Beyond Labels

A 360° Discussion of Foreign, National and Local Policy Issues

November 28: Money and Education

At last week’s session, one of our participants suggested that we discuss when throwing money at a problem can and cannot work. (He put it more eloquently.)

So we decided to try it out on education in the U.S.

  • Is this a case where more money can solve the issues with lackluster educational performance? Or is performance driven primarily by other factors?
  • If more money can make a big difference, how should it be spent? Teachers, school buildings, tutoring, class materials, extracurriculars? All of the above?
  • What other societal factors are holding us back? (There is a lot of anecdotal discussion about the social safety net and kids “ready to learn.”)
  • How can the charter school (public and private) experience and track record inform our discussion?
  • What is the goal of a U.S. education? The three R’s? Civics? Vocational training? College prep? Everything to everyone?
    • With a wide range of goals, how do we define, and then measure, “excellence?”
    • And will more clarity of definition and measurement motivate educators to “teach to the test?” Is that what we want?

This is a subject with a lot of anecdotes. But there have also been quite a few studies examining many of these questions. I encourage participants to spend a bit of time looking for research on the subject.

2022 mid-term elections

Last week we suggested the outcome of the 2022 mid-term elections as a possible topic for tomorrow’s meeting. Among the many possible questions we might talk about are the following:

“Is this the end of Little Rico?” (Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (1931), but you know who I’m talking about.)

Which side won, if any?

Were the polls wrong again? If so, how and why?

Here are links to a few opinion pieces published over the last week or so that I found interesting:

A Republican opinion writer in the Washington Post about what he got wrong ( in his pre-election predictions (

Another Republican opinion writer, this time in The New York Times, getting his pre-electon predictions wrong (

November 7: Social Media and Elections

One day before the midterm elections, we’ll discuss the impact of social media on political (and other) discussion in the U.S. Potential sub-topics include:

  • Will Elon Musk lose his shirt in his Twitter acquisition?
    • What do we make of his moves at Twitter to date?
      • “Devastating” reduction in staff (according to a NYT news article)
      • Institution of a $7.99 fee for the blue “verified user” check mark
    • Given the $40+ billion purchase price, what would we do if we were in his shoes?
  • More broadly, how should user contributions (speech) on social media be regulated (if at all)?
    • How would that work?
    • Who decides what is true and what is false in a whirlwind of opinions, which are now commonly phrased as statements of fact?
    • Should Section 230 be changed? Interestingly (at least to me), a quick Google search identified more supporters of the existing law than opponents. EFF, Brookings, Cato, Seattle Times.

And we’ll undoubtedly find time to discuss Tuesday’s elections.

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