m on the same page and we’re all working towards making things better for writers. Nowadays I try to think things out rather than kneejerk react, and I’m a better person for it. (IMO).

    The “tit for tat” thing, the “x was mean so I have full license to be mean back” phenomena that I see on all sides really needs to stop at some point too. I can understand it but it’s sure getting in the way of a lot of interactions that might actually be useful. It seems to me sometimes we (the F&SF community at large) let a few vocal haters set the tone and we feed them the little hamster pellets of attention and righteousness they crave.

    But I am a preachy and sometimes overly self-righteous soul myself at times. 🙂

    Working on another Doc Savage write-up, and hope to have it up in a few hours.

  5. @Cat Rambo:
    There is a standard means of determining how bright individuals pursuing degrees in college are – compare their GPAs for classes OUTSIDE their major with people from other degree programs. At most US Universities, education majors are among the dumbest of the dumb. Horrible GPAs outside of their major.

    The USA has thrown a huge amount of additional money in primary & secondary education in the last 25 years with next to no return compared to other countries on standardized tests. Money is not the problem.

    But we do have great teachers unions. Government employees make up the majority of US union members and they generate lots of political payoffs to keep a monopoly on education to the largest extent possible.

    Blaming Texas for US education has little to no basis in fact.

    California Uber Alles

  6. We tried privatizing part of our school system – the only country in the world who has done it in such a way – and our results plunged, they dropped like a 40 ton weight and created an enormous crisis in Sweden.

    Trumps proposal, btw, is to implement exactly the same system. Good luck, you are going to need it. And so are we.

  7. @airboy

    Are you trying to draw a line between the teaching unions (membership: working teachers who have finished their degrees) and the applicants to education degrees (not yet union members)? Because if you are I think you have a little problem with causality and time’s arrow…

  8. @Hampus Eckerman

    Even in the States, an ocean away, I felt a great disturbance in the Farce, as if millions of Swedish voices cried out in confusion and were suddenly… bewildered. I fear something alternative has happened.


    My long term girlfriend has a BS with honors in Mathematics and an MA in Teaching. She is far from the dumbest of the dumb. In fact, her and her co-workers tend to be very smart, dedicated folks.

    For the love of their kids, teachers in public schools struggle day to day in an under paid, under funded, and under appreciated job . Like a lot of teacher’s families we’re frequently reaching into our own pocket to pay for the education of people’s kids (1 ream of paper, funded by the school, for 7 periods of kids per year?!?).

    She has students ranging from daddy drives junior to work in his Ferrari, and all the way out to on the west mesa the family has no running water.

    She has students that deal with the aftermath of horrific physical and sexual abuse (who knew a taser isn’t a great way to discipline kids? One daddy didn’t).

    She has kids that come to school hungry every day and rely on free lunch to get by. And the teachers donate to food drives for their families.

    It’s a wonder the teachers make it work and not a wonder at all that teaching has an extremely high burn out rate.

    Your narrative sounds great in your head I’m sure. It sure isn’t the reality though.

  9. @Seth Gordon: exactly my reaction to RAH being called a prophet. Other commenters have noted the strains this would produce (Callenbach touches on this, not very believably, in the prequel Ecotopia Emerging (1982)); one in-law’s summary after our enthusiastic description of a drive from Seattle to SanFran was that there was no deli between SF and Eugene, although I suspect that’s less than true now.

    @bookworm1398: Unfortunately, non-geographically linked countries aren’t really practical Dave Hutchinson (Europe in Autumn ff) might disagree (although that’s stretching a point).
    easier to support ideas that you know have no chance of success where you won’t be called upon to do any of the tedious work needed for implementation. Been following current events, have we?

    @Cat Rambo: IIRC Texas is not a big textbook producer; they’re just the only populous state that does (did?) statewide approval, so producers are loath to contradict their … ideas…. (Yes, @airboy, Texas is responsible for more than its share of problems in education.)

  10. @airboy: much of the money is spent on hardware and computer equipment. But as studies have shown, they alone dont improve the learning.
    What does improve learning is the pay and the education of teachers, both are relatively low in the US compared to other Western countries, many of whom are higher in the list. Than there are problems with testing and curricula, which I wont elaborate on (my sister has a master in education and did her thesis on comparing school systems and we do talk about this stuff). If you are really interested in a good, readible analys I heartly recommend the book “The smartest kids in the World” which follows three American exchange students to their county of choice- Finland, South Korea and Poland respectively. The school systems (and PISA scores) are compared. Well written and a good analysis!

  11. Most of the California secessionist movement is fueled by California being a donor state. We pay way more money into the federal government than we get back.

    Regarding tensions between the north and south of the state, in the early days of the state, the south wanted to secede from the north as all the population and power were there and they felt they weren’t getting their share. Now the south is more populous, and the north doesn’t feel it is getting its share. Most Angelenos shrug at the idea of splitting the state.

    Did anyone see this great art installation?

  12. Stoic Cynic on February 20, 2017 at 12:40 pm said:
    And all the schools, all over the country, where the kids get lists ahead of time of what supplies they’re expected to provide for themselves for the year, from pencils and pens to paper of assorted kinds, plus the occasional requests from the schools for general supplies to be provided by the parents/students.

  13. @JJ

    What I thought: Locus put this novel in the YA category of their annual poll, which really surprised me. Yes, the two main characters are 17 and 18 years old at the start of the book — but it’s a much darker, edgier version of A Long Way to a Slow, Angry Planet, and I would definitely not consider it a “Young Adult” book.

    The reason I consider it YA is that the young protagonist saves the day despite the adults around her. For me, the hallmark of YA is that the teens are smarter than the adults. (Or the adults are absent entirely.) That lets me distinguish coming-of-age novels from YA. I’ve heard darker YA novels called “edgy YA,” which works for me.

  14. When people talk about privatizing schools in order to allow economic incentives to drive performance, I think back to the work done by Dan Ariely and other behavioral economists studying the effects of financial incentives on work performance. What they discovered is that offering financial incentives can make someone more productive as long as they are engaged in physical labor. Offering a financial incentive for someone engaged in mental work, such as teaching, actually reduced the effectiveness of the workers.

  15. airboy: There is a standard means of determining how bright individuals pursuing degrees in college are – compare their GPAs for classes OUTSIDE their major with people from other degree programs. At most US Universities, education majors are among the dumbest of the dumb. Horrible GPAs outside of their major.

    That you propose this in all seriousness as an objective measure, without realizing how utterly ridiculous it is, pretty much tells me that your views on educators and education have no credibility.

  16. @JJ – “Your narrative sounds great in your head I’m sure. It sure isn’t the reality though.”

    Except I’ve seen the data for some of the largest State Universities in the USA. But go ahead and live in your dream world. I love it when anyone who disagrees with your world view is either stupid, ignorant or evil.

    @Aaron said:
    “Offering a financial incentive for someone engaged in mental work, such as teaching, actually reduced the effectiveness of the workers.”

    And that takes the first prize for dumb. Incentives matter. If you give the right incentives, you get more of the behavior. Your opinion would invalidate all of microeconomics. In the USA we give financial incentives for positive behavior in all fields – and they work. To think otherwise is just nuts. Do you think that attorneys gravitate to fields of law where they earn more? Physicians? What about those in finance? Sales? What about everyone else in employment? This was a laugh out loud moment when I read this.

    @Peer – sorry – but most money in education is spent on Salaries & benefits. Education is very labor intensive, but not especially capital intensive until you get into things like Agriculture, Engineering and the like.

    @Stoic Cynic – Your girlfriend sounds like a smart, wonderful lady. But I’m talking about averages and not individuals. And I agree that many students lack parental guidance, sanity, proper nutrition, etc….. but you have to look at what works and what does not.

    @Mark – in most States either an education degree or a certain number of hours in education classes is required for public school employment. Those majoring in education are where the public school teachers come from. I concur that not all people declaring a major will graduate with a degree in education (or any other field).

  17. There is a standard means of determining how bright individuals pursuing degrees in college are – compare their GPAs for classes OUTSIDE their major with people from other degree programs.

    @airboy, can you provide any kind of study (preferably peer-reviewed but I won’t even be picky) to show that this is a “standard”? I have never heard of it, and it runs counter to my experience teaching college students (and once upon a time, being a college student) at a US university. Many students are very bright, but work harder on courses within their major because those are more important or interesting to them. They’re busy and they prioritize. Nothing stupid about that.

    I find your assertion about education majors very suspect, too, but if there is any truth in it (source?), I’d point to the devaluing of teaching in general such that many people don’t pursue a career they know to be difficult and badly paid. Plus majors from other areas often end up as teachers anyway, so the performance of education majors at the undergrad level can’t be used to support any conclusion about teachers in general.

  18. My main “teacher” was someone who left school at 16. How well someone performs at school and how long they attend for isn’t everything.

    I think most of the teachers my mother worked with did a degree in their preferred subject first and then went on to do the education-specific training afterwards (practical and/or postgraduate), but that’s in the UK and she always worked in secondary schools, never primary. I don’t know for sure whether that’s a typical path.

  19. airboy, I don’t know who you’re quoting there, but it’s not me.

    You can claim to have “seen” anything you want. I don’t, however, know why you would expect anyone here to believe you, given your past history of posting incorrect and false information. Absent any links to compelling proof from you, this claim of yours falls into the “spurious” basket, too.

  20. @steve davidson haha, so in the spirit of your other policies I assumed the knowledge test would be on sf canon. Putting one in place on real world issues is a much more interesting proposition.

    Leaving aside the US education debate for now, I’d be interested in how the system would handle critical thinking vs the knowledge base of the voter – because one can in theory develop logical thought patterns based on fabricated or unprovable claims. I guess you can argue that a sufficiently trained thinker will not take in a critical mass of false information to base their thinking on in the first place, but it’s not clear that a scan of a persons decision at the time of decision-making would pick that up. I also think it would be difficult not to define critical thought in a way which prejudices outcomes to some degree – does sensible understanding of an issue include a component where one must have a sense of how the issue affects others and act accordingly, or is “ability to conduct solid calculation of self interest” the gold standard here?

    Second, if you’re supreme leader does that mean voting for the first generation will be based on multiple issue-based referenda? If so, will the system parse thinking on different issues separately for each voter? How does one account for single issue voters who think very deeply about a single proposition but are more inclined to “go with their gut” on things which affect them less? I’m not sure you can assume that just because someone can think, they will use that faculty for every political decision.

    I’d also see an early source of tension in the possible discrepancy between exit polls and voting results, especially if one coalition keeps persistently winning the popular vote but losing in the intelligence modified results. It would also be hard – even if you are not voting at all for a generation – to undo centuries of bias about the links between intelligence, race and class, with the result that I think you’d see campaigning targeted at a small “intelligent” section of the population selected through prejudice rather than insight.

    Throw In some characters and there’s a great Informocracy style story here!

  21. @Meredith

    In the US, education is mostly a state and local matter. You see a wide variation in teacher licensure requirements, etc.


    airboy is misattributing to you the closing sentence of my last post. All blame or credit is solely mine.


    I think you and Aaron are talking about different incentives. There are recent studies that show small individual incentives can be effective motivators. Larger incentives are actually shown to be ineffective or, in some cases, even counter productive. I believe you are talking about incentives to larger corporate, NGO, and governmental organizations.

    Personally: you can cite statistics. I can tell you though at the coal face (or the proximate periphery anyways) in three states the view is not what you believe it to be. The narrative of overpaid teachers and powerful unions is basically bunk.

    The issues you acknowledge: parental guidance, sanity, proper nutrition, etc – are at the core of our educational problems. That is largely the issue with vouchers and such. Essentially a lot of proponents want to skim off the cream without following the same standards and conditions (e.g. accept anyone) that public schools are required to. So you leave the dregs to rot in even less funded schools in a race to the bottom. It creates, or at least enhances, a tragedy of the commons.

  22. @airboy

    Except I’ve seen the data for some of the largest State Universities in the USA.

    Give me a break. The charter school movement has been doing its best to discredit public education for years and the stats do not support it. The variations at the state and country levels across the board can be attributed to two things; lack of funding and lack of consistent standards. The first can be directly laid at the hands of state governments, which happen to correlate largely with red states. The second can be directly laid at the feet of school boards undermining curriculum, usually to support a religious agenda.

    Public school graduation rates are the highest in history, and the key differentiation that impacts students is poverty. Which nicely explains why countries with strong social support programs, which have equally strong and expensive teacher unions, out perform the US. Poverty being an issue that the right couldn’t give the slightest damn about.

    That’s without getting the vast under-performance per dollar despite their ability to cherry pick students that charter schools report. Or their rate of failure, which as an industry, approaches the restaurant industry.

  23. Here in NC the gerrymandered state house loves charter schools. Mostly because it lets them fund their religious schools and keep the riffraff in their place.

    There is no real oversight of them but the Republicans love to make claims about how great they are doing without providing anything to back them up. So I found it funny when a few weeks ago it came out that one of them had been giving out High-school diplomas as party favors with no school work required.

  24. @ Steve Davidson
    As far as SFNAL voting goes I like Alistair Reynolds idea. Frequent votes on individual issues, and anyone who demonstrates a high level of knowledge about an issue gets more votes for that issue only. Because quite intelligent people can be ignorant about some things that they just haven’t taken an interest in.

  25. I think you and Aaron are talking about different incentives. There are recent studies that show small individual incentives can be effective motivators.

    The studies that I have seen have shown a demarcation between getting people to put in more physical effort, and getting people to put in more mental effort. Effectively, you can get some like, say, a coal miner, to work more productively with a financial incentive, but offering a manager or an accountant a financial inventive doesn’t make them work better, and in many cases actually makes them perform worse.

    When one thinks about this in the context of the justifications for things like Charter Schools, it seems that many of the “benefits” that are alleged for Charter Schools that will purportedly make them better just don’t stand up. Making teacher pay dependent upon results is likely to be counterproductive. Making management decisions and thus management compensation dependent upon results is also likely to be counterproductive. And what we see in the relatively rare circumstances when the performance of Charter Schools is evaluated is that they don’t seem to perform better, and in a majority of cases seem to perform work. It turns out that having teachers insecure in their positions may not be very conducive to good performance.

    There are large numbers of studies that have shown that performance of workers is driven by a number of factors that have nothing to do with money. People need to feel invested in their work, they need to see results from their work, they need to feel that they have contributed to the end result, and that their contribution is valued. Charter Schools, for the most part, offer less of these incentives than comparable public school positions do, and as a result, the middling to poor results seen at so many Charter Schools is entirely unsurprising to me.

  26. @airboy

    orry – but most money in education is spent on Salaries & benefits. Education is very labor intensive, but not especially capital intensive until you get into things like Agriculture, Engineering and the like

    Yes, but thats true of every country. And also true for all goverment agencies (police, hospitals, fire brigades – all spend most money on Labour). I would hazard a guess its even true for any bigger company. Just seeing that most money is spent on labour and concluding that thats were the money is wasted is flawed until you found a way to teach without using human personel.
    If you want to see where the educational systems needs fixing you have to start comparing data with different regions/countries and see who spends more/less than average and to what effect.
    The US spends much more on average on hardware than the OECD-mean. It spends less (per capita) on the salary of teachers.
    Draw your own conclusions.

  27. @Meredith

    You are correct. The most common path for a UK teacher – but by no means the only one – is a degree in an academic subject rather than Education, followed by a 1 year Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) which will combine training with practice placements in schools, followed by Initial Teacher Training which is a year in a school with something close to a full timetable with mentoring, monitoring etc, which (if passed) leads to qualified teacher status.
    There are many many variations on this, particularly ones designed to bring in mature candidates who can’t afford to take years out to study, but that’s the most common path.

  28. Giving a person more money might not make a person work better. But it might make a person choose a career, stay in a career, and remain at a work place. Economy matters.

  29. In Sweden, private schools have fewer teachers per pupil, lower salary for teachers, worse results on tests when adjusted for social economic status, higher grades when compared to results for standardized tests.

    It has been a fiasco and the swedes want out of the system, but it is hard to compete against lobbying groups and their bribery money.

  30. 1. “someone” missed the “state sponsored holiday” part of the voting process. Self-employed? you’ll get a stipend based on average income.

    All going to the polls is a social activity; gives the state a chance to round up the troublemakers….and the budget simply can’t afford scanners in every home – yet – nor the manpower to monitor their use….

    Don’t get me started on education: some responses make me suspect that the originators are a product of our educational system.

    Texas purchases so many text books that it has become an undue influence on the publishers of the same – and it was once such a progressive state. Back in the 80s they were planning on creating the electronic classroom. That got scuttled – by me – because AT&T won the contract on false grounds – MY group – and I knew we were incapable of delivering in the contracted time (they were NOT going to kill my people in their pursuit of glory…but anyway). It got me blackballed for higher promotion (I had to publicly embarrass a VP in order to get action taken). Bottom line, I was welcome to stay, but only lateral moves in my future. On the other hand, all of my higher-ups, responsible for the fiasco, were terminated or “strongly” encouraged to find employment outside of AT&T. I eventually lateralled to Bell Labs and had a fine time working on helping to develop new ways to splice underwater fiberoptic cables. The real bottom line, like education today, greed, incompetence and a failure to truly understand the problem being addressed were responsible for the sorry state of affairs.

    Public education serves two, mutually important, goals. The first being simple education, the second being enculturation and socialization. We will continue to have a greatly divided country so long as our children are allowed to be divided by education.

    Public school teachers ought to be among THE most highly compensated professionals – look at what we are entrusting them with. Nothing less than the FUTURE! High pay and good benefits would help attract the best educators – who ought to be highly vetted and extremely skilled, not the lowest rung of the degree ladder.

    Both of my parents started as educators (through the PUBLIC Brooklyn College system): My mother ended up with a Masters, my father with a PhD – and neither of them remained educators, both using their talents and degrees to find better employment. (G&T programs have my mother to thank for their development; just about everyone can thank my father for the drug research he did (no, not on ME!)

    No charter schools, no home schooling, no local idiots making decisions about text books. Prioritize funding of public schools, both for teacher pay and for facilities.

    The teachers who can’t spell stories are the outliers. No teacher should ever have to reach into their own pockets to do the job they are being paid to do. No administrator should ever have to cut gym class in order to keep the budget for civics, or history or math.

  31. but offering a manager or an accountant a financial inventive doesn’t make them work better, and in many cases actually makes them perform worse.

    I don’t know if it makes sense to generalize among all workers. In undergrad, the people who are most motivated by money choose business or pre-med majors. Those who choose something else have other considerations, teachers esp. know going in they are not going to be making much money – they would be expected to have a lower response to financial incentives than average.

    Charter schools: Any idea why they have poor results? I would think they would do better just from being able to be selective about which students they admit.

  32. @ Steve D.: No administrator should ever have to cut gym class in order to keep the budget for civics, or history or math.

    In Texas (and across the Old South states in general, but Texas is one of the worst offenders), it frequently goes the other way. Every other kind of non-academic course can be cut entirely, and academic ones can be skimped, but ghod forbid that the football team not get everything it wants. One of the ways that this manifests is: the school has enough budget to hire a new science or history teacher, or a new football coach, but not both. So they hire the football coach and put him in charge of teaching science or history too. This, as you can imagine, doesn’t end well… for anyone but the football team, and after all, that’s what matters. *spit*

    Interestingly, a friend of mine who started out as a teacher in private schools in the Northeast ran into the opposite problem — schools which were wanting to hire her in her field, but made it clear that she would also be expected to coach one of the girls’ sports teams, which she had zero interest in doing. Eventually that was one of the issues which drove her out of teaching altogether.

  33. @Nigel, that was a lovely story.

    @airboy, I’ve tried to find any supporting research for your narrative of intellectually challenged teachers but have had no luck. Absent links from you, I’ll have to stick with anecdotal evidence, because the teachers I’ve known are dedicated, hard working, and committed to the education of their students. They’re also really, really bright.

    Our local school district operates with a Promise, which keeps costs for families down through grants from an associated foundation that supplies books, materials and one field trip per year. There are also constant efforts to weed out hidden costs that would fall heavily on lower income families. There is also a pilot program that offers breakfast in the classroom for everyone (I can explain why that works better than a free breakfast before school for qualifying kids if anyone wants to know), no observable differences between those who pay for school lunch and those who are exempt from charges, and more art and music classes than most districts in Washington state (which funds education through bonds that must be approved by the electorate on a regular basis).

    The teachers are still underpaid, because apparently we’re all idiots, but the support they receive from the district means that jobs here are coveted and highly competitive, which means the local schools are well staffed.

  34. @Lee: you may be supporting steve d’s point; “gym class” (general exercise) is not the football team (one set of spoiled stars). The argument about the benefits of getting \everyone/ to exercise, and whether to bear the resulting costs, is ongoing.
    I went to a private high school and remember (as you note) that most teachers also coached something — but the coaching was variable because \every/ student did sports (or organized exercise) every trimester. I don’t know how certain teachers got exceptions (possibly valuable specialities — one taught musical composition), or how the business manager ended up coaching a swimming team that regularly thumped college freshmen. It’s arguable your friend should have stretched her horizons to corpore sano but I don’t know her circumstances.

  35. airboy on February 20, 2017 at 11:46 am said:

    The USA has thrown a huge amount of additional money in primary & secondary education in the last 25 years with next to no return compared to other countries on standardized tests. Money is not the problem.

    As a highly certified social engineer (BSocEng Seldon College, University of Trantor) I think I can spot the problem you might be having. It is a common error for people to THROW money at things: schools, social problems, squirrels. This is rarely effective, even when coins are used (less susceptible to the effects of airflow). Throwing money at schools does have an advantage over throwing money at squirrels in that the target is usually both static and large. Experiments have shown throwing the money from *above* (e.g. from a helicopter) has some success rate in terms of hitting the target. However, even when money is thrown accurately at schools there is little effect on the school (except window damage if coins are used).
    Instead, I’d recommend SPENDING money on reducing SOCIAL INEQUALITY. This appears to be quite effective at improving overall educational achievement.

  36. I’ll back up Lee’s account of football in Texas. It’s not gym but interscholastic sports that’s emphasized (girls get basketball as their big sport), to the point of professional-level stadiums for high-school sports, in some cities.
    (No, I don’t get it. But I didn’t grow up there.)

  37. @Bill: interesting that Trump apparently knew this was going to happen a couple of days ago….

    someone up thread commented on how to use the cognitive test when someone can be entirely logical, but completely wrong, based on false information.

    Absolutely true. That is why the New State of Science Fiction will implement a program of syntactical analysis on all public communication; Other than straight out opinion (Our dictator for life is a jerk!), all news and public information will be vetted. Facts must be reported on factually; if you write that the warehouse fire was a “conflagration” – it had better have been one.
    There will be a dictionary that can be used for reference. This word means it was a bad situation. This one means it was a VERY bad situation. etc.
    ABSOLUTELY NO SPECULATION will be allowed in news reporting.
    ANYTHING THING THAT IS NOT REAL NEWS will have a flashing neon sign appearing over it, stating OPINION; the CVs of those providing opinion will be graded from somewhat reliable to nut case.
    Violation of these rules and laws will be handled via sudden and public execution by drowning in a barrel of ink (I’ve got to get our automotive industry started on designing the special trucks…). Say whatever you want to in the privacy of your domecile. Outside it, everyone will learn very quickly how useless (and damaging) casual blather based on bullshit can be.
    Oh, ok. I’ll temper that a bit. First offense, you get your tongue cut out without anesthetic. I get to keep the tongues and will proudly display the dwindling collection annually.

  38. I will be interested to hear Hampus’ take on the reason for the rioting. It seems far too conveniently-timed to believe that someone with a hate-on for immigrants didn’t decide to do something to provoke it.

  39. @steve davidson
    @Bill: interesting that Trump apparently knew this was going to happen a couple of days ago….

    Rumor is that there have been several shipments of resublimated thiotimoline seen entering the White House grounds.

    [The rioting] seems far too conveniently-timed to believe that someone with a hate-on for immigrants didn’t decide to do something to provoke it.

    Probably instigated by the same Trump supporters as these riots. [See thiotimoline comment above].

  40. If you remember back during the campaign, Trump promised how the drought in California would be over as soon as he was elected. How we laughed. Then he was elected and the rains came.

    I’m thinking some sort of infernal agreement here. Has anyone noticed a John Wellington Wells in his pool of advisors? Or is Bannon a comic baritone?

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